Wrong. That's not OCD. That's liking things to be clean and tidy. Liking things to be clean and tidy and being overly fond of order is a behavioural quirk. OCD is a distressing mental illness. Monica from Friends does not have OCD. Monica from Friends just needs to chill the hell out and go to bed without doing the washing up once in a while; because even if disorder and untidiness really really bug her, she has the choice to leave the washing up and go to bed safe in the knowledge that nothing bad will happen (apart from - HORROR - the washing up still being there in the morning when she gets up, resulting in her feeling annoyed). Feeling a bit annoyed and stressy is not OCD
She just really likes cleaning.
I do not like cleaning. Organisation is not something that applies to me. Disorder and mess reign in my house. I don't do meal plans. I'm often running late. This morning, I ate half a packet of Bombay Mix and a chocolate chip cookie for breakfast. My filing system involves writing things down on random scraps of paper and immediately losing them. I don't own a watch. Since my son started school in September, I have never once been late dropping him off or picking him up. This advanced level of Being On Time is so unnatural to me that every day I walk out of the school gates mentally punching the air and congratulating myself on having Being A Grown-Up nailed. I am as far away from the Monica stereotype as you can get, but I have raging OCD.
Does this look like the table of someone with OCD?
To try and help you to understand about OCD, you need to meet Dave. Dave is my inner voice, and he's a lying bastard. I've christened him Dave, because everyone knows a bloke called Dave who's full of shit.
Lets just pause to clarify two things quickly:
1. I do NOT hear voices. That's psychosis, and I don't have that. That's an entirely different thing.
2. I am not a liar. In fact, I find it incredibly difficult to lie because my mum used to say that our lies come back on us ten-fold. My OCD latched on to that, so if I was to lie, I'd spend the rest of my life torturing myself that I was going to be punished for it. The liar is my inner monologue, who I like to call Dave. Which, fair enough, is a bit quirky, but not mad. OK?
Back to Dave:
Imagine some evil little git constantly jabbering a load of bollocks at you that taps into your deepest fears and insecurities. If you're a naturally anxious person, you're likely to worry about all sorts of things - big and small. Death might feature heavily. Things happening to people you love. Serious illness - that sort of thing. Dave likes to reinforce these worries by going on about them constantly, lying about what is and isn't likely to happen and giving you entirely unhelpful suggestions about what you can do to prevent these things from happening. He does not have your best interests at heart even though he swears he does, and - I cannot stress this enough - he is a lying liar who lies.
Examples of lies that Dave has told me over the years:
If I eat I will choke AND DIE.
If I eat, I will vomit.
If I leave the house, I will vomit.
I might hurt or maybe even kill my baby.
I might kill myself.
My parents are putting crushed glass in my food.My parents are putting poison in my food.
If I step away from the window, my dad will be killed in a train crash on the way home from work.
If I decide to have another baby, I will die in childbirth.
If I get on that train, it will crash and l will leave my son without a mother.
I have left the iron on. I absolutely have, and what's more, my house is in the process of burning down right this minute.
Dave is an absolute fucker.
These are thoughts that everyone has from time to time, but usually they last a split second and then go, because not everybody has a Dave who likes to obsess over these thoughts and attach significance to them where there is none, and won't let them leave your head. The problem here is that however much you know he is lying to you, like all the best lies, his contain maybe a 1% chance of being true. Nobody can assure you that these things will 100% NOT HAPPEN, and because of that 1% (or 0.001%), you allow him to have significance.
To make you feel better about the thoughts (not really - it's actually going to make you 100 times worse in the long run), he might come up with some handy suggestions to ease the worry. Like so:
Dave: "Dude, you can't be trusted not to kill yourself. you'd better go and hide all the knives and stuff. Make sure you shove them in places where you'll forget they are. Hide all the pins while you're at it, and the staples, because you could rip yourself up good and proper with one of them if you really wanted to."
Me: "WTF, Dave? I don't want to kill myself at all. Why do I have to hide the knives?"
