When I was in middle school, a peculiar thing started happening to me. I started tracing the outlines of things and repeating words or phrases I’d say over and over in my head. I didn’t know what it was, but I somehow knew better than to tell anyone about it.
These habits, as I called them, continued over the years with an ebb and flow of severity. I would sometimes be able to fight them off if I said, “Knock on Wood” three times. But I also had to close my eyes and be uninterrupted when I did this or it wouldn’t work, and I’d have to give in to the compulsion.
It wasn’t until I was in Junior High that I was in the school library flipping through a “Seventeen” magazine, getting annoyed because my newest habit was to not only read every word but to read out the punctuation as well. If there was a comma, I had to say it. If there was a period I had to say it. As I was getting ready to close the magazine in frustration, I came across an article. I stopped because there was a phrase I’d never heard before: Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD).
The article was about a girl around my age who had these habits; she couldn’t leave class until the clock was on an even number and she had to count stairs when she went up them. I was floored. There was a name for what I had and I wasn’t alone? The questions raced through my mind.
Over the coming weeks I read articles about OCD on the school’s computers because we didn’t have a computer at home. More and more, I began to realize it was what I had. It had a name and other people dealt with it too.
I learned to cope, and was eventually able to get my OCD under enough control to be able to start reading books again without literally reading everything on the page. It seemed I was on the road to recovery, but then my life changed in a really abrupt way that left me feeling like I was in a tailspin. My brain took comfort in my OCD again.
I fought most of my High School years to try to get it under control, and after a while I did. I’m not cured. I’ve come to find I may never be. That’s okay because my OCD is apart of me whether I like it or not.
The inside of my head is never quiet. And being a creative person with the disorder is really like having 50 internet tabs open and you’re wanting to focus on one, but your computer keeps throwing pop-ups at you (OCD) while you try to find the tab you want (your creative mindset).
I keep quiet a lot on the outside because I have so much going on inside that it can get exhausting. This makes most people think there’s either something wrong, that I’m upset or that I’m being rude. It’s none of those things.
When your mind is never silent or calm it can be difficult to engage with others, especially in groups or in a public setting. My mind won’t let me focus and I withdrawal to try to control the tornado on the inside. Honestly, I’m introverted for my own mental health.
A person with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder has a real mental illness. We struggle with it everyday of our lives, and the fact that so many people throw the phrase “I’m so OCD” around like its confetti makes it sound like it’s not a real disorder. We struggle with this, you or friend might like their books organized by color or might not like things on the counter, but they are not OCD; they’re just particular about something.
I’m here to tell you it’s not cute. It’s real and it’s hard. Everyday is a fight against it, and being able to live our lives normally. We are not a phrase. We are struggling against a mental illness.
I have OCD but it does not, and will not, have me.