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Why You Shouldn't Point out My OCD Rituals

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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 International OCD Foundation’s website.

I live with a range of mental illnesses, one of which is obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).

I was diagnosed with this disorder around three years ago, although my symptoms began many years before I was actually diagnosed. Even though I do have a diagnosis and a so-called “label” to identify my numerous rituals, checks and counting behaviors, I feel like OCD is very much misunderstood in the mental illness family tree.

Many people who perhaps aren’t fully aware of OCD may believe it is characterized by cleaning behaviors to fight away germs and illnesses, and to prevent germs from getting into our bodies and our immune systems. People who don’t know much about OCD may just think people like things neat, arranged in order and spotless. Those symptoms may occur in people with OCD too. OCD acts in different ways and affects people in various ways. OCD is a horrible, misunderstood illness and can take over a person’s character and behavior completely.

For me, my OCD is all about numbers, counting, checks, safety checks, obsessions and intrusive thoughts. I feel reassured by counting to even numbers, or being in the presence of an even number. So, for example, living at an even-numbered house, pressing the street crossing lights button to an even number of times, sat on an even numbered chair or being in an even numbered appointment room. I find even numbers “safe.” Even numbers or counting to an even number brings me a temporary relief. I know they’re safe; I know I’m safe.

I count endlessly to ensure everything is an even number. I use maths every day to ensure I’m safe. My house number is 27, which is not an even number, however, the single digits two and seven multiplied together make 14, so that’ safe — I am reassured by that. If I am going to an appointment and there is a row of chairs in the waiting area, I will sit on the even-numbered chair, as that’s safe.

However, my OCD doesn’t just consist of even numbers, calculating and mathematics. My OCD traits include safety; when I am locking up my house, I count to 10 twice when I lock the doors. I press down the handle with force to ensure the door is locked whilst counting until I reach ten. Then I repeat it.
When leaving the house to venture into the outside world, before I can even leave I need to make sure my home is safe and secure. Now, this doesn’t just include locking doors and windows; this includes ensuring the main switch of the oven is completely off, unplugging most appliances like hair straighteners and chargers, turning off the kettle and toaster, along with a few other safety checks too.

All these checks doesn’t mean I can leave my home and go about my day straight way; no, my OCD doesn’t work like that.

I have to go around every room in my home multiple times to ensure everything is turned off and there is no danger, then I have to write it all down and tick all the boxes, so that way when I am away from my home I have a visual aid to help ease my worries and anxieties.

Along with safety checks and the counting, I also struggle with switches, grids and signs. I will not walk under a sign or beside a sign — for example, I cannot walk under a road sign is positioned over the pavement without fear, anxiety and stress. I have this deep embedded, horrible image in my head that if I walk under any sign at all, then the sign will fall on me. That image fills me with fear and anxiety… and you can see why. I refuse to walk on large grids where my whole body is over the grid — again, I have this deep, deep visual image in my head of me falling through the grid and being trapped and forgotten about.

I live with these obsessive and compulsive rituals daily, so it’s challenging and difficult. I often refuse to leave my home because of the checks and the thought of watching every single step I take is too much for me. The thought of ensuring every switch I see — in shops, cafes, my home or appointment buildings — is turned off can be overwhelmingly draining.

However, what I do not appreciate is when people who know me point out when I have not carried out a ritual. They point out when I stand on a portion of a grid (in my attempt to tackle my fear), or they make me walk on a grid by telling me to move over (when I have not noticed the grid myself). People have giggled, laughed at me and found it silly when I refuse to walk on grids or under signs. They point out switches I have missed or even purposely missed to expose my fear and intrusive thoughts.

I am trying to expose myself in small ways in the hope to tackle my fears, my worries, stresses and anxieties. Just because you find it quirky or silly and stupid, when you may giggle at me, it does not help. In fact, it makes me feel tremendously worse. It makes me feel stupid and weird and makes me feel self-conscious. I am trying my best to deal with this slowly. Instead of laughing at me or giggling or saying it’s stupid, why don’t you say: ”you did really well there, how’re you feeling now?” If you don’t have anything positive to say, then don’t say anything at all.

My OCD affects me in many different ways. Some days are better than others and some days are more severely impacted than others. Obsessive-compulsive disorder is different from person to person; one thing we all have in common in that OCD is incredibly draining and frustrating to live with. We are constantly fighting our inner thoughts and it’s tremendously hard, so please try to be patient with us.

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Thinkstock photo via GOLFX

Originally published: July 12, 2017
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