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The OCD Nightmare

August 24, 2009

One of the things you may (or may not!) know about me, is that I suffer from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder – OCD.  Most times I can handle it – it has been a part of my life for many years now and is something I have pretty much learned to live with.  Other times it really, really gets to me.  Today is one of those times.  I don’t know whether it is a side effect of my depression (which is being treated) or of my probable Asperger’s (which is not), or whether it is a standalone affliction.  What I do know, is that it does it’s very best to torment my daily life, regardless of how and why it came to me.

It started small.  So small that I really didn’t notice it at first – didn’t realise that I had started to do things slightly differently.  I was still at school – I think it was probably while I was studying for my GCSEs.  I would leave the house, get halfway down the street and suddenly not be able to remember whether the door was properly shut.  I would stand for a minute or two, telling myself that yes, of course the door was shut, there’s no way I’d go out and leave it wide open.  Then I would turn around and go back, just to check.  From there it progressed to closing the door, and then having to tug it – just to make absolutely sure.  Just one tug?  Oh, no – it couldn’t be that simple!  I have to do it five times.  I do everything in multiples of five, you see.  If I accidentally do six, I have to go to 10…the next multiple.

I am one of those unusual (apparently) OCD sufferers, who favours odd numbers to even ones.  However, if I had to place items in rows, all of the rows would have to be equal – although preferably with an odd number in each row!  So is my OCD confined to door-tugging and number fixation?  Not at all!  There is also my checking of the gas taps on the cooker – if I use one and turn it off, I have to check that all of them are off.  If I accidentally touch one again, I have to recheck them all.  If anyone goes near the cooker I check them – just in case.  I am constantly checking that the back door is locked.  Hand-washing has suddenly become much more prominent for me – strangely that was one aspect I thought I had successfully escaped.  We have a swing bin in the kitchen, and when I put something in it I have to avoid touching the lid of the bin – otherwise I have to wash my hands.  I only dry my hands with paper towels (more hygienic than a regular towel).  This has a downside though – the paper towels have to be thrown away…in the bin.  So if I accidentally touch the bin in the process, the ritual begins all over again!

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When searching through Google to find a couple of images to add to this post, my OCD reared its ugly head once more.  I had found all the images I wanted by page seven.  I had to go to page 10.  Because seven was in between five and 10 and therefore not an acceptable place to stop.  Would the sky fall in if I stopped there?  Of course not.  Would the earth open up and swallow me for daring to defy the demands of my OCD brain?  Not at all.  So why not stop?  Why not think:  ‘Actually, I can stop here, and nothing bad is going to happen’?  Because I can’t.  Because if I stopped at the seventh page I would end up obsessing over it all day.  I would be tying myself up in knots over it, feeling like a coiled spring ready to snap at the slightest provocation.  And that would not be fair on the Chipmunk, or on myself.  So I gave in to the OCD.  I went to page 10.  Did I find any other pictures to use, that far outshone the ones I had already chosen and made the whole wretched ordeal worthwhile?  Did I heck.  I got to page 10, closed the browser tab and came here to tell you about it.  There are a thousand other things that I do every day, but listing them all here is probably not going to help (although it would, perhaps, occupy my time enough for me to avoid doing some of them today!)

Sometimes, I can look at my situation and laugh.  Sometimes, I think about the way I am and I cry.  But I’m me, I can’t change it – at least not overnight.  So why do I allow my life to be ruled by OCD?  Surely – surely – the thing to do is fight it.  Stand up and say ‘NO! You will not control me any more’.  Oh, how much I would love to do that.  How I would embrace an existence free from anxiety and ritual – and from the very real fear that I will pass my irrational behaviour on to the Chipmunk.  But I can’t.  At least not yet.  The truth, you see, is that it is easier to simply accept the OCD than it is to fight it.  Performing the rituals – frustrating and nonsensical as they may be – is actually less time-consuming than not performing them.  I am so used to them that I do them automatically, I don’t have to think about it.  Much more time is wasted trying to reason my way out of doing something than just doing it and getting on with my day.  The things I do may not make any sense – to myself or anyone else! – but, for now at least, it’s just the way my life is.  I have come to the conclusion that I need to somehow begin a journey of acceptance instead.  So I will struggle back to a place where I am at peace with myself and to what is, for me, relative normality.  Tomorrow is another day.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. August 24, 2009 15:53

    Hannah,you seem to have one problem after another to deal with. I think from the short time I’ve known you, that you do a fantastic job of coping with various demands!

    john. xx

  2. August 24, 2009 20:03

    Wow, Hannah, thanks for putting that out there. Sometimes I wonder, as long as it has not taken over your life or created a wall that doesn’t allow for social interaction, who is bothered more by OCD behaviour…the inflicted or the by-stander.

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