Welcome Home OCD
Welcome Home OCD
Look down at my slippers. They’re next to each other.
“Great, my slippers haven’t divorced.”
Being diagnosed with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is the best thing that’s ever happened to me. Not just because it keeps the rate of my shoes divorcing at an all-time low but because the moment I was diagnosed I was able to explain just about everything that has made me feel inadequate in life.
I have never been able to make decisions. In my 27 years of life I have always attempted to, only to be left in a panic wondering if I made the right one over and over again. This kind of anxiety presented itself like an uninvited guest in all aspects of my life: Love, friendships, career, outfits, haircuts, even food choices. You don’t understand true suffering until you find yourself at a restaurant wanting to try the special you can’t pronounce but ending up with the grilled salmon because SAFETY.
Seven-year-old me never thought of this fear as an issue because I was lucky enough to have parents that made decisions for me. Then I turned eighteen and they were all like,
“You can’t rely on us to make decisions for you for the rest of your life.”
And I was like all like, “Why not?”
And they were like, “We are not choosing your major for you. End of story.”
I gave the whole making my own decisions thing a try, but every time I finally landed on something that I thought was what I wanted, I ended up feeling unhappy. After a while, sticking with anything just didn’t feel like a reality for me. I just didn’t understand how I could possibly be able to pick one thing when there were endless possibilities out there? What if I picked the wrong one?
It was at a peak moment in my life when I reached a time where I could no longer stand the constant second guessing and anxiety that being unhappy with my decisions brought on. I began to see a therapist who diagnosed me with OCD who said the exact words I needed to hear: “This could explain a lot of the reasons why you have been feeling unhappy with your decisions. You are constantly seeking perfectionism” and went on to explain exactly how my OCD has affected me for some time now. I sat in front of him feeling relieved because I finally had a way of explaining something I experienced my entire life but couldn’t understand. I no longer needed to blame my inability to make decisions and commit on the fact that “I am a Libra, it’s just how I am.”
I had of course, heard of OCD before this diagnosis, but just like every other mental disorder I only knew all of the misconceptions about it. My room was a mess ALL of the time; it was actually one of the biggest arguments I used to have with my mother. I wasn’t late to school every day because I was tapping things and making sure I did it the right way or because if I didn’t follow the same steps I did out of the door every day I felt like my world would end. Instead, I was late because I couldn’t decide on what outfit to wear even when I put on the same clothes as the week before. When something felt off I couldn’t just “Go and stop worrying about how I looked” the way my mom would ask me to. If it felt off, I had to fix it. Same thing with my hair and anything related to my physical appearance.
I did spend a lot of time counting activities. I would count how many times I put my deodorant on each side of my underarms, how many times I rinsed my mouth while brushing my teeth, making sure I closed the closet doors all the way, leaving my pillows perfectly fluffed and making sure my slippers were right next to each other. In my mind, this was just my routine and nothing seemed out of the ordinary. I never thought about the reason behind any of this, I just did it. I don’t think that at this point I noticed the anxiety that having these rituals disrupted would cause me because it was extremely rare that they would be. There were certain words that I repeated and certain hand movements that I would do that if I didn’t pronounce or count correctly, it me feel uncomfortable, but again it didn’t seem harmful because I always had the time to correct it so I just continued living like this not knowing this was a bigger thing that I could imagine.
These were all the things that affected my daily routines. Then, there were the things that affected my entire life as well as my future. I went to college convinced that I wanted to be a teacher, only to change my major about 6 times and never actually committing to any of them. After college, I worked different jobs. Some I left because they weren’t for me, while others I couldn’t tell you exactly why I left, they “just didn’t feel right.” Nothing felt right. When I ran out of places to run to here in New York, I made the decision to move to Germany because in my heart, I knew that was my destiny. OCD BS. I went there because I had nowhere else to run to and being near my sisters made me feel at home away from home. It was no surprise that after two months of living in Germany, I came back to the US. I had a plan and again, that plan didn’t work out. A lot of it not working out had to do with a failed relationship but, knowing what I know today, I wasn’t ready for that plan to work out because if it had started to, I probably would’ve found a way to run away from that too.
At some point, I figured that blaming all of my mishaps on the fact that I was irresponsible and had commitment issues seemed like the easiest way out. After all, a lot of the people around me agreed and I wasn’t aware enough to realize that something was wrong. Accepting these lies about myself and letting them into my life only affected me negatively. It completely sucked out any of the self-confidence and self-trust that I had left. Mixing this with every day stressors, waking up and walking into the worst job I’ve ever had caused debilitating anxiety. It took me being physically unable to get up from bed one day to seek the help I so desperately needed. At this point, I was still unable to identify why I felt so anxious all of the time. I was crying every day for no reason and felt in constant panic.
One day, as I sat at my desk eating breakfast doing nothing that was out of the ordinary, I experienced my first and last panic-attack. I was at the office alone and I just stopped breathing. Or so I thought. It felt as if the air had just been sucked out of the world. I tried to breathe but my brain was telling me that I couldn’t. I ran downstairs and luckily ran into one of my coworkers. She looked at me absolutely worried and asked:
The second she said the words, I broke into tears and said:
“I don’t know. I couldn’t breathe.”
I called someone that I will only refer to as “the dawn to my nights.” This is a person that in the midst of any of my trust issues, I trust endlessly. I am lucky enough that this person has years of experience in the field of Mental Health. She explained exactly what had just happened to me. She explained what I needed to do for immediate relief and then explained to me the importance of finding a professional to talk to. I finally listened.
I had to put aside all of the negative thoughts I had regarding mental health. For some reason, I had started to believe that if you saw a therapist, psychiatrist or psychologist it meant that you were “crazy.” This belief was fed by my OCD and the intrusive thoughts that came along with it but at this point I had no choice other than face my fear; it was either seeing someone or continue suffering.
Seeing a therapist has helped me in all aspects of life. It has opened me up to a field that for so many years has been misconstrued. It has taught me to be vulnerable, first with a complete stranger and then with my family, friends and anyone that I meet about my OCD, and my own feelings and journey. It has helped me accept myself in the way that I am. It has made me understand how important my own well-being and healing process are, and to put those above all else. It has allowed me to explore parts of myself I used to shamefully hide away in hopes that they would never see the light of day. After all, shame does hide in the darkness - which is something I heard from one of the people that inspire me the most, Hannah from @gypsyon__.
Today I am not a pro-decision maker, I just have developed the ability to step back and rationalize my fears and hold something accountable for my irrational need of perfectionism and all of my other fears, allowing me to explore what I really desire.
I am still discovering.
I am still healing.
I am still accepting.
Most importantly, I am still grateful for my journey and excited to continue to experience what is meant for me. Always remember: It is so important to get to know your body and mind and to learn to recognize your limits. It is so important to be vulnerable, let people in and accept that we aren’t perfect. That no one is. Look at the people around you and recognize that they too are going through their own journey and without comparing, know that they too need kindness.
Until the next Late Night,