By Bill Mackie
I would like to start off by letting you know that I am not a medical professional, psychologist, physiatrist and I do not personally know a lot of medical facts about OCD. The only thing I know is what it is like to live with OCD every day of my life and the things that I have learned though my experiences in life. I hope that this story may inspire others to embrace their special ability and become self-empowered by what OCD can help them to achieve in life!
For those of you who do not know what Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is, well it is really simple, well not really… From the stereotypical diagnosis of OCD it results form of the development of an extreme phobia which in turn manifest into a compulsive behavioral pattern. Perhaps the most common stereotype being a person developing an extreme phobia to germs which manifests itself into a compulsive behavioral pattern where by the person can not stop washing themselves. Unfortunately this type of OCD only effects a very small number of people with OCD, the vast majority of us do not display such behavioral patterns and often go either undiagnosed or get misdiagnosed as having ADD or ADHD . The empowerment of OCD can manifest itself in many form; for example people with OCD are at high risk of becoming drug addicts, alcoholics, hoarders, cult leaders, activists, famous actors,pop musicians, artists, world class athletes, mathematicians, scientists, inventors, financial experts, lawyers, debaters, industrial tycoons and global leaders.It all depends on how each individual learns to harness the amazing power of this very special gift!
Yes you read it right, this is a very special gift that once mastered can allow one to excel beyond what others believe to be possible. The reason I say this is that I have lived it and done it. I owe a lot of this to my portents who took the time to learn about me and how my brain works and then they had the patience to help me understand myself. I don’t go into a lot detail here about that process, the main thing that we discovered is that people with OCD, ADD and ADHD all share one common thing, our brains are extremely hyper active. One of the early childhood signs of having any one of these conditions is that the individual may excel in in some subjects and fail miserably with others. People with OCD will typically withdraw from everything that does not interest them and will spend all their time working with the things that interest them. People ADD and ADHD on the other hand become disruptive and hyperactive and move quickly from one thing to the next. In both cases when they are asked why the answer is usually that they are bored… sound familiar.
Boredom is not the real answer, it really is that the individual has been posed with an internal question that they can not find the answer to and the mind gets so engrossed if finding the answer that nothing else matters. Here’s an example of how the OCD mindset works.
This something pretty well every parent can relate to: you tell your child to clean up their room.
The responses you get from your child are that they will do it or they won’t do it until you make me do it- sounds pretty typical…
Here’s what goes on in the OCD mind once they decide to comply with your request:
First we spend a lot of time trying to figure out exactly what you have told them to do. This is perhaps the biggest problem for people with OCD because our mind begins to think of every possible solution to your request and we become stuck in this process loop because we have not got enough information about what we have been requested to do (What your expectations are). To you the request was very simple- go clean your room. To us did you mean to; vacuum the floor, dust the furniture, put away the toys, make the bed, change the bed sheets, wash the windows, wash the floor, clean the bathroom, reorganize the closet, and this list goes on and on until every option has been considered and exhausted. Next we will spend time mapping out in our minds our plan of attack needed to accomplish the tasks. Finally we begin the cleaning job. After cleaning the room we begin the process again because we feel that we have missed something or that we could do it better and we will repeat this process over and over, each time making improvements to the process until everything is done to perfection.Needless to say that once you get someone with OCD to clean your house you will end up with the cleanest house on the block.
This may seem like a very simple and very silly example but this is how our minds work, it also is the reason that children with OCD refuse adamantly to clean their rooms when asked. We know that once we get into this loop our minds won’t allow us to stop because it wants to attain perfection!
This was the biggest breakthrough my parents made in dealing with my OCD and one that allowed me to go out into the world and live a relatively normal life and without having to resort to taking any drugs!
The solution was really simple but took us many years to master. Communication is the key, a person with OCD does not have a great capacity for listening to linear conversation. That is when you told them to clean their room this is a very linear topic that results in a yes or no answer. The OCD mind loves lots of data and specifics gathered through an negotiated process. That is a conversation revolving around a series questions and answers rather than requests. The biggest challenge for my parents was learning to ask me and negotiate rather than command me!
Here’s what worked for my parents and me in resolving the “Go clean your room” scenario…
Before even asking me to clean up my room, my mom first would ask me what I was doing and ask some more question about that subject. This is the most important step is learning how to effectively communicate with someone with OCD. You must first get to know where their mind is at, once you know that you can than redirect the conversation to the topic you want to discuss.The tough part for you is learning how to ask appropriate questions in order to get their attention. The second biggest challenge is learning how to give answers to the questions they pose to you. Once you master both of these skills 90% of the challenges in effectively dealing with someone with OCD can be handled with successful outcomes!
