For as long as I can remember, I’ve looked up to my teachers. I have yet to have a teacher I have disliked. While my learning style didn’t always match a teacher's teaching style, I still greatly respected them. As the years went on, I grew to care more and more about the opinions my teachers had of me, and I sought to be the best possible student. Naturally, my Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) takes over my idolization of teachers and uses it to fuel school-related compulsions.
I’ve always been a people-pleaser, eager to make others happy and be thought of positively. Growing up my mom was and is an idol of mine, someone who I look up to. As I got older and school became an important value, my teachers became more and more important. I grew to understand that I could admire people while also accepting that they are human.
Naturally, I want my teachers and mom to be proud of me, since I value their opinion and have the utmost respect for them. Whenever I’d go to work on an assignment, I’d worry about failing, and then I’d not only be homeless (catastrophizing at it’s finest) but I’d also be seen as a failure by my teachers.
Another thing that made me drawn to my teachers is that I consider them to be safe people. They have dedicated their life to helping others learn, and have an colossal amount of patience to deal with high schoolers. I know they are against cheating, skipping class, or any sort of bad behavior. When around teachers, there is no need for me to worry about how being around them could potentially negatively impact me because there aren’t any actions that I fear.
In addition, teachers are really good at giving me the reassurance my OCD wants. Teachers are naturally caring in nature and want to help students with any problems that they have. They are exceptional people to go to for advice, especially about anything school related. In addition, my OCD had me going around asking multiple teachers the same questions just to make sure the advice was as good as possible. With a lot of fear surrounding college, I have an endless well of worries and questions.
Due to my general difficulty with not asking reasurance questions, I am now limited from talking to teachers now that I am back at school. I feel absolutely horrible about it, like I’m ignoring them. With all the time I spent with teachers I became close friends with them, and usually preferred talking with them over students.
Another aspect of talking to teachers didn’t help me fight my OCD is being able to socialize with people my own age. I have essense contamination, which for me is a fear of taking on negative traits of others. I fear that if they do something bad and then I talk to them, I will then start doing the bad thing. While it isn’t rational, going to teacher’s rooms in the mornings allowed me to avoid socializing without an adult monitoring the conversation. If I socialize with peers, I risk becoming “contaminated” by something they say or do.
As hard as it may be for me, part of fighting my OCD involves less interaction with teachers. The model for fighting OCD typically followed is the overcorrection model, where the behavior is taken to the other extreme to make normal scenarios easier to handle. My favorite example to use is with germ contamination OCD. Over correcting for contamination would be working up to be able to eat gummy bears off of a public toilet seat, so that normal everyday activities will be a lot easier because the person has dealt with more extreme cases. For me, having restricted contact with teachers is part of my overcorrection.
While difficult, I am taking the steps to fight my OCD and regain balance in my life. With spending less time at school and minimizing my interactions with teachers, I am challenging myself everyday to connect with peers and get out of my comfort zone. I will always greatly admire my teachers, but I’m also growing to appreciate the bond between peers.