Obsessive compulsive disorder co-occurs with bipolar disorder in ten percent of the cases. Having obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) is exhausting. Obsessions and their resulting compulsions don’t always make sense. For example, I believe that if I put my earrings on in the wrong order – right before left – I will be in a car accident. Many of my compulsions revolve around this idea – that if I do not do them exactly so I will be in a car accident.
I have never been in a car accident.
I have no idea where this fear and obsession came from, but it rules my life. I cannot get out of bed unless the minutes of the hour are a multiple of five – like 8:15 or 8:20. If I get out of bed at 8:32 I will be in a car accident. I have to put my socks on right then left, then shoes on left then right. If my mind is elsewhere and I do it in the wrong order, even if I redo it, I believe I will be in a car accident. As you can imagine, all this causes me great anxiety and often stops me from driving.
My OCD revolves around germs, numbers, and order. I am much better today thanks to my anxiety medications. There was a time where my OCD ruled my life. So I am not that happy when I started hand washing again. It’s only been a couple of times so far. It starts with a simple washing when I am anxious and I think, “Man, this feels pretty good, maybe I will just wash my hands five times instead of once.” Then I get to the fifth time and I think, “Well, if it makes me less anxious why not do it five more times.” So I do. And so it goes until I am up to the 25th time and then it’s all, “Shit. Shit. I can’t stop!” And I feel even more anxiety then I did when I began. And stopping only makes it worse because then comes the guilt, the “What the hell is wrong with me that I just stood there and washed my hands 30 times?!” (Even writing this is making me anxious and I want to wash my hands).
I also used to have this hand scratching compulsion. When I met anxiety, I would unknowingly, scratch a tiny patch of skin somewhere on the back of my hand until it became raw and then I would notice. It never really bled, more like road rash. These tiny patches left scars like tiny burn marks. Luckily, my tattoos cover most of that up and because I do not want to mess up the tattoos, I try to be aware of scratching.
Sometimes I get frustrated and mad at myself for acting on these compulsions. It sucks up my time – my life. Washing your hands takes a little bit of time. But, dear reader, if you are washing your hands thirty times, you have wasted a good deal of time. Time during which you could be doing something more important or even just more pleasant things.
That’s how OCD works. You experience anxiety and you believe that by doing something, that anxiety will lessen. And sometimes it does – for a bit – but you can’t do that something forever so your anxiety builds or starts again once you quit the compulsion. Like I said, it is an exhausting way to live.