The next import factor in dealing with someone with OCD is understanding what triggers the OCD behavior. People with OCD are all great problem solvers because when posted with a challenge that interest them they will devote every bit of their energy to resolving the problem. This is why people with OCD can excel at things like art, music, acting, math, science, business, technology and athletics. When we put our minds to it nothing is impossible! The challenge for us is being able to maintain a balance so that we be not become totally engrossed in doing one thing! Again the solution to this problem is simple, we need to a have routine in our lives, however the process to making it work requires a lot of work. First you must understand the difference between routine and a structured schedule. Routines are things that are done a regular basis but without any structure or fixed schedules. In our example my parents made it a routine for me to clean one room of the house a day. Outside of this one simple request their were no other time constraints placed on accomplishing the task and it was up to me to make the time to get the task completed. Along with this request was a listing of exactly what was expected of me to accomplish that we established through the negotiation process. In the beginning these lists were extremely detailed, for example my mom would specifically write down every thing in detail, like dust each piece of furniture once only and don’t worry if you don’t get all the dust. Give the room a quick vacuum. Tidy up the magazines on the coffee table and put last months issues away in the bookcase. Don’t worry about anything else you can do it next week. This is just a simple example, but a very important tool for you to learn to use, eventually I got to the point where I no longer needed these lists and could go clean a room and walk away when finished! But it takes a lot of time and hard work to master these very basic skill.
Be forewarned schedules are deadly to someone with OCD! My parents’ only became aware that I had some sort of mental problem once I started school. It all began around grade 2 when my school day became more structured. I suddenly became a very withdrawn child, my teacher would make comments on my report cards like “Bill does not put forth any effort in English and does not complete the assignments when asked. However he has an incredible aptitude for math and science which consumes most of his time and he excels at with ease”. The problem revolved around the ridged structure of the education system, despite the fact that I could read and understand technical book well beyond my age group, having to drop that interest everyday when the class ended to go learn something else resulted in creating stress that I could not handle. I just wanted to be left alone with my science books! It took my parent many years to figure this one out, and in fact it wasn’t until I had my first major accident that they realized that was what the problem was( to learn more about this be sure to read ‘Thankful to be alive!”). Living in a highly structured scheduled environment structure can trigger OCD super fast because we become so preoccupied with meeting the structure and maintaining a schedule that our lives fall apart.
What I have learned throughout this whole process is to live my life by my version of the Kiss principle… Keep it satisfyingly sustainable!
My life is very routine, but without any structure or schedule. I have learned how to distribute intellect interests amongst several different yet related things at the same time so that I don not get totally consumed by any one thing. In my career choices I prefer working at many jobs part time at the same time and have never worked at a full time job where I performed only one primary job function. I have learned how to develop interests in subjects that are outside my comfort zone. In fact sitting down and writing these stories is something no one would have ever guessed that I would love doing so much! Once one learns how to embraced the empowerment of OCD, one can achieve amazing feats!
If you get chance to read “Smok’n DAWG the musician…” and “Smok’n DAWG the tech junkie…” and you will get a better understanding of what I am talking about. Now that I look back on my life and begun reliving it through these stories I am very thankful for all things that my OCD has empowered me to be able to accomplish. My only regret is waiting until I was 50 years old before I discovered it’s true beauty and power and stopped living in fear of what others would think of me because of the stigmatisms associated with Mental Illnesses. I am proud to be 100% OCD empowered!
Please sign the petition to change the label of OCD and more here. http://smokndawg.com/
The Smok’n DAWG’s motto for life…
““Yesterday is history, tomorrow is still a mystery, but today is a very special gift.
That’s why it is called the present, so savor this moment for it may be your last!”“
Bill “The Smok’n DAWG” Mackie
PS My door is always open and I would love to personally read your comments, suggestion and answer any questions you may have. Please feel free to contact me via my personal email “email@example.com” or if you would like to talk with me in person you can Skype the ‘smokndawg’ (please leave me a detailed voice message if I can’t answer your call right away and I will get back to you as soon as I can).
Bill “Smok’n DAWG” Mackie
The Digital Audio Workstation guy!