Living With OCD: It’s Not All About Cleaning

Living with OCD is a daily challenge and can take many forms.

I’ve been having a terrible time over the last couple of weeks as the company I work for is moving offices.

This may seem like a fairly minor thing for some, but for others living with OCD (Obsessive-compulsive disorder) and anxiety it can feel like the whole world is coming to an end.

Now, more often than not, the mention of living with OCD brings up images of someone frantically cleaning, obsessed by dirt and germs.

Let me dispel that particular myth once and for all.

Yes, obsessive cleaning and fear of germs is certainly a common form of OCD, but it isn’t the sole reason people suffer, and it doesn’t come as standard.

I’ve lost count of the amount of times over the years where I’ve heard things like “I can’t cope with this mess it’s messing with my OCD”, rest assured, anyone who actually suffers wants to rip your head off at that moment.

That is having a liking for things to be tidy, it’s not a compulsion that can keep you awake for three days solid, and it doesn’t leave you with a sense of dread that bad karma is coming for you or a loved one because you haven’t completed  your routine to ‘keep everyone safe’.

My form of OCD

My compulsion has nothing to do with cleanliness or germs.

I count, I need symmetry, if i don’t cross the road with my left foot and get back on the path with my right I feel like someone I care about will die.

Even numbers are a big thing for me.

I can lay awake at night worrying that I left the office on the wrong foot, then have to battle with myself all night not to get up, walk back to work and make sure I do it properly in the early hours of the morning.

If I don’t lock the doors five times with each hand I can have a total meltdown, silently in my own head.

I get up continuously throughout the night to repeat the process just to be on the safe side, when it’s bad I can spend hours stood at the front door then I’ll hear my alarm going off to wake me up and realise I haven’t slept at all.

Leaving the house can be a total nightmare.

Did I lock the door? Have I left the oven on even though I know I haven’t used it? Are the windows I have checked two hundred times definitely locked properly?

I must add that none of this is for a fear of security, it’s to keep ‘bad karma’ at bay and keep my loved ones safe from it.

The first three hours after moving into our new apartment in November were spent with me outside working out how I was going to get in through so many different entrances and ending with me entering the room I would be sitting in on my right foot.

Sounds crazy eh?

But this is what i go through on a daily basis, I hate change because I know how it will mess with my head.

Every route into any office, shop or friend’s house I visit regularly has been carefully worked out to keep my anxiety at arms length.

If it sounds exhausting, it’s because it is.

Living with OCD is tiring, energy sapping and your mind never rests.

Office nightmare

Our office looks like bombs hit it.

Random desks missing in the middle of banks, crap everywhere ready to be moved and general disorder.

For someone who needs symmetry, it is a living nightmare that is making me anxious AF!

My heart has been coming out of my chest with it all and it leads me to be an irritable gob shite.

I can’t help myself, I nit pick about the slightest thing, things that I would usually never notice bug the life out of me until I lose my temper – whether that be under my breath through gritted teeth, or at the top of my voice!

I’ve basically come across as a bad tempered git, when really I’m struggling terribly with anxiety attacks and can’t say it out loud for fear of making it worse.

Not all illnesses are obvious at first

The problem with any form of mental health is the lack of visibility.

When someone is affected with an illness of the mind it is not always immediately noticeable, causing others to dismiss it as nothing to be concerned about.

I’ve had to explain to a few people over the last week why I’ve been behaving the way I have, it’s not easy, it makes you feel even more anxious as you convince yourself they probably just think you are just being over dramatic.

What I have noticed recently by opening up more about my personal life on this blog, is that it has been a sort of therapy writing it all down.

When you struggle to communicate how you’re feeling, writing it down can be a welcomed relief, I know it is helping to calm me at the moment and I’d recommend it to anyone else living with OCD out there.

All I would ask for anyone reading this, is to consider why people may be acting they way they are.

Chances are they could be living with OCD and suffering inside too.

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Living with OCD is tiring, energy sapping and your mind never rests.

Thinking Thrifty

Thinking Thrifty

David Naylor is the editor of the Thinking Thrifty blog. An award winning personal finance and lifestyle blogger, he shows how it is possible to live extremely well for less.
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28 thoughts on “Living With OCD: It’s Not All About Cleaning

    1. I have it far more under control than I used to many years ago, but I refuse the medication as it makes me feel like a total zombie. Even though I’m anxious a lot of the time, at least I can feel something. whereas with drugs you’re left feeling numb staring into space most of the time. I’m considering meditation, possibly even Yoga to relieve some of the stress that comes with it. It’s just been a bad week with this office move, how I’ve kept a lid on it this week I’ll never know!

  1. Thank you so much for sharing your story. Mental illness still has such a stigma sometime, and the only way to change that is to talk about it.

