Anxiety is the concern or worry that something bad may happen. It can be all consuming. OCD is the belief that unless you do or don’t do something specific that something bad will happen. It can be all consuming. Both are miserable to live with. When I’m anxious, I like to straighten and tidy things as a distraction, to channel some of the nervous energy, to help me focus. The OCD tells me that I can prevent disaster only if I get this exactly right.
It’s harder for me, personally, to define what the bad is that I fear. Anxiety allows me to live with a near constant sense of impending doom so it’s hard to pick out the threats that are specific to the OCD. I fear loss and rejection and displeasing others. To some extent, I fear disorder because disorder inherently results in those three things. It is subtle though. At least two decades of habits, or rituals, can easily feel normal and sensible and comfortable. Then, of course, when the OCD is forced underground because of what basically amounts to bullying, you try not to draw or give any attention to it. It is a secret monster. One I try to forget about. Or at least forget who he is.
There are some habits that I flatly refuse to take up. Sometimes the threat of chaos is better and easier to live with than the very real and present bullying. I balance two fears: rejection through disorder and rejection through attempting to invoke order. Both scare me. There are no happy or successful choices in this.
If I could, I would mark which sock is for the left foot and which is for the right foot because I dread contagion between the two. (I’m not even comfortable holding my feet sole to sole). But I know ‘normal’ people don’t do that. If I could, I would be able to keep my earrings separately for my right ear and for my left ear because I dread cross-infection. But I know ‘normal’ people don’t do that. I cannot safely do these things without bringing attention to myself. And the monster.
And they never see the monster for who he is. They think that he’s part of me. They tell me that I’m weird, that I’m wrong, that I’m a freak, that I’m bad. I know the monster is not me. But I did not know then what his name was. Now I know but I know that they still wouldn’t understand. They’re still bullying me for what I did as a teenager. They don’t need to know that the monster never went away.
The monster must be placated, though. It’s hard keeping a ‘pet’ secret from your family. Where to put it? Under the stairs, in the wardrobe? Proverbial elephants in the room. I am torn between whom I please and whom I displease. There are no winners. Just insatiable demands.