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Column: When life is more than planned

I’d like to think I’m successful, or so people tell me. My organizational skills are top notch, as they have to be when you’re an individual with two jobs, an internship, a full class load and activities for which I am on the board. You’ll notice I didn’t mention a social life or regular sleep, which often feel more like chores than anything. 

These habits do not make me special. Countless college students across the nation have committed to a similar lifestyle. Constant resume building and always presenting the best version of myself as I network in both academic and professional settings have taken over my world. 

There never seems to be enough hours in the day to do all that is being asked. It will only get done with meticulous care and planning. 

While I know many can empathize with my situation, there’s a particular aspect of my day-to-day life that often sets me apart. I have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). I have never uttered phrases such as “Ugh, it’s just my OCD acting up” or “I’m crazy because I’m OCD, I swear.” I never will. 

Being organized or liking to keep my space and myself consistently spotless doesn’t come close to encompassing what a day in my mind is like. 

Obsessive means focus to me. Focus on one sentence someone uttered that might have been negative until you’re behind on homework or have forgotten to communicate with another person for the rest of the day because you were too busy dissecting again. Focus on the fact you missed starting to check off a box on your page full of tasks by 15 minutes, because now your entire schedule feels ruined and you cannot breathe. 

The smallest inconveniences will cloud my mind in an instant. I’m a slave to them until the next thing comes along to grip my thoughts like a vice. 

Compulsive means helpless to stop it. Talk about the thing that upset you over and over no matter how you beg your mind to shut you up. Clean your room again: clutter in your space means clutter on your mind. My body will move through any exhaustion it may feel because it has to. I cannot rest until the task is done. 

When the routine I have rigidly planned is ruined, as it so easily is due to life’s unpredictability, I am helpless to keep my heart from racing and my mood from darkening in an instant. 

Disorders are disruptions. They are the culprits that bring days to abrupt halts and stop people in their tracks. Whether I’m in a frenzy over completing an important task or merely trying to exist without interruption, a disorder can flash in my face like headlights on an oncoming car determined to swerve into my lane. Suddenly, I’m off track. 

My desperation to get back on track only triggers the need to focus on the upsetting, which is when obsession rears its ugly head. Once compulsion joins its friends all I can do is surrender. For just a moment I let my world stop spinning. My head has to become clear enough to move forward. This is time I lose from my day. It’s time I have no choice but to take. 

There’s no “get over it” or “it isn’t a big deal.” Of all that I have accomplished, this is the one box I will never completely check off. So next time you crack a joke because your planner is color coded or your room is tidy, know that you had a choice in the matter. Others might not. 

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