Wyman's Words: Everyone's wired a little differently, let's embrace it
Elizabeth Wyman is a senior journalism major and writes "Wyman's Words" for the Daily News. Her views do not necessarily agree with those of the newspaper. Write to Elizabeth at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I hate the number four.
I have absolutely no reason to hate the number four, but the sound, the look and the way my fingers feel spelling out that dreaded number makes me cringe as if somebody put nails to a chalkboard. Seem odd? Maybe quirky? Crazy? It is.
But that's Obsessive-compulsive disorder.
And that's my life.
OCD is a mental anxiety disorder causing recurring thoughts, obsessions and compulsions. It’s often portrayed on T.V. and in movies as comical and lighthearted.
It’s so much more than needing every inch of the bathroom floor tile to be clean or needing all of your sweaters to be hung up next to each other. That’s called being tidy, not OCD.
It’s a constant mental battle ensuing inside my head. Sometimes stalling me for 30 minutes while I complete a menial ritual, my OCD — I call it mine because everyone’s is different — forces me to complete before I can move on with my life.
I should have known at a young age my brain was wired differently. I had a completely irrational fear of holding other people's hands. Most troublesome I would assume for my parents who were trying to keep track of an energetic young child without being able to say, "hold my hand as we cross the street."
I wore long-sleeved shirts and had my parents hold my sleeve instead of my hand. Sure, there were stares as we walked through the grocery store like that. Or standing in the pews at church reciting the “Our Father” as my overly stretched-out long-sleeve shirt firmly grasped in my dad’s hand.
Why did I hate people touching my hands? I don’t know, but it felt wrong, and my OCD is a constant struggle of trying to feel “right.”
Really, a sub-type of OCD is deemed “Just Right” OCD. The need to perform tasks until they feel “just right,” and the number four will never feel right to me.
In elementary school I used to blink excessively. I couldn't stop until it felt right. People would stare. Kids and teachers would ask why I blinked so much or if I was having trouble seeing. What do you say to that? Sorry, my brain is telling me to do those things. I have to listen to my brain. If I would restrain myself from blinking I felt uncomfortable and unable to concentrate on anything else.
Or in high school, when I had to start taking my tests in separate rooms, receiving extra time because my OCD forced me to reread test questions three or more times — never four though, duh — just to be able to answer them.
My compulsions weren't all bad. I used to force myself to hit a 3-point shot — luckily there’s no 4-point shot in basketball — a free throw and layup, without missing, before I could walk off the court.
Maybe I'm a better journalist for it, always feeling the need to excessively check name spellings and titles.
That’s what real OCD is.
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, just over 2 percent of the United States population suffers from OCD — roughly one of every 40 people.
Most of those 2 percent suffer in silence. It’s embarrassing, it’s weird. It seems pointless. Why can’t we just forget about it?
When you have three deadlines, two papers and bills to pay, you can’t be stuck in that feeling of “wrongness.” Stuck in that feeling that you can’t stop obsessing about until you complete that compulsion. Whether that be needing to tap the kitchen table three times every time I walk past it, or being stuck on the fact that I can’t remember if I said thank you to someone who gave me a cookie.
I’ve described my OCD to my family in the past as being a “prisoner of my own mind.” In the past it has felt that way, but you learn to accept who you are and control only what you can.
Nobody’s OCD is the same. But the way we portray all mental illness should be; with compassion. Whether you suffer from depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder or despise the number four like me, it shouldn’t matter. Everyone’s wired a little funky in the head due to no fault of their own.
So let’s talk about it, address it, acknowledge it. Chances are somebody else has it, too.