Saturday, February 8, 2014

What I've Learned from OCD: Nothing's Perfect, Except My Memories

My OCD has always told me that something is "out of place;" that something is "off;" that something is "not right." It drives me crazy. I can be sitting in my living room, looking at my beautiful floating shelves on the wall with books that my dad loved--his books about history and the presidents--knickknacks that I picked up from Germany, and Japanese and Russian antiquing finds. I'll look at that shelf and, instead of admiring the beautiful things that I love and remembering people and places that mean so much to me, I'll look at a picture frame that holds a beautiful wedding picture and wonder, how come it just doesn't look right. To me it looks crooked. It is turned slightly as is the frame sitting next to it; however, to me it is turned a tad bit too much. My OCD tells me, Get up and move the frame! It looks ridiculous! But I know that is my mind playing tricks on me. 

My mind tries to get me to feel the need to stand up from my warm couch and my puppies' snuggles to get up and turn a picture frame 20 degrees to the left because it just seems "off." Right now while I'm writing this, my eyes every so often are drawn to that picture frame. They are drawn there because in the back of my mind, my OCD is scratching at my eyeballs, making them turn and look at it. It's screaming, trying to force my limbs to get up and move. But I'm not listening. It's not easy, but I'm not listening. 

Once it starts it's gnawing at my brain, my heart starts to race a little, and I have to remind myself to take deep breaths. Sometimes I close my eyes and take the deeps breaths. It's not so bad anymore. I just chose not to look at the shelf until the anxiety it created dissipated. 

When I look at the frame, I still sometimes think to myself, That frame does look a really bad. I mean it makes everything look so messy. My heart may start to race. But I don't touch it because that would be giving in to my OCD. I'm not doing that anymore. I haven't been for awhile. It's not always easy. Even though I have been working at this for a long time, and I have lived with OCD all my life, stupid, crazy things still set off my OCD, like a "crooked" picture frame.

Today I was going through the mail, purging old junk mail, filing important documents, and setting aside things to deal with tomorrow. I realized that I had a birthday card sitting in our mail organizer and so did Bjorn. They were both just sitting there. They were from people we loved. They had written beautiful, sweet notes to us inside, and I was just letting them sit there on top of the TV in the mail organizer. 

Bjorn had set out his birthday card that he got in the mail from his mom at the beginning of the week. He can't stop talking about it because it was so sweet. The card has a beautiful image of a jazz band on the front; it's so Bjorn. He loves it so much, he set it in the middle of our mantle, displaying it with love and happiness. 

My mom always did this when I was little. She set all of our birthday cards out on our mantle at my house for each of my sisters' birthdays. It always made me feel so special. It was one little way to show how much she loved us and how much we were loved, to celebrate us on our special day. 

Seeing Bjorn continue this tradition from my mom unknowingly made me realize that I never do this anymore. I never have. Putting those cards up on the mantle make my OCD brain tell me that something seems "off." It throws everything off! Seriously, it is so bad! It looks messy and ridiculous! You're such a slob!" My OCD always jumps to conclusions and doesn't let up. 

Tonight I took those birthday cards and set them beside Bjorn's. They're beautiful. They were written with love. They make me happy. Tonight, again, I told my OCD brain to shut up. 


Although my life with OCD has gotten much easier, I live with OCD every day. I wish I did not have OCD, but I do. I have learned to live with it. I cannot stop my brain from having the OCD thoughts it has, but I can control how I react to each thought and whether I compulse over them and react to them or not. This is my life now: silencing the thoughts and not acting on them.

I've realized over the years that my OCD has taken the focus off the little joys in my life like admiring my living room shelves. Everything on that shelf has a memory; I love collecting memories. And instead of looking at the bookend eagle at the top of the shelf and thinking of my grandpa reading me The Lorax, all I could think about was whether or not that damn picture frame looked straight. Tonight I have been staring at that bookshelf and the cards on my mantle and relishing in my memories. If I close my eyes tight enough, I almost feel as if I have ventured back in time.

To read more about my OCD and perfectionism, click here and here.

Love and happiness <3 Holly

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