By Arlo Turpin
Your room is in perfect order. The books in your locker are symmetrical and sorted by color. You have to wash your hands. Every hour. On the hour. If you don’t, something very bad is guaranteed to happen. There is a little monster in your head. It gets angry at you if you don’t wash your hands. If there is a loose paper in your locker. If you didn’t get a perfect grade on your test. The monster throws a fit and screams and cries until you do everything he tells you to.
Life with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is hard. A lot of people don’t understand that.
“Your room is so clean! Ha-ha, you’re so… like… OCD.”
Really? I mean… Really?! You have no idea how offensive you can be when you say that. There might be someone right around the corner or right across the table that actually has OCD. Maybe even the person you are talking to is fighting the constant mental battle. It hurts that person’s feelings and is offensive; making them feel like no one will ever understand what they are going through.
The problem is that people are ignorant. They don’t know what it really means to be diagnosed with OCD, how it is more than just being a ‘neat freak’ or a ‘perfectionist’. So, I’m officially making it my mission to educate students about the ‘monster in my mind’ that is OCD.
Day after day is exactly that: an argument with the monster. He tells you to do things, like wash your hands over and over, or organize your locker, maybe even little things like making the books on your desk symmetrical. You try to retaliate, saying ‘no! I refuse!’… but then he gets angry. He acts a lot like a two-year-old with a temper, throwing a fit until you do exactly what he says.
Some people with OCD run on a schedule, one that they have to follow day after day. If they don’t, the anxiety kicks in. Things run through their head like, ‘if I don’t go to bed by 9:30, I’m going to have a terrible day tomorrow. I won’t sleep well, so I won’t be focused, so I will get a bad grade on my test. Then my parents will get angry…’…and on and on. Then, if they don’t get to bed at 9:30, they get angry. At themselves.
People with OCD not only run on a schedule, but they also have specific orders in which they do things. Even small, simple tasks. For example, I love tea. I drink it almost every day. But even the simplest cup of tea is cause for the monster in my mind to throw a fit. Exactly one and a quarter cups of hot water. Tea bag in for exactly six minutes. Wait to drink until precisely 120 degrees, measured with a thermometer. Blow off steam. Drink.
This is the exact order in which I go through the simple process of making tea. All because of the monster.
Some people who have it really bad see therapists and take *PRESCRIBED* medication that settles anxiety and takes away the fear of not doing what the monster tells you. A lot of doctors think that OCD is caused by a different brain wiring, some think it is hereditary and others think it is caused by the way a person is brought up, or the amount of stress they live under.
Personally, I don’t mind the statistics, and I don’t really care whether my mind functions differently or if I have it because my father had it. However, what really ticks me off is the way uneducated people talk about it. They act like it’s a disease, as though people who have it are insane and unstable.
So next time someone has neat and tidy room, or has to do things in a certain order, please don’t tell them they have OCD. You’re offending someone. And most importantly, don’t joke about something you don’t understand.
3 thoughts on “Blog: My life with OCD”
Good for you Arlo! I love it when we can educate others on what makes us tick. This neighbor is very proud!
Arlo, I am so glad you have written this article. I am thankful you have shared your personal experience. Your beautifully written insight will comfort, empower, educate, validate and inspire. You are an amazing young lady.
Arlo, I think that this blog is extremely well written, and the metaphor about OCD being a monster is extremely effective. A few of these things you described about OCD were unknown to me, and so I thank you for bringing them to my attention. Good job! 🙂