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The Life Of An OCD Blogger – Guest Post by Hulbert Lee

By Hulbert Lee

In this exact moment, 99% of me tells me that what I’m about to tell you is false. But 1% of me tells me that what I’m about to tell you is the truth. I hope, by the time you finish reading this, you can accept the latter.

The 99% of me that tells me to stop is the side of me that I know is irrational; but even when I know of this, it is the side that I have given into for most of my life – a side where the fine line between rationality and irrationality, between the truth and the lies, and between what makes sense and what doesn’t make sense no longer exists.

If you ever came across me, you might think that I’m just another normal human being that lives a normal life, but I know that inside there’s something that I have to deal with everyday in my mind that others out there don’t have to face or feel restricted by in order to live life freely. This is an obsessive addiction that I have, also known as OCD.

Test #1: The 1 – 10 Numbers Game

Most people who’ve seen people with OCD act out might think they’re crazy, but there’s always a story behind how they were brought up. I’ve always been a firm believer that our thoughts are real, and if you constantly repeat the thoughts in your head like a ritual, one day you will be a believer in them.

1…2…3…

When I was younger, I was really into science fiction. I was told that a tripod has 3 legs. If 1 or 2 of those legs were to collapse, then the tripod would fall and die. I imagined myself being the controller of the tripod, knowing that if I were to survive, I would need 3 legs. If 1 or 2 legs were cut off, it would be the end of me. 3 was a safe number. (1, 2 unsafe; 3, safe)

…4…

In Chinese culture, the number four or “shi” means death. My mom would always enforce me to stay away from this number at all costs because it was an unlucky and bad number. She even went as far as to suspend getting my license for a year because the ID number that I got began with 444… meaning that if I were to ever drive a car, something misfortunate might have happened to me on the road like getting in a car accident. But mom… it’s just a number… (4 unsafe)

…5…

Five is a safe number. It’s the last number of the first ½ of 10 symbolizing it’s completeness for that half. (5 safe)

…6…

In American religious culture, I’ve learned that the number 666 is associated with Satan or “The Number of the Beast”. Images of fire, torture, or shrieks run across my mind. (6 unsafe)

…7…

Seven is a lucky number, as in lucky number 7. (7 safe)

…8…

Eight is the 3rd number, 3 representing the legs of a tripod, of the second ½ of a completed set of 10. (8 safe)

…9…

Nine is a symbol of incompletion, or something that is not completed all the way giving anxiety. (9 unsafe)

…10

Ten is a completed number. (10 safe)

These are the numbers 1 through 10, each number consisting of its own meaning. I feel most safe with the numbers 3 and 7, as they are my default numbers. None of this makes sense to me. My mind tells me that none of this seems rational, but my emotions tell me that everything is rational and is going as planned.

My daily routine consists of utilizing these safe numbers in all actions that I do or tragedy may occur to me in the near future. These actions include, but are not limited to, the number of times opening or closing the door before entering the room to write, the number of times it takes to open and close the laptop cover before turning the computer on, the number of times the computer is turned on and off before opening up word processor, the number of times word processor is opened and closed before beginning to type, and the number of times the cursor blinks before typing the first letter.

Test #2: Physical Contaminations

If I am lucky enough to perfectly pass the above process, then I must start being aware of what I call, “physical contaminations”. This means that nothing in any way, shape, or form that I feel is contaminated (germs) must touch my hands before I type, as any work that I produce may contaminate the person who receives my work, and I will be the one to blame.

To prevent this from happening, frequent washing of the hands has been part of my daily ritual. I tell myself that hopefully today will be a good day. A good day consists of washing my hands around 20 times, while a bad day may consists of washing my hands around 40 times. Sometimes I tell myself that it’s okay; I’m sure other people out there also wash their hands around 20 to 40 times a day. But when I look at the tops of my hands and see the parts of my skin between my fingers that are dry, ashy and cracked from excessive washing, it tell me otherwise.

