With OCD, Everything Is Work

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“This is like a full-time job,” so goes the cliché applied to such things as raising children, being friends with those who have a penchant for the dramatic, and sometimes actual full-time jobs.

These things are supposed to be pleasurable. Life should be pleasurable according to me, but it isn’t.

My first job was stocking shelves at a grocery store and I loved it. I didn’t love it because it was pleasurable (though I found ways to make it enjoyable… at times.) I loved it because I happen to love work even though it is not the stuff of pleasure.

I love work because I have to love work. I do not clock out of a job and haven’t since the grocery store job. But my profession is not the extent of my “work” in life. With OCD, every single thing I do is akin to a job. I clocked in sometime in the 1980s when I was a kid who began to see all of life like work, and I haven’t clocked out yet.

Jobs—no matter how eclectic the processes—are boiled down to some form of routine. Routine is boiled down to doing things “right” or “wrong.”

Looking at the processes I need to undertake to start my day, for example, my OCD puts me in the same mindset as working a paid job. While each process may seem like the stuff of normal modern human goings-on, I have to apply a mode of thinking which assumes a right and wrong way of doing things along with some punishment for doing things wrong.

I shower a very specific way. I don’t necessarily have compulsions that would make it obvious that I am acting under a mental disorder, but I am. I am obsessed with forgetting to clean a certain part of my body—say one of my armpits. It seems funny, and I don’t mind that. But I have stepped out of the shower and convinced myself that I did not clean my right armpit. I then have to step back into the shower and start over.

This routine, as I mentioned, has punishment if I don’t do things right. In this example, I envision having to meet with someone (even if I don’t have a meeting scheduled that day) and having a bad smell about me because I missed a spot in my shower. And because of this, I lose a sale or otherwise harm myself financially.

This is me taking a shower. We haven’t even moved on to brushing my teeth, taking my pills (counting five pills over and over to make sure there are actually five there,) and so on.

The examples are so numerous, and because of that, they can all be summed up as “work” no different than a job. It is the constant but unascertained punishment for doing things wrong, the punishment that extends into a story about the future, that makes it so.

I shy away from using the term “compulsions” as I only sometimes have what I would define as such, and those tend to be irrational actions that I know have little to do with the outcome of my “job” of going about “life.” Touching things, not touching things. Unlike not washing a part of my body—which logically can turn into something bad.

This never ends. Every part of the day, every minute, is belabored by this mode of thinking. Thus, with OCD I am never not working.

Even writing this. I need to go through a process of properly capitalizing the title. Which I just did. Seems this title was easy, though I am not sure if the word “is” should be capitalized or not.

This is work because if I do it wrong, I’ll seem like a fool to those who read this.

And there is no one I can lean on to make sure this is right. Heck, this whole piece of writing was work. I needed to do it because if I don’t constantly write, people will abandon my project.

But you’re here, so I guess I’ve succeeded.

In my work.

For today. For this hour.

And now on to more work, because that is what life with OCD is.