OCD and the COVID-19 Pandemic: Part 2

Super strange being in this “new normal” with OCD. I’ve noticed what was considered “abnormal behavior” before is now just being careful.


We got a grocery delivery today. I maintained my distance and wiped down the groceries. Wiped down things I touched during the process of putting them away. Washed my hands. I thought “this is what it would be like constantly if my OCD was unchecked”. I’ve been close to this level before there was a pandemic. But now it’s considered cautious behavior.

And I wonder where the lines blur, or when they can blur. Were they always blurred?

OCD and the COVID-19 Pandemic

I read that some people are being triggered relentlessly during these times, and I can’t imagine what that must be like.

I think I’m in the “other group”. The ones that are just sailing on as usual. Ironically, I haven’t had any major changes in my behavior. Just taking the usual precautions as everyone else is. Washing my hands, disinfecting, and staying indoors as often as possible. Although, I’ve always had a tendency to stay indoors most of the time. So this paranoid way of life is nothing new to me.

And that’s the funny thing about it all. It’s like looking out on everyone and seeing them acting at your worst moments of OCD. I wouldn’t wish that on anyone. I would take the entire burden of it if I had to, because that was once my life and I’m used to it. I hope all of this passes soon, because I prefer a life without a pandemic.

Dissociation: Memory Loss

Content warning: child abuse.

I have a whole lot of memories that are deleted from my brain.

When I’m using examples from my past I know for a fact those things did occur. They have been confirmed by others when I’m in doubt.

The memory loss falls in the range of my childhood to adolescence. It happened because my childhood was rough and abusive. There’s a lot of blank spots where I dissociated, even during the few years after the abuse. Dealing with trauma, you get the picture.

Some memories of abuse are crystal clear moments that I would give anything to be false. Some moments were told to me later by people who witnessed it…that I don’t remember at all.

It took me a long time to piece together when my OCD kicked in. It was during this time, so I pinpointed it at the earliest real memory of a symptom. If abuse is the trigger then there’s a whole lot of other stuff that needs to be considered with the OCD. It’s like unpacking a suitcase of disorders. What I can say is that things did get easier when I realized that abuse is the root cause of a lot of things going on in my brain.

Either way, the OCD was going to appear at some point in my life. Maybe it’s a good thing it appeared early, since I don’t have a comparison of what it’s like to be without it.

Overthinking

Lately I’ve been wondering how interesting it is that we tend to overthink in general. One can say I’ve been overthinking about overthinking.

In some cases, it’s helpful to overthink. We can make logical decisions based on the thoughts we sifted through. In other cases, we can get trapped in a never ending cycle of dwelling.

This is how my obsessions form most of the time. I always get caught in that cycle of overthinking, somehow tricking myself into the habit that I can think my way out of anything. But the problem is (and I’ve mentioned this comparison before), those with OCD tend to get their cars stuck in the mud. The car is our brain trying to think it’s way out, and sometimes we need help to unstick it.

And then I wonder about how awesome we all are at problem solving. Since we tend to overthink about a lot of things. We tend to excel at getting unstuck when it comes to things that don’t trigger our OCD.

It’s really about how much discomfort and stress is caused by the overthinking. I try to catch myself when a stressful thought passes through my mind more than 3 times. How addicting it can be, ruminating. It can be a safe space and a terrible thing at the same time. I’m aware of what happens when I let myself dwell.

Social Media Ads Align with Obsessions

I tend to google a lot of stuff when in full obsession mode.


This can be anything from statistics on theft and fires to prevention of those things. Like for instance security objects like cameras and devices for the front door. I put myself in a position where I sit and obsess for long periods of time. This carries over to intrusive thoughts and fears that I know are not worth worrying about beyond basic preparation.


So that whole thing where Facebook and Instagram shows you products aligned with your searches REALLY sucks when it comes to this. Ironically it makes me search it less so I don’t see it again and get triggered to do more internet searching. It’s like social media ads show me when I’m overthinking. So thanks for calling me out at least.

An Update

I feel like I’m slacking on posting but I also believe that I shouldn’t write unless I really feel like it.

Instead, during the times I like to write I’ve been diving into video games. I’ve posted about this before, and still stand by my observation that my OCD becomes a whisper when I’m in a different world.

Self care for me is video games with a purring cat on my lap.

I was in school for a few years, and wasn’t able to really keep up to date with games so this is like a catch up for me. Since my last post about video games I’ve beat Red Dead 2, Witcher 3, and I’m currently playing Fallout 4. Next I’m probably going to play The Outer Worlds. I’m stoked for Cyberpunk 2077 and the new Animal Crossing.

I noticed a big shift today when I shut off the console and looked at my phone and found myself chewing on my fingers. It’s like I always have to have my hands attached to an activity or this annoying thing happens.

I need to find a way to bridge how I feel when I play and when I’m not. I think this is something I’m going to start to work on.

OCD: Childhood Memories and The Present

Since I’ve participated in the study, it really brought back some memories of how I acted when I was growing up.

My stuffed animals were arranged “just so”. I had a shelf where I put some of them, ordered from tallest to shortest right to left. If I ran out of room, I would put the others in front, sorted my tallest to shortest starting at the back.

I always thought I was neglecting them, not giving them enough attention. Thinking they had souls and emotions, that they were getting sad.

My favorites I would put on my bed in front of my pillows. Arranged with the tallest in the middle, shorter ones on the sides and even shorter ones in front.

My favorite past time was sorting. My toy figurines were lined up in a dollhouse, not in any particular order but I made sure to cover enough ground with them. I would take them out and repeat this.

