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What You Might Not Understand When You Joke About OCD

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So most of you know, but I struggle with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), anxiety and panic disorder. Believe me when I say this is not something I choose to have. Nor, am I happy about or proud of.

I know the movies would have you think OCD is something comical. For the most part I can take the jokes, but some days my skin is only so thick. I know everyone has certain things they are afraid of. I know many people have times they are stressed out. I know these two things, fear and stress, are not pleasant by any means to anyone. However, only a handful of people truly understand what it feels like to live with OCD and panic disorder.

Every morning when I wake up, it’s as if a 600 pound grizzly bear is staring me in the face. From the moment my eyes open, the flight or fight response, the instinctive physiological response to a threatening situation, is triggered. This response can be triggered by real, imaginary or completely unknown “why” threats.

So from the start of my day, adrenaline is pulsing through my veins. This means an increased heart rate and breathing rate, as well as high blood pressure. This is how I start my day every day. This is me as baseline. As the day progresses, things I may encounter can push this to an even higher level.

What are the results?  A full blown panic attack, a sudden feeling of acute and disabling anxiety. I’m not talking anxiety as most people experience. I’m talking a long list of symptoms, which include hyperventilation, a racing heart, chest pain, shaking, a choking feeling that interferes with breathing, nausea, a fear of dying or losing control.

You may ask, “How does OCD fit into this picture?” My OCD is how I cope and fight off my panic. My OCD is my ally. In my mind, it is my protector if I eat the same food every day, if I wash my hands enough or if I triple check everything counting aloud. I can avoid a panic attack most of the time.

I don’t choose to live like this. I feel at times fear sucks much of the joy out of my life. I do still celebrate the small moments, those times of my day when I enjoy without panic. I do really try to push myself through some of my fears.

Here’s the point of sharing all this: I don’t want anyone to walk on eggshells around me. I have a sense of humor. I think it’s good to be able to laugh at yourself. In fact, it really is true that laughter is good medicine. However, I ask the next time you consider using one of my phobias or rituals as a joke, please remember the punchline is a demon I fight every day and it’s not so funny.

Originally published: July 8, 2016
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