Checking Stars with OCD

(Written for the December Blog Carnival of Mental Health. The theme is “Night”.)

When I was a little kid, I used to stare up at night sky whenever I could. I was fascinated by the endless amounts of stars and the way the moon was always changing. I was in awe of the crescent moon and the full moon, and there was nothing more terrific than staring at a full moon that looked almost golden in the sky, but those were and still are rare to glimpse.

The stars represented an almost overwhelming wealth of possibilities and I couldn’t figure out if I felt drowned in them or if I felt special. I think then, it was both, and it was wonderful.

I miss that sort of wonderment. That sort of wonder as you look at the sky, as you wonder what your place will be in the world. I miss wondering if I’ll be famous or rich or both. I miss wondering about my future in a far-off way, feeling like I’ll never ever make it because it’s just so far away when you’re a little kid.

Nights aren’t like that anymore. I’m terrified that I’ve become far too logical, except for the fact that logic has little place in OCD. I mean, what logic is there in constantly checking the door to make sure it’s locked, except of course, you may have not locked it properly the first time! So you check again, and set out to leave, but you may not have locked it properly that time either!

But I don’t look at the sky like I used to. Maybe I’m lazy. Maybe I can’t get out there easily. Maybe I’m scared. Maybe I’ll have to count the stars before I can go inside. Maybe if I see a shooting star, I’ll have to make the perfect wish, and spend an hour correcting it so that my thought won’t let anyone to die. Maybe one day, I’ll look at the night sky, and just look at it.

But for now? My nights have varying degrees. Some nights, I’ll collapse into bed and sleep like a rock because I’ll have drained all my energy from panicking about a doctor’s or a lawyer’s office. Other nights, I HAVE to have the right pajamas. It has to be the right top with the right pajamas, or it is wrong. And the right ones are not necessarily the matching ones and every night requires a certain right outfit. Once I’ve finished the process of picking out clothes, I’ll go to bed, but I won’t sleep until I’ve checked my alarm clock three times. And I can’t check it three times in a row, I have to give it some time! I dread the days when I don’t need an alarm clock, so I’ll often put it on regardless if I have to be somewhere the next morning.

During the night, I wonder if I used the oven that day. Did I? Did I remember to turn it off? I should get up and check. And even if I did turn it off, I still hit the ‘Off’ button a few times (three times) just to be sure. But when I go back to bed, I wonder if I really turned the oven off. If I didn’t, then the home will be set on fire.

Did I lock the door? Did I check? Is it safe? Can a serial killer get in? Do I have a weapon nearby if a serial killer or a rapist gets in? Will they use it against me?

Did I move things out of the way of the electric heater? What if something plastic melts and bursts into flames? Are all the electronics off? What if I left them on and by doing so they set things on fire?

What if I’m sick? What if I’m sick tomorrow? Do I have Tums for when I panic? Do I have all my stomach medicines to take when I freak out, so I don’t think I’m sick if I’m not? What if I am? What if?

Some nights it’s a never ending cycle. Some nights they’re thoughts that’ll pass quickly out of mind as I drift to sleep. Some nights, I drift quickly into sleep only to wake up in the vicious cycle. I wonder if they’ll ever stop. Sometimes, I even worry that they’ll stop. I worry that without the thoughts, I won’t be the same person, that I won’t be me. I like being me. But I want both. I want to be me and to still look at the night sky. I want to look at the stars and feel that wonderment before I go to check the stove and the locks. Maybe counting them wouldn’t be so bad. Maybe if I just make a really good wish.

Maybe I’ll check the stars every night. Make sure they’re still there. I don’t need another ritual, but I sure do miss them.

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7 Responses to Checking Stars with OCD

  1. CBTish says:

    I found this very moving. I read it twice. I hope one day you are able to look at the stars again and feel that wonderment with no strings attached.

  2. Pingback: Blog Carnival of Mental Health: Night « cbtish

  3. Charlotte says:

    Sometimes I really hate what OCD has done to me – taken away any joy and wonderment and replacing it with doubts and worries.

    I don’t look forward to things happening anymore, I don’t enjoy unexpected surprises, I am no longer able to simply look at things for their beauty without analysing everything about it.

    It’s sad. I hope that it goes.

    • sashasmithy says:

      I hope it goes away for you. I did find Cognitive Behavioral Therapy extremely helpful when I had a good therapist though, and I do recommend it. It doesn’t make everything go away, but it does make it a little bit easier to bear.

  4. Looks like you are an expert in this field, you got some great points there, but you’ll want to add a facebook button to your blog. I just bookmarked this article, although I had to complete it manually. Simply my $.02 🙂

    – Daniel

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