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By Dale Vernor

Stories from the community are submitted and edited by Toni Palombi. If you are interested in sharing your story you can view submission details at www.iocdf.org/ocd-stories.

Television shows such as Monk can be misleading as they often portray obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) as being only about a fear of germs. However, OCD is far more complex. I live with OCD and I am not obsessive compulsive about germs at all. However, I have obsessions with numbers, time and recurrently checking whether I have locked my door.

For a long time, I thought these compulsions were simply eccentricities that were not uncommon. However, as I aged, I realized my obsessions and compulsions were not eccentricities but symptomatic of something more serious. I became increasingly aware that the anxiety I felt over certain subjects weren’t just quirks.

Looking back, I realize that I have experienced OCD obsessions and compulsions since I was a child. As a child, I would count the steps I took each day. For some inexplicable reason, I had to take a certain number of steps before I reached my destination. I always looked at the pavement when I walked to make sure I did not step on any cracks on the sidewalk; I was nearly a teenager before I felt I could take my eyes off the pavement when I walked. I never told my parents because I believed that other children were doing the same thing.

As an adult my obsessions with numbers has led to challenging situations. For example, I have over drafted my bank account many times because of this obsession when filling my car with gas. The amount I spend on gas must end in a zero or else I have an uneasy feeling. My obsessions compel me to keep pumping the gas even though I know I have exceeded the amount in my bank account (I use a card with a limited amount of funds that is not attached to my savings account). The $30 overdraft fee does not work as a deterrent; ensuring the amount ends in a zero reduces my anxiety albeit temporarily.

I’m also extremely obsessed with time. I can only leave the house at certain times, even if it makes me late for an event. The minutes must end in 5 or 0 for me to leave the house otherwise I feel a surge of anxiety. If it’s only 1:01, I can’t leave the house for another four minutes. If I miss the five-minute mark, I have to wait until 1:10 to leave. I feel horrible because I have been late to events and kept people waiting, including my son.

There are endless examples of situations where my obsessions and compulsions have taken over my life. However, I have now managed to control the OCD through exposure and response prevention therapy (ERP). I was able to get to this point thanks largely to a client with OCD who receives ERP treatment from her psychologist; I was helping her to write and edit a book about her experiences and learning about her treatment taught me how ERP can be used to manage my own OCD. I am very grateful that I met her. I am happy to say that presently I am able to control my symptoms and I rarely have issues related to OCD compulsions or obsessions.

Dale Vernor is a writer and researcher in the fields of substance abuse and mental health. After battling with OCD, he was able to treat his mental health in a productive way and obtain his bachelor’s degree. Dale likes to write about mental health and substance abuse to help lift the negative stigma associated with both issues.

 

Comments

  • Ebony Jasmine Reices

    Wow. I am so shocked at how much every word you say conveys my whole life in illustration because that too is my everyday world. Since I was able 12 I’ve worn a watch, I’ve had my Casio digital watch for 9 years. When I unpack my groceries I put an even amount of drinks and food in the fridge. I’m. Obsessed with even numbers. I’m big on symmetry and geometric. I hate being late anywhere I go. I’m a stay at home mom but fortunate enough to be able to take my daughter to school. We have to leave the school @ 9. Any minute later matters to me for some reason. And reach a certain light by 9:07 and 9:22 for 9:30. And my gas has to even on 27.79 (27 is my angle number and my car always fills up at 27 ironically lol) this is just amazing. For some reason I always knew this of my. I count the rectangles on the ceiling of buildings, lights, always using my calculator cause ironically I’m horrible at math. But I never thought for it to be OCD. I dont think it affects my life, but I notice it every single time. I’m watching a show on Netflixx called the mind explain. If you’d like. Thank you. Would like to hear back.

    Reply

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