By Tara

The OCD Mind

Well, hello there! Thank you for stepping into my office, have a seat. I’m about to take you on a pretty intense ride. The OCD ride. If you know me pretty well, then you already know that I suffer from OCD and know how debilitating it has been for me. If you haven’t read my OCD story, please go back and read my other story on my blog page. Thanks!!

Anyways, if you ever get a chance to come to my apartment, you will notice a few things. You will notice that I am fairly clean, organized, I appreciate things being color coordinated or matching, and I hardly ever find a new place for decorations. Unfortunately, most people would look at me and say, “Tara, you are so OCD.” Then there are those that say they are “so OCD” because they are also neat and organized. Now, I applaud you for being an organized person like myself, but this is not OCD. Fun fact: hoarding is a form of OCD. Are hoarders clean and organized? No. So please do us all OCDers a favor and stop linking cleanliness and organization to OCD. It’s actually quite offensive… let me explain why…

There are many levels and forms of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. I wrote it out again in hopes that you might understand why most people are incorrect in their definition of OCD. Don’t understand? Allow me to explain. The “obsessive” part indicates that one with the disorder would obsess over any unwanted or uncontrolled thoughts, also known as intrusive thoughts. These thoughts are typically fears, and these fears include worrying that one might kill someone, that one might turn into a pedophile, that one might not love or be attracted to their significant other anymore, that one might turn gay, one might die from simply touching a door handle, etc. Some other fears include worrying about a loved one dying or getting sick or a loved one getting into an accident. Now, let me back up and say something real quick… being gay is not a bad thing, don’t get me wrong, but some straight people with OCD do have the fear of suddenly being attracted to those of the same sex. Most of these people are even in a heterosexual relationship/marriage and love their significant other very much, but still feel that worry inside. These fears can get so intense, that they can actually form feelings. One with OCD can actually have feelings that are not real. They can feel they want to do something they don’t really want to do, or they may have a “groinal response,” which can be confused as sexual arousal. Yes, anxiety can cause these feelings which, in turn, makes the anxiety worse.

The “compulsive” part indicates that one would act on compulsions in attempt to alleviate the anxiety and the thoughts. There are thousands of compulsions that us with OCD do. For me, I perform rituals for everything… literally. I have a thing with odd numbers, so I count everything I do and I make sure I never stop on an even number, and I also step in and out of each doorway a certain number of times. A couple of other things I do is tap on items, move small items around, and I stare at things. I do these little things until it just “feels” right. If I don’t do this, I feel like someone will die or that my intrusive thoughts are real. Another type of compulsion is reassurance checking. One would continue to ask other people for reassurance that their thoughts are just their OCD or that their thoughts are not real. Once they get this reassurance, they calm down… for just a short time. OCD is evil and the anxiety does come back. It’s a vicious cycle.

Let me tell you a short story about what happened to me a while back. At one point in my life, my OCD was a lot worse off than it is right now. During this time, I had to do nonstop rituals from the moment I woke up to the moment I went to bed. Every. Single. Day. One day, I couldn’t get to that “feel right” feeling with one of my rituals and it stressed me out so bad, that I sat on my bed and I did not move. I hardly even blinked. I was so afraid that my one small ritual I couldn’t complete was going to ruin my life and somehow everyone in my family would end up dead. I felt the safest thing to do was not move because I feared that “control” I had.

Khloe Kardashian is apparently very organized, which again, I applaud people for, but she recently said, “you say OCD is a disease, I say it’s a blessing.” Sorry, but there is no level of OCD that is a blessing. Think about this for a second… every single person in the entire world has random unwanted thoughts. For example: one might have a random thought of stabbing someone they care about. A person without OCD would just shrug it off knowing that it is a ridiculous thought, but a person with OCD will hold on to that thought. They will continue to think over and over that they are a psychopath. They will tell themselves over and over that they are fine and will never harm someone, but that’s when OCD comes knocking and says, “but what if?” From there, it’s a downward spiral. “I would never hurt someone. But what if I do? What if I am crazy? No, I’m not crazy, I’ve never hurt anyone. But what if I have? No, that’s not true, my friends and family always tell me I’m a good person. But what if they are lying or they just don’t know? What if I am in denial and I’m using my OCD as an excuse? No, it’s just OCD talking. But what if it’s not? Have I hurt anyone? No, I never have. But what if I did and I chose to block it out? I think I have hurt someone. I am a dangerous person. I should avoid all dangerous objects or weapons. I should just avoid people completely. In fact, I don’t deserve to live.”

Is it really a blessing, Khloe?

As you can see, OCD is a doubting disease. I’ve mentioned this before, but living with OCD is like living with a demon inside you that is always telling you that you are a bad person or that if you do not perform your rituals, then you will become a bad person or someone will get hurt. It latches on to your greatest fears and tortures you with them. OCD can also cause issues with memory. One can actually have false memory of events… as mentioned above with someone thinking they hurt someone when they never did. Another type of false memory that can occur is what I went through a few years back. For about five months straight, I was never 100% sure about anything… and I mean ANYTHING. For example: I would drive to the grocery store, grab some food, and come back home. As soon as I got home, I denied that I went to the store… and I denied it to myself. For no reason either. I just was not 100% sure that I actually went to the store. It was like I had a strange fear of lying or something.. so instead, I would just choose to not be sure of anything, but it wasn’t a choice.  Another example: I would see a red car drive by the house, and within seconds, I wasn’t sure if it really happened. After a few months of this, I did my research, and learned that it was a part of my OCD. Learning this actually helped the thoughts go away, because at that point, I started to accept my illness.

I’m sure it is obvious by now as to why people with OCD don’t open up more about the illness. Recently, there was a woman that was arrested and her child was taken away from her for a few hours while she was being interrogated. Her arrest was made because she opened up about her frightening thoughts, and someone without OCD reported her. They made an assumption without educating themselves on what OCD really is. So, the next time you say you are “so OCD” because you like things organized a certain way, you like to be very clean, you like to always be on time, etc. Remember all of these details. Do you still think OCD is cool? It is not a personality trait, it is a real disorder, a very debilitating disorder that can take over someone’s life.

Since it has happened to me and I have become more open with it, feel free to ask me anything. If you have read it all the way down to here, I am grateful for you. Thank you for taking the time to educate yourself on this illness. 🙂

–Tara Schwab

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