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Understanding The Compulsion Of Living With OCD
Living with OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder) is an anxiety disorder characterized by uncontrollable, unwanted thoughts and repetitive, ritualized behaviors you feel you are compelled to perform.
So often we hear people saying “ I am soooooooo OCD” and laugh it off.
Well, if you have really dealt with OCD, you will know that it is no laughing matter.
We don’t all have a “little OCD” – besides, why would you even want it?
It’s normal to go back and double-check that the iron is unplugged, the lights turned off, or your car is locked. What happens when you have a certain “ritual” that you obsess about, no matter what you do you can’t seem to shake it?
I have never been clinically diagnosed with OCD, neither have I ever spoken to a doctor about my routine rituals. I am certain that I have it. It is clear and obvious and I do not need a label stamped on my head to know it.
Growing up, I always engaged in rituals of patterns. I always had to find a pattern for everything.
Looking for similarities between everything but not wanting anyone to notice while I was doing it.
I would cross and uncross my toes inside my shoes and even number of times. Did the same when I would yawn without opening my mouth letting the air out of my ears. My right arm would itch, I would scratch it. Then scratch the same amount of times on the left too.
Then I began to sort everything by colour. The daily rituals were not always the same throughout the years. Sometimes it was sorting, other times patterns, then counting, arranging and re-arranging……it was always something.
The need to complete one compulsion was simply replaced by another.
Categories Of OCD
I cannot figure out what triggered the counting, why it began, how it began.
All I can tell you is that it became more prevalent as the years went by.
Most people who are living with OCD fall into one of five categories:
Doubters and Sinners
Counters and Arrangers
A counter and arranger. Yup! That’s me. Everything must line up “just right”, and in even numbers. Odd numbers are a complete no-no.
I count my steps when walking, or climbing stairs. If I end on an odd number, I take an extra step to even it out.
Count tiles on the ceiling, cars driving past, pages printed out, how many times I brush my hair, and so on and so forth. And if you were wondering – I even chew my food in even numbers.
I re-arrange numbers on license plates to try to find patterns between the numbers.
My clothes are arranged and sorted from lightest to darkest, by color and shade.
'I have CDO. It is like OCD but all the letters are in alphabetical order AS THEY SHOULD BE'Click To Tweet
Living With OCD
There is no substantial reason for counting or arranging, I just do it. It is a part of me and that’s it. I know it sounds extremely illogical, but it is what it is; a constant never ending ritual throughout my day.
I hated the fact that at times it would grab me when I was vulnerable or down.
As a consequence, I learned to count in a way that it did not interfere in my doing other things. Many times, I have caught myself counting while watching TV, reading, cleaning, driving, eating, typing.
It is strange because you know you are constantly doing it, yet when you “catch” yourself counting, you have the urge to stop but you just cant. You are doing something, end on an even number, focus on something else, only to begin counting again.
Still, I consider myself one of the lucky ones.
8, 20, 65, 266 – Can you figure out the pattern here?
OCD exists on a spectrum. Mine is manageable. I function just fine, but there are people living with OCD who can’t even leave their homes.
My counting OCD does not obstruct me from doing anything that I would do on a day-to-day basis. Unless you are one of the three people I ever discussed this with, you likely would never know that I was a counter or arranger. You would describe me as being an “organizer extraordinaire”.
I hate to talk about OCD out of fear of not being understood, or worse – being made fun of. The good thing is, if you met me, you would never know any of this. It is the disorder I am the best at hiding.
'Exulansis: A tendency to give up talking about an experience because people are unable to relate'Click To Tweet
I do not want to see a doctor. I am quite happy telling myself: “OK OCD, you can keep going in my head – I will only respond by ignoring you.”
So is this anxiety-based? Neurologically based? Or both?
Anxiety is defined as a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease, about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome. Since my mother passed away in 2001, I have suffered from a lot of anxiety.
Certain that the fact that I never dealt with the grief of her death caused my anxiety. I began counting. In 2004 I became a non-stop counter. Over the years, my anxiety levels have risen and dropped dramatically from year to year.
There Are Triggers That Makes Things Worse
In 2012, I went through almost an entire year without feeling any anxiety. I was me, I was happy. Counted less frequently. At times a whole day or even two would go by without counting!
The feeling of being “free” from counting was bizarre as well as unnatural. After all, I had been counting for ever, but boy, did I feel relieved.
In 2013, within six months of each other, two people I knew, around the same age as me passed away suddenly, in the same manner. One I had known for only a year, the other I had known for sixteen years.
The overwhelming shock of the passing of my longtime friend manifested itself as disbelief, numbness, denial, along with terrible pain. There were so many things I wish I would have said. Once that chance is gone, you can never get it back.
My counting began again. At least this time I knew why. A few months later my counting slowed itself down.
Fast forward from 2018 and all the way to today, February 2020 and my counting has gone into overdrive, It is starting to stress me out because it constantly breaks my concentration.
Being a firm believer that the mind can be trained to learn anything, I am exploring different ways to make my mind learn to stop counting involuntarily .
How To Deal With Your OCD
I have begun what I call a ‘pre-sleep meditation’. In bed before falling asleep, clear my head and mind, think of nothing. BLISS. Being there, existing in that moment. Allowing myself to simply be. No analysing, judging, or thinking. Just existing in that moment.
I know it will take a great deal of both time and effort. Change never happens overnight, just like developing OCD and anxiety did not happen overnight.
You need to have a really strong determination to fight bad habits and fears. Just like getting over fears or phobias.
When things get stressful, my OCD takes full stage. It’s a security blanket — the mental equivalent of going into fetal position. My compulsions are always the same, even when the world is not.
Start small. Heal small. I cannot give advice on how to deal with OCD. Everyone experiences it in a different way, through different phases, and in various spectrums. I can only share what I do to help my situation. I am not a doctor.
Helpful Ways To Manage Compulsions and Lower Anxiety When Living With OCD
- get to know your OCD better
- identify the triggers that bring on your obsessions and compulsions
- keep track of your triggers and compulsions
- resist the urge – this one will not be easy, it has to be a conscious and daily habit
- manage stress by practicing relaxation techniques
- breathing exercises to lower anxiety
- talk to supportive family and friends
- move your body frequently—don’t sit for more than an hour at a time
- learn to recognize and limit obsessive and compulsive rituals
- write down your worries in a list or journal form
- get enough sleep!
Do you suffer from anxiety, stress, depression? Or know someone who does?
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Share your feedback, thoughts and experiences with me in the comments section below.
I would love to hear how you deal with living with OCD, or helping someone who has to.