A few weeks ago, I wrote in my journal about a particularly difficult OCD morning. In retrospect, it felt so ridiculous that I now think it was comical. I also think it’s very revealing about how my OCD, which I have personified as Jiminy Cricket from an evil parallel universe, has grown to occasionally derail my life. I think it might be good to post and share some of my worst OCD days, especially for the few loved ones who have been clued in to my other life.It was a school day. Before I leave my house, I must check that my candle is not burning and the lid is on, that my window is closed and locked, that my power strip is off, nothing in my room is plugged in, the oven or stove is not on, the dryer is not on, the garage door is locked, and the microwave does not have anything in it. Then I need to check that the front door is locked as I leave. Sometimes I only check once. I usually need to do these things more than once while counting “One one-thousand, two one-thousand, three one-thousand” and looking at them a certain way. Sometimes I need to write them in a notebook or take pictures or record me counting on my cell phone and saying “Nothing is on fire”. I stare at things very hard while checking and even while I can know that I just checked it, I feel the need to check again and again. If my roommate is still home as I am leaving, leaving will be even harder because I will fear that while she is still there, I will have somehow unconsciously left my candle burning on accident or on purpose (what if I have a split personality that leaves things burning and I am not aware of her). As I leave my house, I imagine that something catches fire and her being very upset at me for being stupid enough to leave a candle burning to the curling iron on or even worse, that she is hurt. Now I must go back and check the candle. At least I didn’t take the candle/toaster/curling iron with me that day, like I have done before. When I get to my car, I must check that there are no pedestrians on the street. I no longer park in the driveway because I don’t like to back out into the street for fear of hitting a pedestrian; now I just park on the street so I can pull forward and away. I walk around my car, I check all my mirrors, I get out of my car and check, and then start driving. I drive 5 to 10 miles under the speed limit. That day, I was drinking tea and took a sip while driving 20 mph on an abandoned road. I became overwhelmed by the fear/obsession that for the second that I was sipping the tea, my view was obstructed, a pedestrian suddenly materialized and tried to cross the street, and I did not notice that my car hit them. I tell myself it’s just my OCD and keep driving. One block later, the panic and fear is so strong that even though I know I will be late to class, I retrace my route to check the spot. I drive past it. I pull over, get out of my car, and look at it. I drive past it one more time. Of course, I see nothing, because there was no pedestrian. But “you see, if I did not check, then I would never been certain”, my OCD says. As I retrace, now I see I am passing kids walking to school. I tell myself to keep going, I saw them safely and happily walking. Then, I pass a cyclist. Now a woman waits to cross the intersection. I am almost there, just a few miles from the university I attend. I am so close, but I can’t stop thinking about each person I have passed on the drive here. The world goes on, each driver around and behind me drives onward as if nothing has happened, because I know in real life nothing has happened. But why is my body and brain sounding the alarm? My heart is pounding, my head feels like it is pressed between two cement blocks, and I feel so tired even though I just started my day. I can’t stop thinking about every person I passed. I must make sure they are OK. So I turned into the Home Depot parking lot just minutes from the university turned my car around, and retraced my entire route. I knew what I would find as I retraced my route; nothing. I knew everything was OK, that you can’t hit people with your car without noticing, and yet I NEEDED to go back and check. When the compulsion was done, I sat in my car for 15 minutes until I was calm. Finally, I drove to school. The parking lot is difficult too. I need to pull into a spot where I am certain I will have the least anxiety around having to back out of it. I pick one, but have an obsession around whether I accidentally bumped the cars around me without my car without noticing. So I walk around my car and their cars to inspect. Of course, nothing happened.
Everyday, I have all of the same thoughts and rituals, but I still make it to class on time. Most mornings now, I can use what I have learned in therapy to be prepared for the thoughts, fighting them as they come.It feels surprisingly good to just post that on the world wide web for all to see.
What does your OCD look like?