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The 'Rules' of My OCD

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I live(d) a life of rules.

This is allowed.

This isn’t.

If you do this, then you have to do this.

Before you do that, make sure this is done.

My brain never stops.

My rules are made by my obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). They are strict, nonsensical and ever-changing. The rules are made by fear and are carried out because of the threat. The “what-if” in breaking a rule is always so much worse than following the rule. So I buck up, do it anyways, and think maybe next time I’ll be able to fight it.

My life was full of rules.

Cue inner head monologue about making food as an example:

Open the fridge by the top of the door, the handle is dirty. Cupboards are open from the bottom, grab a plate, inspect it. The cutlery drawer is fine if you use the left side of the handle (even though left is “bad,” it’s clean). Cook food. Try hard not to burn it,but cook it long enough that it won’t make you sick. Read the instructions one more time. Maybe call Mom and ask a question if something looks weird. Send a picture for good measure in case you didn’t explain it well enough. Dishes in the sink, I only wanna do the dishwasher thing once this meal. The food goes on the plate, and finally you can eat. Don’t let your fingers touch your lips. OK, it happened, but just wash your hands. Turn in tap, get soap, put soap on tap, wash hands, turn off tap. Make some comment about how your hands are sticky or something so you don’t look like weird. Go back to eating and don’t let it happen again or else they will get suspicious. Need a drink. Cups are fine if you touch the bottom two thirds. The food is done. Pick up the plate from the bottom so you don’t touch where the food had been, cup is the two-thirds rule. Open dishwasher, place dirty items, wash hands. Close dishwasher, wash hands. Move on to the next thing.

I know I am so much better than I was before, but they always come back. I am trying to be strong because these are habits and my habits can be broken when I create new ones. My instinct is to do things how I did them before because that was “safe.” But it also sucked. The rules ruled my life. I was living my life based on what my OCD let me do and how it let me do it. That is not the life I deserve. I knew these rules did not apply to anyone else, yet they were still alive, healthy and happy. Why can’t I break away from these rules and be the same way? The hold they have on me is strong, but guess what? So am I.

I will never not have OCD, and I know this. My mind is wired to do things certain ways. I however, am not a flaw, and I am damn tired of living as though I am. I will never be perfect, but I will be better. I know where my OCD took me in the past, and I have no desire to ever go there again. The world is scary to me and full of things I truly believe will ruin my life. I wish I could un-see them, un-think them and un-know them, but I can’t. The fear is as real to me, as the computer I type on. I however will fight like hell to live fully despite these fears. I will fall, stumble, and break, but I will also get back up and fight on for another day.

One of my favorite quotes is “Be a warrior, not a worrier.” Anyone else with OCD, or any anxiety disorder, will probably understand how powerful this statement is. When people used to tell me “not to worry about it” my answer was always, “But that is my number one skill.” Well not anymore. I am going have a new number one skill: my ability to fight.

I have a note on my phone and it says, “In the grip of a compulsive urge there is nowhere to hide and nothing to reason with. To resist a compulsion with willpower alone is to hold back an avalanche by melting the snow with a candle. It just keeps coming and coming and coming. The obsessions and compulsions of OCD are linked by a force of nature so strong that to break the connection demands almost supernatural effort.” It’s by David Adam from his book, “The Man Who Couldn’t Stop” (a book about OCD I haven’t read but found a load of excerpts from). This quote used to serve as an excuse. I was not superhuman, so why could I ever think about beating something an expert thought so indestructible? This quote made me think it was OK to not fight because this demon was too big for me. Now it serves as inspiration. How amazing is it that I have the chance to prove my strength against this beast, every minute of every day? Look at how tough people think this is, and I can do it. I feel almost lucky to have been given the brain I have because I know every moment free is a moment I earned for myself. My life is not easy, but it is so rewarding.

My head is a battleground, and I was defeated. The enemy had gained ground, and I was no longer trying to take it back. I had accepted my fate and was “making do.” Now I say, fuck that. I will work my tail off to gain that ground back and hold it for the rest of my life.

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Thinkstock photo by Be Silvestre.

Originally published: March 24, 2017
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