    It’s especially difficult for others to understand something like OCD, where it’s literally a joke at times – “haha, my OCD is kicking in,” said by someone who definitely does not have OCD. I’ll even admit it, I’ve said similar things before and don’t have OCD. I have ADHD and could tell similar stories though!
    Felicity (@FelicityFFF) recently posted…5 Lessons in Happiness from My DogMy Profile

    1. If I had a pound for every time I’ve heard that I’d be a rich man! Yeah, anyone coming out with such quips most certainly doesn’t suffer from it. It is all consuming, exhausting and not something that rocks up every now and again. I’m lucky if I manage 4 hours sleep a day because my mind just can’t switch off. One of my fellow bloggers recently commented I’m a machine for the amount of content I was publishing, not so difficult when you’re sat up wondering if you’ve crossed the road correctly and if we’re all going to make it to sunrise as a result. Thanks for taking the time to read and comment, I have a friend who suffers terribly with ADHD, the trouble is even the doctors don’t even seem to understand it. She has been messed around something chronic as no departments seem to speak to each other and she is often left coming out of there even more confused than when she went in. We really need to do more about mental health issues, it is so underfunded!

      1. That sounds awful. πŸ™

        Yes! A lot of doctors don’t really know how to deal with mental health. It’s especially tricky when depression and anxiety get mixed in with other issues like OCD — so many effects and relationships.

        Adult ADHD and ADHD in women is especially misunderstood. There’s this wonderful YouTuber Jessica I’d highly recommend to your friend – channel name is “How to ADHD.” She recently put out a “Self-Care Checklist” that is wonderful for anyone who struggles to keep it together sometimes. πŸ™‚
        Felicity (@FelicityFFF) recently posted…5 Lessons in Happiness from My DogMy Profile

  2. I feel for you.

    My son has a minor form of it. He can’t go out of the house without checking he has locked the door /shaking it at least 5 times. (To the detriment of the hinges/locks – he has damaged several doors!) He double/treble checks everything, windows/doors etc. Even when staying with us, he can’t sleep unless he knows everything is locked up. He will get up at 3am, just to ‘make sure’! It makes him ‘worry’ about all sorts of things, some of which he can’t control…

    My sister-in-law says I have OCD because I can’t abide things out of place, dirty etc. Our house is always clear of debris and tidy/clean. But that is not OCD… It’s just the way we like it. I can’t live /stay in a dirty house. It is exceedingly hard for me even to visit. I feel my skin crawling. Still not OCD!

    Take care!
    Erith @ crackingRetirement recently posted…2017 – 1st Quarter SummaryMy Profile

    1. Thanks for taking the time to read and your kind words Erith. It’s nice that you recognise the difference, so many people think it is about being tidy when it has nothing to do with it. I do know someone with an extreme fear of germs and if they could see what she actually goes through they would certainly know the difference!

  3. Thank you for speaking about this illness. I like the house to be tidy, but I’m not the one with OCD. My husband has some form of mental illness (tentatively diagnosed minor depression several years ago – he refuses to visit the doctor). I believe he may have OCD, because he is obsessive about unplugging appliances, locking doors, and if I leave him to lock up when we go out somewhere, it will take a good half hour or more. And yet, he doesn’t bother about mess. He would be a hoarder if it weren’t for me. This illness is very difficult to live with, and it almost tore us apart a few years ago. I’m happy to report that we are slowly coming out of the fog, we did see a counsellor for help, but it is a very challenging relationship. I am only here with him because I refuse to give up when I know the reasons behind his apparently uncaring and selfish behaviour.
    Catherine Green recently posted…Losing a Family PetMy Profile

    1. Wishing you and your husband the very best Catherine. Stick with him, we can be very difficult, but it’s anxiety talking. You seem to have a good understanding of it though I must say, which is great for him! x

  4. David, thank you for sharing. So many do not understand this. So much leads to anxiety or anxiety leads to so much. We need to be more gentle and accepting of others. I admire you, you do not let this hold you down or slow you down!

    1. Never will Kim. I’ve been struggling of late as the cafe has unleashed a whole raft of other habits on me, which I was prepared for! I’m not going to lie, it’s a daily struggle, but |I’ll never let it beat me and I certainly won’t medicate myself into a chemical induced coma as the doctor wanted!

  5. Thanks for such an honest and open account of your OCD. It’s so good to see more people sharing their mental health experiences – the more people can read honest posts, hopefully the more they’ll begin to understand.

  6. THANK YOU for posting this! One of my biggest pet peeves in life is when people use it as a ‘cute quirk’ such as “I’m SO ocd!” when something isn’t clean. I’ve been thinking about writing a post similar to this myself.
    “….I feel like someone I care about will die” hits it right on the dot. People don’t understand OCD well enough and don’t realize the effects it has. Education is so important.
    I’m going to share this in an OCD group I’m in.
    Melissa Jellie recently posted…How I Got My First VoxBox!My Profile

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