I’m very open about having OCD, so it’s no surprise that sometimes people are curious to know more. And I’m happy to explain more; one of my main goals is educating the word about what OCD really means. By far, the most common question I’m asked after someone learns I have OCD is: “How does it affect you today?”
I realized I don’t really have a good answer, besides that “it barely affects me any more.” And that’s true. I went from OCD taking up literally hours of each day to only a few minutes a day. But like all people in recovery from OCD, I will never be “cured.” I still get intrusive thoughts. And occassionally, I still give in to compulsions.
Since I’m known for writing instead of answering verbally, I figured it might be best to just turn my answer into a blog post! Here is how OCD affects me today, in Februrary of 2020.
- I still have some fears of causing a fire. This is one of my oldest fears, so I don’t see it going away completly anytime soon. Today, I’ll sometimes get an intrusive thought that I didn’t turn off the stove, and I’ll check it once or twice (which is arguably within “normal” limits.) Compare this to before when I had to tap lightswitches dozens of times and unplug everything in my dorm room everytime I left the room.
- Though not exactly OCD, I have a new tic where after swallowing, I’ll often click my tongue. Most of the time I don’t even realize I’m about to do it until after I’ve already clicked my tongue. It’s that automatic. But I can resist if I think about it hard enough.
- I perform in community theater which involes a lot of singing and dancing, and occassionally saying lines. Those things all require a lot of air. OCD has decided that if I can feel any moisture in my nose, then I won’t be able to breathe. The problem is, having moisture in your nose is kind of a normal, constant situation. This leads to a lot of blowing my nose right before going on stage.
- Though immensely improved, I still sometimes have difficulty being assertive. A good example is at the doctor’s office. I get nervous about asking questions or expressing a need. In the options of fight/flight/freeze, I freeze. It feels like I can’t get the words out. One way I’ve adapted is bringing notes with me to appointments or other interactions where I need to be assertive. That helps me have more of a script to rely on, and I’m able to talk more. Plus, if worse comes to worse, I can just hand the person my notes for them to read.
- I used to have a huge problem with list-making. OCD would attach onto random strings of information and decide it was imperative that I never forget that information. This led to repeating lists in my heads hundreds of times, and also making and keeping dozens of post-it notes with nonsensical lists on them. (These papers have since been burned as part of ERP therapy.) Today, I’ll occassionally catch myself repeating a list in my head a couple times, but as soon as I realize it, I’m usually able to stop and move on.
Some of these behaviors may sound typical, and in many ways they are at typical levels for me now. That doesn’t mean everyone has “a little OCD.” It means that diagnosable, clinical OCD is an expansion of typical anxieties and thoughts. Remember, to be diagnosed with OCD, these thoughts and behaviors must take up at least an hour of your day, and I’ve never met someone with untreated OCD who only lost an hour a day. It was always several, if not the whole day.
So, that’s how OCD affects me today! As always, I’m happy to answer questions.
(If you’re wondering how OCD used to affect me, I have a 3.5 page single spaced Word document where I wrote down behaviors as I relized they were OCD around the time of being first diagnosed. It’s a lot, so that’s for another blog post.)