Every physical thing is linked together in the mind of a person with OCD. We think in very irrational ways that logically make sense to us. The piece of hair on the table that my hands accidently touches will transfer the germs from the hair piece to my hands and if I use my hands to staple an essay, the germs will transfer from my hands to the stapler, to the staple, to the essay, and if the essay is handed to the professor, the germs will be transferred from the essay to the professor, and if the professor happens to give me a grade of an A on the assignment, the germs will be transferred from professor to the grade, causing the grade to be contaminated and my thoughts to be contaminated when I see the grade on the paper handed back to me again, thinking maybe it would have been better if I had gotten a B.

This is process is similar to what it feels like to send out every important email, document, attachment, guest post, or anything else that requires me to hit “Send”. Something that takes 0.5 seconds to click may end up taking me 5 minutes to click, leaving me helpless, hopeless, and paralyzed in fear of making any mistakes.

Test #3: Mental Contaminations

When I’ve successfully handled test 1 and test 2, there’s still one test that I’ve labeled test 3 which happens on rare occasions. They are what I call, “mental contaminations.”

In the physical world, the germs on my hands can make a document I’m typing feel contaminated. I’m linking germs to a document. But when we begin to link our thoughts to different thoughts that link to our feelings and emotions, this is when things start to get a little crazy and out of control.

For example, if you’re a person who spends a lot of time on the computer, you’ll realize that there may often times be “split second” actions that appear on the computer screen monitor in various ways which you might not understand why. If you look closely and are more aware of when you’re on, you may also find that there may be parts of the computer screen that flash so quickly, or text and icons that blink so fast that don’t significantly mean anything, except how the computer runs.

Just like the meaning in numbers, these split second moments, if not caught, will feel like splinters in my thoughts. You become obsessed. Your emotions start to build up with more moment a little bit each time. Every little thing that happens on the computer starts to have some sort of meaning behind it. And those splinter-like thoughts contain so much force behind them, that even though they have happened in the past, they become linked to the thoughts of the future.

When a day goes by where you happen to be off guard at times, unconscious of what’s going on, inside the thousands of thoughts you have in your mind, there may be many that contain contaminated ones that somehow find a way to link onto every other thought. This starts to become a network or a web of irrational thoughts that start to appear rational, of thoughts where lies start to seem like the truth, or of thoughts where things don’t make any sense start to make sense for the wrong reasons. The anxiety interspersed with fear and worry has made your body so tense, that even when the world is in constant motion, you feel paralyzed in a state where taking the smallest actions feel like they are impossible to carry out.

The Final Grade

You’re probably wondering why I go through this type of pain every day. You’re not alone. I ask myself daily why I go through this and sometimes I look at other people and I find them lucky to not have to go through this type of stuff which I tell myself is “normal”.

When you spend a lot of time in forums, you often hear a lot of people complaining about how their life sucks because they haven’t made a dime in blogging or they feel depressed because blogging is hard. They don’t understand that they are grateful to be able to write from a neutral state of emotions and thoughts.

Even though I’m a pretty calm person in real life, there are times where I have to stop myself from getting too excited because I know my OCD will start taking over if I’m not unconscious of what’s going on. There are limits and restrictions that are difficult to deal with, and if I had the chance to write freely without having to worry about this stuff, life would be easier. It makes me I feel like giving up.

But I don’t. I know I have a choice. I can just stop and get it over with. But I keep going, and the reason is simply because I love writing.

I’ve been writing for all of my life. Since I was younger, I’d always have journals with me writing down what I feel and what I think. It is my way of coping and healing. I understand that I’m not the only one in this world with problems, and I also understand that other people may find me crazy for my actions. But what’s most important is that I understand there are times where other people go through certain pains in life that could be something similar to mine, or something that I don’t understand myself.

Writing is a way to show others, “Hey, you’re not alone. You suffer from pain and this is how I suffer as well.” It’s a way of expression, of transparency, of connecting.

