Imagine having a constant, uncontrollable urge to smack yourself across the face. Whether sitting in class, going to the bathroom, or suddenly remembering that you can’t do your homework because you desperately need to update your iTunes library, the urge to smack yourself is too strong to resist. Welcome to the wondrous world of OCD. I do have OCD, but on the plus side, my main compulsion is pulling my hair out, not slapping myself. Unfortunately, if I cannot find some way to overcome the insurmountable need to yank at those broken hairs hanging so enticingly from my scalp, I will go bald by thirty.
Upon hearing this, people have asked me if having OCD has made me grow as a person. I know the response they are expecting. Something like “I now more value the time with my family” or “it has inspired me to save the whales” would be deemed ‘correct’ answers. What I have learned, however, is that one never fully appreciates something until they are forced to live without it. For example, some will say that they really value their great eyesight, and they probably do, but you better believe that if they suddenly go blind in a tragic sight losing accident they will value it ten times more. While before the accident, they might have thought of how much they love their eagle vision in passing, after they yearn for it constantly. In a similar way, now that I have OCD I do not value anything significantly more that is not affected by it. I do, however, greatly value what I am forced to live with now: control over my mind.
I don’t think anything is worse than the feeling of self-disgust as I pull out my hair, all the while thinking how I am hurting myself and am unable to even control my own mind. Not being able to study for a test or complete a paper because I was too busy spending an hour pulling strands out of my head is frustrating. I can find a million little things during the day that may trigger OCD but in the end it’s all in my mind. A woman can go around saying she’s searching for her calling, but at the end of the night she’s unemployed and her rent is due.
With my day to day challenges of OCD, I have not come to appreciate different things more but rather have become fixated on the issues it causes. Perhaps I am just pessimistic, but I believe that when people are suddenly forced to live without something, they appreciate that thing more and don’t spend time reflecting on how grand life is.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.