When I was diagnosed with OCD, I didn’t understand at first how the psychiatrist came to that conclusion. Yes I have moments of frenzied cleaning and an eye for detail, you know, getting things just right. But how did this translate to OCD.
I was soon to learn that I had fallen in the trap of assumptions and media coverage. I thought OCD meant people cleaned repeatedly and opened doors three times. The basics of the disorder were far simpler. It can be thoughts, feelings, motions. It can be self worth, paranoia. The main similarity in the disorder is obsession.
For me, it’s my thoughts that led to the diagnosis. I get a thought, situation or image trapped in my head that repeats again and again. I’m not talking about an incident you think of a few times, this is like the film Groundhog Day. But there are no do overs or resolutions. Just continuous nonstop doubt and despair.
Think of it like a worm on your shoulder. A talking worm. The worm watches your life all day until something happens that you do not process properly. The worm then whispers in your ear “why did that happen”, or “why did they say that”. This enables the worm access to dig deeper and deeper until Dave the worm has setup a shop in your brain called, Daves Wormy Ways.
Each time this occurs it could be days or weeks or even years before the thoughts subside. Most of the time it isn’t just one. Multiple thoughts repeat and spin around your brain making Dave very happy with the foot fall past his shop which now says “Help Wanted”.
My OCD has another trick. Imagine there was an improvement project at work that you knew could save the organisation money and help your fellow colleagues. But management said “we aren’t going to pursue this at this time”. No big deal right? At first it’s not, it’s like an itch that you notice but isn’t so itchy that you need to… well itch it. But over time, after repeated attempts to get management to see this project as a great thing, the itch gets worse. Now what happens if you have 5, 10 or even 20 improvement projects that could save the organisation money? You put all of them forward but you get the same answer from management year after year. Eventually it’s not an itch but a festering cancer that you cannot stop from dominating every thought of everyday.
With either scenario the obsessions also cause me to aim the faults inward. Questions from Daves franchises spin into action. “Maybe it’s me?”. “I’m not good enough for this job”. “I’m a failure”.
But as if that wasn’t enough, I also get obsessed with my body and fitness. This is where things get messed up. I love cycling and indoor training. The exercise, as I’m sure everyone has heard, helps with depression and stress relief. So it is hugely important but even this is not safe from my OCD. If I miss a day of training or eat a little over my calories, Dave is there to run a 2 for 1 offer on insults and paranoia.
And finally there is the Duracell Bunny obsession. I don’t mean I’m obsessed with the little pink rabbit that out ran all the other rabbits. I mean I will keep going with cleaning, DIY or exercise until I feel ill and completely drained of energy. Sometimes over days or weeks.
In short, OCD is a complex disorder that I am still learning about. But I do feel a good first step is to understand the disorder and identify your own elements of obsession. And if, like me, work is a high stressor of your obsessions, maybe it’s time to move on or at least see if your work can support you in some way.
On a positive note, it really helps me have an eye for detail and a keen and natural talent for sorting out mess. Lock me in a messy warehouse and ask me to sort it and I will probably be heard whistling the Smurfs theme while I work, I love organising that much (I know, weird)!