The Mighty Logo

Quirks That Made More Sense Once I Was Diagnosed With OCD

The most helpful emails in health
Browse our free newsletters

Editor's Note

If you struggle with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741. To find help, visit the International OCD Foundation’s website.

When I was a child I would often count how many steps it took to get across a room (or to a certain point in a room), or outside or in a parking lot and would often try to make it across or to those certain points in a certain amount of steps. I even thought maybe if I accomplished this, I would somehow have good luck or something. And if I did not, maybe something bad would happen. This continued as I aged. As a kid, I would often try to step over cracks so I did not break my mother’s back, of course, and this also continued as I aged, even once I knew it would not really break her back. I have stepped on some before regardless and although she has a lot of back issues, it is not broken and I am pretty sure it is a combination of genes and her former job that caused the back issues, I hope anyways. These things are just a couple of the quirks I did not realize at first might be symptoms of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). At first, I thought everyone just did this.

I remember the day I went to my doctor, who also happens to have OCD, and was finally diagnosed. The truth is, this doctor had been trying to get me on medication and/or therapy for a while, but I had to hit rock bottom before I finally realized that or listened. By this point, my postpartum was so severe that I did not want to live anymore, my husband had left and our marriage almost ended. I always joked about being OCD, like many often do, even some that truly are not and probably others like me, who do not realize they actually are yet. I liked things clean, I was obsessed with planners and I was a perfectionist, but these quirky things about me helped me finish college in only three years, start my first 401k at 21 and buy my first house at 22. I also became a manager by the time I was 25. I also got pregnant at 25, had my daughter at 26, and by the time I was 28, the obsession over cleaning, planning and being perfect finally caught up to me. I was burnt out. As my doctor told me, some people who often excel with OCD when they are younger in school, find that marriage, parenting and careers are not often as easy to excel in. You cannot just study and get a perfect grade in any of them.

As I sat in the doctor’s office that day, I pointed out a chip in his counter and told him that chip does not bother me because it is in your office, but if it were in a counter at my house I would be obsessing about it until it was fixed. You can imagine how many little repairs, chips, dings there probably are around your own house right now, around most houses right now. Imagine obsessing over all of them. Maybe you do or have like I did. My poor husband too, because if it was not something I could fix myself, I wanted him to like yesterday. Just as my doctor joked, he noticed by OCD medication was working before I even did. Ironically I have never obsessed the same way about dings on the outside of my car, although I do on the inside probably due to looking at it more. I also love the inside of it to be clean and it starts to bother me when it is not, just like my house. My doctor suggested I watch the movie “As Good As It Gets” with Jack Nicholson and Helen Hunt. It had come out many years before, but I had never seen it. I watched it and I loved it, and I did relate to some of the main character’s quirks. I have never been grumpy all the time or the same type of socially awkward, although socially awkward in other ways nonetheless. I have never turned lights off and on repeatedly and I am not a germaphobe, but I stepped over cracks and have had other ritualistic behaviors that affect my personal and professional life.

I try to get the last drop of toothpaste or soap out of every bottle before I throw them away. It bothers me a little when more than one is open and in use and it feels like I accomplished something when I use one up, like I kept it from being wasted. Like Jack Nicholson’s character, I am an author and I was a perfectionist. I try not to be anymore and call myself a “recovering one” now, but my doctor told me something once I never realized was an OCD symptom. I knew perfectionism was. However, the way he worded it really struck me, he said when you feel like other people are always slacking, you are probably OCD. This one really struck a chord with me when it came to my professional life. I often felt others did not work as hard as me. Of course I later realized a lot of this was I often killed myself for employers who would still get rid of you in a second if needed, and then resented it when I did not get the reward I felt I deserved. Meanwhile, others realized it was your personal life that was more important and that there is a difference in being a good employee and being a doormat.

I also eventually realized this more in my personal life. Honestly, I am still working on this every day, especially in my professional life. It was honestly easier in my personal life where I have more control. But in my professional life I often find myself tolerating things I would never tolerate personally just to keep a paycheck coming, even if for a little while. My husband and I both found more work life balance after having a child and that has continued to remain a priority any time a job change comes up as we age. Another symptom my doctor pointed out to me was when I sent him very long emails with little to no paragraphs. He jokingly wrote me a prescription with the paragraph symbol on it once. He can tell I am doing better when I send him well paragraphed emails. My brother and others have often joked with me about talking in one run on sentence in person when I get excited. This often happens when I come back from a trip and have a lot to tell someone for instance. My daughter is the same way. I often write emails or thoughts like that out now without sending or posting them. Sometimes I send or post them later once I have added paragraphs. Writing my thoughts actually helped lead to my diagnosis, my books and my blogs. These days, I still get a little pleasure when I use up a soap bottle or some toothpaste, but not as bothered when I don’t. I rarely find myself counting steps or stepping over cracks lately. I still like a clean house and car, but do not stress as much when they are not clean anymore. We have two dogs now so I even tolerate dog hair in both, which is of course worth it for the love those two give in return. They help reduce the anxiety my OCD causes probably even more than medication and therapy ever have.

Photo credit: ipopba/Getty Images

Originally published: February 26, 2021
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