This is going to sound like a bit of a heavy subject to go into, but i promise if you stick with it you will see the reason why I’m discussing it and hopefully, derive benefit from reading it.
A lot has been made of possible cause of OCD, which factors make it better or worse, how it affects day to day life or how it affects those around us, what i want to look at today is the cost of OCD to those who have it.
These costs can be financial: for every time you’ve had to buy more hand soap or sanitiser to clean, replacing clothes that are “unclean”, more food because you threw away the last lot because there was something not quite right with it. To pay to replace door handles or taps damaged by constant checking to name but a few…
The cost of losing friends or relationships because you keep cancelling plans when you can’t face leaving the house due to anxiety attacks or you snap at those close to you when their normal behaviour comes into conflict with the set of rules you have in your head to keep things going “as it should be”.
But the main cost, the one which really burns more than any other, is the cost of something that you can never get back or replace: that cost is time……
I got to thinking the other night when I couldn’t sleep was i wonder how much of my life have i spent carrying out my compulsions. How much time i will never get back. The trade off of temporary relief from my obsessions against the time consumed trying to alleviate them.
For example, and bear with me here because this is not what would be classed as a scientific, an average hand wash for me is 5 mins, on average 5 times a day equals out at nearly 6.5 days a year just washing my hands.
That doesn’t include time spent with my super decontaminate showers, checking jeans for spiders, making sure doors and windows are closed, the oven is off, I haven’t sent the wrong text to the wrong person, or accidentally pocket-dialled someone at the same time as saying something uncomplimentary about them, staring at red stains wondering if it's blood, ruminating on thoughts going round and round in my head, the list goes on and on.
So every week a year I basically take a hand-washing vacation until I’m clean enough to perform open heart surgery. If someone said to you that you need to use one week of your holiday allowance from work just to stand at the sink and wash your hands you’d laugh right?
It was this train of thought that disturbed me so much. How many hours of my life has OCD stolen from me that i could’ve been doing something more productive? It's what grinds me the most: you can always earn more money, you can replace the things damaged or thrown away, but you never get that time back.
So I’ve started doing something, and its early days so who knows if it will stick, but it's worth a go. Every time I go to carry out a compulsion, I either try my utmost to not carry it out or (more realistically) I reduce the time spent doing it, even if that means washing my hands for 30 seconds less, or when I’m headed back to check the door for the 5th time, I stop and think “you could be doing something more worthwhile here mate, stop giving away your time…”. And every time i snatch back 30 seconds here, 2 minutes there, I feel such a sense of pride at my small victory and it helps me build for the next time.
So here it is, my point and my offering to anyone who struggles with OCD.
The battle against OCD and indeed any mental illness, can be a lifelong slog and you need any and all weapons available to you to fight it. Therapy, medication, self-help books, support groups, exercise: they are all brilliant and worthwhile areas and it's up to each person to try to see which combination helps them. I've used many of these myself and still do.
With this realisation about the time thief that is OCD, I have created for myself a new weapon in my fight and if anyone reading this wants to try it too then why not? what have we got to lose huh?
So, here's to continuing to fight the fight, and never giving up. Take care