I grew up around OCD. My father had it quite bad, although my mother always assured me that it was better than it had been before I was born. We were never on time for anything and change was the enemy. At the age of 10 I noticed my first symptoms; I started having to touch things repeatedly and worried that if I didn’t bad things would happen. I also started to hoard things because I couldn’t bear to let them go. I recognized the problem quickly and vowed to “fix” myself. Within a couple of years the compulsions were gone. I had worked really hard and caught it early, so I thought I was cured. What I didn’t realize was that all the small things my dad had ingrained into my impressionable brain were going to be harder to brush off.
Fast forward to university. The more time I spent on my own, outside of the childhood home environment, the more I realized just how different my dad’s behaviour was. I noticed that I was unable to deal with change as well as my peers, and that I couldn’t focus properly unless everything was just right. Once I moved out permanently the weights started to fall off. Then I met Jay. Jay does not understand mental illness that well and is a no- nonense, change friendly type of guy. While this might seem like a horrible match, it worked well for me. My anxiety and OCD have almost broken us up on numerous occasions, but we’ve made it through. Having Jay around has let me break down my boundaries and forced me to work on making myself a better person. I still don’t like change, but I deal with it and recognize that sometimes the best things happen when we open ourselves up to different options. My anxiety levels have dropped to an all time low and I’ve learned coping techniques. Moving out of my dad’s house was the best thing I could have done for my sanity.
However, mental illness is not something that can be “cured,” and I’m no exception. I’m obsessively clean and I insist on order in all aspects of my life. I have charts and files and never miss a deadline. Things like this (warning- OCD trigger) still drive me crazy and everything in my house has a “spot.” These things about me will never go away completely, but I try and use them to my advantage. I realize that my behaviour is not “normal” and so I try not to impose my desires on anyone else, including Jay. Sometimes it goes away for a while, but it always returns, usually when I’m PMSing. Despite my sometimes obsessive behaviour, I can harness that energy and use it; I’m the most organized, reliable and clean person you will ever meet.
So when does OCD go from being an amusing quirk your friends tease you about to a serious mental illness? When it starts to affect your personal relationships or you can’t be the person you want to be, getting help is probably a good idea. I’m always going to have to work at keeping the anxieties in my head at bay and not letting the obsessions spill out onto the people I care about, but I’m at a point now where I’m not controlled by it.
I still eat my candy one colour at a time, but it’s under control. Just don’t touch my stuff.