If there is one entity most confusing and frustrating about OCD—and this most likely applies to all mental illness—is mood.
Mood is such a simple term, but its true essence is filled with things well beyond the surface-level adjectives people use when describing mood (happy, sad, angry, and so on.) In my mind it is crammed with bewilderment, anguish, and probably thirty other words I could use here—the most important, and actually worst being: nuance.
Nuance sounds like a perfectly fine Thing to Have Going On. The word suggests a whole and intelligent person, or a world that is not filled with the boring and basic. So that’s a good thing, right? Well, nuance is what makes a thoughtful person, but in this case it is troublesome. Because with nuance comes complexity, and with complexity of mood comes a mismatch with others’ moods that is near impossible to line up well enough that we with OCD aren’t brushed off as “too much.”
The OCD mind ironically does not organize itself. It seeks organization, and paradoxically that creates an extreme lack of organization of thoughts. Papers, but no file folders. As well our moods—and this is critical if you wish to try understanding us1—cannot be described in words even we with the widest lexicons have to use. I know from English words, and I would say seventy-five percent of my moods do not have a corresponding word. Frustrating for me, frustrating for you.
I step back from writing this article and realize I am riding on a foggy space. That normally tells me to stop, edit, and redirect the article into succinct points and an easy-to-digest flow. But this time… this way makes sense. So bear with it, the point is in the said fogginess.
I won’t perform this exercise, but imagine a stream of (many) loosely connected words right here: __________. You pick the words, randomize them as much as you can2. That is most often a mood of mine.
A lot of this is because our moods are connected with the obsessive part of OCD. We collect the proverbial dirt (thoughts) as we walk along the dusty floor of existence. And we don’t have a proverbial lint roller (ability to compartmentalize.) Or thoughts not only linger, they stay as items needing extreme attention. And when another thought comes along, it is placed in the same space. And another. And another. Crammed, all needing full attention.
So our moods are a mixture of single items that don’t quite have words, and they are all worth full consideration. This leaves no room for the quiet and simple moods like happy, content, and calm. As well, because of the nature of this soup, our moods flip for seemingly no good reason. There is a reason, but it is often a minuscule happening most would not even notice. We notice everything, and obsess over each happening. And thus our moods can manifest themselves as erratic, while in reality it is most often the same mood soup, but with new, random ingredients being added to it.
What is worse is normal society does not react to this well. People don’t like the erratic or unexplained. If others only knew how little this has to do with them, it would go a long way to accepting us as counterparts in the universe of thoughts we all share. We are selfish in our thoughts not with our thoughts. Take that as a good thing—we are consumed by something that can’t be explained. Not because you’re stupid! If that were the case, we’d be stupid too. No, we are selfish in thought because it is overtaking and overfilling the part of the brain that does the focused, attention paying.
Our moods are our world that we’re trying to organize but cannot. That’s it, in terms of how we are connected to the real world. The aforementioned concept of selfishness does not mean we are not thinking of you, or you are not part of the thought soup. You are. It is not as simple as “bad” or “good.” Which, in the end, when you really think about it—is an ok thing. And “ok” is all we’re trying to achieve here.