As many of my readers know, I have obsessive compulsive disorder.
Wikipedia defines the condition this way: a mental disorder where people feel the need to check things repeatedly, perform certain routines repeatedly (called “rituals”), or have certain thoughts repeatedly (called “obsessions”). People are unable to control either the thoughts or the activities for more than a short period of time. Common activities include hand washing, counting of things, and checking to see if a door is locked. Some may have difficulty throwing things out. These activities occur to such a degree that the person’s daily life is negatively affected. This often takes up more than an hour a day. Most adults realize that the behaviors do not make sense. The condition is associated with tics, anxiety disorder, and an increased risk of suicide.
Some parts of this definition describe me. Others do not. I am not a compulsive hand-washer, and instead of “having difficulty throwing things out,” I feel compelled to purge.
I detest owning extra anything. When I begin obsessing over the fact that I have too many shirts, spatulas, Band-Aids, bath towels, etc., I go into full-fledged panic attacks, and some of these things must go.
My husband teases that he is afraid to leave me alone when we are having a garage sale. He fears I may sell our house for $10.
So, you ask, “Why are you telling me this?”
I am telling you this to educate you on this condition. You may know other people who are diagnosed with the disorder or display symptoms of it.
The OCD sufferer probably looks completely normal. She may seem a bit odd at times, but who doesn’t? But inside, she is often a raging mess.
She may be frantically counting the letters in the words she hears you speak. She may be panicking about having unintentionally harmed someone. At one time I feared (illogically, yes) that I may have been the force that prompted a man I didn’t even know and who lived in another state to kill his children.
The level of my fear of causing harm to people is off the chart. I have felt guilty for causing divorces, car accidents, illnesses, and violent crimes that I could not possibly have caused.
And, I am preoccupied with these fears. If you notice I am not listening to you when you speak, or I snap at you for no apparent reason, or I insist upon doing something that seems irrational (repeatedly checking the news feed on my phone), know this: I am acting on emotional impulses I haven’t yet managed to control.
Someone, and people disagree about who it was, said this: Be kind; everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.
You know this is true. You, being one part of the people included in the phrase “everyone you meet,” almost certainly fight battles. I don’t know what they are; therefore, I may not make allowances for them. I am sorry.
Don’t make quick judgments about people. Realize that you don’t know everything about anyone. And some of the things you don’t know are significant, life-altering, and painful. Make being kind your natural, default way of interacting with everyone.
And always, always extend grace.