Remember that blog about a guy dealing with OCD? No? It's probably because there hasn't been a new post in 5 months. I do have a reason for this, and unfortunately, it's kind of difficult to talk about.
But I'm going to anyway because this is a blog and I'm told that's what you're supposed do with a blog.
I basically just stopped with my treatments. I remember when I first met with a psychiatrist he told me that keeping up on the medication and therapy will be difficult, and I remember thinking, "Why the hell would I ever stop doing something that's making my life so much easier?" And the therapy and the meds definitely make my life easier. I became less irritable and more in control of my thoughts. I also became more pleasant to be around. I know this because everyone in my life told me so. I must've been a real asshole prior to being on meds...
But then I couldn't get in for my next therapy appointment. And I've been having a difficult time getting an appointment since. And one day, I just didn't take my meds. Then one day turned to two, then a week, and then I was just done. At first, I didn't really experience any change, but after a month or so, I spiraled hard and fast toward a version of me I never want to go back to again.
It was a pretty dark time for me, and I'm honestly embarrassed I let it happen. I don't want to go into too much detail here (that will be left for my therapist or my next date, whichever comes first, so probably the therapist), but I regressed a lot, and everything seemed even worse since I knew what it felt like to be more "normal." People think depression is the same as feeling sad, but it's not. It's much worse. When you're depressed, you don't feel anything, not even sadness. You're just kind of "there." The worst thing that happened during this period was that I missed one of my best friend's wedding. I was supposed to be in the wedding and even speak (that comes with the territory when you're a public speaking teacher), but I just couldn't go. I wanted to, but couldn't.
So that was a brutal wakeup call for me. I immediately got started on my treatment again.
I think it's working too, because everyone in my life has been telling me that I'm a lot more pleasant to be around again.
I hate NOT working. One of the worst things from my experience with OCD is that unless I'm keeping myself busy, everything is worse. Rather than being distracted with important things that actually matter, I'm instead just left alone with my thoughts.
And when your thoughts are as annoyingly trivial and repetitive as "I have to flick the light switch on and off a hundred times before it 'feels right'" then those thoughts can be EXTREMELY exhausting.
So, when I'm busy and working, I really don't deal with as much obsessive thoughts and behaviors. When I'm teaching, for example, I've never had to stop what I'm doing to wash my hands, wash my hair (thank goodness), or perform any of the other dozen repetitive tasks I tend to do. My mind is preoccupied with other, more important matters. This has been true for as long as I can remember. You might think that if I'm stressed with work or school, then that would make me more anxious and stressed with OCD, but that's just not the case. I don't have time for OCD when I'm busy.
Here's a common misconception people have about OCD that I really want to debunk: If you have OCD, you're a germaphobe. I mentioned this in a previous post, but this is not always the case. True, some folks with OCD have a fear of germs and contamination, but not me. I am not a "clean freak," and one quick glance at my car will tell you that. I'm not triggered when something isn't clean; I'm triggered when something isn't right. This is very difficult for me to explain, so here's an example: If I touch a door handle, and there is a texture on the handle that I wasn't really expecting (a scratch, for example), well that's not right. Something is wrong, and until I wash my hands and "reset" I will not get that sensation of touching that handle out of my mind. The same is true with light switches. If I was afraid of germs, then obviously I wouldn't repeatedly flick a light switch dozens of times. I just do it until it feels "right." Honestly, I don't really know the difference a lot of times between something feeling right and something feeling wrong, which is why the repetitive behaviors go on for so long. Even when I know with 100% certainty that I locked my front door, I will stand at my front door jiggling the handle (an OCD behavior us in the know call "checking") until it feels "right." I have even left my home, driven to work, and then immediately got back in my car to drive back home and check my front door. The entire time I'm doing this, I KNOW I locked my door, but I have to check anyway.
That's why I avoid door handles or really touching anything. I don't want to deal with the repetitive checks. Mostly, I'm ok with using my sleeve to cover my hand, but when my OCD is feeling like being particularly shitty, I can't touch the handle at all with my hands, so I'll use my elbows instead. Door handles: easy to open with elbows. Doorknobs: absolute hell.
Stuff being dirty doesn't bother me. Stuff not being right does.
