OCD. Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. i was diagnosed when i was a teenager, & it impacts on my daily life. Let me start by saying, that i am not a doctor or medical professional, any information i share here is purely based on my experience of my own mental illness, & does not reflect the personal experiences of others with the same illness.
Ok, so OCD. It is a term that gets thrown around casually a lot.. “oh must be my OCD” when people are being picky about something, or “i can be OCD about that” when someone is describing their cleaning. To be honest, it surprises me how flippantly we throw around the word, since it is a mental illness. However, if someone like me, who actually has a medical diagnosis of OCD mentions our condition, it becomes all weird & embarrassing.. grab the white coats.
So lets chat more about OCD, mostly about my OCD, & why throwing the term around can be a bit degrading, & why i am opening up about my mental illness, & using it in a positive way! 😊🌈 #craftastherapy
OCD or Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is an anxiety disorder. People living with OCD are troubled by recurring unwanted thoughts, images, or impulses, &/or obsessions & repetitive rituals. People with OCD are usually aware that their symptoms are irrational & excessive, but they find the obsessions uncontrollable & the compulsions impossible to resist! i try to explain it to people. like an itch that you have to scratch.. but even when you scratch it, the sensation of the itch does not subside. And if you do not scratch it, the sensation becomes worse & worse, until you cannot control yourself & you have to itch it.
But there is more, if i do not scratch this itch, i start to think that something bad will happen. For example, what if i don’t scratch the itch & i end up with this itch forever? Or, if i do not scratch this itch, my house will burn down – irrational yes, i know it is, but the anxiety that my house will burn down if i do not scratch that itch, is real.
OCD is an easily misunderstood condition, & can be highly distressing for both the person affected & their family & friends. It impacts on my daily life, it impacts on my twins daily lives, & my husbands too.
People with OCD often feel intense shame about their need to carry out these compulsions. If you met me on the street, you wouldn’t know i had OCD. If you talked to me, or are friends with me, & even my family – you wouldn’t know i have OCD, unless i told you or you saw me carrying out one of my rituals. Outwardly there is nothing physical about me to show that i have OCD.
But I do try not to hide my OCD, & an open about it on my instagram, as i feel passionate about sharing mental health more & helping lift the stigma surrounding it. Crochet has become my #craftastherapy for my anxiety & OCD too. However, i have yet to meet another person in the crafting community with OCD! If this is you, please reach out 😊
Also, everyone with OCD is different, & we all have a variety of “obsessions”/compulsions, &/or rituals, & severity of the disorder. So basically, not every person with OCD is a clean freak sitting on the floor scrubbing it with a toothbrush, this is a stereotype. Obsessions & compulsions are more than just a need for cleaniness. However, this is one of my compulsions, even if it is a stereotype.
Ok, now i will share what OCD looks like for me, & how it impacts on my life. This is incredibly personal, & honestly i am a little nervous sharing this here, i might omit a few things & not go into to much detail. Remember i am fully aware of when i am being irrational, & what i am doing. But, as it is a compulsion, i have to do it regardless.
Locking doors & windows
i will spend an hour each night, checking every window & door, making sure they are locked. I will start at the same door every night, the front door, then make my way to the back of the house. i will always check the windows & doors in the same order. If i am interrupted, i have to go back & start again.
I have to do this, whenever i am leaving the house, even if i will only be gone 5 minutes, & every night before bed. i have to do it myself, i cannot trust someone else to do it properly, even my husband. Even if i physically see him do it. IF for some reason i cannot do it, i will be plagued with crippling anxiety & thoughts of our house being broken into, that we would be in some sort of danger, that something bad will happen. Overcome with crippling fear & anxiety, i will even start convincing myself this WILL happen, not even that it might.
You can imagine how hard this is when you are trying to leave the house in a mad panic with twins. Especially when i am already running late or in a rush. But that doesn’t matter to my brain, i still have to do it. i can imagine how incredibly frustrating this can be sometimes for my husband, & will be for the twins when they are older. And also, how many times i have been late because of my lock checking!
