OCDon't Even Go There.
We interrupt my diary slightly, to give you this post about OCD in general and my OCD LIFE.
Because it's National OCD Week of Action, so....that seemed like a good idea.
Standing on Lego is annoying.
Missing a bus by 30 seconds and seeing it drive away around a corner without you is annoying.
Oranges are annoying (don’t even get me started on oranges…little segmented bastards).
But if there is one thing that annoys me more than any of those things, it’s hearing the phrase “I’m a little bit OCD”.
I would rather fight an army of segmented bastards than hear that phrase in daily conversation - and I REALLY hate oranges.
More times than I can count, I’ve heard people use that phrase, and it strikes rage into my very core to hear someone describe a quirk or preference they have, as OCD.
“I like organising paper work, I am so OCD”
“The colour of my shirt always matches my socks, God I am so OCD!”
I realise that just because I am someone with OCD I don’t have the right to control and police the use of the word describing my condition. But hearing it used wrongly isn’t just an annoyance; it’s actually a dangerously off-hand turn of phrase that often contributes to the misinformed ideas and beliefs people have about OCD, a condition that’s hard enough for people to understand in the first place.
Due to my OCD, a lot of things - if not everything in my life - is a certain way. The structure of every day is exactly the same and my routines and rituals couldn't be more rigid if they tried.
Everything I do each day is exactly the same as I did it the day before, but that is not in any sense because that’s the way in which I like them.
I don’t wash for hours on end because I like to be clean; I don’t take ages changing the way I sit in a chair because I like to be comfy; and I don’t count things all day every day because I love numbers or have a passion for mathematics.
The reason I do all of these things, as well as the infinite other number of things I do in terms of OCD, is because I HAVE to do them in the way that I do.
Yes, I may be physically capable of being strapped to a chair away from soap or water, so “having to” do so many things is arguably “what my illness tells me” to do, rather than a fixed reality.
But in terms of how I feel, everything I do is compulsory and I don’t choose any of it or get any pleasure from the way things are, whatsoever.
THAT is the key difference between OCD making you do things a certain way, and someone preferring to have things in a way that is most pleasing to them.
My Dad likes to fold towels over the bathroom rail in a way that my mum and I think is ridiculous. They can’t possibly dry, the way he hangs them. It’s as if he’s on a mission to keep us in a prison of soggy, smelly toweling.
But that isn’t because he has OCD and can’t handle the towels in any other way. It doesn’t bother him when my mum and I change them back to the sensible way where they can dry more easily - he just sees that as our weird preference, just as weird as we see his.
With OCD, the psychological effects of not having things the way you ‘need’ them to be, are on a par with the physical effects of, let’s say, being hit by the bus that didn’t stop to pick you up.
Here’s an example, using fictional characters:
John is allergic to peanuts, and Pam is not.
Imagine John and Pam go into their local hipster-filled café on a Sunday morning, to get some coffee and cake and feel a little bit cooler than they really are.
They ask the (obviously) bearded barista for recommendations, and both say “nothing with peanuts”.
Now, both John and Pam are physically capable of eating peanuts, but John chooses not to because his illness would cause him extreme distress if he did (his heart would race all over the place and his head would puff up like a balloon. Not cool. And possibly life-threatening.)
Pam chooses not to because she prefers things without peanuts, and has a particular fondness for gingerbread men.
This example obviously isn’t fool-proof, as I realise I’m not physically allergic to breaking the rules set by my OCD; but the distress it would cause me, due to the ensuing anxiety and panic (like John with his puffy head), is similar.
To be honest, now all I can think about is gingerbread men and peanuts. But I guess the point I’m trying to make is that saying you have OCD or “are so OCD” just because you like things to be a particular way isn’t anything to do with OCD at all.
It misrepresents and creates confusion around an already misunderstood condition.
Having OCD forces you to have things a certain way; it’s not about choice or preference or liking things to be “just so”.
OCD is being compelled to live a certain way and perform tasks whether you like them or not, and often they create a lot more distress than they alleviate.
I’m off to buy a gingerbread man. Exactly the way my OCD requires it.