Thursday, 6 June 2013

It's Called OCD

Just wanted to confirm something, about a mental illness that millions of people seem to think they have. Many have completely misunderstood it, and I wanted to let people know.
The illness I'm talking about is OCD. Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. No, it is not 'Overly Cleaning Disorder' or even 'Obnoxious Canoo-riding Day'.
My grandad suffered from it, and my mum lived with OCD in her life for about 18 years, and beyond that, after she'd left home. It has come to my notice that there are a lot of people out there who literally do not get what OCD is at all. People who are a little fussy about keeping their things tidy say they have OCD, or other people tell them they have OCD because they like to keep their books in alphabetical order, for example.
If you do these things, you DO NOT HAVE OCD. You are just a perfectionist, a little fussy, or generally neat type of person. OCD is a completely different ball-game. Cleaning is just one of many problems people with OCD have.
The illness gives you a constant anxiety. Always lurking in the back of your mind. It cannot be helped, you worrying, because even if you know it's ridiculous it's still a concern that will not go away. Say you have OCD and you are driving your car to work, an hour away. Half an hour from home, suddenly, a thought looms. You say to yourself: "Did I check the upstairs bathroom window on the left hand side before I left?" This though then snowballs. "I didn't check it"
Then, "What could happen? Someone could break in!"
Then, "They could break things for fun!"
Then, "I'll come back and fine my house has been ransacked"
Then, "I'll come back and my house will have been burned down to the ground!"
And so on. It's a never ending cycle, that you know is ridiculous, yet you are unable to stop. Even though you are by now only fifteen minutes from your destination, and fourty-five minutes from home, you insist on turning round, and driving the long way home, to check the window in the upstairs bathroom on the left hand side.

You may also need to follow a routine. For example, say you have a collection of purfume bottles, like many women do, nowadays! Another thing you have, is OCD. Every day, you come inside, and 'tidy up' your perfume bottles. You take them all off the shelf, and put them on the floor, then you dust each one individually, and place them back on the shelf, in a particular order.
Lavender perfume MUST go on first, in the back right-hand corner, just the right distance away from the mirror. The vanilla spray MUST go on the front left hand side, second in from the front edge of the dresser. And it goes on, and on, and on. But it could get worse.
You could do this once, then feel the need to do it again. And maybe again. Three times is a commen number for those with OCD. But it is not unheard of to do things like this many more times. And despite the fact that the next day, all the bottles stand clean and in the exact same place as they stood yesterday, you have a compulsion, an obsessive compulsion one might say, to do it all over again, maybe three times!

Although cleaning in the stereo-type where the whole idea of 'overly cleaning disorder' comes from, it is genuinly part of the problem. When I say cleaning, however, I am not talking about getting a bit upset when a spec of jam falls on the sofa. I'm talking about scrubbing an already clean kitchen floor with a wire brush five times over until your hands are bleeding, and still not be happy with the outcome. Imagine it like spring cleaning your bedroom: you dust all the surfaces, you clean the windows, you change the bed sheets etc. But for you, not every day, or every week etc.
For those with OCD, this can be the case. Sometimes, they see germs everywhere, surrounding them, closing in on them, and they have to wipe all the surfaces and clean all the windows, even though a normal person would look at the room, and see an already very tidy space!
Maybe this whole 'germ' thing goes beyond the home. Maybe, you are scared to leave the house without a face mask to guard your mouth from germs, becasue you are terrified of every illness you could possibly catch. Maybe you must wear gloves 24/7 even in the height of Summer because you cannot touch anything with your bare skin. Maybe you have to wash all the change someone gives you in a shop, because it could be infected, or have a half hour bath EVERY night, no matter what, because you must. be. clean.

My grandfather suffered from this, you see. Luckily, I don't and my other family don't, but his illness affected the whole family. He could't travel, so that was holidays out of the question, because he couldn't leave the house without coming back and checking about two or three times that everything was tunred off and locked etc.
Work was a hastle for him, because he just couldn't cope with the stress of it all. In the end, he decided to take early retirement.
He would get angry and frustrated and depressed all the time! He shouted, although was not violant, and listened to opera at night, to calm himself, keeping my mum and her siblings and mum awake.
Sadly, in many ways, anyway, he passed away in 2000 at the age of 70. He had cancer, and the stress of his life cannot of helped him!
But my nanny lives on to this day. She is 76, now. Living with him has obviously limited her. And thank god he died first. My mum told me that every day she thanks God for the fact that he died first, however mean that sounds. She says this because he wouldn't have coped. He would have lost it, completely. And since of my mums siblings, one is in America, and one is dead, the responsibility of looking after an OCD father would be hers entirely.
And because he's gone, my nanny can travel, which she'd wanted to do her whole life. In the last decade since his death, she has travelled the world, and seen every continent apart from South America and Antarctica. She can finally, after a life of looking after others, live for herself.
My mum is stressed by his life. She still finds opera terrifying, and still has some nervous habits developed from a rather traumatic upbringing. She missed out, in many ways.

OCD is a terrible thing, and shoudln't be undermimed. FOr those that have it, it can be an never ending nightmare, and for those that live with those who have it, it is beyond just difficult. So please, for those people's sakes, do not joke about 'Overly Cleaning Disorder' or anything else.
Do not claim to have it, or accuse someone else of having it. Because if they did, or if you did, you would know about it, no problems.

If you have read this, thank you.

Yellow Jane

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