5 ways people totally misunderstand my OCD

When you hear about Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), you might think of the TV show Monk — the man having the compulsion to have everything clean, perfectly lined up or organized beyond normal brain comprehension. You might think of the boss in The Incredibles who’s a complete control freak and loses it over the smallest things.

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But that’s not the full story. What do I mean by this? Well, a little while ago, I fixed myself a cup of tea in a Tervis Tumbler. When I snapped the lid on, I fixed the mouth opening to match with the logo on the side just because that’s the way my brain thinks it should be, and I would be uncomfortable with it any other way. I’ve been doing that for years with lots of things.

My OCD can range from mild — like the tea tumbler — to sometimes a bit more extreme, like making sure both my tennis shoes are the exact same tightness. If one is looser than the other, I’m so distracted by it I can’t finish my work out until I fix it.

Some people like to say that OCD is just in your mind and if you try hard enough, you could ignore it. Unfortunately, this is not the case. Here are a few things people misunderstand when I tell them I have OCD.

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1. I’m not crazy

Yes, I’ve been out with my friends, and when someone laid down her fork, I wanted to straighten it to align with her plate. This sounds insane, but it’s just the way I’m wired. Mentally, I’m trying to fix this situation, even though there technically isn’t anything wrong. I’m not going to lose my mind over it, but the impulse is there.

2. OCD doesn’t affect my ability to function

Let me preface this paragraph with saying that some people suffer from severe OCD, and if it’s not treated, it can keep them from functioning in society. The majority of people with OCD have mild cases, and in most cases — like mine — it can actually help your work ethic. OCD tends to keep me focused on whatever I’m doing and makes me perform the task well, completing it to almost perfection.

3. I’m not weird

Well, I’m not any weirder than someone who enjoys eating escargot or climbs mountains freestyle. OCD is just a character trait and even though it can hamper people at times, it really isn’t something life-threatening or odd. It all depends on a person’s point of view.

4. It challenges me

OCD challenges me anyway. I try every day to not be quite so worried that the pencils on my desk aren’t color organized or lined up perfectly straight. And if I were to “fix” them, so to speak, it wouldn’t be a bad thing.

5. I don’t like to be called out on it

I can’t tell you how demeaning it is when I straighten a pile of napkins on a table and then straighten the plates and cups as well to have someone say, “Wow, OCD much?” This is really embarrassing, like I just did something stupid and am being made fun of for it. OCD people aren’t setting out to entertain people with their anxiety disorder. We just do things compulsively without even thinking about them. Mocking us just makes us want to retreat. I mean, is straightening the napkins really the end of the world?

If you are someone with OCD reading this, there is nothing wrong with you! You are OK. Your anxiety disorder keeps you from fully relaxing in the world, but with time, this will get easier. Try to focus more on the people around you than on all the little things that could distract your mind.

If you don’t have OCD, I hope that this was a little window into how our brains operate. It’s not easy being this way. But if you bear with us and encourage us, we’ll get along just fine.

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