There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.
– Ernest Hemingway
I read this quote recently and decided to put my vulnerabilities out there for others to see, and possibly judge. If you are obsessive-compulsive, it won’t be difficult to understand what I’m talking about. The rest of you will question my sanity after reading this post.
I knew I had a problem. What I didn’t know was, it had a name – Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. I know I wasn’t born with it. But I’m not sure what triggered it or when the first tendencies showed.
It doesn’t keep me from doing things in my life. I was not clinically diagnosed. That’s impossible in a country where visiting a psychiatrist is equated with having a severe mental defect. Mental disorders that do not pose a threat to others are not considered grave. The definition of threat, however, is open to interpretation. Most ailments are swept under the carpet or considered self-manageable. As a result, sometimes things get significantly worse before they can get better.
When it first reared its ugly head, I didn’t think there was anything unusual about my behaviour. It felt natural to check everything multiple times. So, work emails had to be read repeatedly before being sent out. I had to ensure that the electric switches were off and the door was locked, at least three times before I left home for the day, among other things. Blog posts and comments had to be read and reread to death before they were posted. I thought I was being thorough. But, with time, I realised that it was the result of my inability to trust myself. I was paranoid about making mistakes. A voice at the back of my mind kept insisting that I do these things. If I didn’t, I could have no peace. The only way to get that voice out of my head, albeit temporarily, was to follow its command.
It didn’t stop there. Next, came the fear of contamination. The constant feeling of uncleanliness and the need to wash hands on contact with any surface perceived to be tainted. Very often, this resulted in the skin peeling off my hands. But, that didn’t stop me.
The last straw was when, in my effort to be clean, I started imposing my ideas of “cleanliness” on the people around me. The lucky winners – my immediate family. Noncompliance with my dictates, knowingly or otherwise, would result in me flying off the handle. I say dictates because I behaved like a dictator in this regard. If the person at the other end rebelled, which was understandable, it resulted in a full-blown meltdown. It is not difficult to comprehend the stress this can put on relationships.
But the worst part is having to deal with it outside the confines of your home. You have no control over your compulsions. But you suppress the part of yourself that expects others to comply because you risk being isolated or laughed at for your behaviour. Let alone losing friends, you might have trouble making any in the first place. People who don’t suffer from this condition can not understand it. I don’t blame them because I know my behaviour is irrational.
Years have passed, but I know I am still a long way away from overcoming my problems. I struggle with my condition every day. I continue to make my life difficult and others around me miserable. “Freak”, “Paranoid”, “Mental” and “Crackhead” are terms my husband uses to define my neurosis. My mother keeps reminding me that it’s not healthy for everyone involved if I continue down this road. The sad part is, I know I’m driving people up the wall. But I find it very difficult to control myself. I’m, just, lucky that people around me have put up with my unreasonable ways and not run for the hills.
For people who don’t suffer from this condition, I don’t expect you to understand why I do what I do. In fact, I pray that you never have to. I just hope that if there is such a person in your life, you will understand that their actions come not from anger or spite but from an underlying mental state. It’s an understatement to say that living with a person who has OCD is difficult. I know because I have to live with myself every day.
Just so you know, I proofread this post eight times before publishing it.