By James Gummer
Many people think that Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is just that hand-washing thing, or a need to tidy up your bedroom. It can be. But most of the time, it’s so much more.
OCD is a tricky bastard.
It’s having a meltdown in front of my girlfriend who I haven’t seen for the three months she’s been on tour because the airline lost my suitcase. It’s the need to keep calling the help number over and over again, and the need to drive back to the airport hours later to see if they’ve found it. Not because I am in dire need of anything within it, but just because life feels completely wrong without it.
And then OCD is standing with my girlfriend in a department store, as it takes over an hour to pick out socks and underwear.
It’s being unable to get over a relationship when it’s done. It’s thinking that I’ll never meet anyone else because I’m too old, or too ugly, or too creepy, and replaying these thoughts without being able to stop them. It’s like a having a song that I don’t like stuck in my head while being punched in the nuts. And it’s the fear that when I see my ex with the new boyfriend that I just won’t be able to handle it, even though I have no idea what not “handling it” means.
OCD is not being able to leave the house because I believe the police are after me for causing a major traffic accident, because I may have cut someone off, even though there’s no concrete evidence to support this. And there’s nothing on the evening news about an accident. And there’s nothing on the Internet that I’ve compulsively checked for hours.
OCD ruins things like practicing a musical instrument by turning it into something I have to do, rather than something I enjoy. Because if I don’t do it I’m a lazy loser. And I’ll forget how to play if I take a day off. And I suck anyway so I really should practice. And if I suck at something I’m just not worth anything.
It does the same thing with healthy activities like exercise or meditation, making them compulsions, therefore negating many of the positive stress-reducing effects that they might have.
It’s living in a state of almost constant physical tension because I don’t use my body efficiently. It’s constant muscle pain, grinding teeth, and insomnia.
OCD is a feeling of impending doom and interpreting everyone’s actions as being against me. If someone is in a bad mood, like a boss, a parent, or friend, it must be my fault.
OCD is believing that a romantic interest no longer likes me because a text isn’t replied to as quickly as I hoped or expected.
It’s panic attacks when things don’t go as planned, or thinking that things won’t go as planned, or just doing a bunch of planning or thinking.
There is help. There’s Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. Medicines can sometimes be effective. But It’s important to find therapists and psychiatrists that specialize in the treatment of OCD. And it takes time and work.
Santa Claus makes a list and checks it twice? That’s amateur. I’ll check my list till the words fall of the page. I’ll check freakin’ everything.
About James Gummer
James Gummer has no idea what’s going on and is learning to be okay with that. He writes in Baltimore, Maryland where he also teaches drumming, qigong, and meditation. James regularly performs with The Drum Runners, a dynamic percussion trio. Visit him at james-writes.com
James, this was a long awaited post and I am SO glad you wrote it. Talk about worth the wait. You nailed it. This is what living with OCD is like.
Thank you for honesty, James! You just described my ex. Wow. He wouldn’t acknowledge any of it so kudos to you for knowing what you have and dealing with it.
Do you find that meds and therapy help? I see it in my teen girl and we’ve taken action with her — Buspar and therapy. So far, so good.
So glad to see honest accounts of OCD. Needs more exposure as a very real and disruptive even destructive illness, and NOT fussiness or being anal retentive. Thanks for writing
Thanks for sharing your story. I don’t have an OCD diagnosis but found myself relating to a lot of what you wrote. It’s good to learn about illnesses other than the ones I suffer from, and to see the similarities we all have who suffer from mental illnesses.
James – my son has OCD, and we’ve used neurorepletes to help get his neurotransmitters balanced. Seems to have been the most effective thing we’ve found. We all have a little OCD in us – it’s when it interrupts your life that it becomes a problem. Thanks for sharing.
I remember telling my psychiatrist she had to be wrong when she diagnosed me with OCD. I am not overly clean and I am not numbers obsessed, things I thought were symptoms of OCD.
Instead, I would do things like retracing my steps back to a pot hole I drove over because I could not stop wondering if it was really a person I hit. Or the many times I will drive 20 minutes out of my way to recheck things I KNOW I verified before I left the house or work.
I have noticed that my symptoms whether, anxiety, OCD, or depression are much less when I make sure I get plenty of sleep. Avoid things or situations I know trigger me and keep me from sleep. Ultimately we must try the best we can to seek help from those who can help us manage our minds.
Hopefully, sharing our symptoms will help the health profession find some real help for us.
Much love and strength from me to you,