Navigating the Waves: My Journey Living With OCD

As the sun peeks through my curtains, marking the start of a new day, my journey with OCD begins anew. Living with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder is like navigating an unpredictable sea; some days are calm, while others are overwhelmed by stormy waves of anxiety and compulsions.

There are days when I wake up in a perfectly good mood. There are other days when a swirl of intrusive thoughts creep into my brain and compel me to be annoyed by every speck of dust, misplaced item, or asymmetrical piece of my environment. It’s always a toss of the dice which mood in me will stir when I open my eyes.

My morning routine is my first encounter with my OCD rituals. Every action, from brushing my teeth to organizing my breakfast, must adhere to a specific order and precision. Deviation from these rituals invokes an inexplicable sense of dread, as if the slightest misstep could trigger a cascade of negative consequences. It’s like being trapped in an endless loop, where each repetition is a desperate attempt to attain an unachievable perfection.

I always wake up in a similar fashion. 

My dog, an adorable little half Cavalier King Charles and half Toy Fox terrier, follows me out of bed and into the bathroom. I immediately floss and brush my teeth. Next, it’s time to let her out back to use the bathroom. As she’s out in the backyard, I prepare her water and her breakfast. I cook her food myself because I love to know exactly what she’s eating. I let her in and watch her scarf down her food while I make my coffee. 

I weigh out 30g of beans and 600g of water. I grind my beans and heat up the water while they’re grinding. I place a filter in the pour over carafe. When the water boils, I use a little bit of it to wash out the paper filter so that the end result doesn’t taste of paper. I dump in the grinds and add exactly 60g of water and let it steep for 30 seconds. After, I add water in 100g increments until I reach 500g.

Everything I do is deliberate. Where I place every item matters so much to me.

At work, my OCD morphs into a relentless taskmaster, scrutinizing every detail of my assignments. This hyper-attention to detail can be a double-edged sword. On one hand, it drives me to produce meticulous work; on the other, it’s a whirlpool of never-ending revisions and second-guessing.

My colleagues see my thoroughness as a strength, unaware of the exhausting mental battle that accompanies each task. It helps that I work in digital marketing, where attention to detail is respected and rewarded.

Social interactions bring their own set of challenges. Conversations are often hijacked by intrusive thoughts, whispering a relentless barrage of “what-ifs” and worst-case scenarios. These thoughts are like uninvited guests at a party, constantly disrupting the flow of dialogue and making it difficult to be present in the moment.

My evenings are when the OCD tendencies become more pronounced. Household chores must be performed in a precise manner, and any disruption can trigger an intense anxiety response. It’s a delicate balancing act, trying to maintain a semblance of normalcy while appeasing the demands of my disorder.

I cook 6 nights a week and there’s no more satisfying activity for me than chopping vegetables and preparing food in a specific manner. It’s my form of zen.

Even just shortly after dinner, I can’t let dishes stay in the sink. I’m compelled to wash them individually immediately and place them into the dishwasher in specific patterns. I am extremely deliberate about their placement and which way they’re facing on the racks.

I don’t want to sound like this condition is all bad, though. I’ve learned to challenge my OCD’s narrative, to recognize that these compulsions are not reflections of reality, but distortions created by my disorder.

I have also learned that these tendencies can actually help alleviate some of the symptoms of my clinical depression. When I’m spiraling into dark thoughts and ideations and losing joy in everything around me, these routines can help.

It distracts me and heals me to clean and rearrange and put away dishes and do very mundane and repetitive tasks. It can provide some bit of relief while also forcing me to stop sitting still and to be productive in those moments where depression takes over my mind entirely.

I also frequent mental health subreddits and Discord servers. Sharing experiences with others who navigate similar storms has been incredibly validating. It’s comforting to know that I’m not sailing these turbulent waters alone.

Living with OCD is a continuous journey of self-discovery and resilience. Each day, I learn a bit more about myself, about the strength it takes to challenge my disorder’s narrative, and about the importance of self-compassion. My OCD does not define me; it’s just one aspect of my complex mosaic.

As I prepare for bed, following my nightly rituals, I reflect on the day’s victories, no matter how small. These moments of triumph, whether it’s resisting a compulsion or simply being kind to myself amidst the chaos, are what keep me afloat.

Tomorrow, the sun will rise again, and with it, another day of navigating the unpredictable seas of OCD. But I take comfort in knowing that with each passing day, I’m learning to navigate these waters with a bit more grace and resilience.