About 30 years ago, when I was diagnosed with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD), I reacted with stubborn denial. Raised for excellence, I had absolutely no room for mental illness. So I minimized OCD for myself and others.
Alas, that was the wrong approach. But I was finally able to accept that I had a mental illness. My reward is to witness the chance of a happier life.
To be fair, it’s hard to recognize conditions that invade your mind and thoughts and prompt a constant obsession to act urgently. was. A trip to the grocery store meant checking and double-checking that I was billed correctly and received the correct change. It meant to check and double-check that you did.
Above all, I was afraid of making mistakes in articles I wrote for freelance newspapers and magazines, so I repeatedly checked facts, quotes, everything. My OCD, named Fred a long time ago, convinced me that I was doing something wrong and that the consequences would be equally devastating.
All of these checks and fears meant I couldn’t write an article right away, and my planned career in journalism fell through. The part-time jobs I took to supplement my writing income also had to be kept in check by shelving books at the library and evaluating shoes at Sears. Fred is unpretentious about the types of employment he influences.
In my 30’s and 40’s, I basically had 3 jobs. A part-time job, self-managed writing, a job to appease Fred with OCD. I was poor and too preoccupied with basic survival to step back and really see what was going on.
OCD is a disease that requires a lot of time and effort. It took me years to realize that Fred was a big liar and a very convincing person. Having Fred is like living with PT Barnum in my head. At 59, I certainly have the benefit of hindsight. I am greatly encouraged to use my experience to advise others to face their condition and fight back.
For your information, I have been in therapy for several years now. But I tended to compartmentalize sessions and homework, seeing them as check-off tasks rather than stepping stones to a better life.
Now I accept that OCD is part of who I am. I approach therapy as a practical means of learning the right tools to cope. I would like to use it regularly, not in a messy way.
The best tool I have used for obsessive-compulsive disorder is exposure and reaction prevention. This causes them not to perform anxiety-relieving compulsions (such as checking), instead sitting with very high anxiety for an unknown amount of time.
Who wouldn’t sign up for such constant pain? Whatever your mental disorder, a cure is not a cure. However, the option to continue living while controlling the disease is often unacceptable. If you have an opportunity to fight an obstacle, embrace it. Throw everything you have against it.
And hey, if you’re in my age range, it’s never too late.
Leslie Robinson’s humorous memoir is called “Fun With Fred: Life With OCD and Hoarding.” She lives in Shoreline.