The one key takeaway I’d like anyone reading this to grasp is that OCD comes in a variety of forms, and many of those forms are not what is presented in media in general (I mean movie characters, jokes made about “being very OCD about ___”, anything where this illness is presented.)
That’s not to say the OCD you may somewhat understand is wrong- many of the characteristics that float to the top when describing OCD are obsessions, compulsions, and rituals people do have.
But it is a very nuanced disease, and because of this I did not know I had it until my early 40’s, after 20+ years of various forms of therapy (all of which were focused on Generalized Anxiety Disorder, a very generic diagnosis that quite frankly I think I came up with myself and brought to a multitude of doctors. More on that in future articles.)
At one point, fed up with all of the things thrown at me for GAD, I made a decision to come up with a self-summary, and pretty much force it onto my psychiatrist. (And this is a practice I would recommend for anyone with any mental issue at all. Things can come to light that may not in just talking. Especially when you only have 15 minutes to talk.)
My Self-Assessment (In Note Form)
I will fixate on the most benign “problems” for hours. These occur frequently. (Example: I forgot my watch going to a party. I didn’t need it. It almost ruined the day. Example 2: didn’t give a cigarette to a homeless guy, fixated on it for hours)
I have almost zero trust in others, or that situations will work out fine
Worst case scenario is absolutely plausible, and I will spend time prepping for it
I always obsess (almost psychotically) about rewinding and doing things better.
My mind is never quiet.
I am rarely content. Happiness is a sparse thing. (Feel like I am insane going through the motions to appear OK). NOTE: I rarely feel “melancholy”, maybe because anxiety is consuming.
I have lost interest in most all things I’ve ever been interested in. Even normal things like music. Entirely. I have no interests at this point.
I have a very difficult time getting out of bed.
Things must always be right (stasis). Extremely routine. Change is often a horrible thing.
I cannot empathize with others. (Usually)
I pace obsessively. I have ticks. If not, I rock or always have some sort of soothing (?) movement. (These are things people close to me have noticed)
I am rarely in a social mood. I can’t make small-talk. I am uncomfortable with others.
I always need re-assurance obsessively
I am extremely selfish (because I am occupied entirely with my mind). Emotionally selfish especially. (Note: I am extremely nice and polite when not stand-offish because of self-obsessions)
When I find something I like, I obsess over it (a song, movie)
I don’t like being away from home. I sometimes want to live in a cocoon-like world.
So I brought the above to my psych and he immediately switched our entire direction of treatment from GAD to OCD. And the medication and the like worked! (I will get more into medication later, as well as the drawbacks, and how none of this is a happy ending yet.)
The key here is above, you will notice I do not have many of the typical things associated with OCD. I don’t wash my hands hundreds of times a day. I don’t worry about stepping on or not stepping on sidewalk cracks. I do not need to touch doorknobs when I see them. I do sometimes fixate on the stove being on or the door locked.
But those typical things- I know them. My mind knows them. I actually feel them, but I do not obsess over them or have compulsions about them to a debilitating degree.
Some do! And that is OCD as well. And it sucks for them, just as mine sucks for me. None of us are better, nor do I think anyone is having any sort of competition over this anyway!
None of the above in my self-assessment is ranked. But I will tell you the main things I obsess over:
1. The need to rewind events. I feel this with almost everything. I have a very difficult time communicating anything to people, because I want to edit it and edit it again. I tell myself I am in trouble- like a parent would- because I did not get up at exactly 4:30am. And these things are not passing thoughts. They are obsessions. I will pace around about them, at times literally hitting myself because I did not do perfectly as by my own definition of perfect.
2. Fixation on moving forward perfectly. I will fixate on every move I need to make for a time period magnitudes of time longer than most people. I have had emails in my “drafts” folder for weeks, because of my fears that the point being made is not perfect, and therefore the outcome will not be perfect to me.
3. Every eventuality. I am almost proud of this one, as I have spun it into something positive. But it is unhealthy. I think of every single eventuality of every action I am planning on taking. I write computer code for a living, it certainly helps debugging it later! It also pushes me down a rabbit hole of thinking of every way my code could spider out and be used by other people. EVERY way I can possibly think of, and it paralyzes me. I am often paralyzed. And not just the computer code I write… every action I take. I think mostly of the negatives that can happen- all of them (or, at least, all that I can think of- which are often insanely numerous.)
The key here is my OCD is different than others. It is a more internal OCD. It is something my brain is doing, and you don’t see it. Unless you’re very close to me.
The three things I highlighted above are three of many. But it gives you a picture of how OCD can be wildly different than it is portrayed to people through various means (media, general socialization, and the like.)
I will of course be going into more detail on other pieces of this puzzle that is my OCD. But for now, you hopefully are getting a picture that it is a very nuanced disease. And that is most important.
Also, if you think I am at all happy with this article. I think you know the answer. I am not. It will never be perfect. I am pushing myself to ignore that Very Loud Demon that tells me not to post this, but to edit it over and over.