Growing up as a child with OCD
I realise now that I grew up with OCD embedded within my very core. I like to think I was quite an intelligent kid and I’ve always had a pretty strong psychological self-awareness, so I was fully aware that some of my thoughts and behaviours were abnormal. Because of this awareness, I tried my best to hide a lot of these weird traits in fear of worrying those I loved (I hadn’t realised that my family had long since realised that I was…different shall we say). Kids aren’t aware of psychological illnesses such as OCD and so they just assume that’s the way they’re built.
Throughout my childhood, if I walked a certain route to a destination I’d have to walk the exact same route back home. This was simply a fairly normal OCD trait, but once combined with my colourful imagination, it became a fear that if I didn’t do so, I’d end up in a different dimension, or perhaps even become a clone of myself. I can literally imagine the face you’re pulling right now, and I don’t bloody blame you.
These behaviours evolved, and soon I was unable to sleep during summer nights because I was worried that I might have left one of my toys outside and it may too fall victim to ending up in another dimension (I was definitely all about scientific probabilities as a kid). I had this particular fear once about a small blue bouncy ball. I cried because I imagined it out in the cold dark hostility of the night, wondering why I didn’t want it anymore. I’m currently shitting myself laughing as I write this at the memory of me personifying a BOUNCY BALL to the point of losing sleep and dropping tears. I knocked on my parents bedroom door some nights because I would have recurring intrusive thoughts about toys I had loved in the past sitting in landfill sites, unloved and unwanted. I swear to God, Toy Story actually perpetuated this fear… Cast your minds back to the scene where Jessie gets left in a cardboard box by a field… Cut to me as a kid, sat in the cinema, weeping until I almost vomited.
I’ve also always had a weird obsession with symmetry. It started with me always making sure my mum combed my hair into a middle parting. This meant that later on, as a teenager, I struggled to conform to that extreme combover style that a vast majority of the girls in my secondary school chose to adopt (DARN). If one of my nails broke, I’d have to file down the corresponding nail on the opposite hand – you get the general idea. I remember, very vividly, a day when my parents took me to a ginormous Disney store – I’m talking the store of dreams here – to choose a Toy Story doll. My childlike excitement was tainted however, by the fact that I couldn’t pick between Woody and Buzz because neither had full facial symmetry. They’d created the dolls to have charismatic facial expressions. I wanted them to look dead and expressionless, like any psychologically sound child would. I chose Woody in the end, and carried him home in my arms feeling satisfied with my choice. That was until I arrived home and unboxed him. I studied his face – specifically his one mismatched, wonky eyebrow. I tried to ignore it and I made him trot around on my Barbie horse whilst chirpsing a Shelly doll, but that BASTARD eyebrow just kept staring up at me, menacing and smug. I put Woody on my toy shelf the next day, and I struggled to play with him after that. This was a repetitive pattern throughout my childhood, which most likely left family members feeling disappointed at how uninterested I seemed towards their gifts. The truth is, I would study everything under a psychological microscope in order to find a lack of symmetry or a smudge of ink, before casting the toy aside like a small ungrateful devilchild.
Later in childhood, I developed a crippling feeling of guilt attached to disposing of anything that had been in contact with my family. To put it bluntly, I dabbled in a bit of casual hoarding. I developed a fear that if anything had been in my family home, I was letting my family down if I let it leave. There are two occasions I remember very clearly, one involving beef, and one involving sawdust. We’ll refer to this entire episode as ‘Beefgate’.
One evening at dinner, I became full and couldn’t manage a small amount of beef on my plate. I could NOT however, allow my mum to dispose of this beef because then it would leave the house forever, and I would be letting down not just myself, but my entire family, my Queen and my country. So I wrapped the beef in a few pieces of kitchen roll and hid it in the hallway. Beefgate was born.
(Go on… heave if you need to.)
This habit became even more gross however when my mama found multiple bags of used sawdust in my wardrobe that I had removed when cleaning out my hamster. I’m talking piss-covered, poop-filled sawdust. IMAGINE finding that in your child’s wardrobe.
It was at this point that my parents realised that something needed to be done. After deliberating, they decided against slapping a big old diagnosis label on me, incase it became my entire identity. I was a young impressionable child after all. I agree entirely with the decision they made and I’m grateful that OCD wasn’t the majority of my identity whilst growing up. My parents were very warm and understanding when I carried out ‘strange’ behaviours or voiced illogical worries. They found the perfect balance between comforting me about my fears, but not reassuring me to the point of worsening the issues and feeding the OCD.
Luckily, writing the majority of this post has caused me quite a large amount of amusement, however there is also an undertone of shame sat deep in my stomach. It makes me sad that I feel shame, and that I felt shame as a child. It makes me sad that others suffering with OCD might feel this way too. You are not a ‘weirdo’. You’re not ‘crazy’. You shouldn’t feel ashamed of something that has happened to you which is completely out of your control. OCD is not your fault.