Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Not hiding what OCD looks like

I remember turning my car’s fuel cap a few times. I remember my husband looking at me and shaking his head and saying, “Don’t do that.”
Later, he gave me a different perspective on what I’d done.

We had driven our vehicles—his truck and my car—to the gas station together about a month ago so he could pump my gas for me after he pumped his own.
I’m capable of pumping my own gas, but if he’s with me, he’ll do it for me. It’s a sweet thing for him to do.
He had to move his truck out of the way of another customer before the tank in my car was full, so I finished up the job.
Larry walked up as I was putting the fuel cap back into place.
I heard it click. But one click didn’t seem to be enough. So I turned it some more. Then some more.
I liked hearing those clicks because they seemed to tell me that the cap was properly closed.

Once we got to a restaurant to eat lunch, Larry said, “You need to control your OCD with the cap, because if you break the seal, it will have to be replaced.”
Larry said once I heard that one click, the cap was sealed.
“How do you know it was OCD making me do that?” I asked.
I wanted to know what he had noticed.
He then gave me a description of what I’d been doing. I turned the cap, yes. Then I stopped and looked at it. Then I turned it again. Then I stopped and looked at it. Then I turned it again.
Yep, obvious signs (in me) of checking OCD.
And I had no idea that I had done anything that anyone else would notice. I thought I was keeping my checking to myself.

At first, I was horrified.
Of course, Larry probably noticed because he knows me so well, knows my OCD so well. And he wasn’t concerned about me showing my OCD as much as he was concerned about me breaking the fuel cap seal.
But I had examined the fuel cap in public, where others could see me. Did anyone else see me?
The incident got me thinking. I’ve always thought that I hid my OCD from others so well. I certainly try to be careful to not let anyone witness my compulsions, or rituals: my staring at lamps, my fiddling with things like water faucets and light switches, my habit of picking up pieces of lint from carpets.
In fact, I try not to do the compulsions in the first place. That’s my goal.
But if I do perform a compulsion, and if others notice, what am I so afraid of? That they’ll think I’m weird? That they’ll think less of me?
Do I really care? I’m not sure.
If they care about me, they’ll ignore my compulsions or ask me about them. If they ask me about them, it’s an opportunity to educate others about OCD.
And if they don’t care about me, why do I care what they think of me?
I don’t want to make a spectacle of myself. But in reality, that’s not likely.
Perhaps I’ve spent too much time worrying about people seeing my OCD. Instead of thinking of ways to hide my OCD, maybe I would do well to focus more on getting better.

If you have OCD, how hard do you work at trying to hide your compulsions from others? Whether you have OCD or not, how would you like to react if a friend performed an OCD compulsion in front of you?

29 comments:

  1. Thank you for this post! I must "look very peculiar" at the gas station although I never thought about this. I always try to get as many clicks as I can out of the cap. Good to know I could break it that way! I did not know that!

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    1. Elizabeth, I didn't know either. I thought the more clicks, the better!

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  2. It's always interesting when people point out things that we thought were only noticable to us. Perhaps he only noticed it though because he knows to look for it.

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    1. Probably so, Keith. And he was worried about the gas cap!

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  3. if i had ocd, i think i would share that fact with my friends. i have multiple sclerosis and all my friends know it. they tell me when i am walking poorly and help me when i need it. they all look out for me!

    an illness is an illness. if you and i are friends, trust me enough to tell me!!

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    1. I love your comment and your great attitude, Debbie. I agree--there needs to be trust between friends. Thank you for sharing.

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  4. What a very dear husband you have- to pump your gas!!! My husband takes my car out every time he gets paid to fill it up for me, because he knows I have anxiety about filling up my car! WHy is that about me? Geez, it freaks me out... I think it is because I don't like people around me watching, especially men, and I don't like to go into the store to pay especially if I have to wait in line. I don't know why I am like this- I know it's weird- but my darling husband who doesn't know why I am like this either- and sometimes it bugs him, because I will drive my car hom with the yellow light on saying that my car is about to have NO MORE gas in it! .... I will fill my car up -I will fill it up when I have no choice.
    Maybe I should take charge of this quirk of mine, and poliety say to my husband... no, this time I will go fill up my car and I will be back soon.

