Opinion: A Look into Life with OCD

Among scattered letters, “OCD” stands orderly but alone. Obsessive-compulsive disorder is a mental health condition that occurs when an individual is caught in a series of obsessions and sometimes compulsions (Photo via Unsplash).

In a few months, it’ll be old enough to start driver’s training. By the time I graduate college, it’ll be the age at which most kids are begging their parents for a car. It isn’t a sibling. It’s not even a person. It isn’t even alive, despite being next to me day in and day out.

I was five years old when obsessive-compulsive disorder entered my life, along with an entire support staff and various manuals on how to manage the disorder. 

When I tell people that I have OCD, what usually comes to mind are scenes from television shows where a character desperately tries to organize items, or freaks out about germs. You might have exclaimed “I’m so OCD” at some point in your life to boast extreme neatness or perfectionism. You might even feel bad about it now.

I’m here to tell you to not worry about it. 

The Mayo Clinic describes OCD as “a pattern of unwanted thoughts and fears (obsessions) that lead you to do repetitive behaviors (compulsions).” 

To me, it’s more like a pet that only wants to enter your room when your door is closed. All you can do is ignore it and hope it goes away – or open the door because you know it won’t.

I was officially diagnosed with severe OCD a few years back, but I have lived with it for longer. I don’t really remember what life was like without it. My toddler years were spent crying over cracks on the sidewalk. My teenage years included my refusal to leave the house until all of the light switches were turned on and off three times -– every father’s worst nightmare. 

These compulsions are what most people think of when they hear of OCD, but just like fingerprints, every person experiences it in a different way. Even the DSM-5, that one manual every AP psychology teacher loves to parade around, doesn’t have a full description of the disorder. But that doesn’t mean that it cannot be understood. 

According to OCD-United Kingdom, “It has been traditionally considered that a person’s OCD will fall into one of these five main categories, with themes often overlapping between categories.” 

My OCD has been with me long enough that I can recite the categories by heart: checking, contamination, symmetry, hoarding and ruminations.

Like many people with the disorder, the summer before I went to college, I sat down with a doctor. Within a few hours, he walked me through what the next four years of my life could look like on paper. I wish I could say I left fully prepared for everything that could occur, but instead, I dropped the manual he gave me in a puddle minutes after the appointment, and hoped nothing important was written in it.

A full semester later, I still have daily challenges. I take tests separately from my peers because it takes me twice as long to process a question. Plans need to be made weeks in advance so that I can run through every scenario in my head. If I’m late for dinner, it’s probably because I’m stuck in my dorm unlocking and locking my door nine times in a row. 

Despite all of this – the various roadblocks between me and my plans – I can’t imagine life without OCD. 

I am not my disorder, but it’s played a large role in who I am today. Frankly, talking about OCD is woven into how I act and even my career goals. While I would love to detail how else this has changed my life, this isn’t the point of the piece. 

Cecilia Scheeler of SELF magazine said it best when she described what her OCD entails. After explaining the various challenges that come with the disorders, she touched on why it’s important to talk about it in the first place.

“When we talk about OCD, we raise awareness of mental illness,” Scheeler said.

Talking gives people a space to recognize symptoms and get help. Even one conversation can open doors that reduce stigma and let people know that it’s alright to be experiencing all of this. 

These conversations lead to an awareness that can increase research funding and ensure that the next generation gets the help that those of us with OCD fight for every day. With the right support group and the reduction of negative connotations, we grow one step closer not just to acknowledgment but acceptance. 

About Killian Altayeb 18 Articles
Killian Altayeb is from Novi, Michigan and is a second-year student at Albion College. They are a Biochemistry Major with a journalistic interest in all things public health. Contact Killian via email at NA12@albion.edu.

1 Comment

  1. Thank you, Natalie, for finding the courage to write this. Your article helps me better understand someone I love.

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