Going to bed or leaving the house takes me longer than my wife. For this reason I prefer the days where I am first up to bed or first out the front door. Even then I find myself sneaking back to the front door or wandering in to the kitchen to look at the window. As someone diagnosed with OCD, I have learned that living with the checks is easier for me than trying to pretend they don’t exist.
My OCD is like living with a really annoying roommate who watches you to make sure you’ve washed the pans correctly or turned the oven all the way off. They’re stood in the door way pointing at the closed window asking if you’ve shut it correctly or nodding at the patio door to make sure you’ve checked the key’s been turned. Sometimes they wait until you’re just drifting off to sleep before yelling at you to check that the front door isn’t wide open. Because of cause, all sane people leave doors wide open when they go to bed. Except my OCD roommate doesn’t think like that.
I’ve often talked about my invisible illness as something that is just a big ball I carry around, but recently it seems more like this OCD roommate. I can see reason, I can see the door is closed, but that roommate is stood behind me telling me to just check it another 6 times until it feels right.
I can often tell which triggers are guaranteed to knock on their door. I feel it building and then, there they are stood watching, offering advice on which checks to carry out. My least favourite checks are when I’m forced to wash my hands endlessly. Some times it just doesn’t feel complete and I can quite easily go through a pump action soap within a few days. My hands end up red raw and cracked and I’ve contemplated taken out shares in Carex.
I find it interested how as OCD is featured more and more in the media, people become an expert on your symptoms. I am all for conversation and really really truly believe that the only way we will remove stigma is by talking about mental health. But please don’t assume that episode of hoarders you’ve watched has given you the best insight into my OCD.
I experience Obsessions and compulsions, though some with OCD may only experience one or the other. They don’t have any particular pattern and can differ week to week. Something I have to check one week may be forgotten the next. I have anxiety triggering thoughts and can have the most intense full on visualiations of terrible events at the flick of a switch. I can joke about my OCD and even have best friends I feel can joke about it with me. But it doesn’t mean I want to be the butt of a joke. Living with OCD is no joke.
I am not the only one who is living with my checks. Clara, M and my family all live with the way I am. It can be hard, it can cause arguments and for many years as a child it caused me to feel very isolated and alone. I used to think that life would be easier if I didn’t have OCD. I felt if I didn’t have it, I’d make more friends, keep those I had and not be an annoyance or come across as a bit weird.
But thankfully I am in a good place now. I have some lovely friends who accept me for who I am. My wife and I know that we have to communicate on bad days and not to let it become a wedge between us and I am hopeful of helping to encourage those with mental health issues to discuss their worries with someone to help themselves and remove the stigma.
Mental health is not something we should be ashamed of talking about. It makes me who I am.