Since writing about OCD a few weeks ago, I’ve had time to think more about some issues that I maybe should have addressed in that original post and others that have come up since then. Cue oversharing.
Without getting into too many details, many of my OCD behaviours involve numbers; I have, for example, three–four useless tallies going on in my head at all times. It’s easy, and probably healthy, to make bad jokes about (“I would have made a good accountant,” etc. etc.), and I’m usually the first to make fun of myself. It’s pretty damn effortless, after all.
But the distress and actions I take if I lose count? The oh-wow-I’m-really-messed-up moments of clarity that I have once in a while when I stop to reflect on what my OCD might mean about me? Not so funny. I get so, so frustrated at my inability to just stop. The rational part of my brain, which, though recently in hibernation, does exist, knows that rather than benefitting me, these circling numbers are not only a source of anxiety, but also clog up a significant amount of headspace. If I didn’t, say, feel the need to keep track of how many books are in our apartment, maybe I could remember to pick up milk from the grocery store. So why isn’t there an off switch?
So far as seizures are concerned, I often push myself to do what I want to be able to do, what I used to be able to do, disregarding my limits in order to prove something to myself and inevitably paying the price later. OCD has a more subtle effect on the day-to-day, and being given a diagnosis hasn’t changed how I live my life much, since I’ve likely had it since childhood and since, unlike epilepsy, it doesn’t present physical challenges. Interestingly, though, I’m more aware of behaviours that I used to consider normal: thoughts that were background noise are now more prominent in my consciousness.
During periods in which I am for whatever reason(s) particularly entrenched in chronic illness(es), I find it difficult to separate the different threads of my identity. I don’t want to be “sick,” but I can’t pretend to be entirely “healthy,” either. With this leave of absence and new diagnosis, my sense of self has taken an especially hard hit over the last while. Feeling like one identity—that of a PhD candidate—has been taken away, even if only temporarily, leaves more space for other, less desirable ones to move in.
And maybe that’s part of why although I wrote in that first post that I didn’t really care about the label, this whole OCD thing has started to bother me more in recent days: because there’s little to diffuse it.