Ever since I was little, cleaning was something I enjoyed doing. When my mother asked me to clean my bedroom way back when, it was a joyous occasion in my mind. But slowly and steadily, the normal tidying up went awry and cleaning became unhealthy. I vividly remember starting many a Saturday mornings where I would make it a goal to clean my bedroom to completion. Instead of straightening the clothes that may have been amiss, I would begin with opening the double doors to my closet. Starting on the top shelf, I would pull down every single toy, board game, and puzzle I owned and clean the surfaces in a meticulous manner. Top first, bottom next, and Leah, do not forget the sides. Very rarely was there any dust, but to me, this was cleaning. Although I didn’t know it then, it was something that most normal middle schoolers didn’t do. If you are thinking odd things already, it gets worse. If it were a board game I was cleaning, I would then open the top and proceed to organize the game board, game pieces, and cards in a logical order. All the cards needed to be facing the same way, all the game pieces needed to placed in neat, strategic rows, and all of it needed to be placed in the box corresponding with the box’s writing.
Now, imagine a closet inside of a bedroom inside of a house. The seriousness of this cleanliness issue really begins to look a lot less comical and more sad and disheartening.
Truth be told, it really bothers me when people claim they have OCD and joke about it in a haphazard manner. For those that suffer from this disorder, it’s really nothing to joke about.
Here are the general facts about this disorder according to the A.D.A.M. Medical Encyclopedia courtesy of PubMed Health.
Obsessive-compulsive disorder is an anxiety disorder in which people have unwanted and repeated thoughts, feelings, ideas, sensations (obsessions), or behaviors that make them feel driven to do something (compulsions).
Often the person carries out the behaviors to get rid of the obsessive thoughts, but this only provides temporary relief. Not performing the obsessive rituals can cause great anxiety.
Just like anything else, this disorder can debilitate a person if let go. Thankfully, there are medications that can keep the constant 24/7 obsessions from wanting you to rip out your ears.
And then there is psychotherapy, a fancy name for cognitive behavior therapy. (More about that in another post…)
For me, I never recognized any obsessions early on b/c it’s not often that a teen discusses mental thought processes with their friends. Thankfully, I knew that I had some oddities about order and cleanliness (especially when I went to college and had to live with roommates), but I was somehow able to keep it at bay enough to live a normal life. It wasn’t until about two years ago when I was dating someone seriously that things took a turn for the worse. Because I couldn’t control the relationship (now that it wasn’t just me involved), I began to control order in my space. Hours upon hours of cleaning just to get nowhere. Ripping up random spaces in my house to organize items that had no need of being organized. Cleaning spots that would have looked perfect to the normal eye, but to me, were just not right. Not to mention that once I was done with one space, there was always another. Although there was some relief in “perfecting” a space, I could run down a memorized list of all the areas that still needed the OCD touch. Eventually, it came to full-blown anxiety and panic that would square me away with some counseling that enabled me to address my favored coping method, OCD.
Although I still have OCD and always will, through a year and a half of intense therapy sessions and lots of hard work, I have learned to keep the demons (obsessions) at bay. No, they will never fully disappear, but at least they are a lot less intense. I can now recognize which is a healthy manner of thinking versus the anxious side stating I need to perform a ritual to make me more at ease. Every now and again, the battle between me and OCD is waged once again, and I have to make a conscious effort to choose which voice I will listen to. Sometimes, it takes everything in me not to give in to the OCD and do what it states needs to be done, but the good news is, unlike years past, I now more than ever choose the right one.
Thanks be to God for his unloving measure of grace in allowing me to be just as I am.