One thing I've learned about OCD is that it never takes a break. You have to be constantly on guard against it or it will control you more and more. Even when you think you've got it licked, it tends to crop up in another area you didn't expect. I know. It's rotten. But that's the way it is. One of the important things for me to remember is that I am not my OCD. That's easy to forget when you constantly hear phrases like, “I know I'm a little OCD,” or “I'm not really OCD, I just have a thing about this.” OCD is not you, it's just something you have.
Here's a dialogue I wrote a few years ago just for the heck of it, between myself and my OCD:
OCD: You know, you really ought to take a shower whenever someone touches you.
ME: That's ridiculous.
OCD: No, no, really. I mean, not when somebody shakes your hand or something. You can just go wash your hands then, but like if they touch your hair or your arm or something.
ME: Do you have any idea how many showers I would have to take if I did that?
OCD: Do you have any idea how sick it is to not shower when someone touches you? Think of all the things they could have been touching before they touched you!
ME: You've got a point.
OCD: Of course I've got a point! What, you think I sit around trying to convince you to do pointless things? I'm trying to help you out here, and this is the thanks I get? Anyway, I think you should try it.
ME: I guess maybe I could. I could just—wait a minute, wait a minute, hold it! No way. No way am I going to do that. It's a stupid idea and you know it.
OCD: What's so stupid about it? Come on, it can't hurt to try, can it?
ME: Actually, yeah, it can.
OCD: If you would just—
ME: No! You've got enough of these silly rituals. You don't need any more.
OCD: No, look, it's just an experiment.
ME: I am not—
OCD: I really think this will be good. It'll help you feel better, I promise.
ME: I don't want to.
OCD: Now, now. This will be good for you. You know how uncomfortable it is when people touch you. Don't you?
ME: Well . . . yeah.
OCD: See? This will help you feel more comfortable.
ME: I'm not going to do it.
OCD: Look, just try it for a couple days. If you decide you don't like it, fine. You don't have to do it anymore.
ME: If I try it for a couple days, I'll never stop doing it.
OCD: Don't be silly. I'm just suggesting it for your good. I really think it will help you.
ME: I really think it won't.
OCD: Come on, just—
ME: I won't do it.
OCD: No, just listen to me.
OCD: Fine then. You'll regret it though.
ME: I don't think so.
ME: Shut up.
This dialogue is neither witty nor brilliant, which is even more irritating when I realize that I have exhausting arguments like this every day with my OCD. Let me tell you something. The more you win arguments with your OCD, the easier it becomes. It never gets easy, but the more you do it, the more you gain confidence and realize that you really can stand your ground against this thing, and even regain territory you've lost in the past.
Whenever I'm struggling with something (which is a lot of the time), whether it be a doorknob that will not unlock, a computer program that won't work, or shoelaces tangled into a Gordian knot, my Dad tells me, “Ten percent smarter than the shoelaces, Sam.” (Or whatever it is that's giving me a hard time). “Ten percent smarter, that's all you've got to be.” It always makes me laugh and somehow I get it figured out.
It's the same thing with OCD. When it's coming up with new strategies and throwing obstacles in your way that seem insurmountable, just tell yourself: “Ten percent smarter than the OCD, that's all you've got to be. Just ten percent smarter than the OCD.” Who knows? You may surprise yourself.