OCD – Not Just Cleaning

***This article details my personal OCD experience which some people may find triggers their OCD. I am not a psychologist or a therapist. If you are struggling to cope with a mental illness of any kind, I urge you to seek the appropriate assistance.***

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder – a diagnosis I received less than a year ago.
A disorder I have had to live with for most of my life.
A diagnosis that was a relief and… a throat punch.

Psychological associations used to believe that people with OCD were much less likely to commit suicide. Unfortunately, a Swedish study that examined data from over 20,000 people indicated that people with OCD are TEN TIMES more likely to commit suicide than the general population.

The researchers discovered that risk of death by suicide in people with OCD was approximately ten times higher than in the general population, and the risk of attempted suicide was five times higher.

-SANE Australia website article:
“Are people with OCD more likely to take their own lives?”


OCD is commonly thought of as an intense desire to see exactness or to cleanliness. The general population is aware of those who feel the need to wash their hands for hours. It is true that excessive rituals are often seen in people affected with OCD it is not necessarily the case that rituals must be visible.

For a person with mental rituals, they may appear to always be self-concerned. They may do things that seem not to make sense but they are not ritualized in any way. For example, at work, they may pour over papers much longer than seems necessary to most people. It may look like they are tired or simply too lazy to move any faster.

This is not always the case.

OCD with a focus on obsessions – this is my struggle. It looks like this:
-needing to check my memory for errors (and coincidentally, causing myself to doubt my memories which leads to errors)
-needing to check/recheck for my wallet, my credit card, phone, locked doors
to the extent of excusing myself from a class to go to my car to make sure it is actually locked!
-inability to deal with the thought of my character being assassinated
-needing to ask loved ones for reassurance that their misfortunes are not my fault or that they still love me.

The list goes on. As a child, I feared being stabbed in the stomach. I always thought a needle would come straight through my wall and stick me. I would sleep curled up as much as I could to protect my belly. I could not hug male family members as I was terrified I would become a target of molestation. At school, I had to deal with intrusive thoughts about my teachers doing inappropriate things to me. There was never a relief from these intrusions.

High school became a minefield. No one would even suspect OCD because I was careless about my appearance. I went to school in pajama pants most days with messy hair. However, I would go to the bathroom often to check that I did not get my period that day or that I did not have a period leak. I had to avoid certain hallways or move in a certain way to make sure that I felt “in unison” with the universe. If I did not have the option to do those things, I would sit with unbearable anxiety that would have driven me to tears were it not for my extremely dissociative tendencies. Part of my childhood involved severely dissociating from reality (another story entirely) so sometimes, I would go into my own world in my head. Literally unable to hear the world around me except for a dull fuzz… that is, until I found something that was “real” and could distract me enough from the obsessions. Along with a growing addiction to adrenaline rushes (which I believe was partly due to my dissociative/avoidance tendencies) I found some solace in a loner who seemed to “get me” – which ultimately turned out to be a scary relationship experience. He seemed to zero in on my fears and I sort of gave in to that… I felt like I was being helped. He would point out if I was tapping or breathing too heavily… it was like he knew exactly what I was always monitoring. This felt like love to me as a teenager as I had never had anyone in my life work so hard to be close to me and to know me.

As you might expect, this turned out to be abusive. At first, things were okay. I became distanced from my friends (who I thought could never understand me) and I did my best to “learn” from him. He became excessively controlling and I was unable to keep up. On one hand, he put me on a pedestal – forever praising me for living up to his expectations! On the other – he admonished me for not reading his mind. I would spiral into obsessing more about the things I had done wrong. His meltdowns were always my fault. This happened to me at home as well. If someone else was melting down, somehow it was me who caued it. Somehow it was my fault that mom and dad were fighting or that my siblings were mad. I saw nothing unusual. If anything, it was familiar. Strangely enough, he said to me once:
“Your family is backwards. How do you even function here?”
When I asked him to explain, he told me he saw how I was always being tasked with extra parental responsibilities, how I was never acknowledged, and how blame was often shifted towards me. Another ex commented my family was like watching an episode of Arrested Development. Yeah… so it can’t be just me? Or maybe it is. Moving on…
As a solace, I would like to believe that he knew what he was doing and in his own way, was trying to heal himself as well as me. It is very likely that this was not the case.

OCD still impacts my adulthood. I have trouble functioning in public and my safe place is home. Going to work often drove me to despair – particularly when I was the target of harassment and bullying at one of my jobs. When the woman responsible for initiating this relational aggression quit, people started to tell me “I was not so bad”. The worst part? I had done my best to address it in a mature way and I was looked at sideways as though I was the one trying to start some stupid drama. When you are a victim of that kind of relational aggression there is no fixing it. Those people know they are assassinating your character and integrity, so any attempts to mediate make it all worse.

Again, I blamed myself for the actions of others. The OCD got worse, I was unable to focus… I often had to stick to certain tasks (like cleaning) to avoid triggering obsessions. This angered some co-workers but I was in survival mode. I frequently asked for reassurance I was doing okay, but it never really helped. I put my head down, decided to mind my own business, and try to avoid being triggered. Unfortunately the conflicts never really went away – drama kept happening and eventually I let myself get pulled in. After a few months without a store manager, I had reached my breaking point and quit.

Then I believe I may’ve had some sort of psychosis but I do not know. I was paranoid that mental health providers were out to get me and that prescription drugs were going to ruin my brain (even though I had been on them before).

I survived and held off from following through with my suicide plan multiple times. It is sort of unreal to me that it took so long, and to go through so much struggle to finally have been forced to see a psychiatrist. I still struggle but there seems to be a bit of hope. With much support from friends/family, my life is steadily improving. I have developed improved coping skills to get through my tough days. I cannot say for certain if things will ever really feel “okay” but it is nice to simply have some days where I can let go of the intense self-doubt.

If someone you know is going through OCD, I encourage you to take care of yourself too. It is a tough go and it can feel pretty lonely when you do not understand why your loved one has to go through it all.
If you are struggling with OCD, please call mental health lines in your area or arrange an appointment with a doctor or psychologist as soon as you can.

Bibliography

“Are people with OCD more likely to take their own lives?,” November 22, 2018. Retrieved from:
https://www.sane.org/information-stories/facts-and-guides/are-people-with-ocd-more-likely-to-take-their-own-lives

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