It’s been a couple months now since Erin pointed out that I may well have Obsessive-compulsive Disorder.
I don’t even know what we were talking about, but I must have mentioned that my mom used to joke that I was OCD - when I was a kid, I would wash my hands all the time. I wasn’t the type that would scrub them incessantly; I just felt like I needed to rinse them off after touching…well, almost anything: the dog, doorknobs, any kind of food - anything.
The problem is that I really don’t know much about OCD. About a decade ago, I read a Reader’s Digest article about a teenage kid that exercised constantly, and there’s a Scrubs episode where Michael J. Fox plays an OCD surgeon, but that’s about all I know of it. Of course, I had never really given it any thought. I don’t know much about mental illness, but it seems that there are a lot more people dealing with mild, manageable forms of illnesses than those who can’t function normally. It makes sense that OCD doesn’t necessarily mean counting steps and touching everything in the room; I don’t know why it never occurred to me that there are probably thousands of people that deal with mild forms of it.
Erin has a little more experience in this than I do. She was diagnosed with OCD when she was a teenager, and took drugs for it for a few years. When she described her symptoms, I started to think she might be right about me having it. The thing is, I don’t know how other people think; it’s just not possible. Until she pointed it out, I just assumed that everybody would get songs and phrases stuck in their head for days at a time. I did some reading online, and WebMD gave me a pretty good list that made her case even stronger.
Here’s what I got:
- Songs stuck in my head: Not whole songs, just a part. Not even songs, necessarily - sometimes, I hear an interesting phrase, and that gets stuck in my head. And I don't mean that I'm humming a jingle all afternoon, I mean I'm singing two lines of a song for hours (if not days) at a time.
- Hand washing: I still do this more than most people, but less than I did as a kid.
- Spitting: I don't know if this one counts, but I spit into the sink almost every time I wash my hands. Kind of gross, I know.
- Nail biting: Might just be a nervous habit, but I've been doing it since I was like six and I have been completely unable to stop.
- Replaying/rehearsing conversation: After a lot of conversations, I replay parts of it in my head dozens of times, agonizing over things I may has misspoken about, or points I should have made. I also rehearse conversations the same way. Same goes for e-mails and blog posts: if it occurs to me that I've got an e-mail to write, or a blog post I want to make, I keep writing and re-wording it in my head until I can get to a computer and type it up.
- Compulsion to document my life: I always feel like I need to track things happening in my life, for reference later. I've been tracking movies I watch for a few years. I've also been trying to figure out some kind of life tracking web application for a long time, to track people I know, books I read, movies I see, events I go to, trips I take - everything. I feel like I need to be able to look things up later on to see what I did with who and when. I already track some of this in a wiki on my laptop, but I want an easier way to add and link things.
- Runaway imagination: I have a habit of considering the worst case scenario, and then letting my imagination run wild with it. In the five and a half months we've been together, I've imagined Erin dumping me at least a dozen times. Before we moved in together, Erin lived in a row house, and one night I had myself entirely convinced that the old-house noises were zombies in the attic. And every time I go to the bathroom in the middle of the night, I expect to find a demon staring back at me when I open the door. I know it's completely and utterly ridiculous, but the image just gets more and more horrible in my mind until I open the door and see, just as I suspected, that nothing is there (except for the time that Erin WAS there and scared the Christ out of me).
I still don’t know if I actually have OCD. I haven’t talked to a doctor, and like I said, I have no idea how other people think, so I can’t tell if any of this is “normal.” I did mention it to my mom and learned that there are other folks with OCD in my family, so she wasn’t entirely joking back when I was a hand-washing kid.
Whether I do have OCD or not, I still haven’t figured out what to do with this information. I was actually literally speechless when Erin first told me, and I haven’t made it much further than that. If anything, I’m more conscious of it, and because I think about it more, it seems like it happens more.
Anyway, I don’t have a good reason for posting this. I doubt that I’ll bother seeing a doctor about it or anything; I mean, I’m obviously getting by, but Erin claims that the difference was incredible when she started taking meds for it. I suppose I’m kind of hoping that other people will chime in with their take on the matter, because I’m curious if anyone else knows what I’m talking about.