Lindsay, 28, Oregon, USA

If things aren’t in just the right order, my life will spin out of control and fall apart

lindsay-no-textThe first rule of my OCD is that the rules must always be followed. No exceptions. Any breaking of the rules must be immediately rectified.

These were the rules that had to be followed for the apps on my phone:

  • Each row must be complete - four units across in the main menu and three across within folders.
  • The titles of the apps/folders must be in alphabetical order by row.
  • Rows must consist entirely of either lone apps or folders – no mixing within rows.
  • The colors of the lone apps must be coordinated somehow – blues/greens together, oranges/yellows, black/white/grey, etc.
  • Apps within folders must also be in alphabetical order.
  • If for some reason the colors don’t work, either move the offending app onto the second page of a folder or delete it (you probably don’t use it all that often anyway).
  • There can only be four rows per screen - there must be an ample amount of space between the main section of apps and the bottom row where the “main” functions live (messages, phone, Safari, mail).
  • Blue/green/white/black go on the first page and the oranges/yellows/reds go on the second page.

Until very recently, those were all of the rules/conditions that had to be met on my phone at all times (I don’t know if I should tell you the last one I had to really dig to come up with – I had to have an even number…).

In the time since my diagnosis, I’ve learned a lot about what OCD looks like in my life and the myriad of ways in which it’s made its presence known in my everyday activities and functioning.

The idea of telling the world (or at least the few people on the Internet who might read it) that I have OCD is more than a little terrifying. The stigma attached to any type of mental illness in our culture is harsh and I do not want this diagnosis to give anyone cause to treat me differently.

My struggles with depression and deciding whether or not to share that part of myself engendered similar thoughts and feelings, and even now, years after I was diagnosed and started telling people, there are days when I wish there weren’t quite so many people out there who know about it.

But for some reason, this feels worse. I think it’s because depression seems to be easier to take in, or understand, for a lot of people. The scope of what people know about depression – what it does and what it looks like – is much wider, and thus slightly easier to talk about.

There are also so many stereotypes of what it looks like to have OCD. For me, though, it’s something I carry around (and if I’m being honest, have carried for quite some time) but don’t necessarily show to other people. My obsessions and compulsions are easy to hide in plain sight - “I’m just really organized” and “I like things neat” have been my go-to lines for years.

The obsessive thinking is also fairly easy to hide. Just as I found ways to put on a mask to hide my depression, I feel that I’ve been fairly successful at not letting people know what exactly is going on in my head at any given moment, particularly when I’ve grasped a thought and can’t let it go.

I’m making progress… each thing that I can “mess up” and leave that way without feeling anxiety is a victory – my phone being perhaps the most significant victory thus far. But I still want so badly to “fix” things, and it will be a fight, but it’s one worth fighting.

Categories: The Wall

2 replies »

  1. I am also struggling with this, the main obsession being: if I don’t go through my daily checklist of things to tidy in my house, I feel anxiety and can’t move onto other things ’til they’re done…if too much disorder builds, I get overwhelmed, depressed and it takes me weeks to ‘get back to normal’ – I HAVE to stay on top of my ‘maintenance’ orderliness.


  2. I struggle with similar compulsions: order, symmetry, extreme neatness, everything having to be “tucked & tight”. It is mentally exhausting & leads to a really bad depression. All I can say is hang in there & keep doing your exposures. Any victory, no matter how small, is a strike against the ocd bully.


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