I am the light monitor. This imperative task I ordained unto me as an adolescent. Every single day as the sun set and the house lights filled the darkness, I made it my duty to constantly check the upper level rooms ensuring unnecessary light bulbs were turned off. I remember my entire family routinely would flip the light source before their ascent up the staircase, whereas I incessantly relied on the dim light coming from the adjacent front room.
The idea of having Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder had not yet entered my mind. I merely thought I was saving electricity. After all, my persistent behavior had not yet included thoughts and compulsions involving checking stoves, irons, unlocked doors, and windows. That came later.
It’s perfectly fine to save electricity, though not at the detriment of relieving anxiety and stress as the primary purpose. I think somewhere hidden in thought was a bill going unpaid. Though the thought was not based on any previous event.
According to mayoclinic.com, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is an anxiety disorder characterized by unreasonable thoughts and fears (obsessions) that leads one to constantly repeat behaviors (compulsions). One may try to stop the obsession, though that only increases the anxiety, causing the compulsion.
According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, OCD is often confused with Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder (OCPD) though differs clearly. Individuals with OCD are aware their behavior is not logical and are depressed about their obsessions. Conversely, OCPD is characterized by the individual’s acceptance of the behaviors that don’t include fear of germs or hoarding. Any conflict is usually caused between the individual and family and friends.
The manual makes an admirable point regarding a concept that many times is overlooked; the point made conveys that obsessive intrusions can be so distracting that they cause interference in concentration and not in cognitive ability.
As mentioned earlier, transitioning into my adult life included constant checking of stoves, irons, lights, doors, and windows. Additionally, cleaning at home and the office is and was established to perfection. OCD sometimes does allow a day-off where the kitchen and closets don’t absolutely beckon your immaculate attention.
For instance, at my office, I made a goal to arrive fifteen minutes early on some mornings because intrusive thoughts invaded my mind ‘saying’ all dust particles built up on the previous day must be cleaned away. Plus, in my mind the computer occupying my desk needed to have a central location fifteen inches from each the left and right side and ten inches from the front and back. The orderliness was specific as the days were varied.
Once I was also bothered with the nuisance in having to ask my manager if I could return to my apartment located only minutes away. I tried contriving some savvy excuse to no avail. I think my pacing the hallway clued her in. I had to go and check to see if I had left the iron on. My doubts were relieved as I saw all was fine at the apartment, though doubts continued about what to do concerning the constant worrying.
Thereafter, I made it my primary mission to immediately iron my uniform upon returning home after work each day. This particular occasion affected me immensely because it created more doubt and anxiety leading to thoughts of job loss. What if I have a similiar occurrence involving the stove? What if my alarm fails and I’m in a rush on my way to work and then have to return and check the front door lock?
All of these questions and fears eventually led me to seek professional counseling. I first was diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder and later with OCD. My coping techniques include monthly visits with a reputable professional, exercise, meditation, and attending a group all of who share a variety of challenges with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder.