BY MARISA LOPEZ
OCD is something I have lived with for as long as I can remember, but it wasn’t until my sophomore year of high school that I realized something was wrong with my behavior.
One day, I finally came to the conclusion that there was something odd about my tendency to fix the towel hanging off the oven. Every time I passed the towel, I couldn’t help but stop and look at it. I had to make sure that the towel’s edges were perfectly aligned. At first, fixing the towel was something I just happened to do. Eventually, like many people with OCD, I became convinced that if I didn’t fix the towel, something terrible would happen.
There were many times when I tried to walk away from the towel. Each time I walked away from the towel, I stopped, turned, and went back to fix it. I remember telling my mom about this. She asked me, “How about you just don’t fix the towel?” I will never forget how angry I was upon hearing that. I was so frustrated, because she just didn’t understand. She didn’t understand that it isn’t that simple. There is never a “simple” solution to OCD.
Fixing the towel in the kitchen isn’t the only way my OCD has manifested, but it is one of the issues that I continue to struggle with. My OCD has taunted me in a number of other ways such as feeling the need to complete certain tasks in even numbers ONLY (for example, every time I shower I have to make sure that I only push down on the shampoo bottle an even amount of times. I count out loud to make sure this happens.)
I suffered from migraines for about two years between 9th and 10th grade and frequently visited the neurologist. At one of my appointments, the doctor asked me,
“Are you happy?”
This question took me by surprise. I realized that I had never been asked that question before. Of course, I knew the answer was no, but how was I supposed to say that? Was I supposed to “come clean” about all of my weird behaviors? Whether I wanted to or not, that’s exactly what happened. It was very hard for me to speak out about my behavior because it made me feel like I wasn’t normal. I felt so ashamed for doing the things I did, but I couldn’t help it. I told my doctor about the towel, among other things. I remember constantly telling him how stupid I felt for doing the things I did. I told him I hated feeling like I had no control over what I was doing.
OCD is all about control. But when it really comes down to it, I have close to none. I listen to my OCD because I want to feel like I have control. I want to feel like I have the power, like I’m the one preventing all of the bad things from happening. In the back of my mind, I know this isn’t even close to true. My OCD is never satisfied with my actions. It’s a never-ending cycle, but I am slowly learning to break it. I think that the cliche phrase, “Appreciate the little victories,” applies pretty well to OCD.
I feel like I’ve grown a lot since my sophomore year, and I want anyone who struggles with OCD to know they are not alone. To anyone in a similar situation: No matter how hard it seems, please talk to someone about what you are going through. From personal experience, I can assure you that nothing felt more liberating than finally speaking my mind, no matter how “crazy” I thought I was.
Most often, OCD is misunderstood. Many people use it to describe something as simple as preferring a clean room, but I hope that my personal experience with OCD teaches others that OCD is far more complex than that, and, like all other mental disorders, shouldn’t be taken lightly.