Did we lock the door? No you don’t need to check. Yes, please go check. Are you sure we locked the door? You check it. Ok good, its locked. No wait, we didn’t check it good enough, must go back. Over and over and over and over again because you aren’t doing it quite right.

1,2,3. No. 1,2,3. No. Count on my fingers over and over and over again until it ends on my pinky or thumb. No. Count again. Start over. Stop. Again. 1,2,3,4,5. Perfect. Now again. Every sound, every word, must be counted. Never stop.

The volume must always sit on an odd number. Try an even one. Try 22. The burning starts. Oh god. No. Turn it to 21. It’s all better now.

Check the oven three times. Bleach every counter top. Dishwasher must be loaded in the correct way. Clean in order. He asks, “Can I help?” No. He cannot. Because he does not know the correct order. Does he not understand that the order is important? It is the most important thing in the universe.

Shower according to routine. Everything in routine.

Count again.

Count more.

Repeat things once, then twice, then three times, following the strict procedure. Make him do the same. He plays along, because he knows I need him to.

He doesn’t leave the bedroom door open enough at night; the door is not at it’s correct placement. I sit on the edge of the bed and feel the panic rising up into my throat. No. This can’t be. It’s just a door. But it matters. It matters because everything has to be in it’s place. I have to check the cats. Did they die? I have to check the windows. I have to check the locks. I have to check the oven. I have to count. I have to recheck the cats. I have to recheck the doors. I have to make sure the bedroom door is open to it’s correct place. Then I lay down and everything is sort of okay. But then he will close the door, and I will have to go through this all again.

We will leave the house. And I will panic. Because I know I missed something. I know I forgot something. We will go on an overnight trip and I will have to come home at midnight because I know that I forgot to lock the door. I left the oven on. The cats are dying. Someone is breaking in. We will get home at 2 am and I will clean in order. I will count. I will triple check everything. Then we will all be safe.

He grabs my hand when I’m counting. Stop, he says, you are safe. Yes, I think, I am safe because I am counting. He doesn’t understand that if I stop … I am just begging for a catastrophe.

It’s little things, so many little things. It is exhausting. It burns. And it’s not a choice. But if it were, would I want it to go away? It keeps me safe. It keeps me in control. It keeps me safe. It keeps me safe. Control. Safe. What would I do without it?


24 thoughts on “ocd

  1. I think some of our insanity’s keep us from going insane. Most people won’t understand that comment but I think you do. It feels so good to be able to control ‘something’. Everything else is just so out of control.

  2. I am sorry that you must endure these symptoms. I am sure it is exhausting, the constant preoccupation, the persistent anxiety, the inexplicable need to follow routines and maintain patterns. I too live with a mental illness and understand how crippling it can be. At times, I am debilitated, unable to meet or fulfill the tasks and responsibilities associated with everyday life. Its not that I am lazy. Its not that I don’t want to help out around the house and so on. Its just that sometimes I can’t. Luckily, I have people around me that understand. I hope that the same is true for you. It is so important that those in your life understand and are willing to accommodate you. Are you taking any medication? Have you ever? I know that it can be arduous, trying different medications, dealing with side effects, trying different combinations. It all requires a lot of patience and persistence. But its part of what we have to do, those of us living with a mental illness, I suppose. At least that’s been part of my journey. Again, I wish you the best. I just wanted to let you know that there is someone who understands and that you aren’t alone. Best wishes!

    • I have taken medication in the past for anxiety … I’ve never really “spilled” my OCD tendencies to a therapist though. Fortunately, I have a very patient and understanding husband that does try to help me through it.

      Thank you for sharing the fact that I am not alone. Very comforting indeed.

  3. It is something that you hate but fear to be without – that is how I feel about all of my mental illness. It makes my life difficult, but I dread the unknown world without my “coping skills.”

  4. With any illness you get so used to having it, that not having it is scary. I have a migraine condition. It’s more under control now than it ever has been. I will catch myself thinking “I haven’t had a migraine in over a month…weird”. Then it plays on my mind, “I need a migraine, life isn’t normal without them. Without them, I have no excuse for not being fit again, for not writing my novel”. I realise I miss them, and feel sick with the shame of it. I can’t tell anyone. Then I tell my mum, and she gets it, this condition is genetic after all. I realise that maybe I miss them because they give me the option to collapse and have rest. The solution, really, is to take better care of myself even when I feel well. But I think I would still miss them. They’ve been part of me for so long.

  5. You are safe, and hopefully your intrusive, obsessive thoughts will fad. I know, I’ve been here, but no longer am. I know you will find your way thru this insanity, because my dear, your beautiful writing is spot-on about the torment of the obsessive, compulsive nature of something that seems uncontrollable, but is.

  6. I totally get it. I have lived it, and to a degree still do, still circling around the block once in a while, thinking I forgot to shut the garage door and the dog will get loose and get run over and it’s all my fault. All I can say is that you didn’t have it you would still be safe, the world wouldn’t come to and end. Wishing you good thoughts to repeat, over and over.

  7. I have a mild case of OCD. My wife always jokes that she is going to put streamers on the fan in our bedroom to help me. It amuses her that I have to have it pointing at the bed at JUST the right angle. She doesn’t understand why I check the alarm multiple times each night or why it is set for 6:59 instead of 7:00. She sometimes has to remove my hand from her leg when we are cuddling on the couch, to keep me from boring a hole into it. Sometimes she will move things the slightest off center, just to see how long it will take me to notice. Sometimes she catches me playing my “games” with my fingers and asks what I’m doing. Embarrassed, I always tell her nothing.

    • It’s really saddening to me that you feel embarrassed about it. Sad because I do understand that, and how it’s impossible to really “hide” because the draw is so strong. I hope that your wife can find a way to better support you … and I hope you can find some peace from it.

  8. OCD is a whole world. I started having unwanted thoughts when I was 11 and my little sister was born. She was premature and I thought she was going to die. Now she is 11 herself and a picture of health.
    When I was 19 I realised with a sudden shock that no one else knew of this intricate world I had built myself. I generally tend to tell people things, but no one knew about this world. No one knew of the ever changing rules and numbers. No one else could sympathise with the mental agony of trying to hold a thought back.
    I don’t have OCD symptoms any more, but I know I will always have it. Like an alcoholic is always an alcoholic whether they drink or not, this exquisite and petrifying world is mine forever. At the moment it is just lying quietly, like a dormant volcano. I used to wish I could be cured forever, but the moment I realised it would always be with me was the moment I started to recover.
    It’s so hard, I know. I don’t really have any advice to give except to say that I agree with the comments below about how it’s about control. So many things are out of our control, and that’s a terrible thing. Maybe this is just our minds trying to cope in a crazy world.


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