The Mighty Logo

How Maintaining a Sense of Humor Helps My OCD

It is February 2, 2021 and I think I have already had lung, colon and oral cancer, an abscessed tooth, an ear infection, ulcers in my stomach, along with COVID-19 and its variant about 18 times. Self-diagnosed of course, but basically it has already been a long, hard year.

I have also broken up and gotten back together with my crush, on about six different occasions. I am not sure he knows or cares—but what he doesn’t know, won’t hurt him. I divorced old friends and made new ones…but then decided they didn’t like me. So I now don’t like them back and have recommitted to my old friends. I have gone broke and won the lottery. I have eaten healthy and said YOLO. I have relaxed, momentarily, while hosting just shy of one million thoughts about why I shouldn’t relax…

“That cup is out of place, that dish is in the sink, the cat’s face needs washing, you should have a bath, go for a walk, you drank too much coffee. Why do you do this to yourself? Read that self-help book, no wash the floor, no watch that show…be a Mom.”

And my favorite –“It’s happening now, you’re dying.”

Cue the spiral of anxiety that is my life…I swear sometimes my poor soul just sits outside of my body laughing and yelling, “Nope, I won’t go back in there until you calm the fuck down and just — like get a little bit real.”

Last night I was finally relaxing, cozy in my bed and as I was closing my eyes, I started having body twitches. I sat up instantly begging God not to take me, when I realized my nervous system is literally just shot. My body is so used to being in fight or flight mode, that when I finally feel calm it has to like generate new cells or de-frazzle the ones I have left.

It’s fucking exhausting.

I have obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). I don’t like creating self-fulfilling prophecies, but sometimes it literally is what it is. I have a hard enough time minute to minute, when I finally can remember that I have been diagnosed with OCD…it comes as a relief.

My inner script in that moment usually sounds like “nope, you are not dying. You just have this awful mental health disorder, onward.” Until I forget again because I am consumed by another debilitating thought.

OCD is commonly used in describing oneself because they like order or control — you do you — but that is not at all what this disorder is. OCD makes it hard for me to actually enjoy my life, because I am never really present.

Like imagine never being present, always forward thinking, always presuming doom and gloom. To many people in my life, it would seem like I really have this whole life thing in the bag and under control. The truth is I am just fighting my way through, too. Praying to God like a wishing well, to let me live one more day — even though I basically hate the days and everything in my life…while at the same time, I am grateful to just be alive. It’s messed up, right?

When I do have moments of full presence it freaks me out. I actually said to my therapist, “I have been feeling this feeling, it isn’t scary but I don’t know what it is. It’s quiet and it makes me uncomfortable.”

My therapist said “Shelley, that is peace.” I am so used to the never-ending hamster wheel that when I do find quiet, I don’t even know how to safely land there. Which is fine, because I will give or find myself something to worry about, if I don’t actually have a reason. Peace just isn’t for me I guess.

Lately, when everything hits the fan, my only wish is for peace. I don’t care who has to go, what needs to come or when the bad thing is going to happen anymore. I look up and state,  “you do you, God. I just need me some peace.”

I really do believe laughter is the best medicine, even when none of this is seemingly a laughing matter. I will come into work and announce what I died of the day before to my coworkers, because it helps me stay sane and rational while giving them some entertainment. Laughter and truth diffuse everything.

I couldn’t imagine having to keep all these “insane”—but not insane—just OCD thoughts, inside for me to stew over alone. Sure, someone will think it’s weird; it is weird, but is it?

How many other people do you think struggle like this, but are too afraid to speak about it? What a solemn thought. Because I have OCD, does that take away from the perfection that is me? Because I have OCD, should I solemnly declare to live sadly and miserably? Should I drug myself up and get back into bed and waste all the gifts that OCD has given me? Would it be better for me to hide my inner workings so people don’t judge me?

I would rather think God, cruelly but funnily, sent me here with OCD so he could laugh a little. Like “oh dear, look at her, she is really spiraling this time, Gosh she really IS adorable, I made her so perfectly.”

There is balance in everything, good and bad. OCD has moments of pure desperation where I cannot handle being me. But in turn, I remember every detail of every person I have come across. I don’t forget conversations or important information, and I have so much compassion for all the folks in the world. Because no matter what it is they are experiencing, I have thought of a worse scenario and then lived it in my mind, while not living it at all.

I have had to sit with and be with my anxiety, fear and irrational thoughts while feeling alone, abandoned and rejected by society because I am not like everyone else. The truth is, it never really mattered if they rejected me…I reject myself. There is a trick you know, if you have OCD you have to develop a boatload of acceptance. My answer to some of the weirdest things I think is simply “maybe.” On the really hard days I just wait….I know that if God created me with OCD, he also created me with the ability to treat myself with patience and kindness. That is not to say that all people will be patient and kind with me. Not everyone will understand OCD or want to, like they would with other health conditions, and that’s OK. I am the one who has to settle here and find peace because this is the health issue I was given and it will never really go away; which only means I have a choice to make, fight OCD or work with it.

Whatever it is, that is causing your days to be longer and harder, may you find acceptance and peace. Mental health issues are on the rise given we are living through a pandemic, that not one of us could have predicted nor have any control over. For example, I have OCD, Dr. Google and entirely way too much time to think. What’s the worst you think could happen? It’s a balance thing because, on the other hand, this pandemic has slowed me down enough to recognize that I do have OCD, Dr. Google and entirely way too much time to think. There is always good in the bad and bad in the good.

My only advice right now is to find a sense of humor about whatever it is. We are often given things that we don’t want in this life — whether diseases, divorces, bankruptcies, mental health issues etc., but we are always given a choice. That choice is to find the blessings or settle for a curse.

I am a quirky little thing, weird and not at all normal, but even if today was my worst day, there isn’t anyone I would rather be. That is acceptance and it’s the only thing I (and you) really need.

Side note: if you are reading this and have OCD or any other generalized anxiety disorder, you probably don’t have cancer or diabetes just because I wrote about it, this is not a sign. If anything, it’s a reminder to smile and don’t be too hard on yourself.

Keep going.

Getty image by Анастасия Бойко

Want more of The Mighty?
You can find even more stories on our Home page. There, you’ll also find thoughts and questions by our community.
Take Me Home