Nobody is perfect and everybody has their own story of difficulties or struggles, as I have shown mine here. When I look at other people’s problems before me – the people who have risen to the top despite their own difficulties – I realize how miniscule mine are in comparison.

I love to write, but I love to learn about other people’s stories, whether it’s overcoming their biggest obstacle in life or what they’ve done to influence the world in a better way. It’s a tidbit of a person’s life, that little story about themselves that puts the reader in the person’s mind, letting them experience what it feels like to be in the person’s shoes for 10 minutes or so, that makes writing worthwhile.

OCD may be the greatest battle that I have, but instead of seeing it as a struggle, I see it as a test – a test that tells me that if you love what you do enough, nothing out there can stop you, not even OCD. So far, I think I’m doing pretty good.

About the Author:

Hulbert Lee is a writer who writes about the rising stories of influential people. He enjoys sharing stories and ideas to help people overcome their own obstacles as well as to help them grow as individuals. His favorite food is pudding. If you have a chance, visit his blog at FromBottomUp.com.

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Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Jen March 11, 2010, 3:50 am

    Thanks for sharing such a personal story Hulbert. It is fascinating to hear and has given me a better understanding of OCD and how if affects people. I think you’re doing great! 🙂

    • Hulbert March 11, 2010, 12:16 pm

      Hi Jen, no problem. A lot of people hear about OCD or might have see people with it on TV act in ways that they don’t understand. I wanted to share what was going through the minds of people with OCD by using specific examples. I think this gives people a better understanding of why they do what they do.

      It was kind of tough sharing this personal story with the world and I was contemplating for a pretty long time whether or I should or shouldn’t have. But I figure it was the time, and Josh’s blog would be the best place to share it since he also goes through another kind of disorder himself. Thank you Jen.

  • Christopher Kabamba March 11, 2010, 6:19 am

    Hulbert,
    I saw Peace, Love, Acceptance and Triumph. Thanks for sharing.

    • Hulbert March 11, 2010, 12:24 pm

      Thanks Christopher. I think all of us have different flaws in us that in order to find peace, love, and triumph over them, we need to be able to accept those flaws first.

  • Hilary March 11, 2010, 7:59 am

    Hi Hulbert .. just lost my comment! It is so interesting to learn about .. and how you manage to control it and won’t let it affect you anymore than necessary ..

    It’s good to know about and also that we should value our own lives so much more, don’t complain of our challenges etc ..

    Go well, have a good day and weekend .. all the best Hilary

    • Hulbert March 11, 2010, 12:36 pm

      Hey Hilary, I appreciate your comment anyway. 🙂 I try my best to not let it affect me more than necessary, but it takes a lot of awareness and patience sometimes.

      I guess you can say it kind of makes you more humble and respectful towards others, because one day I may get better, but I don’t know whether or not the people I meet might have something similar that they have to deal with. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and I’m glad you found it interesting to learn about.

  • Michelle McGee March 11, 2010, 8:36 am

    Thank you for sharing your story. My 12 year old boy has Tourettes and OCD, peppered with a great deal of anxiety. My son’s OCD manifests itself in the form of intrusive thoughts. Once he broke down because for some reason he was afraid he didn’t love me. He became completely overwhelmed with the idea of this thought that he crumbled to the floor as he kept saying over and over, “I can’t not love you, right Mom? You promise? I have to love you, right?!” I was at a loss. Other than comfort him, and reassure him that I knew he loved me there was absolutely nothing I could do. No band-aid, no topical medicine, no way to make the hurt go away like a mother should be able to do.

    Reading your post, I saw my son, because he possesses the same strength that you do. The desire to thrive despite the challenges he faces. People like you who share your story and are honest about the struggles you face daily, are such an inspiration for me and my son.

    I am off to visit your blog now.

    Believe,
    Michelle

    • Hulbert March 11, 2010, 12:58 pm

      Hi Michelle, thanks for sharing your story here. I could relate when you said that there are no band-aid or topical medicine to make the hurt go away. I kind of a chuckled at that because you’d think the problems of a 12 year old boy would be something that’s physical like getting scraped or something, rather than something that’s totally happening inside a person and it’s not just as simple as applying something and waiting it out.

