My best friend and I go to the same psychologist, and she coined the phrase “What would Bob do?” for when we aren’t exactly sure how we should react in a situation. This might seem extremely silly to some people, and it may very well be, but it is actually super helpful when you have OCD. We are sometimes instructed by psychologists to think, “okay, what would a normal person do in this circumstance?” and then, ideally, do that and not whatever compulsion you felt you had to do.
It seems so straight forward, to do what a normal person would do. But when you’ve had OCD for awhile, it actually isn’t because you can’t really remember what normal people do. One time I asked my husband how he showered— step by step— so I could see if, for instance, my hand washing in the shower or the order of how I washed myself was strange (it was). You start to get very personal very quickly with your psychologist when you have OCD, to the point where you aren’t even phased when he asks you, “So, take me through how you go the bathroom, step by step.” For that matter, you better hope you don’t have an enemy in group therapy because they probably know far more about you than any casual acquaintance should.
But back to the point. You start to forget how normal people act after you’ve had OCD for a good number of years. Or, you do remember and it suddenly (or not so suddenly) disgusts you. How can people use the same towel over and over again for days on end? Not using soap after you go to the bathroom? Are you kidding me? Your child was sick with the flu and you came out to this social gathering to escape the chaos? Get away from me!
This hyperawareness and anxiety about how normal people live their lives (in comparison to the excessively vigilant OCD sufferer) can make us (those with OCD) seem aloof, snobbish, antisocial, mean, or just plain weird. This is especially true when others don’t know that we have obsessive compulsive disorder. Really, we are just battling with our own minds, which are often telling us to freak out, run away, hide at home, or somehow compensate for the lack of compulsions in others.
For instance, let’s say that “so and so” came over and used my bathroom. She told me her daughter was home sick. Then she touched my counter, sat on my couch, and opened the front door herself. When she leaves, the OCD tells me that I must now sanitize the bathroom, change the hand towel, wipe down the counter and door knobs, and spray the couch with disinfectant. What should have been a simple, pleasant social interchange became an anxiety causing, compulsion inducing nightmare. I would probably also worry for the next two or three days that I was becoming sick, which would then limit where I go (so I don’t get others sick), what I do, etc. This is how the OCD mind can work: it likes to jump to the worst possible conclusion and then try to prevent it from becoming reality, all the while imagining how awful it will be when/if it does happen.
So please excuse us if we seem distant, strange, aloof, or snobby. We are probably just worried about our physical, emotional, and mental health and well being. It probably isn’t what any normal person would do, but that’s the struggle. Who is normal? And is normal the right way to be? 😉