"The List"

“The List” was created by my mom as a last ditch effort to attempt to get my Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) under control enough to survive making it through my senior year. I know that sounds really bleak, but it’s the reality of the place I’m in. I got the list maybe four weeks ago, and unsuccessful completion will result in me going to an intensive outpatient treatment program.

I will be going to a treatment program before college, it’s just a matter of when. School is one of my core values, something that I would be incomplete without. Since it is so important to me, it makes a great incentive to do exposures. Even with the fire lit under me, I still struggle to do the exposures, both from the obsession fear and also from the fear of how others around me will respond (the social anxiety I thought I got mostly over in middle school just shifted forms).

Hiding my OCD from the general observer is an art I’ve become quite skilled at. I can remember making up excuses and being subtle about my compulsions as far back as the first grade. Twelve years have been spent, day in and day out, minimizing the amount the general public noticed my OCD.

I adapted the persona that best covers up any signs of sticking out, a way for my OCD to protect itself. Being a socially anxious child, being different was terrifying, and something to be avoided at all costs. I chose to embrace the mask where people wouldn’t question as much, giving my OCD room to thrive and allowing it to pass undetected.

I’ve had a decent amount of time to work on the list, and I’m going to be pretty honest in saying that it hasn’t gone so great. The bullets that are highlighted signify the things that are expected to happen daily (I got one week to implement them) and the rest are to be done until the fear response is at a manageable level where I am still able to function despite not performing the compulsion. One thing to note is that Lincoln is the dog we got half a year ago. My thoughts on each individual one are quite varied….

  • Going to bed at 11 has happened maybe once at best.

  • I eat one meal that is mother approved as actually being balanced enough (it’s two of my approved meals usually and one that I’m willing to admit doesn’t come close to counting).

  • I’m drinking more water than before, but I’m at twoish glasses, not even close to 60 oz.

  • I’ve fallen asleep on the couch twice, which is a HUGE improvement from multiple times a day at the worst.

  • For exercise I’ve made it to the YMCA two times, once for lap swimming and another for Zumba. I’m surprised I went, but I have yet to be successful in going by myself.

  • I have not let the dog into my room. My room is my safe space and I’m guarding it like a toddler who clings to their favorite toy for dear life.

  • I have put things in the wrong spot at work, which was completely terrifying. If I knew where the correct spot is I’d wait as long as possible before breaking down to move it to the correct spot. If I couldn’t find the clothing, I occasionally build the courage to take an educated guess about its’ whereabouts.

  • I have picked up a double wrapped bag of dog poop and carried it two blocks home (while touching the edge to a tree stump, contaminating it. It sounds kind of stupid now but at the time I was terrified that I was going to cause someone to get sick and die from doing that).

  • I brush my teeth for three minutes twice a day, and no longer have a meltdown if I accidentally fall asleep before brushing my teeth at night. I also don’t overbrush the next morning to compensate (as tempting as it sounds).

  • I uttered one swear word quietly to myself as I showed up late to marching band (to be discussed).

  • I have not swam in a lake. I make plans and then chicken out (being really tired doesn’t help things any).

  • I have done my routines out of order! It became necessary as I seem to accidentally fall asleep at night with frequency and having a meltdown each morning would be really inconvenient. It goes to show that exposure and response prevention therapy (ERP) really does work.

  • Going to church has also been something I’ve chickened out of multiple times, so I haven’t given myself the opportunity to be late.

  • Both school related exposures have not been done as the day I write this is the first day of school.

  • I showed up late to marching band one day, which is high up in the list of scariest things I’ve ever done. It actually wasn’t intentional, even though I had already informed people about my intentions to be late. The night before I was not having a good night and stayed up quite late doing a compulsion, which backfired when I fell asleep on the couch in the morning.

  • I briefly took my bracelets on in a situation for a minute. Situations where I get sweaty are exempt from this because getting the bracelets dirty is a greater fear.

  • I attempted to rate men on Bachelor in Paradise (a similar, more anxiety-provoking show), but I just pointed out qualities in them I didn’t like.

  • Lincoln (the dog) has licked my legs (without my consent) and I have held a slobbered on ball, giving it and taking it from his mouth.

  • I have yet to intentionally play wrong notes at marching band. My procrastination caused me to miss the best time to do the exposure, when everyone else is more likely to mess up.

  • I have attempted to sing in the car, the best effort my extreme body tension allowed my vocal cords to achieve. It was very quiet, and the range was quite small. It also took almost an hour of a long car ride of opening my mouth without sound, getting some squeaks out, having single words, and finally actually getting a phrase to come out.

  • I held hands with someone once while walking from the closest shopping area (not registers) out the doors, and I have backed out since.

  • My mom has received a few hugs. I know this sounds like a lame excuse, but it almost never comes up in my mind to do so. I have gotten so accustomed to avoiding touch that I rarely if ever think about it anymore, so I forget.

  • No attempt has been made with raw meat.

As you can see, “The List” is having less than desirable results, something that is causing my issues with perfectionism to spike up. Now it is just a battle between my desire to go to school and my fear of failure versus my fear of all the things on “The List”. I have no idea which side will win, and I am learning to live with uncertainty, but I have hope to stay to complete my senior year.