So when I'm working, and I'm busy, I'm golden. But when I'm not then I'm just alone with my thoughts. When you have OCD, and you know all of the stupid, annoying, and repetitive rituals you are going to perform throughout the day, sometimes it's really tempting to just not do anything at all. I could go camping with my family, but I also really don't want to constantly be washing my hands and hair while I'm there. I could hang out at a friend's house, but I also really don't want to have to explain why I'm constantly checking to make sure my car is locked. I could go on a romantic Valentine's date at a fancy restaurant (because miracles can happen), but I really don't want to deal with having to sit in a specific chair because the other chair had a small tear in it, and just because I saw the tear I need to wash my hands, and then I do, and then I return to the table, but my hand accidentally brushes the wrong part of the table, so I have to wash my hands again, and then I return to the table, and at that point she's gone, and it looks like I'll just be eating Taco Bell at home again.
When you know a good portion of your day is composed of performing the same tasks over and over to briefly relieve a form of stress that you don't even understand yourself, it's sometimes too tempting to avoid all of that and just stay in bed. I've learned that I can't allow myself to do that. OCD sucks, but OCD coupled with Depression is infinitely worse.
So I'm making more of an effort to do more. My OCD was the easiest to deal with in college. I attended school full time, had a part time job, and lived with roommates who always kept me busy. Things didn't get really bad until I started living alone and feeling alone. Currently, I still live alone (with 2 cats. Again, not crazy), but I don't feel alone.
I feel supported, happier, less anxious, and way more prepared to leave my home WITHOUT coming back to check my front door.
Getting Help or: How I Finally Admitted That Washing My Hair 20 Times Per Day Isn't Normal.
That's not an exaggeration. Lots of folks with OCD wash their hands or use hand sanitizer way more than necessary. I do both of those things too, but the moment I finally told myself I needed to do something was when I was washing my hair after literally anything I did. Woke up. Washed my hair. Brushed my teeth. Washed my hair. Ate breakfast. Washed my hair. I could fill this entire post recounting how often I wash my hair, but I don't even think my therapist would read that.
Self-deprecating jokes are kind of my thing, by the way.
That's when I decided to get help. And by "I decided to get help" I really mean I had a mental breakdown and was lucky enough to have such a supportive family take me to the hospital. The stigma around mental illness, at least for me, truly made it difficult to ever actually do something about my OCD. If you read the About section of this blog (and you totally should; there are some cool memes there) you already know that I've been dealing with OCD since 3rd grade. At least, it was 3rd grade when I noticed I was different than most kids. All the signs were there: excessive hand washing, counting basically everything, constantly being frustrated when things didn't seem "right". But as a kid, I had no idea that OCD was a real thing, and as I got older, I convinced myself that I was just overreacting. After all, how many times have you said or heard someone say they have OCD? I convinced myself that I had quirks, just like everyone else.
But obviously checking to make sure your front door is locked 100's of times before finally leaving isn't just a quirk.
So in March 2018 I met with a psychiatrist and psychologist and was officially diagnosed with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Honestly, this was probably the easiest diagnosis the doctor has ever made. As obvious as this diagnosis was, it felt necessary to hear it from a doctor and see it in writing. I felt like my experience was being validated. I really wanted to shake my psychiatrist's hand after the appointment, but you know, OCD and everything.
I'm now on medication and regularly seeing a therapist. That's a tough sentence to write down, but I hope it goes over better here than it did on my numerous online dating profiles. Turns out neurotic guys with OCD are not what women want. Live and learn.
So far, I feel much better. I still perform ritualistic behaviors, but not as many. I'm also just in a better mood. Not every day is great; I still struggle more than I'd like to admit, but I know I've made progress. I even adopted two cats, which is a big deal because when you have OCD you find relief in having control, and there's only so much control you can have over a cat.
For the record, I know being a single guy who lives alone with two cats gives me a head start on being an old crazy cat person, but I promise I'm not crazy. My therapist just suggested I get a pet, that's all.
As I enter 2019, I look forward to how much more I'll progress. 2018 did not end on a positive note for me, but I'm now more determined than ever to kick OCD's ass. And then promptly NOT wash my hair right after.
Hello! My name's Kyle. I have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. I hate it, but managing it has produced stories that I feel are worth sharing. Hopefully this platform can provide those struggling with mental health disorders an outlet for comfort, support, and even some humor. Not everything I post will be amazing, but I promise I will have checked every last detail, no matter how insignificant, way more times than necessary before posting.