September 8, 2014

This is Me: OCD

Something that you may or may not know about me is that at age nine, I was diagnosed with a mental illness: an anxiety/panic disorder. This has been one of the most monumental aspects of my entire life, and I intend to share my journey with my disorder at an upcoming time. But there are two other issues that are inevitably linked to any person suffering from anxiety disorders: depression and obsessive compulsive disorder {OCD}. Today, I wanted to take a moment to share about the OCD side of my disorder.

Here on my blog, I often joke around about my OCD-tendencies and my obsessions with all things neat, tidy, and organized. I must admit that I really shouldn't kid about these things, for I can understand all too well those who actually suffer and deal with severe OCD issues on a regular basis.

My OCD issues have always been apparent, even at a young age. At times it just seemed that I was particular, whereas other times {most notably during the stages when I severely struggled with panic attacks}, my OCD would be much more prevalent. I never was at the point where some OCD suffers find themselves, such as touching things a certain number of times, turning things on and off so many times, or doing any other compulsive behaviors that they believe would lead to disaster if not completed. Yet I was not far from these habits, either. Mostly, I had an overwhelming need to control my things and their location.

Halloween Candy

My OCD was always a sense of trying to control my environment in times when I felt everything else in my life was out of control. I couldn't control my anxiety and panic attacks. But I could control my physical items, and when placed exactly where I liked them and felt they needed to be, it brought me a sense of peace and calm I could otherwise not produce.

I can remember so many times, placing a book or a piece of paper on my desk,  and laying it just right so that the edges of the book or paper would be perfectly perpendicular to the edges of the desk. I'd walk away, then stop. It wouldn't feel right, so I'd need to go back and check it to make sure the lines were perfect. Sometimes I'd even make it to the family room, sit down, then continually doubt that the lines were perfect, so I'd go back to my room to check the position of the book or paper. Especially with paper, I knew that a simple breeze from a passerby could slide the paper out of its position. Paper was always risky.

The amount of control I used to exhibit was extreme, but I felt it is how I could best function in life. I have come so very, very far from where I used to be with my OCD.

During college, I really made leaps and bounds coming out of my need for my items to be just perfectly so. I had roommates all through college, so I quickly learned that I could only control my items and that often our shared spaces would just have to be. I even relaxed so much that really for the first time in my life, I sometimes let things go and my room would get cluttered and messy.

I've carried this leniency on though to our married life. Matt is well-aware of my tendencies and he will sometimes find I've gone through his dresser and refolded everything and placed them back neatly and carefully. Thankfully, Matt is overall quite neat and clean for a guy, something I feel I owe to his years in the military. But sometimes our house does get cluttered and definitely in need of cleaning, especially now that we have a little one to chase around {and who is in the current destruct-o stage of tearing the house apart room by room}.

Yet my OCD is there. I don't sleep well if the house isn't at least picked up; I still get that feeling that things aren't good or right. I can't stand knowing that there are closets or drawers that are cluttered. At the times I've put things into closets or drawers before company comes over, and though I know this is a completely common and normal practice for most people, I feel shame. I feel that I am hiding something. It feels wrong to present a clean and orderly home when drawers and closets can be opened up to show disorder and clutter within. In a weird way, I feel that I am presenting some false version of myself, one that is dis-genuine. And there is little else that I distain more than being fake.

It has always been my own things, my own sense of order {well, Matt's and Makenna's included, since it's all our things} that concerns me. It doesn't bother me to walk into someone else's space and see clutter, and I can sincerely tell you that I never pass judgement when I'm in someone else's home. I don't honestly even think about it, because the things are not mine and they make up a space which belongs to someone else. Furthermore, I am keenly aware that my standards based on my tendencies are extremely abnormal.

As I write this, I'm realizing how difficult it is to articulate my tendencies--the way my personal spaces deeply affect my mental well-being. It's one of those things that probably can't really be understood unless someone else has the same tendencies or battles with disorders.

I've come to accept that like my anxiety disorder, the OCD side of Deanne will always be there. It's intrinsically built into my DNA. I am pleased with the progress I've made with my OCD over the years, and still I accept that I will probably never feel at peace unless all of my drawers and closets are organized. And I'm OK with that.

Recent organization of our bins of infant items

I pass it off as one of my quirks, but it is so much more than that. I know better than anyone what it is to struggle with mental illness and to have it turn your world upside down. The key, I have found, is to accept and adapt--to learn to live a normal life with mental illness.

And, yes. I will probably always blog about organization because it is truly something I enjoy now. I find it fun and inspiring and it makes me feel good. I praise God that I can now enjoy this part of myself and not feel it is something that controls me or our everyday family life.

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