      I can I understand where your son is coming from. Sometimes, irrational thoughts that don’t make any sense but contain a lot of that emotion will cause a person to become more emotional about it and result in those irrational thoughts becoming true. I think the thoughts of him not loving you, made him scared, and he started to obsess over the thought of what if it was true. By repeated it over and over again, perhaps it was a way for him get rid of the pain that he was feeling inside through getting it out.

      When I wrote this post, I sort of had the same kind of anxiety. I’ve never seen a psychiatrist to verify that I have OCD and I kept telling myself that perhaps I need proof that I have it before telling others about it. Even though from my daily actions that I go through, I felt like I still had to get verified by a doctor, like an approval stamp on a piece of paper. The only way for me to overcome this obsession was just to send it Josh and see where it took me.

      I’m glad you could relate me to your son as this topic is kind of a hard topic to talk about and it can be somewhat comforting to know that there are other people out there who can relate. Thanks Michelle. You’re doing a good job of loving your son and tell him to never give up!

  • Chris M March 11, 2010, 9:58 am

    Wow Hulbert Lee, you communicated that just perfectly. I suffer from a minor form of OCD, not nearly as severe as you, but I can relate and one scenario comes to mind.

    When I was in my late teens I found this obsession with speech and the number 11, when I spoke to someone, I would count the words in sets of 11, so that they matched a pattern in my mind; I couldn’t leave a conversation until the pattern was complete, ie. 1, 2, 3, 4, etc patterns, being sets of 11.. 11 words, 22 words, and so forth. As you can imagine, this was incredibly difficult and I created an assortment of generic questions which would warrent 1 or 2 or 3 word answers so I could complete the pattern with enough space for a good bye!

    I have, since, kicked this habit and find that it sometimes comes into play if I’ve very nervous or anxious, which isn’t too often.

    This is by far the “worst” “habit” I had amongst the others, which are relatively insignificant.

    Thank you for sharing this post, I wish you the best in your journey, and just remember, you’re never alone 🙂

    • Hulbert March 11, 2010, 1:13 pm

      Whoa… this is a crazy story that you have Chris…

      I don’t understand how you were able to simultaneously talk and count the words that you had at the same time! It probably was really difficult to hold conversations with people in a natural way.
      Was there a reason for 11? Or was it just a random number that you had an obsession towards?

      Also I don’t know how you were able to say phrases that were under 11 words. There’s so many of them. Like for example, would “good bye” turn into “I had a really nice time talking to you and bye!”?

      Finally, if you don’t mind sharing, how were you eventually able to kick the habits?

      • Chris M March 11, 2010, 2:18 pm

        Hi Hulbert,

        Firstly, thanks for replying, there’s nothing better than getting a response from the author of an article, it’s essential in my opinion, it’s one of the “secrets” to the success of my blog.

        Right, let me explain a little further, first thing to state is that it wasn’t 1 phrase at a time, it could be joined, in other words, take this conversation as example:

        Chris: “Hi Hulbert, how are you?” (5 words)
        Hulbert: “I’m well thanks and you?” (5 words)
        Chris: “Great!” (1 word)

        That’s 11 words, so that’s a cycle. Now, obviously you want to know how I went about tracking these words, lol, you’re going to think I’m crazy when I explain this. I’ve created an image for sake of explaining, take a look – http://www.imod.co.za/cross.jpg

        As the words came into the conversation, I would slot them in 1 then 2 then 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 completing it with 9, 10 and 11 diagnally. If the pattern wasn’t complete, I would ask another question to ensure that it ended on 11, always. (The interesting thing is that nobody ever thought I was strange or anything – I’m a very normal guy, you’d never guess).

        Why 11 – I have no idea mate!