Dave: "Pffff, I know best. Do you really want to risk it? Hide them. Oh, also, better make sure you turn off the radio whenever Suicide Blonde plays, because that contains the word suicide and might push you over the edge. You'd also better make sure that you never catch sight of Michael Hutchence's face. Same reason.
Me: "So, so hungry. Will just get a cheese sandwich."
Dave: "Hihihi, what do you think you're doing? If you have food in your stomach you could vomit and you have a phobia about that. You know how we like it when your stomach's empty. Be a good girl and don't eat anything all day until you're safely at home after school - an apple and a slice of toast should do the trick."
Me: "But I'm so hungry and I'm getting too thin."
Dave: "Yeah, but if you eat you'll be sick. Lets have a little panic attack about that thought. See? You're feeling sick now aren't you? Maybe you've got a bug. Better not eat to be on the safe side. You know I'm right."
The first example was why I ended up being diagnosed with depression at the age of 11. I didn't want to kill myself in the slightest, I was just terrified that I'd lose control and be compelled to do it. Can you imagine how frightening that is for an 11 year old child? The second example was why I ended up being diagnosed as anorexic when I was 17. I wasn't anorexic at all. I was just too scared to eat. It was just OCD. Just.
It's so tiring, you know? First of all you're endlessly going over worst case scenarios, then you're being vigilant for signs that those scenarios could or might happen, and then you're doing the stuff that you're somehow convinced will stop them from happening. And you're never completely in the moment - never. Because all this stuff in your brain constantly churns, and you can't turn it off. Dave was there on my wedding day, when my son was born, when I graduated, when I had my first kiss, when I lost my virginity, when I did anything - no matter how significant or insignificant. It never ends.
These days, my OCD mainly revolves around my phobia of vomit and leads to frantic bleaching of the house during norovirus season and the ironing of everything (including towels, socks and pants) in an attempt to kill germs. I have not coped very well with my son starting school and all the associated germs, but I muddle along. It also rears its head if I ever consider having another child, because I had quite a traumatic pregnancy and birth with my son and my biggest fear is leaving him motherless. However, it appeared at its worst in the weeks after his birth when I was bombarded with horrible, brutal intrusive thoughts and images that scared me so much that I still don't like to talk about them. I was very lucky that I had an understanding doctor and health visitor, and am indebted to the psychiatric crisis team who visited me 3 times a day to check on me. I was fine after a bit of medication. Well, I say fine - I was back to ironing socks and stuff, but those particular distressing thoughts stopped and have never come back again.
I'm a normal person. I'm not mad. OK, so I iron stuff more than is healthy and constantly think about how to avoid stomach bugs and food poisoning and I'm too scared to have another baby, but aside from that, I'm just normal. I went to university. I held down jobs. I managed to be a good teacher despite constantly fearing the children being sick in my classroom. I'm married (and, aside from being a bit messy and a little bit crazy in the head, I am a delightfully low maintenance wife. "You never really ask for anything, do you?" says my husband. And he's right - I'm so focussed on just getting through the days that asking for material things or demanding demonstrations of undying love just wouldn't occur to me. Not that they're not nice when I get them). Before I was married, I had other men in my life. I have fun. I'm a good parent and I love my little boy so much that it makes my stomach flip. I have friends. I go out. I laugh a lot. I eat food that everyone else does (my episodes with food last recurred about 10 years ago. I now eat anything and everything apart from ropey looking burgers out of vans and, frankly, I could do with losing half a stone). I've done the same sort of stuff over the course of my life as you - exactly the same. It's just that I wasn't 100% there at the time, because I was too busy listening to Dave and simultaneously doing what he told me to and trying to make him leave me alone.
So that's why having a neat house has nothing to do with OCD. Unless Dave is telling you that if you don't keep things spotless, your kids will die (or insert any other distressing obsession); in which case it has everything to do with OCD and you have my utmost sympathy. You poor thing. You must be exhausted. I'm exhausted. I. Am. Exhausted.