This blog post is dedicated to Jackie and Janet. Thanks for all you do.
It happened again last week.
I was at work, sitting at my desk in my office. A person came into the main office to speak with the ad person about an ad. She wrote down what she wanted the ad to say, paid for it, and then left.
Less than a minute later she came back into the office and asked to check what she had just written. It must have been fine because she didn’t change anything.
“Sorry about that,” she said on her way out. “I am so OCD.”
Did you hear me scream in frustration? OK, not really. But I was definitely frustrated.
I get frustrated when I hear those words: “I am so OCD.” Frustrated with people who equate being conscientious, double-checking, with OCD. Frustrated when people—who mean no harm, I believe—say they are “so OCD” because they keep all their Virginia Tech clothes in one drawer. Or because they like to keep their desk organized.
Maybe these people have OCD. I’m not a doctor. But I am someone who has OCD. And I’m going to quote the title of a post by my friend Jackie Lea Sommers, who also has OCD: “If it doesn’t hurt, it’s not OCD.”
Recently, the writings of two good blogging friends have touched me. Jackie wrote another great post called “The Dreadful O of OCD” this past Sunday. And Janet, whose son has OCD and who writes the blog ocdtalk, wrote an insightful post last month called “Where are the Obsessions?”
Jackie and Janet write about how everyone sees the compulsions of OCD, but they don’t see the pain caused by the obsessions that drive the compulsions. That can lead to misunderstandings about what OCD really is.
|If you look closely, you can see my red hands in this photo from 1990.|
For example, I used to wash my hands compulsively. My hands and wrists were bright red and raw looking. My family and friends witnessed me washing my hands, soaping them over and over, rinsing and rinsing.
What they couldn’t see was what was driving me to wash my hands: the obsession that I would hurt someone else. I was so afraid that I would have germs on my hands and pass those germs on to someone else that might get sick and might die. I had to wash my hands. I had to be sure they were clean because if I didn’t, I would be a murderer.
Can you imagine thinking like that? Doesn’t it sound illogical? Like I was putting too much responsibility onto myself? That I was worrying needlessly?
Yes. But I couldn’t stop. I couldn’t stop obsessing that I was going to hurt someone. The only way I could get any relief from the feelings of guilt of what might happen—relief from the obsession—was to wash. And wash.
OCD is not cute or funny. It’s not a little habit that can be easily changed. It’s not synonymous with being organized. It’s a mental illness that manifests itself in different ways. It hurts.
I don’t want pity because I have OCD. I am so much better now. I live such a free life compared to the way I used to live. I have OCD, but OCD doesn’t lead the way anymore. I thank God for that.
And I don’t want to sound preachy or judgmental.
I just want to join Jackie and Janet and others who are speaking out and helping friends and strangers learn a little bit more about a disorder that may affect someone they love. I just want people who have OCD to be encouraged that they can get better, too.