I joke a lot about my OCD and anxiety and how it is the reason for my tidy home, meal planning Sundays, timeliness to all appointments and more but the reality is that it is really a BITCH of a combination to deal with daily and I can’t imagine that it is all that much fun for my loved ones either.
Here are the textbook definitions of OCD and Anxiety:
Obsessive-compulsive disorder: (OCD) is an anxiety disorder in which people have unwanted and repeated thoughts, feelings, ideas, sensations (obsessions), or behaviors that make them feel driven to do something such as clean, count, check, hoard (compulsions). Often the person carries out the behaviors to get rid of the obsessive thoughts, but this only provides temporary relief. Not performing the obsessive rituals can cause great anxiety. The individual who suffers from OCD becomes trapped in a pattern of repetitive thoughts and behaviors that are senseless and distressing but extremely difficult to overcome.
Anxiety: An emotion characterized by feelings of tension, worried thoughts and physical changes like increased blood pressure. People with anxiety disorders usually have recurring intrusive thoughts or concerns. They may avoid certain situations out of worry. They may also have physical symptoms such as sweating, trembling, dizziness or a rapid heartbeat.
Sounds like fun, huh?
I was diagnosed with both shortly after my Grandmother (Ma) passed 13 years ago and I received therapy for it for years and I have been medicated for both the OCD and the anxiety for 13 years now. These disorders affect how I feel and behave, and they also manifest real physical symptoms when they are heightened. I’ve suffered from panic attacks, sweating, muscle tension, rapid heart beats, dizziness and headaches. There used to be days that I couldn’t leave the house for fear that something bad would happen to me and while my OCD and anxiety aren’t that bad now, they still affect my daily life and the lives of those that are around me as well.
I spend a few hours each day focusing on obsessive thoughts and performing seemingly senseless rituals, making concentrating on some of my daily activities very difficult. While I go through great lengths to hide my behavior, my very close friends, children and boyfriend all know about it.
Some of my obsessions are as follows:
- Constant, irrational worry about dirt, germs, or contamination.
- Excessive concern with order, arrangement, or symmetry.
- Preoccupation with losing or throwing away objects with little or no value.
- Superstitious ideas about lucky/unlucky numbers.
Some of my compulsions are as follows:
- Cleaning – Repeatedly washing hands, bathing, or cleaning household items.
- and re-checking several times a day that the doors are locked, stove is turned off, etc.
- Checking that I did not make a mistake.
- Checking some parts of my body for anything that doesn’t look “right”.
- Repeating – Unable to stop repeating questions. a name, phrase, or activity
- Touching and arranging – Do you know that I even turn the toilet paper roll the correct way when in a hotel room (under).
- Mental rituals – Endless reviewing of conversations or counting to neutralize obsessions.
This is all daily and quite frankly, it is tiring as hell!!
It doesn’t take much to start the vicious cycle but last minute changes to my schedule and not knowing all of the details of a ‘plan’ seem to throw me off and immediately spark my obsessions which lead to my compulsions and unlike a light switch, it is hard to turn off.
I know that my OCD and anxiety are hard to deal/live with for my loved ones. While my adult daughters are now out of the house and not with me daily, I am sure it had a huge impact on their lives over the past 13 years and for the boy teen who is 15.. well, I get into my repeated question asking stage with him quite frequently and I know it annoys the hell out of him.
The small things…
While many things are easy for me to hide as it pertains to my OCD, smaller things like not liking my food to touch or my constant use of hand sanitizer isn’t. I can’t tell you how many times we’ve gone into a restaurant and I will order a meal and depending on what I order I will have to ask it to be served on 2 or 3 separate plates in order to not have items touching. If my order comes to me all on one plate — I literally freeze & stare at it and the palms of my hands get hot. I quickly scramble around looking for an empty plate on the table or ask the waiter for a new plate and then separate the items myself. Very embarrassing when eating with people I am not comfortable with but those that know and love me are usually quick to offer me a clean plate to ease my discomfort.
Just yesterday my boyfriend and I needed to do our grocery shopping and decided to go to the Commissary. They are doing construction on Base and he had to park towards the left of the store instead of the right where we usually park. No big deal, right? Wrong. Parking on the left of the store meant we walked into the store using an entrance that we never use. We walked into the store at the freezer section (instead of the produce section) and all I could do was stop walking and stand there. I looked at him and without even saying a word he said “I know, we are going to walk to the other side of the store and then go from there”. That’s right, I cant seem to function when walking into the opposite side of the store than what I am accustomed to. We only needed a few things and I knew just what we needed but my brain couldn’t process a thing! Of course we walked all the way to the other side of the store then began my ritual of walking up and down every aisle (whether something I needed was there or not). While it may seem like something small and I don’t even know if my boyfriend knew this but I started to tear up at that moment. Just the realization that something so small can throw my brain and body out of whack is sad and the fact that he knew it thew me off without me saying a word was thoughtful but still sad!
I’m not really sure what the point is of this post is … but I truly appreciate, recognize and thank those in my life that understand my disorder and try to be understanding to me in return. There are many things that I do and/or say that irk the hell out of my loved ones and I can imagine that it is quite easy for them to forget about my condition at times. When this happens and I remind them, I am constantly thinking that they view it as an “excuse” for my behavior when it is my “reality”.