OCD is a little different for everyone. I myself, have quite a few themes of obsessions and compulsions that I can check off the usual OCD symptoms checklist. I think everyone gets a little anxious and has bizarre things they do to relieve that anxiety, but when you have OCD, it turns into an all consuming monster. Some people I know have even compared it to a trance or an addiction. I call it my personal Jiminy Cricket-on-crack. We all have a Jiminy Cricket. He tells you that you’d better check one more time that you locked your front door before you leave for that vacation. He tells you to slow down when you drive in a neighborhood. He tells you to blow out that candle before you leave and to be sure you shut off the stove.
Jiminy on OCD, however, is not helpful and reasonable; he is a hypersensitive actuary who cannot stand an ounce of uncertainty. But life is full of uncertainty! Jiminy on OCD makes you check your door for 30 minutes and even after you checked it you still can’t walk away. When Jiminy is off his rocker, you can’t drive because every bump in the road or pedestrian makes you circle the block an even (or odd) number of times, just in case. Jiminy on OCD demands that blowing out your candle is not enough, so you ought to take it with you to work just to be sure (true story).
So why write about it on my happy whimsical blog? Seems like when I do a post with this theme, it might be downer, right? True, it’s not as much fun as talking about hopeful and happy coping mechanisms, but I personally feel that OCD is a very misunderstood and heterogeneous disorder. I believe that when people with OCD share their unique experiences, this action, in combination with science, can help dispel the myths. And when the scary world of OCD is no longer shrouded in myth, misunderstood, and taboo, that’s when I think we can really start to see some healthy change and sustainable hope. So, I’ll be talking a little about my OCD and sharing links to others stories about OCD throughout a series of blogposts, sprinkled with, of course, the cheerier Mindfulness Moments 🙂
Today, I will tell you about my fight with the toaster. It began when I was an undergraduate student. I could not leave anything unplugged, except the fridge. I even unplugged the microwave. I knew it was not logical. I knew no one else did this and look, they were just fine! I knew it was making me late to class, which only made the stress worse. So I began to use my phone to take pictures or video record my unplugging ritual before leaving the apartment each day. I didn’t think anything of it at the time. 4 years later, the fight with my toaster is one of my milder themes/obsessions/rituals, but it’s growing in size each day.
So, do I really think my house is going to explode or catch on fire if I leave anything plugged in? Nope. Not anymore. After 4 years, you start to know your enemy. But the second I stick my foot out my front door, I feel my mind and my body start to stir. Usually, taking a deep breath is difficult, my forehead feels very tight, and if I’m really feeling torn between my need to be on time and my desire to be certain that no accident or harm will come to anyone. What if I left the oven on? And then my roommates are in danger because something will catch on fire? Or what if I left that candle on and the glass is near something really flammable and there goes the apartment complex. So many people could be hurt if I don’t make sure!
I reach a strange point in my thinking when I leave the present and am launched into a world with no reason or logic. I just feel horrible and I need to make it stop. I need to feel okay again so I can go. So I come back and I stare at the toaster several times, maybe try a different angle, or count. I like even numbers for checking and counting. If I really need to go, I take a picture of the toaster not plugged in. One time, I took it with me to work.
Losing the battle with toasters and power strips and candles is easy to talk about, so it’s where I have started.
OCD can get really bizarre though. And the more bizarre and unique the symptoms, the harder it is to talk about and seek help for.
Here’s a really great article on PsychologyToday.com by psychiatrist Dr. Aboujaoude based at Stanford University called “The Endless Shades of OCD”. He talks about a patient with OCD around accidentally stepping on babies while jogging. That’s right. She has anxiety, obessive thoughts, and compulsions around that topic specifically. I hope you check it out =>http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/compulsive-acts/201301/the-endless-shades-ocd
Here is a really great book that is at the top of my “To-Read” List that also tackles the lesser known symptoms of OCD called “I Hardly Ever Wash My Hands: The Other Side of OCD” by J.J. Keeler =>http://psychcentral.com/lib/2012/i-hardly-ever-wash-my-hands-the-other-side-of-ocd/