Compulsions are the easy part. Mine is less pronounced, and less of a disability, as I have Primarily Obsessional OCD. But they’re easy for others to grasp in terms of existing. If I am labeling every single thing in my office, everyone can see me labeling every single thing in my office.
Obsession is a form of thinking. It is not a state of thinking, but a form. It is multi-dimensional and complex. It is difficult to describe for one reason: it disguises itself as a simple thought. When I discuss that which I am obsessing over, the words make it seem simple. Not just that which I am obsessing over, but the idea of what obsession is.
An example: I purchased shorts that do not fit perfectly. I am obsessed with the way my shorts fit, feel, and even look. On the surface, this seems simple and common. Everyone cares somewhat about their clothes. Some people we can characterize as caring a lot about their clothes. Their clothes and obtaining them and their feelings toward them—almost a hobby. Others maybe not as much, but not zero.
On the real-life scale—which is a scale of how we all measure up according to a standard that ignores mental disorders—I am not one that cares too much about my clothes. On that scale. Just that scale.
I buy t-shirts for $3 each and that is fine. Along with $15 shorts.
However, how my clothes feel in my mind (this is important: “my mind”) is a wholly different scale. This is where my obsession comes in. My shorts, as mentioned previously: I need them to feel a very specific way. So specific that I can feel a few fractions of inches of length or width being right or wrong. I can feel a microscopic thickness being right or wrong.
This is different than having strong feelings about my clothes in a way that the word “fashion” would be invoked. This is a form of thinking.
And in this form of thinking, I cannot handle when things are “wrong” as per the mention of right and wrong earlier. I cannot function when I am wearing shorts that are wrong in some way.
I cannot think, I cannot work, I cannot relax, I can only think of my shorts.
And then when I do think of my shorts, I enter an OCD episode of my thoughts spiraling into each other.
First I think of how uncomfortable I am. I then think of ways I can change the shorts to make them more comfortable. I know logically this is impossible, but I think it. Because I know I cannot keep spending money on shorts over and over until I find the perfect feel. So will washing them help? Putting them in the dryer with tennis balls? I often try these things (compulsion.) I often don’t try these things, I keep them as repeating thoughts (Pure-O OCD.)
Then, while I am still thinking of this, I add more levels of thought. You see, I purchased this pair of shorts because I got the same brand and same size in a different color and was good with the way they felt. So why are they different? This becomes a moral argument fast!
It is wrong, morally wrong, for a company to change the way shorts feel when they produce a new batch! Wrong, wrong, wrong. And I am suffering because of this change. Things are different on these shorts from what I thought was the same pair merely in a different color.
Then, let’s add self-loathing. I should not care about my clothes this much. This is the mark of a shallow person. Others wear shorts, shirts, clothes of varies sizes and feels just fine. Why am I obsessing over a few inches? Or just an inch. Or less than an inch. It is not logical and it is not what defines me.
But the obsession over clothes has nothing to do with fashion. It has to do with how my mind processes things. My brain takes something as simple the thought of the shorts on my body and begins to form more and more thoughts that spiral into themselves, each layer of thought interacting with the other layers of thought, the whole ball of thought becoming more and more intense.
Until I just go and buy another pair of the same shorts in a different size.
Which I did.
But not before first stopping all ability to interact with the world for hours.
And this new pair of shorts may be a solution…
…until I begin to obsess over how difficult it will be to replace them. And how I won’t want to wear them in case I get a stain on them. And how I’ll feel if I gain or lose weight and they no longer fit perfectly.
Not fashion, but obsession.