        How did I kick it – I honestly can’t remember and I can’t remember when I did kick it. Thinking back to the time, I must have been finishing school (perhaps the increased anxiety around completing school) or during the early years of my degree (also stressful), but I am not certain – Personally, I don’t think it was either of these factors which caused it and the other interesting thing is that I have a good family, I didn’t experience any childhood abuse or ANYTHING of that kind, so it’s quite strange really. I also never saw a psychologist about it as I didn’t feel I needed to, it was very rare that it caused a problem in my mind, although I’d do anything and everything in my power to ensure the pattern was completed.

        These days I am an anxious person, my head spins a great deal and it’s worse when I’m nervous, anxious or stressed; I’ve tried taking holidays but they don’t work and I’ve tried doing a number of things, but I appear to be 100% healthy, yet the head spins. A friend suffers from a similiar thing and he went onto a medication for anxiety and appears to be fine now. Why am I sharing this? Well, I figured that perhaps the solution of the 11-pattern became old and was no longer a good enough escape from the anxiety and this head spinning took over.

        I’m uncertain, but what I can say is that it’s amazing when people actually open up and share these things, there are so many of us “normal” people who suffer from strange things that nobody else know!

        • Hulbert March 11, 2010, 8:42 pm

          Hey Chris, that makes sense to me now. I just find it so crazy when you explained it (you even had a diagram), and the funny thing is nobody ever knew about it.

          It’s also kind of funny because I can imagine having a conversation with you and it might not make complete sense if you don’t phrase it correctly, so you have to be kind of clever…

          Chris: What are you eating? (4 words)
          Hulbert: I’m eating a hot dog. (5 words)
          Chris: Oh really? (2 words)

          I’m pretty sure you had an arsenal of different vocabulary phrases developed overtime talking to all your friends. 🙂

          It’s kind of nice to hear that you didn’t also see a psychologist either. I felt like I could still get through life but I just needed to be more aware of what I was feeling and thinking. I think we’re both kind of lucky we didn’t go through any kind of child abuse or anything like that because it probably would have made the OCD worse.

          When your head speads, do you mean you have a headache? Like, you don’t do headspins on the ground right because I don’t think that would be OCD anymore. The weird thing about it is that when you cure a certain part of OCD, another area seems to pop back up so it’s kind of just a repeating cycle but with something new.

          I know what you mean. I was kind of skeptical to post this out there at first, but I feel kind of relieved now that others are also sharing their experiences with this.

          • Josh Hanagarne March 11, 2010, 8:53 pm

            Hulbert, this is easily one of the most interesting conversations I’ve seen here.

  • Srinivas Rao March 11, 2010, 10:19 am

    Hulbert,

    It’s interesting you bring up OCD. Reminds me in some ways of dealing with ADHD. But I think the fact that you’ve started to see it as a test and an opportunity is a good thing. You might be amazed at how much it actually could be the thing that benefits you in your blogging.

    • Hulbert March 11, 2010, 1:29 pm

      Hi Srinivas, I didn’t know that you had ADHD. Wow, this is like a coming together of people sharing their disorders. 🙂

      Yeah, I guess you’re right in that having OCD can actually be seen as a benefit, as I remember that I was very antsy about making mistakes working as a copy editor for my college newspaper.

      “I found the missing period boss!”

      “That’s great news, Hulbert. Here’s another stack of papers for you to correct…”

  • Josh Hanagarne March 11, 2010, 1:01 pm

    Hulbert, I wanted to tell you that even though I’m your unobjective host, this is one of my favorite posts I’ve read anywhere this year. I absolutely love it. You are doing more good than you know.

    • Hulbert March 11, 2010, 2:47 pm

      Josh, it has been your inspiration to all of us that has given me the courage to share about this. Your transparency and candidness in the time that you have shown others about what it means to go through something that’s very difficult, overcome it, and share with as many people as you can, sends a message that others can do the same thing as well without fear. That deserves more credit than this short post could have ever offered. Thank you for being you.

