I am Obsessive Compulsive. The disorder is so much a part of me I actually forget I have it. I have ticks and taps, some rituals, some that are harmless, some that are paralyzing. After six years in therapy, my OCD has never once come up. Not because I’m afraid or ashamed, but because it’s just so ingrained in me that I just forget to bring it up. I even wrote a book about my life and forgot to mention it. I’m so used to living with it, I’m not sure what living without it would be like.
I woke up the other day in Los Angeles and walked through my living room, into my kitchen, and turned on my coffee machine. I hate the next part, because it involves picking a coffee mug, and for this OCDer, picking a coffee mug is fucking impossible. I reach for the blue mug but my brain says no, if you pick that one someone you love will die; the red one means you’re a fucking loser and always will be; the white mug with aadorable teddy bear on it doesn’t feel right either. These thoughts come like flashes, without reason or warning or any order. They’re not meant to be logical. They’re intrusive thoughts that transform mundane, daily tasks into paralyzing decisions. Pick the wrong coffee mug and you could fuck things up considerably. So choose carefully.
I tap the blue mug, then the red, then the white. Move the around. Reach for the black. It doesn’t feel right. Bad thoughts like lightning in my brain and I wait for it to quiet so I can grab a mug during a moment of cognitive clarity, otherwise something catastrophic might happen. And while the sane, rational side of me knows this is illogical, improbable, stupid, superstitious, even pathological to an extent, the disorder is sophisticated in ways the non-disordered may not understand. And it’s easier to wait and play the game, pick the right mug, and satisfy the illness, rather than risk the consequences. The beige mug in the back, the one that says MARYLAND in big bold black letters, toward age back of the cabinet, feels right. No bad thoughts come when I reach for it. Why? I have no idea. It just feels right. No mental intrusions. So I grab the mug and make my coffee.
Now I have to chose a spoon. Motherfuck.
This is what OCD feels like. It occupies every moment of your life. Every step I take, literally, is controlled by the disorder. I can step off a curb wrong and if an unwanted, intrusive thought goes through my mind as I step down, it can be distressing and have significant consequences.
The idea behind it, as I’ve read and try to understand myself, is that those afflicted with this disorder suffer from obsessive thoughts, and create compulsive behaviors as a coping mechanism. It’s about the need for control, because, as children, we were involved in situations that were chaotic, and out of our control. The compulsions are tasks we can understand and carry out, and manage. The obsessive thoughts are like small fires in my mind, and compulsions are the water to put them out. Temporary relief for an indistinguishable disease.
I’ve never talked about my OCD before. I’m going to continue writing about it here, and hope you’ll join in and share. I’m not endorsing anything. I’m not selling anything. And I’m not making any guarantees I’ll get better, or any promises that I have any answers. I’m just here to write. My taps and habits, ticks, and outbursts are so much a part of me they’ve almost become endearing quirks I’ve come to love. But more than that, the disorder is a debilitating mental prison, and I’m curious if I can write my way out of it. And since my publisher wants me to start Facebooking more, I’m thinking, Fuck it, lets talk about what it’s like to be crazy.