Growing up not knowing I had OCD, I spent a lot of my time feeling like I was waging a war against myself because I was.
Without knowing I had OCD, I didn’t know what resources existed or what — if any — research was being conducted that could possibly give me clues or answers on how not to live in a state of constant battle-readiness.
On the upside, not having the correct diagnosis meant being treated as “normal,” as though I were capable of doing literally anything and being encouraged to live in that way. Living that way leads to inevitably discovering exactly what your limits are, and I believe that limitations are an invitation to be limitless.
On the downside, not having the correct diagnosis meant being treated as “normal” even in the face of discovering exactly what your limits are. Why? Because being treated as “normal” often goes hand-in-hand with being expected to do things the “normal” way.
The invitation to be limitless is an invitation to apply the reactive/radical double-sided coin of creativity. The reactive side being about problem-solving, the radical side being about critical thinking.
Many times over the years, I would try to develop ways to do things that made it easier for me because they felt normal/natural to me. Often my solutions/systems were met with ridicule and eye-rolling and passive aggressive double-talk meant to guide me back to how “everyone else” manages to do things.
My OCD subtype — Sinner / Doubter — logs all these things and plays them on a loop. The “volume” at which it plays them depends on:
- how I am feeling physically and emotionally,
- how well I am managing my anxiety (because OCD is an anxiety-based condition), and
- the ratio of “everyone else”-talk to “do your thing”-talk in the moment (because the Sinner/Doubter subtype is specifically rooted in social anxiety and therefore strives to make me prefer everyone else’s opinions to my own).
The volume tends to get very loud at the tail-end of family get-togethers, and the Summer Get-Together commences shortly after the conclusion of my current 100 Morning Writings (of which today is day 23). While that puts more 80 days between myself and that anticipated increase in volume, I know my limits and know that getting preemptively creative will help me to lessen that increase:
- doing what I can for my physical and mental well-being every day leading up to day one of the get-together as a sort of buffer for anything that might go awry over the course of the trip (exercising, eating right, getting enough sleep, etc.);
- touching base with the “organizers” to let them know what I need in terms of meal- and activity-planning so as to ensure I have the energy to be really present with the family (it’s a large family, so lots of opportunity to get completely drained and “hate everyone”); and,
- making an assessment spreadsheet of everyone whose attendance is anticipated (will account for distance desired, distance anticipated, likelihood of “everyone else”-talk, likelihood of “do your thing”-talk) and using the information to determine any additional info to be sent to the “organizers” regarding things like sleeping arrangements and taking time to be alone without anyone “getting on my case” about it.
Clearly the data-collecting involved is going to be incredibly subjective, and that is just fine. OCD is a feeling things, and most people — no matter how logical they think they are at all times — ultimately make decisions based on how they feel. I’m just trying to logically make decisions in anticipation of feelings I know I’m going to have.
Because it’s never been me against the world, it’s me against my perception of the world (largely colored by my OCD). And that’s totally manageable … within certain limits.
Also published on Medium.