When people think of someone having Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, it conjures up visions of someone constantly washing their hands or cleaning things. There are many different types of OCD, however. There are checkers, people who must “even up” things they touch or eat, hoarders, and of course, the Washers. I fall into the category of checker and making things even, with a little bit of hoarder thrown in for good measure! Some people call OCD the Doubting Disorder, because it makes you doubt that you’ve locked that door, or turned off that stove.
I didn’t even know that what I did had a name until I was an adult. As a teenager, I would keep things that I thought I might need someday. I wanted to be a writer, so I kept things from school or from magazines that had good information that might come in handy someday as a writer. I also collected business cards, stamps, Beatles and MASH memorabilia, and I hated to throw anything away that was given to me. I didn’t have a messy room, though if you looked in my closet or under my bed, things might be a little, shall we say, disorganized.
As I got older, and started to stay out later than my parents stayed up, I would check the lock on the door to make sure it was locked after I had come inside. I would have to physically touch the lock, several times, before it “felt right” and I could walk away. In my mind, I knew it was locked, I could see that it was locked, but I had to feel it before I could move on.
After I got married and had children, if I was the last one up at night, I would go through my nightly routine–check the knobs on the stove until they felt right, check the locks on the doors, check on the kids to make sure they were breathing (I’d stand by their bed until I saw their chest rise and fall a couple times), then I could go to bed. If I didn’t do these things, my anxiety level would just make my skin crawl, and I’d feel very tense.
Then there was the evening up of things: if I touched something with one hand, I had to touch it with the other. If it was something that could be counted, like cookies, I had to eat an even amount. That can get a little annoying, especially if you are trying to lose weight!
It can also make you think things that aren’t true, or think unwanted thoughts. There is a Hootie and the Blowfish song called Wishing, and part of the lyrics are, “It’s worse at night, spirits flying all around you, without the light, it can take away your sanity.” For me, it’s always worse at night, because there is nothing to distract you from your thoughts. Sometimes I’ll push my head into the pillow farther to try and make the thoughts go away, and think in my mind, “Just shut up!”
I finally decided that something wasn’t right with me, and started looking around on the Internet, and finally had a name to go with what I was feeling. I went to my doctor to confirm it. She referred me to a psychiatrist first, and with him, I was put on Luvox. After 4-6 weeks, it seemed to be helping. I didn’t want to check the locks and the other things I was doing. But, it also made me feel like not doing anything. I didn’t want to get up, I didn’t want to take my kids to school, nothing. I felt happy, but maybe it was more like indifference. The doctor tried different meds, but none helped my symptoms like Luvox did, but I was unmotivated while on Luvox. My husband and I made the decision to stop the meds and try therapy. Therapy didn’t help as much as I thought it would. I wasn’t given any coping skills or anything to try to lessen my symptoms. I’m not saying that neither medication nor therapy isn’t a good way to go, I just didn’t find the right help with either.
These days, I still check the door locks, but I haven’t checked the stove in a long time. Checking the locks doesn’t seem to take as long, and sometimes I can even just look at the lock and tell myself, “It’s locked,” and move on, so there is some progress. I can even eat an odd number of cookies or crackers now without anxiety! I’m hoping the progress continues to where I don’t give the locks on the doors a second thought.