I always knew I was different in the way I perceived the world. Instead of needing to do classic hand washing or constantly worrying about germs, I had other weird rituals, like never leaving the house without a Kleenex and needing to have a regular routine.
I married a last-minute, no plan, fly-by-the-seat-of-his-pants kind of guy. Ironically, he exhibited some classic OCD traits as well, but his were different from mine.
My traits are hoarder, worrier, and arranger. His traits were constant checking to make sure he closed the garage door, turned off the stove, that kind of thing. Also perfectionist stuff, his tight little handwriting an example of that. His genes and mine made for a perfect storm OCD cocktail for our children.
Yes, there is a hereditary aspect to OCD. The O stand for obsessions, like fear of flying (me), fear of screwing up at work (him), fear of something bad happening (both of us).
Two of our three children have also exhibited traits of OCD. We have all learned how to overcome them.
There were no meds for OCD when I was a kid. We were too poor anyway to get me diagnosed. I learned to cope with the teasing and the worry. I was not a risk taker in my teen years, which got me through them alive. I hung out with risk takers, so that was tough.
I packed more stuff for college than your average bear. Having my belongings around me seemed to calm me, but everyone wanted to borrow my stuff because they’d left theirs at home. Another topic for another day.
I grew out of some of my compulsions but not my obsessions. I don’t have a Kleenex up my sleeve most days, and I am often without a pen (shameful for an ex-school teacher), but I still have too much stuff, and I worry about accidents every time I drive, fly, climb a ladder, etc.
Maybe that’s why my stomach is so messed up, all the worry. I tried OCD meds as an adult, but they made my brain fuzzy, and it was hard to write.
For relatives and others who insist I don’t have OCD, I’m glad you think I am normal. In reality, I have a lot of stuff going on under the surface. I’ve learned how to keep it at bay most days. If I have a plan and a routine, my life is much calmer. Weekends that leave me at loose ends are stressful. I don’t like a mile of free time stretched before me.
Come to think of it, my mom is that way, too. She likes to stay busy. We get a lot done, those of us with OCD, even if we’d rather relax and chill like the rest of you guys.
We’d like to, but we just can’t. There are too many things to worry about, too many things to sort, classify, hoard and not enjoy.
So hug a person with OCD. I mean, you know, when it’s safe.