Dunbar: Coping with obsessive-compulsive disorder

Dunbar: Coping with obsessive-compulsive disorder

May 9, 2013

During seventh grade, I was diagnosed with obsessive-compulsive disorder. For those who haven’t taken Intro to Psych, this disorder consists of two parts: obsessions and compulsions. Obsessions are persistent, anxiety-inducing thoughts, while the compulsions consist of certain acts or behaviors you carry out to alleviate the anxiety caused by the obsessions.

I tend to get obsessed with certain ideas. For example, when I was reading “Jane Eyre,” I was obsessed with why Jane decides to go back to Mr. Rochester. As a result, I repeated sentences in my head with the same meaning but different syntax: Jane left because she realized she needed Mr. Rochester. Realizing Jane needed Mr. Rochester, she went back to him. Jane realized she needed morality and love. Jane realized she needed both morality and love. Realizing she needed morality and love, she left her cousin John and went back to Mr. Rochester.

I also check things because I am always afraid I will forget something. I’ll be driving in the car and have to check my purse for my wallet. I also have to have things arranged in exact order. For example, books must be placed on a desk with perfect rectangles surrounding it.

I thought my OCD would improve as I grew older and moved away from my high school. At the very least, I believed I would learn to control it. But it turns out college just made me more stressed. So far, I haven’t really experienced the fun part of college, and I’m not the only one.

A couple weeks ago, my good friend suffered a psychotic break. She came down with mono and was prescribed a steroid to bring down the inflammation of her lymph nodes. Unfortunately, the steroid interacted with the Prozac she takes to reduce her anxiety. The result? She went a bit crazy — literally. Truth be told, however, I wasn’t entirely surprised. The stress and anxiety overload was bound to catch up with her.

Sometimes I look at my and my friends’ lives and think, “What’s with all the stress?” I don’t have to worry about money or paying for college. I go to a great school. I have friends and parents who love me. I even have a car, so I can go wherever I need to go. Nevertheless, the majority of the time I’m so consumed with anxiety that I can’t sleep.

But even with all of this, college isn’t what it was 30 years ago. Now it seems like nothing is ever enough. Education becomes a competition that never ends. Most of the students at Northwestern spent their four years of high school breaking their backs to take AP classes, get high grades and participate in numerous extracurricular activities. I thought I would finally be able to relax once I was accepted to college, but I was mistaken. In college, it all starts over – the grades, the extracurricular activities, the internships – and it starts from scratch. Everything is a resume builder, and one bad grade feels like the invariable downfall of your GPA. College is a never-ending flow of anxiety and exams and applications.

We’re trapped in a hot, cramped box with no way out. The contents are under pressure. It is no wonder people are suffering.

Since my friend’s psychotic break, I got to thinking. If our high school records get wiped clean, eventually won’t our college records be forgotten? Ten years down the road, no one is really going to care whether you graduated cum laude or magna cum laude, just like ACT scores stopped being important once you set foot on a college campus. We spend so much time worrying about the future that we forget we have no idea what’s actually going to happen. We forget that what the world revolves around today won’t matter much in the future.

I’m not saying college isn’t important. I’m just saying that the quiz you bombed when you were hungover or that interview you were late to isn’t going to determine your life in 20 years. Most likely, it will just get lost in a pile of memories.

Having fun shouldn’t have to be so hard. After all, we only have so much time to do it.

Blair Dunbar is a Weinberg sophomore. She can be reached at blairdunbar2015@u.northwestern.edu. If you would like to respond publicly to this column, email a Letter to the Editor to opinion@dailynorthwestern.com.