‘COVID-19 Is Giving Everyone A Small Glimpse Of What It’s Like To Live With OCD’ – Women’s Health

Courtesy of Wendy Sparrow

One of the hallmark symptoms of obsessive-compulsive disorder is intrusive thoughts. All my life, Ive felt their constant bombardment. My mind is like a crowded room, and the voices are all shouting different things.

Thats not clean enoughit might be infected.

Did they just cough? Are they sick?

I dont have enough of these thingswhat if the worst happens, and I need more?

Its safer inside my house. I dont need to go out.

Do they really have to stand that close to me?

Do we have to shake hands? Thats not sanitary.

We definitely dont need to hug.

I now see this inner monologue on the faces of everyone around me (who of course, are standing more than 6 feet away). Thanks to COVID-19, these types of thoughts are plastered across social media, as pervasive as a virus itself.

Ive had the hand-sanitizer, gloves, disinfecting wipes, and masks well before they sold out everywhere. This is my worlda life of isolation and sanitation that Ive wrapped around me like a favorite blanket. I have agoraphobia coupled with OCD that centers on contamination phobiabut until recently, my habits were seen as excessive and odd, rather than sensible behavior.

You might assume that the advent of the novel coronavirus would have ushered in the familiar for me in some ways, but thats not how its played out.

For years, my obsessive mindset has been that if I can just be prepared, Id be fine. If I sterilized enough, Id be safe. If I avoided strangers, I wouldnt get infected. None of those precautions are certain safeguards right now. The guarantees my mental illness seemed to promise were false.

Having OCD in a world that is suddenly validating all youve worried about for decades is numbing in my case. I thought I wanted this acknowledgment that the world is a hostile, unclean place to justify the way Ive lived my life. But now that its here, its almost bewildering.

Interventions of various kinds over the years have helped me subdue my OCD to a functional level. For example, I have a constant running inner dialogue of, No, Wendy, its fine. People are germy and messy, and thats okay. You dont need any more hand sanitizer or to wear a mask. Its the OCD calling the shots, not you. These behaviors and thoughts are a sign of your mental illness, but you are in control. Now, Im being forced to rethink these words that used to calm me.

There are days when I do better keeping up-to-date on social media or through news sites, as it gives me a sense of control. Then, there are times that retreating inside myself and waiting out what feels like a nightmare is the only sane option. I never know what the next day will bring.

If you disclose to someone that you have OCD, its not uncommon to hear the dismissive response, I have OCD, tooI like things clean/organized/a certain way.

My eyelid twitches whenever I hear that from someone who most likely doesnt have the condition. In this world where OCD-like thoughts and behaviors are more prevalent, though, is the reverse true? Oh, Im normal, too. Ive stockpiled supplies, dont leave my house, and Im wearing half a bottle of hand sanitizer at any given time.

Maybe I am suddenly normal. I might even be in the less panicked faction of humans right now.

Welcome to my world, humanity. A little advice from someone with pro-level OCD: If you're anything like me, you'll find the control you need through actions that make the world a bit better, cleaner, or safer for you and others. Wash your hands. Stay inside if you can. Call, message, or email at-risk people in your circle. Stay calm and be well because youre all in the club now, and we take care of our own.

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'COVID-19 Is Giving Everyone A Small Glimpse Of What It's Like To Live With OCD' - Women's Health

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