OCD means that even when I am exhausted or in pain, sometimes I can’t help but engage in my rituals and obsessive behaviors. In these times, I can find myself washing up the dishes, and then suddenly I’m doing laundry and cleaning all the counters and the toilets and I don’t know exactly how I got there. Especially because I still hurt.
And then when I lay down on the couch to rest, instead of Netflix, I find myself clicking through all my links for online orders even though I just did that an hour ago and know nothing has changed. And often, these orders, while stuff I do need or want, like a pill cutter so I can stop getting uneven or demolished pills or the prescription refills that I don’t need until next week (but ordered now to be safe), are not urgent. I’m not stressed about when it will show up. Today, tomorrow, whenever, I know we’re in a pandemic and things will come when they come, but still, I click track order over and over again.
I tell myself don’t click, but then I find myself going into my email folder that has my shipping notices and I click. I see that my prescription was sent to the local distribution center. I know it will be here soon, but again, in a few hours, I will probably check to see if it was dropped off. This is not something that people think of when they think of OCD but it’s clear that there’s something about checking that fulfills some need of mine even if it’s not even clear to me exactly what that is.
But with new uncertainties and stresses, it makes sense to develop new compulsions and rituals. There’s the obvious obsessive checking of news sites, which I do and try hard not to do, depending on the day! But then there are these others, that are new or variations of older rituals. And I am trying to be aware of them. I’m used to my familiar and long-standing rituals and know to look out for them and notice when they get more common and disruptive but these new ones? It’s easy to not notice that something is wrong until it gets out of hand.
So having OCD now means not just focusing on your old behavior or contamination-related rituals like washing down the counters after putting up groceries, etc. It also means new ways we’re developing to cope with all of the chronic uncertainty of life right now. And part of trying to manage my mental health is being aware of when coping behaviors become rituals that are pathological.
For example, cooking, baking, and reading are all good activities and can be really healthy. I can also turn to them too much for distraction, stress-relief, and to feel productive. It’s not that I shouldn’t do them, that would be unhealthy too, but that I need to pay attention to when I’ve crossed the line from healthy and good for me into using it as a coping mechanism that is causing more anxiety and harm than good.
It’s exhausting to add one more thing to be aware of (and even worry about) but it’s even more important when it’s harder to access healthy behaviors and treatments than pre-COVID-19. I hurt more than I have in a while because I don’t have access to acupuncture or chiropractic treatments and that hurting is making it harder for me to do everything, including taking walks, workout, and other things that in the long-run will hopefully make me feel better, which in turn also exacerbates my mental health issues, which burn up my energy in rituals. It’s a vicious cycle that I’m working on a little bit at a time depending on the day.
I realize just how lucky I was to have access to bodywork and how much it really made a difference to me and my health. I miss these treatments that made a difference for me when nothing else did. If anything, this experience makes me even more grateful for my providers and access to these treatments and proves, to me at least, that they do work. It took me a long time to learn about and get access to these kinds of treatments but I am so glad I did. I am hopeful that in the not-too-distant future I will be able to benefit from them again!