When you hear someone say “I have OCD,” what do you think that means?
Beds that are made.
Organized junk drawers.
Labeled canisters in the pantry.
These are just some of the things that many people associate with having OCD. “My OCD won’t let me keep the Christmas tree up any longer,” a woman says on Instagram. “I have to send my kids to school dressed perfectly because I have OCD” someone else jokes on Facebook.
OCD isn’t any of those things. OCD is intrusive and constant. It is not about having to clean anything for appearances or self-gratification. It is about trying to control those worries and thoughts that live in your head so that you can get through your day. Actual OCD is exhausting. OCD is debilitating and takes over every part of your world.
Simple things feel dangerous.
Obsessive Compulsion Disorder can present itself in so many ways. For me, my OCD manifests itself through intrusive thoughts and in the health of myself and those around me. The earliest memory I have that might be considered obsessive was when I would lay in bed every night and cry from thinking our house was going to burn down, which would result in me losing my family. I would make sure I would go to bed with all of my stuffed animals tucked in (in a specific order) because somehow that was going to prevent the fire from happening. I could relax enough to fall asleep.
While I don’t tuck in stuffed animals to help calm my fears, I do check the doors of the house and to my car numerous times. I still worry about the locked doors while in bed. What if someone comes in while we are sleeping and I don’t hear them? What if I rushed through checking the locks last time and missed something? So I get up and check again.
When you have OCD, the world around you becomes a scary place. Living becomes a frightening experience that you would rather avoid. Over time, I have learned responses to the things around me that cause fear and those learned responses are soothing to me and help me function.
Let me assure you: I am by the far the least organized person you will meet. I shove things into random drawers and I hoard old papers like you wouldn’t believe. Up until I was married, my room always looked like a bomb went off in it. I have never been what you would call a neat person. Instead, I focus obsessively on the hazards of living. For a while, driving was even a tough thing for me to do. What if I hit a child riding a bike or someone ran into me? I was having intrusive thoughts the entire time I would drive and it became easier to just not do it.
While I am not able to control the obsessions and anxiety that I have, I can control how I deal with having it. Therapy and medication, in conjunction, have been the best treatments for me. While I wish that having OCD simply meant that my house was always clean, I am learning to live with what it means and what I need to do to try to keep those thoughts in check.