Superpowers not included.
People often tell me how brave I am to live with a disability without any kind of medical assistance or therapy. They tell me that I am strong, remarkable even. I tend to disagree with their reasoning. I have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. I don’t take medication. I haven’t had therapy. I have been dealing with it on my own for the better part of the last decade. That doesn’t make me a hero or even extraordinary.
I used to be very defensive when people would call OCD a disability or an illness. I know that it’s a mental disorder, but I don’t like calling it a disorder. Nothing is wrong with my mind. It just works a little differently than most. It’s just more difficult for me to dismiss unwanted thoughts. I am not disabled. That’s not to say that I don’t struggle, but who on this planet doesn’t struggle with something? We all have our demons. This is mine.
I choose to acknowledge the silver lining.
OCD can be disabling at times–if I can’t get past a certain compulsion or I can’t turn off an obsessive thought–but I have never chosen to see OCD in an entirely negative light. I think some of my strengths come from having OCD. I have always been an extremely organized person. My mom likes to tell stories about our trips to the grocery store when I was younger. As she put various items in the shopping cart, I would sort them by category (frozen, dairy, meat, produce, etc.). It’s no wonder I ended up being such a good grocery sacker when I got my first job at a grocery store at 15-years-old.
When I was little, when given a huge box of crayons or markers, I would dump them out on the floor and arrange them as best I could in the color spectrum. It made more sense to me than the random order they came it. It’s a wonder my mom didn’t figure me out sooner than she did.
I’m a perfectionist, which can also be a problem at times, but it means that I won’t settle for mediocre. I just need to find a balance between perfect and acceptable.
Aren’t there pills for this kind of thing?
I tried medication when I was first diagnosed about 10 years ago. It didn’t go well. I went from being a straight A student to suddenly getting my first C. I was devastated. I could no longer focus in class. I switched to a second medication, but it didn’t change anything. I ended up opting to go without medication. My symptoms were so mild at the time, much easier to cope with than the side effects of medication.
Therapy: being forced to face my fears head-on
Over the years, my symptoms have worsened. They are still pretty manageable, but have started to interfere with my relationships and responsibilities. In an effort to get control of it now rather than later (when I can’t leave my house for fear of contamination), I have decided to see a clinical psychologist who is nice enough to offer a sliding scale rather than charge me $200 per session.
Anyway, I have also decided to chronicle my journey through therapy, not only for myself, but for others with OCD — whether in therapy, thinking about therapy or somewhere else entirely on their own journeys with OCD. So here it is. This is where I will be sharing my neurosis — the side of me that I hide from all but those close to me — with the world. It’s time to stop hiding. My hope is that by sharing my struggle, I can help someone who is struggling alone.
My first appointment is on Monday. Hopefully, this is the beginning of the end of my battle. I am hopeful about regaining control of my mind. I am terrified and excited and queasy all at the same time. I will have to face my fears. I think (and hope) that I am ready. Only one way to find out.