OPINION: I have OCD. Now, it seems like everybody else does too

Irrational behavior seems rational in light of the coronavirus pandemic

Jordan Silva-Benham, Copy Editor

When I was 10 years old, I asked my mom if there was anything I could do to never have to face germs again. She told me no — it was not rational to hide from what is only natural. 

That same year, I put on full gloves and a surgical mask to go outside and ride my scooter. I’m sure everyone thought I looked crazy.

For nearly seven years, I washed my hands so much they bled. I wouldn’t use public restrooms. I sanitized my school desk so much my classmates mocked me. 

Well, guess what? Now, the government is asking me to do those exact behaviors. The joke is on you all, I was simply ahead of the flattened curve

I was diagnosed with obsessive-compulsive disorder over a decade ago, but I can remember having symptoms as far back as 2004, when I was 5. Everything and everyone was contaminated.

I washed my hands so much they would not stop burning until I stuck them in jars of lotion. I showered so much my skin peeled. I was once so afraid of getting sick, I threw up. The irony!

I could get into a whole sob story about this, but I’ll spare the details. I started taking pills. I did all of the cognitive behavioral therapy any child could ever stand. 

To keep it short, I have OCD, but it’s extremely manageable. I am lucky that I’ve been able to receive years of treatment and medication, and maintain a “normal” life with a disorder that tends to be persistent and debilitating. 

I mean, sort of. I tend to revert to obsessions when things get stressful (hi, coronavirus). 

When people first got started freaking out about the virus, I was annoyed. My biggest fear was losing my job (I did) and not being able to leave my home (I can’t). 

I figured I spent too many years being afraid of viruses. After all, how bad could it be?

Then, school got shut down. Gyms got shut down. Bars got shut down. And I realized I was stupid for not taking this seriously.

So, I decided I would stay inside because everybody told me to. Because I figured the more we all avoid human contact, the fewer at-risk people will die and the sooner we can get back to normal. 

The terror hit me not that long ago — a nice, Saturday morning, actually. I was triggered by a piece in New York Magazine, which essentially went through a hypothetical scenario in which somebody contracts the virus. I will leave it here but fair warning do not fucking read this if you have anxiety.

That piece set something off in me and I have not seemed to grab onto my apathetic attitude since. I’ve been going on runs but flipping 180 degrees every time I see somebody in the distance. I have a bottle of disinfectant in my car. I wince every time one of my roommates coughs.

I cut my OCD medication prescription in half so I could wait to visit the pharmacy. I ran out of medication but refused to give the pharmacist my phone so he could copy my insurance information down. I ended up putting $98 on my credit card for a prescription that usually costs me $20. 

The other day, I went out to get groceries and spent 30 minutes trying to find the store with the least amount of people in the parking lot. I rushed through, went home and sanitized every single item I bought. I washed my vegetables and threw away the bags. I sprayed my phone, keys, headphones and driver’s license with disinfectant. I put all my clothes in the hamper and took a shower before I ate lunch.

I could not help but ask myself, is this rational?

Then I remembered, it was my boyfriend who told me to sanitize my food packages and he has never shown any fear of germs, quite the opposite actually — the chillest person I’ve ever met. 

Suddenly, everybody is sanitizing. Suddenly everybody is obsessive. I feel vindicated, in a way. 

I do not have an answer for how to deal with enforced extreme social distancing and sanitation when you’ve been told that disrupting your life is not a good or healthy way to deal with germs. Maybe you’re reading this and were looking for an answer, but these are unprecedented times and I only have precedent answers. 

(It is the right thing, by the way. Please listen to actual professionals, not me).

More so, I do not know how I will return to a life of sharing drinks and food or even leaving my room. 

Usually, the way to counteract OCD is to ignore the obsession and to accept uncertainty. I was taught to overcome it by my therapist lecturing me with the question “and what if you get sick?” as a way to make me realize that nothing really would happen in the grand scheme of things. 

Well, doctor, if I get sick now my grandparents, all my elderly and immunocompromised neighbors and maybe even I could die. The CDC said so.

Maybe I was right all along. I want the last 10 years of therapy bills back.