My experiences with OCD
Steve Oh

Thank you for your words. While I have my own mental illness(es), OCD is not one of them. (Or, as we say in our house, “CDO” — alphabetical order, you know!) My husband does have it, has had it all his life and was/is able to make it “work” for him. He has a ritual for getting out of the house, which is to count the 5 things he needs: wallet, keys, necklace with MedicAlert tags, pen and phone. He counts every time before he walks out the door.

His other obvious form of OCD shows up in the role-playing game that he is running. (He’s God, aka the Dungeon/Game Master.) It’s a form of Dungeons and Dragons, using dice and paper to show battles and in-character role-playing. When he was preparing it, he bought various acrylic “buttons” in several shapes, to be used as physical manifestations of the “pretend” they were playing, with different shapes for the different types of characters. (Players’ characters, non-player characters, bad guys, etc.)

His attention to detail is…frightening (hyperbole for effect; I’m not really frightened but I am in awe!). But his OCD has resulted in a game that is so popular, there’s a waiting list to get into it. His players have said that this is the best system they have ever seen. Because his OCD doesn’t take a form that interferes with daily living (such as making sure doors are closed), I don’t often think of him as having the problem.

But I also have a friend who is very OCD, and in ways that interfere with his daily living. He will get up, in the middle of a restaurant, and walk back out to the parking lot to make sure that the car doors are locked. He also checks the doors to the house before leaving. So I have some small idea about how badly this particular mental health demon can affect life.

Perhaps the best example of OCD in a TV show was on “Scrubs”, with Michael J Fox guest starring. He played a (great) surgeon. He did the surgery and then the rest of the team went off to discuss what had been done and what treatments to follow during the healing. They couldn’t find him…after 3–4 hours, one of the staff goes back to the surgical suite and finds MJF scrubbing his hands. His anguish and pain were expressed in his explanation, something along the line of “I’ve been scrubbing my hands for hours. They are raw (bleeding) and I can’t stop.”.

It’s good to know that our therapists are human, with common experiences to draw from. Sympathy gets old, after a while. True empathy is a connection with a voice outside of our brain…telling us that we can also move beyond the compulsions — or at the very least, learn to deal in a healthy way.

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