Balancing studies with OCD

I wrote a piece last week about how studying accidentally lead to my OCD diagnosis, so I’ma continue the theme for this week and talk (very briefly) about how OCD affected my studying on a day-to-day basis .

First of all, my dudes, having OCD can actually be pretty productive for me in terms of organisation. HOTDAMN am I organised.

When I first started studying, I was waking up at 5:30 in the morning and getting home at 7:30 in the evening (until the long days triggered my physical health issues and then I studied from home). My routine was FLAWLESS. I had to-do lists for every section of my day. I had everything I would need to get ready in the morning lined up on my dresser, in the order that I’d need it. My life was like clockwork… like a perfectly oiled machine… like a really predictable sex life that involves gentle foreplay, followed by missionary, followed by pillow talk. My life was safe. It was dependable. And it was unbelievably f***ing boring.

This hyper-organisation element of OCD translated well when studying; my folders were all colour coordinated, my notes were hella neat, and I always did my work way before the deadline. My revision timetables were disgustingly precise, and my revision was (mostly – refer to last post) effective. I rehearsed and remembered the dates of my exams and repeated them in my head. I re-drafted essay after essay until I was (sort of) satisfied with it.

This all sounds great right? It’s great to be motivated right? It’s great to have OCD right? WRONG. YOU COULDN’T BE MORE WRONG. YOUR NAIVETY HATH FAILED YOU, DEAR SWEET READERS. I was stuck in a self-perpetuating downwards spiral of lined paper and biros. I never, ever had fun. But I did have control and safety and that comes pretty bloody close to fun if you ask me.

I am a complete perfectionist. I think I would be even if I didn’t have OCD, but the OCD certainly spices the perfectionism up with the odd “re-do that or your family will die” jibe (classic). I would take notes in class and then have to re-write them more neatly when I got home that night. If I made the slightest mistake I would have to scrunch the page up and start it again. Sometimes it wasn’t even an actual mistake – my brain just created reasons why it was rubbish. This was soooo time-consuming it’s unreal.

I wrote a LOT of notes as well. I had to be 100% thorough, to the point where I was learning stuff that wasn’t even in the curriculum just so that it felt ‘complete’ in my sad strange little head. This also evolved into me asking entirely irrelevant questions in lessons and most probably being labelled an irritating supernerd that loved the sound of my own voice. I absolutely don’t love the sound of my own voice by the way – or the four other voices telling me to touch that sticker on the wall or else I’ll accidentally murder someone in the next 30 minutes…

Anyway, these time-consuming rituals and reassurances shared a tiny sliver of room for the actual studying, but outside of that I lost touch with all of the things I enjoyed. I didn’t socialise with my friends, I didn’t have time to exercise, and I didn’t paint or walk. I didn’t do anything at all that I enjoyed actually.

I don’t regret it or feel sad about it in the slightest though, because I got the results I wanted and, to me, nothing else mattered at that point in time.

I’d be pretty interested to know what results I would have achieved if I didn’t have OCD. I have no idea if they’d be higher or lower. I think they would perhaps be higher because I’d have been focusing my concentration and time on the useful parts of the course.

Whether those few years were unhealthy or not is kind of irrelevant now. I can’t change the ruddy past and I’m at peace with the way I handled life during those few years. And at least I have an immaculate set of cue cards about rhesus monkeys and goslings I guess…

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