Should I laugh or cry about my OCD?

Some things are just not laughable. For instance, I have chronic migraines. I have yet to find a reason to laugh about that…I don’t cry about it either because that just makes it worse. But, OCD is different, at least to me.  OCD is something I’ve shed many tears over, but in an effort to live a somewhat peaceful life with this pesky roommate that resides in my head, I’ve also learned to laugh. Let me give you an example.

One evening we watched Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows with our kids. Then, right before bed, Chad and I watched an old episode of the X-Files. So, that night in my dreams, I found myself running with a group of my friends down a cobblestone street that resembled Diagon Alley because we were being chased by an extraterrestrial being that obviously meant us harm. With nowhere else to turn, we rushed into a dark pub. We spotted a rusty sign pointing to the restrooms, so we rushed in that direction. Tripping over one another, we crowded into the restroom, narrowly escaping the claws of this crazy extraterrestrial being. One of my friends pointed to the toilet and yelled, “There, it’s a portal!”

If you’re familiar with Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, you know the scene where Harry and Ron step into a toilet bowl and flush themselves in; the toilet bowl working as a portal. (Quick note: Harry and Ron had taken a swig of polyjuice potion, so they didn’t look like themselves while being flushed down the toilet. I however, did not have polyjuice potion in my dream; therefore I still looked very much like me.)

So, there we were crammed into this tiny restroom and my friends started taking turns laying belly down on the toilet seat and then the flushing action made them disappear, transporting them to…somewhere else. When all of my friends had been transported, I took a step towards the toilet seat and realize that it was covered in black smears from cigarette butts and tiny droplets of…well, you know. This toilet seat was NOT CLEAN. I stood there looking at the toilet and then back to the crazy extraterrestrial being that was trying to beat the door down. I took another step towards the toilet, but I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t touch that filthy seat; it was contaminated!  I actually thought through which was worse, touching the dirty toilet seat or succumbing to the crazy extraterrestrial being!

The beating on the door was getting stronger and the slide lock was coming off the wall. I took one more step towards the toilet and apparently decided I wanted to live because I started covering the seat with toilet paper! Only then, after meticulously applying a nice clean, cushy layer of protection between me and the contaminated toilet seat, did I lay belly down, push down on the handle (with a piece of toilet paper) and disappear, just as the crazy extraterrestrial being broke through the door and lunged towards me .

When I woke up the next morning, I laughed so hard I cried. I had no idea my OCD could show it’s face in my dreams! Not only did I laugh, but I shared this story with anyone who would listen and I welcomed them to laugh as well!

I do realize that no one, OCD or not, would want to touch a toilet seat covered in cigarette ash and ….well, you know. But, I don’t think someone without OCD would take the time in a life or death situation to think about which is worse…death by a crazy extraterrestrial being or the risk of contamination from the nasty toilet seat. I’m laughing to myself, even as I write this.

The older I get and the more familiar I become with my OCD, I find more and more opportunities to laugh at it. But, I admit, there are equal opportunities to cry. (And really, isn’t that a part of OCD, keeping everything equal?) There was a time when I would cook dinner for my family, convince myself it was contaminated, throw it away and start over. There was a time when I would fold the laundry, unfold it and fold it again. I often find myself washing my hands obsessively or being very mindful of who or what I touch when in public.

As embarrassing as OCD can be sometimes, I’m not sure I’ve ever wanted to cry over my outward quirks. I think what makes me want to cry is the simple fact that OCD has such a tight hold on me. I hate feeling controlled by it. I hate that it can grip me so tightly that I feel I have to turn to silly rituals and superstitions to get through the moment.

I know of people who are so tightly gripped by OCD that laughing at it seems….laughable. How could they possibly laugh at something that is ruining their lives? Thankfully, I’m not there, not anymore. OCD is a part of my life, but it’s not ruining my life.  And, I guess we all cope differently with our struggles. I sometimes think of this quote from Abraham Lincoln, “I laugh because I must not cry. That is all. That is all.”

Sometimes, when my OCD wrecks a perfectly good moment, ruins a perfectly good mood, or inconveniences someone I care about, I want to cry. But, I usually don’t. Not anymore. Instead, I laugh because I must not cry. For me, crying gives OCD more power. Crying makes me feel like a victim, like I’ve been defeated; and I hate that feeling. I try my hardest to weaken its grip with laughter whenever possible.

OCD is a part of me. I’ve had to learn to live it. For me, learning to live with it meant learning to laugh at it.  So, when people ask me if my OCD makes me laugh or cry, I answer, “YES!” How do you answer?


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