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Tue 12 October 2021

Living With Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

Meet Zoe, who lives with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.

‘I have OCD’ seems to be such a popular phrase these days, I so want to question people to see who actually has true OCD and who are just the people who like things clean and tidy, packed away nicely with just some general systems or structure. I constantly wonder what might just be someone’s personal lifestyle preferences rather than the actual inability to waiver from ridged structure, set routines and other compulsions that totally consume and dominate the livelihood of those of us who experience these illnesses. I do have OCD, the clinically diagnosed variety.

It is so frustrating that it seems to be trendy to make the throw away ‘oh I have OCD’ phrase. True and properly diagnosed OCD is a compulsion that becomes so obsessive that it impacts a person’s ability to function in day to day life.

I have to do so much work behind the scenes to be able to function ‘normally’, rather than letting my condition control and dominate my entire existence or at the very least try to limit the impacts. I wonder if people actually understood this, would it still be a trendy thing to say or be seen to have.

When I finally worked up the courage to tell my closest friends about my diagnosis, I had all this personal build up and anxiety about needing to be vulnerable and honest but it was such an anticlimactic moment that it ended up being completely invalidating and isolating. What for me was so personal and exposing, for them just seemed like a throwaway line at brunch. Their responses varied but the general response was ha-ha of course you do, you like things neat and organised. As I have been so private with my struggle it means they have not seen the obsessive and compulsive components to a condition like this and how debilitating it can be. I just wanted to scream that it’s so much more than that, I needed them to understand the impacts of when things aren’t lined up perfectly or the sequence of my routines are interrupted, how debilitating and life altering this can be, with the all-consuming anxiety and frustration, complete and total devastation ensues, the inability to keep moving forward and not have to stop and then restart the sequence until I have it 100% correct. The panic and disordered thinking that occurs when people tell me to ‘hurry up we will be late’, or needing to factor my perfectly timed routine into every aspect of my day. What they see as cute or quirky traits is so overwhelming and debilitating to me. That every action has several pre and post sub actions that require completion. But instead I shrunk back into my seat, laughed it off and changed the subject.

I still feel confused and misunderstood. I am overwhelmed by my way of life and diagnosis. Conversely though I also have some acceptance now that this is a piece of me, something that contributes to my way of being and my overall existence. It is frustrating and fatiguing for sure, but is also an unavoidable way of life for me. I can choose to push and fight against my way of thinking and doing, or I can put my energy to accepting and containing the elements that I can and have plans in place for what care and treatment should look like for me should things deteriorate beyond my ability to manage it on my own. OCD is a part of me, but it is not all of me. And I do hope that one day I will have more strength to try and talk to those closest to me once more, this time with more compassion and understanding.