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obsessive-compulsive life

“I know we’re not perfect, but the safest hands are still our own.” - Steve Rogers

You’ll never know how true this sentiment feels to a person suffering from Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD).

Nobody told me it was a bad thing to be "too careful". Everyone said, “You can never be too careful”. I just had to be sure; to be absolutely certain about my loved ones’ safety.

I couldn’t handle the anxiety that came with that uncertainty. I mean, everyone has different levels of tolerance toward uncertainty. That’s why we check the locks on our doors twice or we do a quick check around the house before leaving. Because we want to be sure.

2019 was the worst. For others, it was only the beginning of rumors about a virus spreading around somewhere across the world. For me, it was a plague added onto an already overwhelmed university student struggling with personal health problems, family health problems, and relationship stress. All of these issues happened within a three-month period. It also didn’t help that the doctors treating me were overworked and underpaid. They diagnosed me with incurable diseases without taking the time to do any proper testing. I guess they were too exhausted to consider what they were doing to my mental health.

And so, under the weight of it all, I crumbled. It started with some minor abdominal discomfort. It would get hard to sit down for long periods of time. Some of you would recognize that this was actually a symptom of anxiety. When a psychiatrist finally diagnosed me with masked depression and generalized anxiety disorder, my body had had enough. Abdominal pains gave way to crippling anxiety attacks, sleepless nights, and horrendous bouts of nausea every time food was remotely presented to me.

I lost 11kg and was living off one meal a day and a couple hours of sleep. I knew I needed help. So, I started going to therapy. I began to get better. I was eating more, sleeping more, and the anxiety attacks weren’t as frequent.

And right when things were beginning to look up, COVID-19 struck Malaysia and we were forced to be isolated with our thoughts and anxieties. My anxiety morphed into obsessive thoughts about germs and cleanliness. I would clean and clean and clean. It was all very gradual. It started with just five minutes. Then out of nowhere, I realized I was cleaning for two hours. Two hours became six. Six became twelve. Twelve became fourteen. Fourteen became twenty-two hours.

Many of you might not know what it’s like to clean your hands for twenty-two hours. This is the best way I can show it to you:

You wake up in the morning and begin to get out of bed. I do too.

You step into the bathroom and begin our morning routines. I do too.

You step out of the bathroom. I’m still in the bathroom.

You grab a quick bite for breakfast. You don’t want to be late for work. I’m still in the bathroom.

You start doing some work. I’m still in the bathroom.

Your friend calls and you have a nice chat about life. I’m still in the bathroom.

It’s lunchtime and you order food to be delivered. Guess what? I’m still in the bathroom.

Fast-forward, you’re done with your day and you’ve just had your shower. You step out and get in bed.I’ve just finished cleaning one hand. Now, I begin soaping my other hand.

You’re sound asleep and you have a sweet dream of friends and laughter.I’ve made a minor “mistake” whilst cleaning my ring finger and now I have to restart my cleaning ritual.

You’re still asleep. It’s now two hours before your alarm rings.I finally step out of the bathroom and I have my first meal of the day. My arms are “shiny” because I’ve scrubbed them raw. My skin is dry, cracked, and bleeding. My fingernails are “receding” because I’ve dug too deep into them during my cleaning rituals. I’ve had three missed calls from family and friends. They don’t know where I’ve been and are worried.

It’s in those moments that I hope others enjoy their freedom and create pleasant memories with their loved ones. I pray that you will stop arguing and bickering about insignificant things. You will never know how precious each monotonous and mundane moment is until you are, for one reason or another, unable to enjoy them anymore. Treasure your friendships and relationships. Live your life to the fullest. And if you’re struggling right now, don’t forget to breathe through the chaos.

With love, An OCD sufferer named Luke.

Submitted by: Luke

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