  • Chris M March 11, 2010, 8:46 pm

    Hi Hulbert,

    Chris: What are you eating? (4 words)
    Hulbert: I’m eating a hot dog. (5 words)
    Chris: Oh really? (2 words)

    That is exactly it! 🙂

    Yes, the minute one thing moves away, it’s usually replaced with another, and it’s often linked to age and maturity in my opinion. Nah, my head just feels a bit spaced out and dizzy, I guess that’s the best way to explain it.

    Ye, it’s a nice feeling when others comment and relate to what you are going through, it makes it easier to a degree knowing that you’re not alone!

    I’m sure there are a ton of other comments that are going to creep in over the next day or two and I’ll be watching.

    • Josh Hanagarne March 11, 2010, 8:53 pm

      You guys should develop some compulsions like, “It just doesn’t feel right if I don’t help Josh get 100 more subscribers tonight. I should probably tweet this, and facebook it, and do some knocking on doors, and buy a kettlebell.”

      Meaning of course, if you don’t already have those compulsions!

  • Lori (JaneBeNimble) March 11, 2010, 8:52 pm

    Hi Hulbert,

    Being in this webosphere, it never ceases to amaze me when I read how people have overcome such roadblocks in their lives. Your story is inspiring and I commend you, brother.

    We definitely all have our share of “stuff” and just when I start feeling bad or overwhelmed, I read a post like this — and I don’t feel so bad after all. Bravo to you, my friend.

    You’re a strong spirit and I count myself so very fortunate to have met you!

    Keep up the great work!
    🙂

    • Hulbert March 11, 2010, 9:43 pm

      Hi Lori, yeah it’s always nice to surf around the webosphere and find a story that makes you see a person’s life from a different perspective. Being bloggers, we’re all in the same boat together, but it’s how we get to the shore of the island that counts.

      Actually, that was a corny way to end this comment.

      Being bloggers, we’re all in the same boat together, but it’s how we help each other paddle out of the ocean that counts.

      Not not much better, but I think you get my point. 😉 I’m glad you don’t feel so bad after all after reading this post. I commend you too, sister.

  • Greg Blencoe March 15, 2010, 2:50 pm

    Hi Hulbert,

    Thanks so much for having the courage to share your situation with OCD.

    I actually have somewhat similar issues. But they aren’t nearly the same magnitude. I also have had problems with perfectionism in the past.

    Have you ever tried EFT (Meridian tapping)? I was first told about EFT around six months ago and at first I thought it was bizarre. But I tried it and it worked. I also recently tried it on a lot of other things and had success.

    You might want to look into it.

    A DVD I would highly recommend (no affiliate connection!) is “The Tapping Solution.” EFT practitioners take 10 people with some serious problems over four days and document the results. It’s a very inspiring DVD. And most of the people had success with it.

    • Hulbert March 18, 2010, 2:24 pm

      Hi Greg, I’ve heard of EFT and have tried it before. But the problem I found with it was that it was very time consuming. OCD isn’t having obsessions over one or two actions; these obsessions can really come from anywhere and cause a lot of irrational habits or actions.

      Tapping takes at least 3 to 5 minutes when I did it and I thought it was just too overwhelming to do it for every single thing. It’s even scarier because sometimes when you tap a certain time, it can actually make the OCD worse. I will however try see if EFT works again and will keep that DVD in my mind for the future. Thanks for your help Greg.

  • Moon Hussain March 19, 2010, 7:10 am

    Hulbert,

    It was fascinating reading about your thoughts regarding numbers. I used to be that way when I was younger and tend to wash my hands too many times, but it seems you have a daily struggle. I can’t imagine washing my hands 10 times, let alone 20-40.

    Not meaning to offend, but have you reached out for help from a professional? It’s great that you are aware of your OCD and try to steer yourself right but… I don’t know?

    I hope that someday you can have full control over your OCD.

  • Matthew Needham March 21, 2010, 6:21 am

    Hi Hulbert, thanks for sharing your story. I particulary like the ‘numbers game’. I guess you’re better aiming for number over 5 as more of them are ‘safe’ numbers!.