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Monday, July 23, 2012

How Do You Spell OCD?

You all thought I'd fallen off the face of the planet, didn't you? 'Fraid not. I've just had a lot on my plate, and one of the bigger things is school, specifically how I can take advantage of higher education with OCD, which is what I'm going to be talking about today. For any of you who may be hoping for answers, I'll apologize in advance: I have no answers. Just questions, which I now address to the cosmos at large in no particular order.  
How does one afford to go to school? As a person with OCD, the number and types of jobs I feel evenly remotely capable of performing seem pretty limited. Waitressing? I can just see myself attempting to take your order: “I'm sorry, sir, could you repeat that? I'm getting a little distracted by the buzz of conversation, the clatter of dishes, and the din of our restaurant's 'background' music. . . . Sorry, I still didn't catch it. Maybe you could write it down? Except you'll have to use your own pen, because I don't want you touching mine.
Bussing tables, perhaps. Gimme a break. If you think I'm going to wipe up your greasy fingerprints and pick up your saliva-smeared silverware and used napkins, you've got another thing coming.
Retail? Please. By the time I worked up the courage to say, “Can I help you find anything?” the customer would have finished their shopping and walked out the door.
Work in a grocery store? “Um, ma'am? Did you just touch that apple?” “Yes, but I don't want it, it's bruised.” “I'm sorry, ma'am, if you touch it you take it. That's the rule.”
Does this sound familiar to anybody? I don't want you to get the impression that I've never worked before or that I can't do anything, but I do have trouble fitting in at work, holding down a job for any significant length of time, and finding any kind of satisfaction in my work.
Would I be better off playing the lottery than trying to win a scholarship?
I've applied for about fifty that the deadline is now past for, with no result. I'm beginning to think that prospecting for gold in my backyard might be a better use of my time.
 How does one choose a school? I don't know if decision-making is a problem among most people with OCD, but I struggle to decide whether I want chocolate or vanilla ice cream in my cone; and if, (as I often do to avoid choosing) I decide I want a scoop of each, then which flavor on top and which on bottom? With decisiveness of that level, what am I supposed to do when confronted with a thousand universities?  
How does one survive school? Dorms, for instance. Dorms mean roommates. Roommates mean living with someone else. Living with someone else means that one of us is probably going to end up in a federal prison for trying to murder the other one.
Classrooms. How often do these rooms get scrubbed down with a lethal concoction of cleaning chemicals? Oh, a cleaning crew comes in, do they? Do they submerge the tables and chairs in boiling water and ammonia? I thought not. And you expect me to be able to focus on your lecture in this kind of squalor?
Transportation. 'Bus' is a filthy swear word that we are not going to sully this discussion with. And cars? I'm sorry, but how? It seems that every school poured a parking lot, dutifully reserved spaces for all the faculty, and then realized they only had two dozen spaces left for students.
 These issues may sound ridiculous to other people, but they're genuine concerns for me. I have an Associate's degree that I got online, and I would love to get a Bachelor's and then a Master's degree in linguistics, but at this point I don't see how that's ever going to be a real possibility. Does anyone have any insights as to how I might be able to make this work? Any unorthodox options that have worked for you?
I don't mean to sounds desperate but . . . HELP!!!


  1. Okay, the computer has eaten my comments, twice now. You aren't alone in the issue of OCD causing problems in job choice. I've worked in a deli making pizzas. OCD was a problem, but I was able to work around it. I was far from the fastest employee, but when I gave two weeks notice, my boss told me to come back if my new job didn't work out, so over all, she must not have been too put off by the slowness my OCD brought (as I thought through contamination issues). I worked at a cash register once, that went okay. Could you do that? Then people come to you instead of you going to them. Now I work at a day care. I've gotten through the OCD trouble through medication, therapy, and determination not to let my fears steal working with children from me; I really love working with children, so it was worth the fight with my mind for me.

    As for choosing schools... I've withdrawn from two right before starting my first semester and another after one semester. But I still managed to get an associate degree at the community college. I found that parking wasn't too bad as long as I got there early enough in the morning, which, for me, was before about 8:30 am. And I was one of those people who tried to never park by any other cars lest I accidently hit them. Now I am pursuing a bachelor's degree online. I've looked at a lot of programs online and this is the second I've tried. I like it a lot. Can you find the kind of program you are looking for online? They seem to keep offering more and more programs online.