    I always appreciate hearing about your OCD and your heart behind it all. I hope when I share about my 'quirks' I don't bother you- as I know that the two are different, and I never mean to demean the struggle of OCD- because I know, from reading "getting to know you" that it is a battle that rages on.
    And as in all things- nothing is too big, or to small for Jesus to help us, anyone, to overcome... and most of the time He baby steps us- for could you imagine the shock it would bring us if there were no process, or baby steps that He leads us through??? ... Thank you Jesus for Your gentle care with us in all our needs.
    Bless you Tina & Happy Wednesday to you!!!

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    1. Thank you, Deanna. I'm glad you share things from your life--I appreciate it! One of the reasons I don't like to pump gas if I don't have to is because years ago, there was a problem with the gas pump and gas spurted out all over me, then I slipped and fell in it. Quite a mess! I guess I'm afraid that something like that will happen again.

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  5. I had to replace a gas cap once for accidentally turning it too far. I think that in general most people try to mind their own business if they notice something like what you described.

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    1. Lisa, Good reminder. I think most people just go about their own business. Sometimes I feel self-conscious, and it makes me think others are noticing what I'm doing. In reality, probably no one is noticing.

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  6. I do the same thing with my gas cap so tell Larry thanks, I am shocked I haven't broken my seal yet. I am going to tackle that compulsion.
    I get really nervous in public bathrooms because I never want to hold someone else up by washing my hands longer or get a "dirty look" like I am a weirdo if there is more than one sink and somebody is next to me. I doubt someone in a wheel chair would be looked at like they are a freak but OCD or mental illness can be confusing to people and some folks don't give respect whether out of misinformation or not. I do try to look normal to avoid judgement of other people. It is sad because I think a lot of people with OCD isolate themselves for that reason. I am more comfortable with people who know I have OCD and love me anyway. Otherwise I have anxiety that an OCD thing will come up and that anxiety alone automatically does make my OCD worse. Horrible cycle.
    With a family member or friend I would kindly ask if I saw a compulsive act but some people do things a certain way and it is just a quirk so I don't assume OCD. With a stranger, and I did run across someone else in a bathroom that I had to wait on one time, I am just patient and give them a big smile so they hopefully don't feel bad or that I am rushing them. I would be afraid that commenting on their behavior would make them uncomfortable so I probably would not do that, unless they brought it up first. I think I am way more sensitive about my behavior though and I agree that most people are probably thinking about themselves and not even aware of what I am doing.

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    1. Krystal Lynn, you make some good points. I agree that people with OCD might sometimes isolate themselves to avoid possibly having to deal with OCD issues around others. I know I did. And that worry produces a lot of anxiety, which just ramps up the OCD. It really is a horrible cycle. And, as you point out, kindness to others is the ultimate way to treat people--whether we say anything about OCD or not.

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  7. When Dan's OCD was severe, I would often wonder if people could tell. I know now that it is obvious they could. He would walk a few steps and have to touch the ground.......that's pretty obvious! Now, though,I wonder why I even cared, and the interesting thing is that Dan never seemed to care if people noticed. I think he was suffering so badly he could barely function, and worrying about what others thought was not on his agenda. Nowadays, he is who he is, and if an occasional compulsion gets noted by a friend, they, and Dan, are all fine with it......

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    1. Janet, thanks for your insight as a parent of a child with OCD. I remember times when it was so important that I "finish" a compulsion, it didn't matter to me if others were around. I think I imagined that they couldn't see me. Of course, they probably could. I care a lot less now about hiding it than I used to.

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    2. I have to agree that when my OCD was really severe, I did not care. Well, maybe it was not so much that I didn't care but I was so consumed by it, that all that mattered was doing the compulsion. I was almost in my own zone. Not only that, but I did not want to be interrupted or distracted because that would put me at square one and have to start the compulsion all over again. I wonder if anybody else felt like that?

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    3. Krystal Lynn, you have described exactly how I felt--like I was in my own zone, concentrating on getting the compulsion done. And I didn't want to have to start it over, so I HAD to concentrate on doing it "right." I worried more about what others thought when I wasn't in the middle of a compulsion.

