The ABCs of OCD

As most of you know, my oldest son has been diagnosed with OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) and Anxiety Disorder, among other things.

It seems to me that every time I turn around, especially during this busy time of year,  someone is claiming to have OCD. But you see, if you really know someone with OCD, then you know that most of those people do not understand exactly what OCD really IS.

OCD is not a perfect PTA mom bringing perfect holiday cookies to the class holiday party right on time. OCD is not having a perfectly organized Tupperware cabinet and perfectly folded sheets on the shelves of your linen closet. It is not wrapping gifts in matching paper or hand-stamping your Christmas cards. OCD is nowhere near as cheerful as all that.

OCD is different for every person who suffers from it, so I won’t pretend to know everything it entails. But I will tell you what OCD is at our house.

OCD is being unable to touch your own child because he physically recoils at human contact. OCD is yelling at your younger children because they almost brushed their teeth out-of-order, a mistake that would cause hours of unexplained agony for their sibling. OCD is remembering which cup belongs to your child, and it is learning that the reason your child hasn’t eaten all day is because the babysitter unloaded the dishwasher and everything needs to be rewashed.

In our house OCD does not mean my child is neat and tidy, or that he likes things organized. It doesn’t mean he takes showers twice a day, or washes his hands over and over, like television has led you to believe. In our house, OCD means a room full of trash, that I know my child is ashamed of, even though he doesn’t have the power to throw it away. OCD means a head full of messy hair, because my child can’t bear the thought of someone touching his head long enough to cut it. It means my child sometimes has to re-trace all of his steps through the house, before he can leave for an outing or go to bed for the night. It means listening to him talk about the same subject over and over and over, because he just can’t let it go.

I’m not telling you all of this so that you will feel sorry for us. If you know our family, then you know that this is only a small part of our lives, and a part that we work around, the best we can, so we can focus on the things that make us happy.

But I am telling you this for a reason: Because if one more person tells me they finished all their shopping, or they spent two hours setting up their Christmas card photo, or that they scrubbed in between their bathroom tiles, “because I’m OCD,” I will be dropping my son off at their house for the day.

I promise you won’t think you are OCD after spending time with him.  You might be in need of a stiff drink, but that’s a completely different problem.

3 Comments

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3 responses to “The ABCs of OCD

  1. Angie

    So that’s one of the reasons you like me so much! That’s not in my vocabulary! 🙂

  2. Wow. That must be difficult for the little guy – and all of you. Sorry.

  3. Thank you for sharing. My husband has OCD and it means that he has to flip the light switches on and off a certain # of times, as well as lock and unlock the door, check all the sinks for drips and appliances off. It means I have to keep a lot of things unplugged when idle, and he asks me every night to look at his work schedule 3 times and verbally say that he’s off. He’s gotten much better over the years and with treatment, and now trusts me when I tell him that something is off, that it in fact, is.