I have OCD—which is kinda’ lucky. Because I might have Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS). And I definitely have whiskers on my chinny-chin-chin. Stiff whiskers. Dark whiskers. Which is why it’s lucky I have OCD. My triochotillomania takes good care of my chinny-chin-chin.

Hi! I’m Ivy. This blog, Full Heart, Empty Arms, is about infertility and the mental health issues that may accompany infertility. OCD is one of those issues, at least, for me.

Now before you think, ‘Oh no! Another article about how I can recover and kick my OCD to the curb’, let me disabuse you of that notion immediately. Nope! Not going there.

Sure, OCD can be a pain in the ass. But the first thing to do is to realize that It’s Not Our Fault. There’s the Nature (genetic) component (at least three generations in my family have OCD) and there’s the Nurture (trauma; abuse) component. In my own case, I didn’t develop OCD just for the heck of it. And neither did you. We didn’t say to ourselves, ‘I know! Why don’t I start washing my hands til they’re red and chapped. That sounds like a hoot’! Of course not. For me, OCD came just when I needed it most. It was either OCD…or shatter mentally. The abuse was that bad. The trauma was horrific. OCD saved my mental health.

Which brings me back to PCOS. Although my hormone tests come back normal (and I won’t allow anybody anywhere near my ovaries, thank you very much!), yet I have most of the symptoms of PCOS, including facial hair. Ah, I remember the day I sprouted my first chin hair. There it was. Dark. Thick. Luxurious.

I plucked it.

The relief was palpable. I call it “reverse acupuncture.” That little stab of pain calmed me unbelievably. That’s when my OCD started.

I was fourteen years old. That was also the year life became Hell. OCD, depression, PTSD…all of it started simultaneously.

But my OCD has served me well. When I’m overwhelmed by stress, like a faithful friend, my OCD is there. Oh, sometimes it can be an annoying friend who dominates my thoughts. But it’s still a friend. While others turn to drugs, alcohol, sex, pornography, gambling, binge shopping and other destructive ways to handle stress, I go looking for my tweezer.

Sometimes, my favorite tweezer goes missing.

PANIC

That’s when the OCD gets a little crazy. I tear apart the bathroom, searching desperately for my favorite tweezer. I have three others, but they’re not as good. I want my favorite tweezer.

The relief when I find it…! Yeah, you’ve been there too.

But it’s more than just the relief of being whisker-free again. It’s more than that delicious stab of pain when the hair releases from the follicle, rather like that it-hurts-so-good pain when you lost your baby teeth. Remember it? It’s more than that.

When my OCD and I are busy plucking, there’s a floating sensation. Like a delightfully peaceful trance. I’m lost to the world, but my mind is racing. Unfettered. Unfiltered. Unbrainwashed. Uncontrolled. That’s when I have my deepest revelations, my clearest thoughts. When the truth is revealed. When I figure things out. It’s akin to those moments in childhood when you lost yourself in play, in creativity. You float, forgetting even about yourself. The mind is free.

And that’s why I embrace my OCD as a friend.

Oh, yes. There have been times when it was my nemesis. Because it used to be much worse. In addition to my trichotillomania (hair pulling), I also had dermatillomania (skin-picking) with excessive hand-washing and a bit of compulsion about routines too. But when I kicked my abusers out of my life and quit wearing the heavy make-up saying, ‘Love me scarred or don’t love me at all’, both my complexion and my skin-picking magically cleared up. Almost overnight. No one even seems to notice my scars.

But I still have OCD and frankly, I’m just fine with it. It serves me well. I get a bald chin and stress-release at the same time. It might not be perfectly ‘healthy’ but that’s okay. Because the first step towards healing, as strange as it sounds, is to accept.

To let yourself off the hook. Shame does nothing for you.

Think back. Who else in your family had OCD? Oh! I don’t mean they admitted it, but there were rumors. Someone with a house so excessively clean you were convinced they used cotton swabs (Q-tips) to clean around the base of the toilet. Someone who rubbed furnish polish into a table for hours, in a daze, in a trance. That’s OCD too. ‘While scientists continue to believe that no one gene causes OCD’, writes Rick Nauert, PhD, ‘researchers have now discovered a particular gene that is believed to play a major role in OCD development’.

See? Your OCD isn’t a ‘choice’ like so many people told you. It isn’t just ‘weirdness’ as your parents and partner may have screamed at you. It’s genetic and it serves a purpose. To help us cope with pain, with stress, with trauma. A rule of thumb is the One Hour Rule. If your OCD take one hour or less each day, don’t worry too much about it.

That’s about right! I pluck in the morning, after my shower. While the fan dries me off, I pluck my chin and eyebrows, choose my earrings and apply my eye make-up and lipstick. Voila! In the evening, when new whiskers rear their ugly little heads, I pluck a bit more. It all adds up to about an hour or perhaps a little more. But hey! Stress relief and staying well-groomed all in one fell swoop. What’s so bad about that?

There’s so many articles out there about beating OCD. Mind tricks. Tips. Advice. We certainly don’t need more shame. We feel badly enough about our OCD as it is. That’s why I wrote this article. To present a fresh angle. To let you off the hook in the way I’ve let myself off the hook.

It was tough to be this honest with you. This naked. This raw. This bald…wait…

Is that a whisker I feel?

Where’s my frickin’ tweezer!?!

Photo by striatic