My official diagnoses are OCD and bipolar II disorder. I guess what I’d like to demonstrate here is how much more these conditions are than what you typically read in the books, and how many other problems and oddities can come along with mental disorders.First, the OCD. It developed when I was just a child. I was afraid that by making mistakes or feeling the “wrong” emotions, I would harm my parents. I would say magic words and draw pictures of my family which I believed would keep everybody safe. I also remember seeing and hearing strange things as a child, from a talking flower to a nonexistent bobcat to a bedroom full of lizards. This continued for some years (through elementary school) but is no longer such a problem.
In elementary school I moved to a new town and the kids at the school were really mean. I got made fun of for the effects of what I now know to have been mental disorders. At the time, I thought I was just a weird kid who deserved it. When I was 12 years old, the OCD became an even bigger part of my life. I still feared harming my parents and other loved ones, but now I would seek reassurance from them rather than drawing “magical” pictures. I started to write lists of things I needed to do — an innocent habit at first, and one that even helped me at the time. But it soon grew into an obsession. The lists were never detailed enough, never in the right order; you get the idea. I would also brush the carpet in my room (and sometimes the rest of the house) by hand whenever it got “messed up” (all the threads not facing the same direction).
Soon OCD was my life. My family moved again and I became obsessed with keeping my stuff packed in organized boxes. I would pack and repack but it was never right. So I got rid of things. Tons of things. I wasn’t “allowed” by my OCD to decorate my room or have normal things like extra pillows. Only the bare minimum was acceptable. I soon went from being a straight-A student to nearly failing in school. Teachers and parents said it was because I was “lazy”. I turned to self-injury (something I had been experimenting with since early childhood) on a more regular basis.
In adulthood, I developed new obsessions — I owed someone money and was incurring tons of interest; I had been in a car accident without knowing it; I had run somebody over in my car. I developed the classic “bump-checking” compulsion, as well as constantly worrying and checking about bank accounts I had never opened, or car accidents that never happened. My biggest obsession was (and still is) a fear of developing amnesia. The related compulsion is arranging things so that certain things touch and others don’t and everything is perfectly categorized — an impossible standard, and yet I can’t stop.
I also developed avoidance as an adult. I would avoid school because it was simply too scary. I had a panic attack at work one time — partly the result of my OCD and its inability to tolerate chaos — and became terrified of crowds. I have only had one panic attack since, over the arrangement of items in my room.
Bipolar is also tough to live with, and for me it enhances the OCD. Manic: compulsive. Depressed: obsessive. I think one way to explain it is I’m like a bottle of champagne that alternately bubbles and goes flat. Or, like a conducting material when manic (and I see and feel and hear all the beauty in the world and want to capture it forever) and an insulator when depressed (and I feel cut off from everything). Bipolar messes with my (almost nonexistent, but getting better) sleeping and eating schedules, which is rough.
I have other problems too. I have huge problems with executive functioning — the ability to plan and carry out steps. I have trouble making simple decisions and doing simple things like dressing and preparing meals. I have synesthesia, which is not all bad and in fact mostly good, but sometimes it feeds my OCD. I have trouble communicating verbally because I think in pictures and symbols and sometimes loosely-connected words, not in linear sequences of words. It’s easier for me to communicate through poetry, math, or music. I have tics, which are related to “bad” OCD thoughts — some of them are words and some are muscle-tension related. I have also had problems with coordination, ever since I was a child.
Well…in conclusion, I think the main problem with this essay is it shows my compulsions but not the intense pain behind them. OCD is a mentally painful and taxing condition. I hate doing all the things I “have” to do as a result of OCD, but I can’t stop, or at least it will take years of intensive therapy for me to stop. If it’s enjoyable, it’s probably not OCD. If it feels like you are being driven to do something you really know you don’t want to do, it probably is OCD. In this essay, I also wanted to show that the problems of a person with a mental condition go far beyond the diagnostic criteria for that condition. Hopefully I have succeeded somewhat.
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