1. They don’t think in terms of every eventuality
Common among people with OCD and something I’ve gone as far as literally putting on my resume is the need to think of every eventuality to any action taken. In short, people are generally just not paranoid enough to me. This comes into play a lot with work, especially those who work under me (because their missteps are my missteps when it comes to responsibility when all is finished.)
I use the term “every” loosely here, as of course I know I cannot literally think of every single way an action can cause every possible reaction. I have been looked upon as somewhat pompous when thinking aloud in short about this because I do use the term “every eventuality” often. So let’s keep it to “as many eventualities as possible.” It frustrates me when people don’t take into consideration all of the edge cases that may be caused by what they do. Edge cases being those fringe possibilities that very likely will not happen. Problem is to someone with OCD, we know these fringe possibilities can happen, and we have to prepare for them—because they have happened in the past, albeit rarely. But “rarely”, to my OCD, is as good as “often.” And these potential edge cases are generally always negative, and straight up: I don’t like negative things happening. I wish others would also do whatever it takes to prevent such!
2. They see more positives than negatives
Inherent in OCD thinking is that thoughts often shade toward the negative. Heck, using the term “shade” is a completely wrong here. No, 90% of what we obsess over is negative. Just look up common OCD thinking, and it is all rooted in the negative: harm, dirt, loss, and frustration. We are focused on the negative either from an angle of trying to prevent such, or further into intrusive thoughts of really awful things. Really awful at times.
While I know these thoughts are debilitating—especially as obsession takes time and energy—I still can’t shake that thinking about the negative is the way to better ensure positive things happen. I don’t understand when people think positively. If positive things are going on, the goal is reached and I feel there is plenty of negative to move onto tackling. OCD is not perfectionism, however, it is rooted in destinations that are positive. Why doesn’t everyone want to think and then act in this direction? It would seem to me to help everyone solve this bitter puzzle of a universe we all live in.
3. They can’t relate to my reasoned organization of things
I have twenty (I counted) towels, each with their own specific concern. Some are rotated weekly, some are rotated as needed. I could diagram the use of every towel in my life (sweat towel, hand drying towel for the kitchen, hand drying towel for the office, towel for dirtier things in the kitchen, towel for my mouth after brushing my teeth, and so on until you get to twenty.) Ok, I can laugh about this a little bit, especially being as self-deprecating as I am often enough. However, while this does stem from OCD—the hyper-organization of concerns and processes to my towels is more comforting than practical—this system just seems so perfect to me that I don’t understand how others can just have, say, 3 towels they use for “general towel stuff.” Yes, you can laugh at any of this. But it does bother me, and I can’t stop it from not bothering me. When I see a multi-use towel, I just can’t shake a very dirty feeling in my head.
Towels are just a good example, this comes into play with a lot of things: office supplies, tools, places to put things. I don’t see why people aren’t comforted by systems attached to these things that are often shared by others. If your keys are only allowed to be in three spots, ever, then you will never lose them!
4. They can’t see the very minor things being a REALLY BIG DEAL
I spend a lot of time thinking about the big stuff: death, love, existence, God or no god. However, most of routine life is filled with the small stuff for everyone, OCD or not. Ovens have to be turned off, doors have to be locked, dishes need to be washed, and so on. There is a reason for all of this—and it comes back to the interaction of positive and negative and the future. I’ve seen ovens accidentally left on many times, and I have heard of rare occasions of such mistakes causing house fires. Why not take this into account and check the oven every time it comes to mind? Shouldn’t that be comforting to others to know for sure, for double sure, for triple sure that the oven is indeed off? I know the answer—most people can grasp that the oven has a very high percentage chance of being off at the right times enough that they don’t need to keep checking it. Why risk it? To me, the risk is great enough to warrant searing in my mind through repetitive checking that indeed these small things are right.
This is the difference, in daily life, between the OCD brain and those without the disorder—we need to know. And to “know” means to see directly. However knowledge—just like memory—fades. For those with OCD, it is possible our memories fade into the area of distrust quicker than most. Or, we’re more sensitive to our own distrust of our memories. I am not sure, but this I know—by checking things, you bring the memory of things being right and OK back to the front-and-center to be able to move along safely. These small things are a big deal to me always, and to others always a percentage chance of being a big deal. Why risk the small stuff spiraling out of control? Why not know?
5. They can’t relate to me
All of the above packaged together into a construct—I am often left alone with my thoughts, as they go in directions others don’t and use levels of energy others don’t. Thus, I am different, and not in a positive way. I won’t say most people look down on me, but I do know most people cannot relate to me. I know I frustrate people when I bring my OCD to the forefront for action for others to take. At the same time, I often hide my OCD to allow for some assemblage of social acceptability—which of course is a bit of a ruse. I am not thinking like others. I cannot think like others. I obsess. My obsessions often turn into compulsions (sometimes not, I can suppress well with my brand of OCD). Whether it is known to all or just to me—I am apart from society much more often than not. Pretty much always. If I try to explain my OCD, the best I get—from those who care about me most—is a feeling of pity.
Usually—and this may ironically be my OCD thinking here—I am just not relatable. I am apart. Though my thoughts track with what is generally accepted as negative and positive, I am apart from most people in how I think, act, and know. And that to me is sad. Because in the end, I want to like this world. But if I cannot relate to others, and others cannot relate to me, I am left with more void than fulfillment.
Such is life with OCD, such is life around others without OCD.