Celebrate the New!

It’s a new year (and Year of the Dog!) and I’m ecstatic to say hello to a year of positive changes, adventure, good fortune, improved health, mental clarity, and, above all, lots of laughter.

I spent my last week of 2017 cramming in appointments with three different doctors before my health care plan decimated all my benefits.

The first appointment was at a new dermatology office. While changing into a gown, I noticed a tiny reddish-brown smear on the table and tried desperately to situate myself without touching it. What the heck could that be—blood, pus, poop? Only someone with OCD would hone in on such a thing. The doctor, who had no personality to speak of, rushed through the appointment, so I’m still not sure if I was given an adequate screening, but I was too distracted. As I was getting dressed, the smear was gone, so I knew it was either on my paper mini-dress or more likely residing on the back of my thigh. Score: OCD—1, Me—0

Next up was an ophthalmologist whose office had previously given me reason to gripe, but I decided to give them another chance due to the rapidly approaching year end. They served up the correct amount of cleanliness, and I was about to celebrate until the words lattice and paving stones popped out of the doctor’s mouth. Who knew I had construction sites in the dark recesses of my eyes. It was time to beg for an urgent appointment with a retina specialist on the last working day of the year. Score: OCD—2, Me—0

The waiting room at the specialist’s office was a spectacle to behold. The television was trapped on a religious channel with a man shouting, “Jesus loves you” and “Jesus will save you” every few seconds. Not everyone was amused but if you have lattice holes, paving stones, or something worse in your eye, I guess you should be thankful someone is on your side. Technicians sporadically appeared to administer drops to elderly patients with fluttering eyelids. I kept a watchful eye on that. When it was my turn, I made them swab the bottles with plenty of alcohol. I was quite certain I’d be drowning myself in alcohol—perhaps a nice Pinot Noir—once I got home. After much probing, the kind doctor told me my cobblestones were nothing to be concerned about for now. I was relieved to hear this—and don’t cobblestones sound much quainter than paving stones? Score: OCD—2, Me—1. Oh, wait a minute. On the drive home, I realized I didn’t see or ask what the heck he was using to probe my eyes and began to wonder if they were now contaminated with someone else’s mucus. Swell. Score: OCD—3, Me—0

With this crazy final week capping off a turbulent year of challenges, I was eager to make it to the finish line. When the clock struck midnight and the sparkling ball dropped, I turned my back on all that came before and stood ready to welcome a fresh start for 2018.

Have you set any ambitious intentions for the new year?

Why Write a Book About OCD?

When I announced I was writing a book about Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, my older sister was dubious. “How are you going to write an entire book about that?” she asked. I, however, knew I had an important story to share and hoped it would be of benefit to people suffering with OCD, but also to those who were curious and wanted to read a personal account of living with the disorder.

Two months later, I produced my first draft for her to peruse. Her response was “Wow, I didn’t realize you were such a madwoman!” I guess she had blocked it from her mind, or didn’t realize the scope of how it still affected my daily life. She returned that draft to me with an astonishing number of corrections—no surprise my writing was filled with repetition! She had also jotted colorful commentary in the margins on how I could curtail some of my issues. I just smiled to myself, thanked her for the helpful suggestions but, inwardly, I knew I had already made peace with most of my behaviors.

It felt quite cathartic to write it all down and examine everything from a different perspective—reading about my actions but not actually experiencing them in that moment. Through the course of writing, proofreading, and editing, I must have analyzed each paragraph a thousand times. The words would stick in my head all day, up until I drifted off to sleep, so whenever I started to perform my rituals, they would bubble to the surface and make me instantly aware of what I was doing. It not only made me laugh but kept my repetitive actions to a minimum, which was a rather welcome side effect.

My intent, throughout the telling of my story, is to shine a light on the struggles of dealing with OCD while bringing a smile to the faces of those who need it most.

Has writing or journaling helped you cope with OCD?