Homework was difficult and I would always prefer to play. I never understood my homework and always needed help. This problem with comprehension stretched out to high school. I always showed up to class but couldn’t pay attention and couldn’t understand pretty much anything. I barely graduated high school.

I became obsessed with theater in high school and I wonder if that’s because it was all visual and verbal. Even now, in my thirties and recently graduated from college I’ve always understood information better spoken or visual. If I was able to, depending on the class, I wouldn’t take notes so I could absorb it better. My writing gets jumbled and backwards and I found I was relying on computers to correct my spelling and grammar. I’m learning that OCD has not only been a presence but a driving force of how I learn and not learn. It’s like a cruel prankster.

I can see how it can be confused for ADD. I become absorbed in “something else” instead of what I need to be focusing on. My attention span is extremely short one minute and just fine the next. The normal part of my brain saying, “what are you doing?” while the OCD part is at the wheel. Sometimes forming a sentence leads to embarrassing results, the dyslexia impostor. Is it all of these things with OCD as the source, or just OCD with everything else mixed in to it? Are they all separate and existing simultaneously? It’s all very complex.

OCD and The News

One of my big triggers is reading news articles. It’s only the local news that really gets to me.

I love my city, the people, the food, the scenery. It’s a place that someone can fall in love with easily. Unfortunately with all of the positive aspects, there’s a big negative one. The crime here is outrageous.

I know there’s crime everywhere and it’s naive to believe that there exists a place with zero crime. But I’ve grown up in my city and have seen a big shift in crime levels. There’s something to be said about hearing gunshots from your living room, then seeing an article the next day about that exact sound you heard. Seeing articles about someone getting killed for simply being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

So with this, I’m always wondering if my paranoia about break-ins and violence is legit or OCD related. It’s normal around here to double check doors. I realize it’s not normal when I’m checking it multiple times, knowing that it’s locked and checking anyway. It’s normal in my neighborhood to not walk the streets at night. It’s not normal over-worrying about my boyfriend walking from the car to the front door, in a secured area.

I try not to rationalize my OCD symptoms but it’s difficult because of this. If I normalize something that is considered an obsession or compulsions it can have a snowball effect.

I always wonder if I move to another city one day that has noticeably less crime, that I’ll have culture shock. I’m just hoping this place I call my home can get it under control, find the resources to make a change, and put them to good use.

A Letter to My Younger Self

I know you might not believe what I’m about to tell you, but it does get easier.

You are confused right now. You’re not sure why you are thinking certain thoughts. You feel lost and you feel like you are failing at living normally. You feel like you are slow at everything, eventually you’ll know why and it will make a world of difference.

I can tell you now, that eventually it will become clearer. That you should do your best, and remember that simply trying your best is enough.

Don’t seek out things unless they make you happy. Learn that it’s okay to say ‘no’. The right people will understand if you don’t want to do certain things. Put yourself first and good things will follow. Just try not to be a jerk about it.

There is much love to be had in the future. You’ll have a great support system. You will also learn how to take care of yourself. And like I said before, doing your best is enough.

You feel alone right now, but know that there are people that have it worse than you. You’ll find a voice one day, and want to reach out to people that are struggling. You’ll be strong enough to do that, and that says a lot about how far you have come.

This journey you are on is very long, probably a lifetime. You are going to conquer it, and find happiness. You are going to learn what it’s like to be loved, and also what it’s like to be alone. You will be strong enough to know you would be okay alone, but also strong enough to invite love in and give an endless amount of love in return.

I don’t want to tell you too much detail about the ‘why’ and the ‘what’. It’s for you to discover, and you discover it and seek help. And again, do your best.

Magical Thinking

This is an interesting topic for me. Magical thinking seems to have different meanings depending on the context. It can be repetitiveness in OCD, feeling like you have to do something ‘x’ amount of times or ‘y’ won’t happen. It can be thinking that ‘x’ will happen, so you have to do ‘y’ over and over again to prevent it. When in reality, it’s irrational to stress over these actions. Unfortunately, the brain of someone with OCD makes it difficult, if not impossible to stop these thoughts and actions.

I do have a lot of magical thinking. I’m aware of those thoughts, even as they cruise through my head on a regular basis. Just being aware of how my brain behaves has helped this a lot. I view my magical thinking as woven within many of my obsessions.

Before I had knowledge of what was happening, and how it was happening, magical thinking was a big part of my daily life. From checking to more checking. Usually revolving around my safety. The difference between then and now, is that I don’t let those thoughts control me.

Over ten years ago, I had a lot of obsessions about religion, which I personally classify as magical thinking for myself. I’m not religious, yet I fell into this magical way of thinking about demons.

I became fascinated by demons, and that fascination fell right into the OCD trap. I obsessed over them being around me, being controlled by them. I bought books, studied them, getting prepared for something that never happened. “What if they do exist? I better read up on them.” The difference between this behavior being OCD and not schizophrenia, is that I was aware even then that those thoughts were not rational. They just fell into my head and since I didn’t know I had OCD, I just let them run around saying whatever they wanted. It was like knowing I was thinking about it too much, but being unable to stop it.

As some themes with OCD tend to do, it ran its course. I probably became hyper focused on something else and the demons just took a backseat. I look back on this time of my life and think it was all ironic, like my head was trying to tell me something was wrong.

When I realized I had OCD, my actual demons were put in the spotlight. The demons called obsessions and compulsions. The thoughts that caused so much grief. I started focusing on those instead, and it made a world of difference.