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Saturday, June 11, 2011

Laugh It Off

The truth is, OCD is painful, heart-wrenching, even tragic at times. But let's face it. It's also kind of funny.
I mean, seriously. Going into spasms of panic every time someone goes to shake your hand? Breaking into a cold sweat as you realize that the number of words in that essay you just turned in isn't actually divisible by three? Dashing home during your lunch break to make sure that the doors really are locked and the stove really is off and the toaster really did get unplugged?
As hard as it is, try to think of it from a detached viewpoint. You'll find that the antics you go through every day are actually somewhat amusing.
One of the things that helps me cope with my OCD is just to laugh at it sometimes. Like almost anything else, OCD is multifaceted, and you can learn a lot by looking at it from a different angle.
As an example, here's an excerpt from a letter I wrote to my brother describing an OCD experience (names have been changed to protect the contaminated.)

During the third hour [of church] we were all crammed into one of the little rooms, which had only just been vacated by another group that had been crammed into it, so it was incredibly hot and stuffy. It was miserable. You know how with my OCD I freak out about germs and touching people and stuff? Well I ended up in the back row near the wall, squeezed between Mr. Hartman and a lady, both of whom kept coughing. Let's just say that there was some serious bubble invasion happening. :) After about half an hour of barely being able to breathe and being on the verge of hyperventilating, I saw a possible escape. On the row ahead of me, on the other side of the room, was an empty chair. It was at the end of the row, which meant I would only have people on one side of me, and there was a gap between it and the door, which meant that I would have a little bit of precious breathing space. The only problem was: how to get to the chair without anyone thinking that I had been mortally offended by Mr. Hartman and the lady sitting next to me, or that I had a major crush on Matt Elwood, who occupied the seat next to the one I was coveting.
Something had to be done.
Unable to stand it any longer I grabbed my things and made a mad dash for the door. Okay, so maybe it wasn't exactly a mad dash, but I went as quickly as I could while still waiting for everybody to get their legs out of the way for me. I went out into the hall on the pretense of getting a drink or something, and when I felt a sufficient amount of time had passed I went back into the room and snagged the chair by the door, trying to make it look like I just didn't want to go back to my old seat because I was afraid of disrupting the class. Mission Accomplished! That seat made the remaining half hour endurable, but I was so happy when the meeting was over. So you have a weird sister. Get used to it. :)

Okay, so it probably wouldn't win anything on America's Funniest Correspondence. The point is, in real life, as it was happening, this experience was rough. I was ready to jump out of my skin I was so tense. But instead of it remaining a terrible experience and leaving me scarred for life, I'm able to smile about it now. Why? Because in remembering and describing it I tried to recognize what was funny about the situation and my response to it.
You won't always be able to laugh about it, of course. It's serious stuff. But before all else fails and you're ready to dump your medication in the sink and throttle your therapist, try laughing a little at yourself. It's good medicine.


  1. I agree. I've said, if I have to have a mental illness, at least I get one that's funny. Not every one can say they had an arguement with their sister when they were little over whether or not there were still outside germs on the computer keyboard that had been purchased weeks or months ago. Not everyone can say they thought the little dead branch they just walked over was a person. That was carried over from driving (since it's obviously more legitimate to think a tiny dead branch in the road is a person if you are driving). I think laughing can help. We could laugh or cry, and laughing is more pleasant.

  2. Yep. Things are rough when you're going through them - but oftentimes (a couple years later) I'll be able to look back and laugh - because usually over that stretch of time, I've improved just a little - and I'm finally able to distance myself from the feelings of misery the situation caused originally. My goal is to hopefully be able to laugh at things as they're happening instead of months or years later.

  3. Abigail,
    There's looking on the bright side! As you said, we can either laugh or cry. Although OCD is a very controlling disorder, we still can choose how we're going to deal with it.

  4. Shana,
    It's true that things are hard to deal with when you're right in the middle of them. I have to admit, I usually can't laugh about things when they're happening to me, but often I'm able to laugh about them later. Of course, depending on how hard the experience was, it can be mere hours or whole years before I see the humor in it. But the humor is definitely there!