It’s that time of year again boys and girls! OCD Awareness Week is back this year during the 8th-14th October to kick stigma’s arse!
The History of OCD Awareness Week
OCD Awareness Week is an international campaign that takes place on the second week of October every year. It was launched in 2009 by the International OCD Foundation in the US and is supported by charities all over the world to raise awareness and an understanding of the disorder.
Every society is still majorly, but generally unintentionally ignorant about Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and what it actually entails. It’s not always just about being super clean and tidy at all. OCD is a seriously debilitating disorder with many forms that taunt the sufferer with unwanted and frightening intrusive thoughts.
I’ve lost count of how many times I have heard someone say, “OMG I’m so OCD because…” about something so minor or stereotypical with a mocking exasperation accompanied by a burst of laughter, like it’s a quirk.
I was told once that how people react to mental illness is just ‘the way of the world’ and there was not a lot I could do about it. That’s exactly why movements like OCD Awareness Week are SO important in terms of the scale of audience it can reach and the platform it gives people to speak out about their experiences with the illness.
My little blog is kicking of OCD Awareness Week with 30 insights into my OCD and why I am not a stereotype.
OMG, I’m SO OCD because…
- I spend ages searching my skin for lumps and bumps because I’m paranoid I’m carrying an infectious disease that could kill someone close to me. If I find something, I won’t be able to think about anything else until I pick obsessively until it bleeds and eventually scars. I’m terrified that scabs aren’t keeping out infection, but they are actually trapping it inside. I’m covered in scars and I lose a lot of time and sleep due to this.
- When I become panicked or over-anxious, I need to count to one hundred in 2’s 20 times to feel in-control and safe.
- I have to touch my middle finger or the top of my index finger on a light switch twice with both hands, or 10 times if I’m feeling really anxious. If it’s one of those circular dimmer light switches, I have to touch it with the flat of my palm on both hands.
- The digital clock on my phone is my enemy. If I’m using my phone, I can’t lock it until the minute is an even one and when it does I must blink twice at the time to confirm this so I can carry on with whatever I was doing. It can get really embarrassing in places like waiting rooms when my name is called but I can’t go yet because the time hasn’t changed. This is why I tend to get super anxious if I use my phone in scenarios where I’ll have to suddenly put it away, so I try to avoid it. Also, if any of you own a Samsung S7 or onwards, you may know about the classic clock that can stay on display even when the phone is locked. This is a lifesaver for me because I don’t have the same problem with normal clocks.
- I have a bedtime routine that has to be completed before I get into bed: touch my bedroom door handle with both palms simultaneously for 10 seconds and then try to swing the door shut and quickly take my arms away. If my arm touches the door, I’ll have to do it again. I’ll then run both fingers up and down my light switch 10 times and then the same for a plug switch. Then I check all my drawers are completely closed and all plug switches are off to avoid a fire, followed by looking about the window in search of danger. The final thing I’m allowed to see is a star or another light source. I will then close my eyes and shut the curtains so that light was the last thing I saw. I can then get into bed. If I mess any of that up or doubt myself, I’ll do it again.
- I will panic if drawers are not shut completely.
- I have to hold my palms over both taps for 10 seconds before I can leave any bathroom.
- Odd numbers are the devil.
- I must touch objects an even number of times; typically 2 or 10 times, such as every light switch I pass, or the base of an object I’m holding before I put it down.
- I cannot eat an odd-numbered amount of certain food or take an uneven amount of sips of a drink.
- I constantly seek reassurance about pretty much anything.
- The ‘just right’ feeling is something only someone with OCD will understand.
- My disorganisation is usually very organised. I’m not obsessively clean and tidy like the stereotype portrays. I am messy BECAUSE of my OCD.
- I get violent and sexually unwanted, intrusive thoughts every day.
- When I’m driving, terrifying thoughts of crashing my car, harming other people or closing my eyes enter my mind and taunt me.
- I write pointless lists over and over again until I feel ‘comfortable,’ This may be generic to do lists, or a repeated phrase, such as ‘nothing bad is going to happen because…’ Any written work that I do I will read over repeatedly incase I’ve written something inappropriate without realising, and to check I am satisfied with my generally neat handwriting. If I’m not, I’ll write it all over again from the beginning.
- I’m on a constant, exhausting high alert.
- If I wake up in the middle of the night, I have to go and listen outside my mum’s door to make sure she’s still breathing. I do the same with my cats.
- I have lost friendships because of my illness.
- Relationships; romantic and platonic are so much harder than they should be, because of ROCD (relationship OCD) and the high anxiety that comes with it.
- I’ve had to cancel plans countless times because I feel too scared to go out, or I worry I will be putting the person I’m meeting in danger.
- My attendance when I was at college was awful and I was nearly kicked out because of how depressed OCD had made me and struggle with everyday life.
- I don’t like making plans because OCD can be so unpredictable in terms of when it’s going to peak. I hate constantly cancelling and changing plans and letting people down.
- OCD can make work life extremely difficult, and it’s been a prominent factor in my decision to leave 2 previous jobs.
- I once bumped another vehicle in a car park because I panicked as I realised I had accidentally knocked the radio volume onto an odd number as I was reversing.
- Intrusive thoughts make me shake and hyperventilate.
- Excessive paranoia is always strong.
- I am overwhelmed with the sense of responsibility that it is my job to stop bad things happening.
- I hate how much it upsets my family and it makes me feel like a burden.
- Even though I know it’s not rational, I feel huge guilt about bad things that happen and feel responsible, such as my nan’s death to cancer, or a terrorist attack.
Use the hashtag #OCDWeek on Twitter to join a global conversation about OCD and share your own stories and campaigns.
Don’t forget World Mental Health Day is this week too on the 10th October!
Get involved here.