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.
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)
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)
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)
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)
Seven is a lucky number, as in lucky number 7. (7 safe)
Eight is the 3rd number, 3 representing the legs of a tripod, of the second ½ of a completed set of 10. (8 safe)
Nine is a symbol of incompletion, or something that is not completed all the way giving anxiety. (9 unsafe)
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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