OCD is like a having a million voices inside your head. Now, a million is a bit cliché, so let’s make this more realistic. Imagine a crowd of 20 people, who follow you around and aggressively criticize your every thought and action.
“Oh, you picked up that spoon? Did you wash your hand first? No? Well now you are going to get sick when you use it! Wash your hand! You absolute idiot.”
“Now wash the spoon and the place where the spoon was!”
“You are so fucking stupid.”
“Is that antibacterial soap? Does it kill viruses also? Even if you clean it you could get an incurable virus!”
“Wait, did you use THAT sponge? That’s sponge was just on the side! Anyone could have used it before!” “It could have raw meat juice on it! Get a new sponge! Christ, how did you get this far you idiotic shit?”
“Now clean your hand, the spoon, the place where the spoon was, and the place you are going to put the sponge.”
“But wait, now THIS sponge is dirty! Get a new sponge! You are an idiot, how did you not realise this?!”.
Cut to me in the kitchen, frozen in panic, holding a spoon.
A single event such as this would seem comical, and in all fairness, I see it too! I bestow such impossible survival and transmission abilities to bacteria that, were it true, the human race would have been wiped out a long time ago. But this isn’t a one time event. This is every day. Every waking second, even those few moments before you open our eyes in the morning. Worry. Anxiety. Panic. Fear. That nauseating tightness in your chest. Because these actions aren’t just compulsions for their own benefit, to me they are necessary to avoid a much worse outcome. They are to avoid contracting, tetanus, HIV, cancer, or even some hitherto unrecognised skin infection that will ultimately spread over your entire body and render you disfigured and miserable for the rest of your painful existence. This is how I live my life. Disease and infection are everywhere, but I am the only one who sees it.
To me it makes a lot of sense to imagine OCD as a crowd of people, because the voices in my head never felt like mine. My voice was the one that just wanted to make a cup of tea, and not begin a two hour epic adventure into just how much antibacterial spray can I use before the fumes burn my throat? No, the voice of the compulsions was always someone else, they started out as suggestions “has that been cleaned properly? Could someone else have left it dirty? What if a fly has landed on that? That could make you ill you know, you can’t afford to be ill right now…” They were powerful, and compelling arguments, and I followed them. I cleaned, oh my how I cleaned, and disinfected and washed and bleached and scrubbed. The suggestions became commands, instructions, threats “clean this else you’ll get sick” “you are so stupid for not realising this before, you deserve to be ill”.