It gets worse. Sometimes i will leave the house, or go to bed. And i am not sure if i did check all the locks or the doors are shut properly, i will start to panic. So i have to turn my car around, even if i have drove an hour away, & go back & check. Or get up in the middle of the night to check again. I have got a bit better at this, & am learning to trust my husband & call him if he is at home to reassure me i locked the door behind me. But it is incredibly hard to stop my anxiety. And embarrassing. And frustrating!!! Especially when i am making my 2nd lap of returning to home to make sure i shut the front door properly because i am tired & can’t remember checking 5 minutes ago.
Wow, this is hard to write. Are you still there? There is more with this one, it also creeps into worrying i have left appliances on, & needing to check them too, & little rituals i do, to try & remember that i have checked, but thats all going to get too weird. Ok next.
One of the most common stereotypes with OCD, is the obsession with cleaning, & yes, is a common compulsion for people with OCD, but it varies in its severity, & the way it manifests.
Yes, i am probably a bit more fanatic than the “normal” person with cleaniness. i won’t go into too much detail here, as the list is too long, & as there are many little things everyday that i do or need to do. But mainly, its more than just needing things to be clean, it is the ritual of cleaning it, that makes me feel better. The more tired or anxious i am, the most clean our house is. i have scrubbed floors with a toothbrush in a sleep deprived state. When my house gets too out of control with mess or cleaniness, i start to feel exhausted, & my anxiety sky rockets. Panic attacks, irrational fears, nightmarea. Therefore, i clean or tidy things, to sedate this anxiety. That is the easiest way i can explain it. i spend a lot of time cleaning. i can’t go to bed without the house being tidy, the dishes washed & put away, & all the toys packed away neatly. Sometimes this means going to bed very late, but it means i will at least sleep when i do!
This one isn’t as outwardly kooky as the locking doors/windows thing. But it can be just as debilitating. i have to have things organised & grouped together, either by colour/shape/size/type, doesn’t matter, just needs to have a logical order & look tidy.
So in day to day life – i will do things very ritual like, for example, if you watch my washing the dishes – i will wash all the forks first, then i will place them on the sink to dry, all together. In a straight line, with all the forks facing the same way. I will then wash the spoons next, & align then to dry in the same order as i did the forks. Then the knives.. & so on.
Everything needs to be neat & ordered like this. If you open my pantry (for the most part) it is all nicely labelled, all facing the front, organised. I have things in their spot, & only that thing can be in that spot. It has to go back to that spot. But i am also forever moving them around, finding better nicer ways to organise these things too. Which drives my husband crazy because he never knows where anything is, or where i want to have it put back. What happens if i don’t? Or if someone puts something back in the wrong place?
Thankfully, for me, it is not an anxiety as crippling as the doors/locks, but it does create irritation & anxiety, & result in me spending hours reorganising it all till i am happy again. That itch i need to scratch.
So those are the main ones i can think of now (& what am i wanting to share for now too, feeling very raw & exposed at the moment 😬). Again, this is for me, just one person with OCD!
How am i turning this around & trying to use my OCD in a positive way? Well one benefit of spending many, many, hours (& days) organising things, is that i have become very good at it. And i do enjoy it! So why not share those tips & ideas i have on organisation, especially when it comes to my yarn & crafty supplies!
If you follow me on instagram, chances are, you have seen my yarn storage (it is literally in nearly every photo 😉). Two bookcases in a corner of my bedroom, i use to organise & display my yarn stash & crafty supplies. i love talking about it, & showing it off. And it is has actually helped me A LOT with my OCD, giving me permission to organise. It is somewhere i do not feel ashamed to be controlling over, & i don’t stop the compulsion for organising it – so it has given me my own space to express this.
So i am going to start sharing more tips & ideas of Storage & Organisation here! If there is anything you would like to know or want me to share, please let me know.
Thank you for reading!! I hope you are still here, & haven’t run away to call the men in white cloaks, or think i am completely insane.
🌈💖 Love Nat xx
If you, or a loved one, are struggling with a mental illness like OCD, please seek medical advice. There are some wonderful organisations, like Beyond Blue, that have resources available to everyone. You are not alone 🌈