I was quiet in high school. Some may have described me as a loner, but I did have friends. I was awkward and scared that I would be judged harshly if I spoke my mind. Some things that gave me comfort during the first years of being diagnosed with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) were comedy (The Late Show with David Letterman), literature (Kurt Vonnegut), and music (Pearl Jam).
Society’s influence is at its worst during the teenage years. Sex and violence are pushed on teenagers through many different ways (music, TV, peers, et cetera).
I probably was somewhat of a loner because of these influences — along with having OCD, of course.
The teenage years are hard for anyone. I have a supportive family, which probably is why I am still alive. My saving grace was having people I could talk to who weren’t part of the hell that was between my high school walls. It was like two alternate realities. The fact that I had OCD also made me less able to socialize due to intrusive thoughts. As I look back, I have a better perspective of just what I was up against. I guess it’s good that I am able to write about it.
Lately, I have been thinking about the search for solutions to the problems OCD causes. My research has shown there are not a lot of big studies on the disorder. I thought it was well known. Sometimes when you research a problem, you start to realize just how little you know. It’s a game of perspectives. Ignorance is bliss.
Getting the right perspective on OCD can be difficult. It’s like taking a picture: you adjust the lens, check the light, look at the landscape from a few different angles and take a shot.
Are we looking at OCD through the right lens? Should we be focusing on environmental effects, societal influences, or brain chemistry? Is it possible to focus on it too much? The most important thing with OCD at this point is how we look at it.
A therapist I spoke to told me the behaviors for the disorder started to have a name approximately 30 years ago. Sometimes, with OCD, therapists expect certain symptoms because of the sheer amount of havoc they have seen that the disorder wreaks on people’s lives. They expect the patients to try to “beat” the disorder by life accomplishments or medication maintenance. I have surprised therapists because of the good job of maintenance I have done on the disorder.
People learn ways to live with incurable disorders and have some quality of life. With OCD, they should be regarded as doing the best they can with an absurd set of circumstances with an undefined enemy, an undefined endgame, an undefined finish line and an undefined battle. It’s like a kid who is diagnosed with cancer. How is he or she supposed to look at his or her predicament? Hopefully, the child is cured and the cancer goes into remission.
But OCD is different. Is a cure measured in the thoughts going away or through personal achievement? When do you know that you have beaten the disorder? There is no way to measure if OCD is in remission. Behavior therapy seems to help, but unlike cancer, you can’t see the cells disappear. For me, recovery is getting some work and having some quality of life. It is different for someone else. I guess each person finds his or her own answers.
In the end, when I look back on my high school years, I realize that I was up against something much greater than contemporary society is aware of. Like a doctor I recently talked to said, going to battle with OCD is a “colossal struggle.”
The reality is, society will always will continue to push and pull the individual, much like what happens in high school. OCD will try to have you in check and almost checkmate in this game. I just hope we can properly view and understand the influences that society and OCD have so we can properly address the problem.