To begin, I’d like to take umbrage with the term “functional.” I think that means something different to everyone and I don’t want to judge others for what they can or cannot do. What I mean here is OCD that is medicated and at a level that I find acceptable on a daily basis.
Sometimes I still have to count my medications to make sure I haven’t doubled up on my medication. Or I stand in front of my pill bottles and think through my day to remember if I’ve taken my meds or put in my eye drops or rubbed my antibiotic cream into my wound from my missing mole. Sometimes I try to decide if it’s better to skip a possible does or possibly double up on it—even though I’m 95% sure that I haven’t already taken it.
But the difference on medication, is that I manage to make a decision without breaking down and crying or asking for help. I can then move on with my day. And that’s been a really big gift lately after I had eye surgery and had to put in eye drops four times a day, sometimes several at a time, and also had to use eczema and antibiotic cream multiple times a day. And this is on top of my usual medications.
It would be easy for me to be overwhelmed by all these medications—it triggers my need to count, worry over medical conditions, worry over overdoing on medications, and worry that I will make a mistake.
So do I still worry? Yes, but I can move on after a little bit of worrying. I’m not calling emergency numbers for reassurance. I’m not asking my local pharmacist if I’m okay. I’m not googling these questions. I’m handling the fear and uncertainty.
I’m proud of where I am. Of course, I have the medication to thank for helping me come to this position, but I also have worked really hard in and out of therapy for the last four years to reset my brain’s inaccurate, non-useful, and out and out damaging thought processes. I challenge my assumptions, I live with discomfort.
Sometimes, I even skip using hand sanitizer before meals in restaurants. I’m tolerating the germs.
And then of course, other days I ask my husband to wash his hands before unloading the dishwasher or after sweeping the floor. I can’t always help myself. Luckily, he’s used to it and tolerates it. But he is just as grateful as I am when I can let some of these fixations go and don’t press him to humor my OCD (like using hand sanitizer at restaurants).
My husband still asks me, “What’s the worst that could happen?” in an effort to reassure me, which still never really works. Somedays, I still catastrophize and always conclude with “and the death of you, me, all our loved ones.” Other days, I can restrict myself to just hypothesizing food poisoning or being stranded in the middle of nowhere.
The upshot of all of this is that OCD has not gone away. My brain still works in many of the same ways as it did before the medication and therapy, but I can recognize these patterns and distinguish between serious worries and unlikely scenarios. I can move past my fears. I can live with them when I need to. I can tolerate more discomfort. I am less rigid in my behaviors. I don’t ruminate quite as much. All of these things have made a significant different to me and my loved ones. I’m grateful for the progress I’ve made in the last four years. I hope to continue to make progress, but I’m okay like this: being someone with OCD and with an OCD brain.