When news of the coronavirus outbreak first broke, I did what everyone else at the time was doing: spreading awareness on social media out of a sense of responsibility as a global citizen.
I reposted official statements on the exponentially rising numbers of those infected and affected, and economic and social forecasts. I didn’t realise for a very long time the toll the statistics were taking on me, on my mental health, and more specifically, on my OCD.
Before you roll your eyes at the mention of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder or OCD, since you may not think it’s really a disease, read on for a testimony from someone who has OCD.
OCD can be identified as an anxiety disorder, characterised primarily by anxiety-producing obsessions and anxiety-reducing compulsions. Think of it as a junkie chasing a high, only as a circle without a beginning. The compulsions of an OCD-ridden person can feel akin to a junkie’s abnormally high tolerance levels for drugs, with the obsessions bearing a similarity to their desperate craving for a high. OCD works as both the insatiable beast and the nearest available prey. A snake incessantly chasing its own tail, an ouroboros from Hell, which knows no rest.
Most people diagnosed with OCD tend to wash their hands a lot. While it’s a common symptom, reasons for doing so can differ. I wash my hands in an effort to peel off imperfections. It calms me, despite not being a healthy coping mechanism. During the coronavirus outbreak, I convinced myself that I should wash my hands even more so as to wash away the virus molecules along with the imperfections. Two birds with one stone. The frequency at which I scrubbed my hands rose exponentially with the rising numbers of infections. It wasn’t until my skin began to dry out to the point of me developing a nasty rash that I came to my senses.
Sometime back, a teacher said my excellent organisational skills and strong determination levels should be credited to my OCD. It took every ounce of the resolution I possessed to not yell at him for being so unabashedly ignorant about a mental health disorder. My OCD doesn’t help me get my life in order, it helps to wreck it instead.
Leaving aside the frequent hand-washing factor, OCD symptoms can vary from person to person. Mine involve nightmarish thoughts of mindless overconsumption and an inexplicable demand for physical equality throughout my body. I associate the idea of overconsumption with gluttony and remind myself that I must not contribute to it, so I refrain from eating and purge whenever I eat. When I’m nervous, both my hands need to feel sweaty and clammy the same way. If I injure a body part, say one of my elbows, I require my other elbow to feel just as painful. So no, no flawless organization happening there.
Please understand, there is a major difference between being a perfectionist and actually having OCD. One is a state of mind, the other is a disease. It’d be nice if everyone’s attitude towards people suffering from OCD and other mental health disorders, was more empathetic rather than sceptical.
Rasha Jameel is an overzealous Ravenclaw who often draws inspiration from mundane things such as memes. Send her your memespirational thoughts at firstname.lastname@example.org