    If you go in person, you could try talking to the people who help accommodate people with disabilities. You could possibly ask for help with note-taking so that you could review notes someone else wrote down in the safety of your own home where you weren't as distracted by the germs in the classroom. Or get recordings of the lectures? Maybe take your tests in a quieter environment? I don't know what all they would do, but your doctor or therapist might have some ideas.

    I hope you keep looking; there are lots of options. Good luck!

  2. Abigail,

    Thank you, thank you, thank you!

    Cashiering isn't a bad idea. I might be able to handle that. And I'm so glad you mentioned how your OCD made you slower than other employees at the deli. I'm the exact same way. I try to be a good worker, but while I'm very steady, I'm also very slow. I recently got a job stocking cards at a couple of stores for American Greetings, and that's one of the things that's been frustrating me. I'm given a specific amount of time by the company to get tasks done, and I just cannot seem to do it that fast no matter how hard I try. I keep telling myself that I'm new to this, that I'll get better, but speed is tough. I get so discouraged reading job descriptions that all seem to say, "Must be comfortable working in a fast-paced environment." I still don't know exactly how to fix it, but it was encouraging to me to hear that speed was an issue for you too, and that your boss seemed to like your work anyway.

    I've also been thinking about online bachelor's degree programs. I'm really interested in linguistics, but there doesn't seem to be a lot out there. I tried Ashford, and they seemed to be a reputable school, but at over $400 a credit there was no way I could make it work. So now I'm looking at online bachelor's degrees in other subjects, at less expensive schools, thinking maybe I can wait until master's level to get into linguistics. If you don't mind my asking, is your program through an online school, or a physical university that offers online programs? And how affordable is it? I'm just trying to get a feel for what's reasonable and what's not. I'm going to get in touch with somebody at the university near where I live and see if I can get some more information about their online programs and classes.

    And I never thought of talking to the people who help students with disabilities. I don't know, maybe I thought since I wasn't in a wheelchair or something they wouldn't take me seriously, but that's a really good idea; one that I'm going to act on!

    Thank you again, Abigail! I really appreciate your suggestions and your willingness to share your experiences with me so I know there are other people who have gone through these things and know what I'm talking about!

  3. I'm going to Utah State University, but online, so it's a physical university with an online program. The other online college I attended was Western Governor's University. I had an issue with my particular program, not the university as a whole, so I would still recommend it with some reservations. They were only online, and they didn't use normal credits, so if you learned quickly, you could save on tuition (they charge you per six months). Where I am now, Utah State University, they charge $262 per credit for undergraduate online classes - $333 per graduate credit. My degree is to be a bachelor's degree in Communication Disorders and Deaf Education (but so far have gotten VERY little specific for Deaf Education).

  4. I am currently a first year student at a university, and have encountered a ton of problems with my OCD, but I've also encountered a ton of positive things - and for the most part am much happier than I was in high school.

    Living with a roommate can be very tough, but exposing yourself slowly to things is a tool in getting better. Creating tools for coping has been the biggest asset to my life. Also, setting up alternatives if I can't do what everyone else is doing (taking exams, for example). I'm really pro open conversation, and finding help when and where you need it. Creating open dialogues with various school administrators - the most helpful being the office of disability.

    In terms of jobs. That is something I struggle a lot with. I am only a first year student so picking a career is not yet a problem, but finding a job that I can manage has been a bit of a struggle. During high school I worked in the office at my synagogue. This was the best job possible for me, because I like everything to be exactly the same and perfect and precise. My job was sending out mailings. In each envelop the exact same sheets went in, in the exact same order each time. The perfect job for someone with OCD like what I have. I also worked in a fast food restaurant, where I was in charge of putting condiments on the burgers. The restaurant had a specific formula that was required of me, which was also extremely helpful. It's great when you can find jobs that allow your OCD to be an asset - I shined at both these jobs! A job I struggled with was being a camp counselor.... Sometimes I couldn't get out of bed because of all the disorder around me.

    1. Thanks so much for your ideas, Elle. I have finally found an online program that fits my needs. It's not the exact degree I wanted, but beggars can't be choosers. It's only my first term, but I'm really enjoying it so far.
      Finding a job where your OCD can be an asset is a great idea! I worked for a few weeks at a doctor's office, organizing files, and it was such a perfect job! I was sad when it ended, but I'm going to keep looking for something more permanent and take your advice: look for something where my OCD can help me rather than hinder me.
      Thanks again so much for your ideas!

      P.S. You are so brave to even have tried being a camp counselor! I think I'd have been too scared to even think about it.