Today is a more serious post. I am going to be opening up about my Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. I was diagnosed by a therapist last month but realised I had OCD after my birthday this May. I wanted to share this because a.) I’m not ashamed, b.) I think it’s important to open the lines of communication where mental health is concerned and c.) because I hope it makes somebody reading this feel less alone and more seen. I know I would’ve loved to have read a post like this years ago when I couldn’t explain some of my behaviour; shirking it off as just ‘quirks.’ Without further ado, let’s get into it.
Trigger Warnings: OCD & Anxiety
As you may know, I have suffered from Genrealised Anxiety Disorder since I was little and even underwent EMDR therapy this year to process some of the childhood trauma I was still dealing with. You can read about that here. When I turned 31, I was given some vouchers to spend. As has always been the case, I felt the need to use them immediately. Those closest to me remarked on this; asking why I couldn’t wait and see if something I really wanted came up down the line. I told them that the vouchers were a burden I couldn’t stop thinking about and from there, I realised there were lots of examples like this that played on my mind on a daily basis. Last month, my therapist confirmed that I had a mild case of Obsessive Compulsive Spartanism. In short, this is the exact opposite of hoarding. I spend a lot of time decluttering as much as possible. This can range from clothes to emails to vouchers to loose change to receipts and more. Extreme cases of this disorder involve actual discarding of furniture but I can safely say I’ve never entertained that idea. I also want to state this doesn’t affect my husband or daughter. It’s only what I can control in my little space.
Along with decluttering, I am very much obsessed with ticking things off lists, completing things (I’ll explain more about that in a moment), ordering chaos and creating symmetry. The thing about my OCD is that a lot of my compulsions push me to be an extremely organised, efficient person. It can actually feel like a superpower at times because I get so much done. It certainly served me well when I was in high school and university. The downside is that it can leave me feeling inflexible, anxious and bound by certain rules created by my brain. A dear friend told me a few months ago that she found me intimidatingly productive. She didn’t mean it negatively but I couldn’t explain to her that my productivity was fueled by my mental illness.
Now you may think, decluttering is good right? In a world where minimalism is trending and environmentally friendly, isn’t this a positive? Unfortunately that’s not how my mind works. It functions on a loop. For example, I might see too many clothes in my wardrobe so I declutter them. From there, I will see an empty space in my closet and feel the urge to re-fill the gaps and the cycle continues all over again. In regards to my ‘completion’ urges, I may read a book by a certain author which triggers the need to read every book they’ve ever written so I can tick it off my mental list. I used do the same with Youtubers. If I liked them, I had to watch every video they ever uploaded or I wouldn’t let myself subscribe to their channel. I remember spending hours watching videos I wasn’t even interested in just because of these ‘rules’ my mind established. I’ve since been able to manage these compulsions. How? Allow me to explain…
In working with my therapist, I’ve begun to notice these ‘rules’ that pop up and try to trap me. It’s getting easier to identify if I want to read/watch something because it’s genuine or because it’s a compulsion. That small step alone has been so freeing. I’m learning to accept that I cannot control/complete everything. Delay therapy assists me when I feel the urge to declutter something that I could hold onto. This means I wait five minutes or so before giving into a compulsion to see how I feel. I’m also distinguishing the parts of my OCD that I actually want to keep over the ones that serve me nothing but anxiety. For example, I feel compelled to delete emails as soon as I get them. Years ago, when I was working, I had to tell a colleague that not only did I delete an important email she sent me, I also deleted the deleted items. She couldn’t understand and I didn’t blame her! Now I am able to recognise that keeping a clean inbox is a good trait BUT it’s not helpful to get rid of something that is essential or worth filing away. This doesn’t mean it’s all wine and roses. It’s extremely tough at times and I find myself wanting to give in but slowly, slowly I’ve been able to break my own ‘rules’. I’m not going to list every single thing I do but I will link this article that felt like I had written it myself. You can check it out here.
My OCD is not crippling and I am managing it well enough but I wanted to share this part of me because before my diagnosis, I had no idea that Compulsive Spartanism was even a thing. Therapy has been so valuable. I recently wrote a list of all my ‘rules’ (writing lists is something very satisfying for my OCD) and marked an F (Flexible), K (Keep) and C (Change) against them so I know what is worth retaining, working on and being flexible with.
If you can relate or have any other sort of OCD, feel free to open up down below. Also, if you have any questions I will gladly answer them as best as possible. I do want to state that I’m not a licensed professional but I can speak from my own experience. This is a very safe space. I appreciate you reading this post.
Peace & Love xoxo