There are stories from my childhood about how picky I was. Shoes, socks, clothes had to fit and feel just right. If they didn’t; if socks had a seam; if the clothes didn’t feel okay, they would send me into a rage larger than my tiny body. I would thrash and even rip things off me like I was being burned. I have always felt more deeply than other people seem to. Not just emotionally, I feel things more. I am a tactile person. I think this could have caused me to not want to touch anything. I need to touch everything in order to interact with them. I can’t wear gloves in the winter; even when my hands hurt, they are so cold; even though I have Reynaud’s. I’m the same way with cleaning. My first job was working at an Inn. I was supposed to wear cleaning gloves to protect my hands. I couldn’t. I needed to touch everything in order to know for sure it was clean enough; it took too much time to take the gloves on and off. I kept them off. My hands ended up smelling like bleach for years. I didn’t mind, I love the smell of bleach.
It is probably no surprise that I was diagnosed with OCD in high school. Obsessive Compulsive Disorder isn’t always obvious for me. Sometimes everything must be at 90-degree angles. I like things in multiples of 3. I will grip or rub my fingers together in threes, but I don’t have to count it; it is so automatic in my brain I know that I’m hitting the numbers because it feels right. It’s like breathing. I don’t think about having to breathe and I know I am. Most of the time my OCD is manageable. I can clean my house reasonably. I have even been able to leave it alone and let the dust and cat hair (I have 3 cats) pile up. Other times, especially when I am stressed out, I lose control of it. I have brushed my carpets with soap and water before vacuuming them; spent 3 hours cleaning my very small kitchen; cleaned my baseboards until I was bleeding, and washed my floors on hands and knees every day for a month straight. It feels like being possessed. I can’t stop it no matter how much I want to. I have been exhausted, and crying, and unable to stop. My brain tells me that if I do not get every single dust particle, if I am not good enough, the people I love will die.
The conspiracy theory I invented for myself of ‘not good enough’ was the perfect invitation for an eating disorder. ED is tricky and convinced me it really was about my weight. That if I was not ‘good enough’, ‘perfect enough’, ‘thin enough’, not only would no one love me the people I love would never be ok. I spent over 15 years thinking like this daily. I declined invitations to be with my friends because it got in the way of my rituals. I designed what I thought the perfect person was. ED fueled my OCD and my OCD fueled ED. They were the perfect combination together. They loved each other so much it seemed like I didn’t have OCD. All the compulsions I had just with OCD were masked by ED. Instead of ripping of clothes, I ripped off skin. Instead of cleaning houses, I tried to ‘purify’ my body. I forgot that I had OCD for a long time.
I began my recovery from anorexia with bulimic tendencies 4 years ago. It is only within the last year that I have come to realize the role OCD plays. When I am on an uncontrollable cleaning spree, it feels like the adrenaline I used to get with ED. Since it is hard to stop myself from cleaning, it is also hard to get myself to sit down and eat. I don’t have many days where this happens. It does still happen though. I recognize that it is a stress release and dispelling energy I have not used. I am working on how best to use my energy. I am working on how to reintroduce exercise without it being unhealthy. I am working on balance. I think I will be working on balance forever. I am human and not perfect. Imperfect is a wonderful thing to finally be.