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What OCD Has Taken From Me

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If I had one quote to summarize what I feel nowadays, it would be this:

“We all live in a house on fire, no fire department to call; no way out, just the upstairs window to look out of while the fire burns the house down with us trapped, locked in it.”
– Tennessee Williams, “The Milk Train Doesn’t Stop Here Anymore”

Sounds terrifying, right? Well, it is. Living with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is terrifying.

In the morning, I need to check my phone for about a half hour. After I finish my time on my phone, I take my medications, get dressed and brush my teeth. In that exact order, every single day. If I am not able to do this, I’m convinced something bad is going to happen to me during the day. Not because I’m addicted to my cellphone or simply don’t like my routine being altered, but because if my routine gets messed up, so does my perception of the day and how I cope with it.

At night, I can’t sleep until I check my front door by turning the knob ten times while counting to five twice. I stand at the front door muttering, “one, two, three four, five, one, two, three four, five.” Then I go to my back door, “one, two, three four, five, one, two, three four, five.” Then I check every single outlet in the house, feeling the untouched plugs exactly five times each. If something is plugged, I have to unplug it. I repeat this process typically three or more times before I eventually go to bed, only after I brush my teeth, wash my face and pray. If I don’t do this routine, I feel like I’m going to die. Which I know sounds absurd, and I know it is absurd, but it’s what I genuinely believe if I don’t do my routine as per usual.

Because of this, I can’t go to a friend’s house for a sleepover like any “normal” teenager would be able to, I can’t sleep at a family member’s house for the night or be out after 9 p.m. If I am, I panic. I lose all sense of comfort or the ability to calm down.

I could go on all day about my habits. Like how I sanitize before every meal, after I open a door or after I get off the bus. Or how I have to have my food organized on my plate in a way that looks visually appealing or else I can’t eat it. Or how on bad days where my routines at night or in the morning get altered, I need to make up for it by not eating whatsoever, or if I do eat, it needs to be a specific food. Or how if I listen to a certain song on the bus, it will crash, so I have to skip it. Or… or… I think you get the point.

OCD isn’t a “cute” illness that means you just like to be really organized or you don’t like germs. OCD is the need to repeat certain behaviors because if you don’t, you genuinely believe there is going to be a consequence. The consequence could be as little as the fear of not sleeping that night or as big as fearing for your life, constantly. OCD is the sense of relief you get when you repeat those habits over and over because the bizarre part is, for a brief moment it actually makes you happy. OCD is feeling shame after you feel a sense of relief from doing your specific habit or ritual. OCD is feeling guilty when you cancel on your loved ones because it might interfere with your routine.

OCD is an illness that makes you feel isolated, ashamed and embarrassed. OCD is real.

Getty image by AntonioGuillem

Originally published: November 6, 2019
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