Last week for Exploring Neurodiversity and Mental Health, I shared an informational piece on obsessive compulsive disorder. This week I wanted to share with you all a piece I wrote entitled, “I Don’t Have the Kind of OCD You Joke About.”
I want to share a secret with you all. I have obsessive compulsive disorder. That’s not a real secret, though I know some people who know me scoff at this admission. “OCD, Lauren? Really? We’ve seen your kids and your house…”
Truth is I do have OCD. I was diagnosed after Bug and after further exploring it we realized it wasn’t only because of my postpartum anxiety/depression. OCD is something I have lived with my entire life. But I don’t have the kind of OCD people joke about. My OCD is not what they portray as obsessive compulsive disorder on television or in movies.
I don’t care about germs. Disorganization doesn’t bother me. You should see the floor of our Yukon or, well, the coating of stuff that covers the floor of my Yukon. This is why people’s eyebrows grace their hairline when I admit to having OCD. I’m nothing like Monk. I don’t compulsively wash my hands and I am 50 shades of unorganized.
I don’t have the OCD you joke about your mom having because she doesn’t like when you put the dishes away wrong.
My OCD? Well it looks like this…
Sitting on the bathroom floor, rocking back and forth as I try to get the image of my family members murdered on our living room couch out of my head. Because once it enters? It’s there to stay. Even writing this I am afraid to close my eyes. The images that grace my imagination are nothing short of horrifying.
It looks like my tracing my veins because obviously inspecting them will tell me if I caught an incurable disease.
Nightmares that wake me up in a moist bed, shaking from the dreams I just had. The lingering feeling after I awaken. The graphic images making me unable to clothes my eyes to go back to sleep.
Tapping my body parts 10 times to attempt to bring me back to reality when my images and thoughts run out of control.
Calling my husband three dozen times to make sure he’s okay. And having a panic attack when he doesn’t answer and therefore may not be okay.
Walking out of church because I hear sirens go by and I assume it’s one of my family members who is hurt. Sneaking out the back as I frantically check to see if anyone I love has updated their status. Because I can’t bother them with a text message again.
My OCD isn’t glamorous. It’s not clean.
It’s kind of messy, which always shocks people. Messy thoughts, messy feelings, messy mind.
Being diagnosed with OCD was a breath of fresh air. Up until then I lived a pretty lonely existence with my anxiety. People around me who also suffered from anxiety couldn’t understand my crazy thoughts. I felt ashamed and embarrassed by the images stuck in my mind. After all, would you really be comfortable with the fact your mind would think about your parents getting in a car accident and that’s all you could think about for hours? And that those thoughts often escalated into specifics.
Getting a diagnosis allowed me to take a step back and realize my thoughts weren’t just because I was a bad person—because I felt like a bad person a good percentage of the time. There’s such a guilt involved in the type of OCD I struggle with because we don’t want to imagine the things we get stuck on.
Sure, I would prefer not to feel like I have to call my husband 27 times exactly after he doesn’t answer the first. I would prefer it even more if that compulsion didn’t come after having vivid images of him having an affair in my mind for hours before I cave and call.
Getting this diagnosis though-it suddenly explained a lifetime of struggling.
I was able to put a name to these thoughts and compulsions. Guilt was not a necessary factor any longer. There was a real reason they existed. And that reason was a mental illness that had been roaming my mind for years. It wasn’t that I secretly hoped these images could come true, as one terrible psychiatrist mentioned. It was that my mind caught hold of one and it became my focus.
Suddenly, the me who found myself sitting in my moms room at 3am, having a panic attack because I read a single sentence on a Youtube forum and believed the world was about to end...that me was explained. She made sense. Well, as much sense as a mental illness can make.
Even with that acceptance though, even with the knowledge, my obsessive compulsive disorder feels very lonely.
Like I said, this isn’t what you see on television. The show Monk is probably the closest to my reality because he did have some fears that he had to do compulsions to help alleviate(but they never go away.) You don’t see in movies people who have these intrusive thoughts take over their mind until it’s all they can think about. More often, you see a woman washing her hands compulsively in the sink to get rid of the germs. You don’t see a mom of 6 who watches as one breathes, counting the seconds in between to reassure herself they are breathing normal.
You don’t see movies about a mom on the side of the road checking her tires(forgetting she doesn’t even know what she’s checking) to make sure they aren’t going to explode and burn them all in a fiery death.
I don’t have the kind of OCD you joke about. I’m not “like so OCD because my house needs to be cleaned a certain way.” I’m not “a little OCD” about how my clothes organized.
I don’t have the kind of obsessive compulsive disorder we often talk about. And that’s why I need to share this now. Because everyone out there who struggles with OCD the way I do-you deserve to feel safe as well. You deserve to live a life without guilt and shame over your thoughts.
If you’re out there living with the same kind of OCD I’m dealing with, please. Feel free to come talk to me. Get help! Find a trusted therapist who can help you manage what’s going on in your mind. You aren’t alone, sweet friends.