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  8. I don't have OCD, as you know, Tina; however, I was in a class in both elementary and high school for slow learners. I tried to hide this for years...decades! Finally, in November 2011 I was working on a job in a retail setting. I was there for just 3 weeks and they terminated me. I had never been let go of a job before unless there wasn't enough work or unless the company was closing its doors. I was devastated! I felt embarrassed and sad and ultimately fell into a depression, as I had other issues going on in my life as well. It was like my system was on overload and I couldn't handle it. Anyway, the reason they let me go was because I didn't work fast enough for their liking. However, I don't do well when an employer is shouting at me and when I am under constant supervision! It makes me nervous and self conscious. The employer gave me a pink slip that said "no more work"...right, after 3 weeks in a new store, right? Anyway, I ended up telling the government exactly what happened and then I admitted that I don't like to be shouted at, that I was in a class for slow learners in both elementary and high school, etc. Now that the government and my friends know, I am breathing a sigh of relief...and the fact that I am no longer hiding this is like a weight having been lifted off my shoulders. A very heavy weight. Thank you so much for sharing your experiences and feelings, and thanks, as well, for opening the door to enable others to share theirs as well. You are a blessing, dear Tina.

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    1. Thank you, Linda. I appreciate your feedback and sharing. That is an awful job experience that you went through. I couldn't work with my employer yelling at me, either. I'm glad that you shared your issues with others, and I'm glad that you feel better for doing it.

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  9. Yes, I hide it. But that used to be a clue to me that what I was doing was not normal too--if I wanted to hide it.

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    1. Kristina, good insight. If we're trying to hide something, it may be a sign that something is wrong.

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  10. OCD is prevalent in my family so none of us hides it from one another unfortunately we think it is normal where other people do not. I never say anything to anyone they know they have it and know when it kicks in.
    Just focus on not worrying about what others think and take care of yourself. B

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    1. Thank you, Button, that's a great attitude to have. I worry a lot less now than I used to about what others are thinking. I think it's a result of treatment and getting older. And it's just too much pressure to worry about what others are thinking.

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  11. I've never noticed OCD in others because I'm not looking for it. I see the person as they are. Sometimes I think it's easy to be very hard on ourselves. We think everyone must be noticing something about us, but really people are people and we all have our flaws. I've turned the gas cap a few extra times. Often for me it's because I forget if I've done something or not. For me, it's forgetfulness! What I notice about you is your kindness and your openness to share with others.

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    1. Thank you, Katherine, for your kind words. I think we'd all do well to look at people as you do, as they are, remembering that we all have flaws and problems.

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  12. We don't own a car, so I don't have to get gas, and when I lived in Africa there were petrol pump attendants.
    But I was very afraid anyone would see or notice the weird things I was doing before I was diagnosed with OCD and when it just wasn't making any sense to me at all. I thought I was going crazy and wanted to hide that for the outside world as well as I could.
    Once I knew it was called OCD I was far less afraid people would notice.

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    1. Klaaske, you've made a very interesting and good point. Knowing that OCD was causing you to do the odd things helped you. I think it really is scarier when we don't understand why we're having the obsessions and doing the compulsions. It's so important to get diagnosed and treated.

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  13. Would you believe I've never, in all of my 52+ years, never pumped gas? I live in Oregon where it's illegal to pump your own.

    I don't notice other people's peculiarities very much either. And even if I do, it's not a big deal. Everybody has their quirks. I remember how embarrassed I used to get about certain things. Now I just figure, oh well. So I'm not perfect. Who is?

    I think your hubby is right. It's more about the seal on the lid than anything, certainly not your flaws. You've made tremendous progress. This is another little puddle along the road.

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    1. Thank you, Grace. I like your attitude about our quirks and lack of perfection. We're all in the same boat--no one's perfect!

      I don't think you're missing anything by never having to pump gas! :-) Most of the pumps where I live are self-service.

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  14. I am sure nobody notices but Larry. Unless they have it too, but then, they are not judging you! BTW, you two are so cute!

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