Updated: Sep 30, 2020
Covid-19 has swept into our lives and affected all of us. One might think that for someone with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, dealing with Covid would be a nightmare.
Well, not so fast....
While it has been difficult for everyone for a multitude of reasons, people with OCD have been ready for this type of situation for years. After speaking with a handful of people with depression, anxiety, and OCD, I’ve learned that we’re built for this. I’ve also learned that someone, who doesn’t suffer from those ailments, now has a clearer picture of what it's like to live with it and have anxiety.
One of the first questions I asked a selected group is does having anxiety and/or OCD give you an advantage living in the world of Covid? For the most part, that answer was yes; it does give us an advantage. We’ve been worrying about dying since day one. So having one more thing to worry about being fatal is much less of a big deal to us; we’re used to it. We already fear danger at every turn and with everything we do. To now have a legitimate illness to fear allows us to sit back and say "I told you so”. We have good reason to feverishly wash our hands constantly, obsess about germs, and use sanitizer and wipes. It’s no longer embarrassing to use these things overtly because a lot of people are using them and out in the open. Maybe we weren't as crazy as everyone thought. What I’m saying may be tongue-in-cheek, but there is some truth to them if you think about it.
One of the people I spoke with called Covid our “OCD Olympics”, and she’s right. We’ve been doing these things for years and quite frankly, we’re the best in the business when it comes to these habits. Not having to shake hands and hug people because it’s dangerous was something that came naturally to us. Getting to stay home at all times is exactly the life we prefer and now it’s perfectly okay to do. It's okay to work from home and not be out amongst the people and places we view as "dirty". It’s safer to stay at home and we’re quite content because it’s reduced the amount of anxiety we feel every second of every day. Dare I say it makes us happy? I know it did for me. The time during the shutdown was honestly the best time I’ve had in years. The amount of worrying I did was not what one would expect from a person with OCD. For someone who lives with devastating anxiety, I now don't have to worry about dealing with people and the stresses of daily life outside my home. I was much more at ease and calm.
There are, however, some challenges that this group mentioned for living in a Covid-19 world. Some of the people I spoke with said they worried so much more about their family than themselves during this time because of this new way of living. Their family, now were the ones who had to adjust and change their lifestyles and watching them have to deal with that was a challenge. Usually it's the other way around. I think we have much more empathy for our family members dealing with this because we know how hard it is. Another scary part of this for people with OCD is the lack of cleaning products like wipes and cleaner. The idea that these things were not readily available is quite scary because for some of us, those products are our lifelines. We simply cannot function without them. The thought of not having toilet paper is crazy for normal people and for us, it is a complete nightmare. One concern that I think everyone shares when dealing with Covid is how was this is going to affect each person and household financially. The people who were taken care of by larger unemployment amounts had much less stress than those who were finding ways to pay bills. That is a genuine concern that affects everyone, mentally ill or not.
Covid has forced everyone to think through everything they do; to constantly have a plan and response to every possibility. This is exactly what living with OCD is like. OCD is not just about cleaning things and dealing with germs. It’s worrying and obsessing about every possibility that could go wrong in everything you do. Covid has forced people to have this OCD way of thinking. They’ve obtained an OCD mindset and it’s hard for them. People want to be in control and Covid has shown everyone that we are NOT in control. This has led to a lot of anger, sadness, and desperation (which is something someone with OCD lives with constantly). Quite frankly, the public has handled this extra pressure pretty poorly and hopefully, (if they step back and think about the fact that this is what it's like to have crippling anxiety and OCD), they can find some answers. With my OCD, I am unable to go places, see people, and experience things like I would like to. Covid has made this the way for everyone. People can't go to the bar, out to eat, sporting events, and the list goes on and on. They’re being controlled the same way OCD and anxiety controls people with those ailments. That said, there are some things normal people can learn from those with OCD to help deal with this.
Even though COVID is a danger to all of us, we must constantly reassure ourselves that we will be ok. Self-talk is crucial to someone with OCD. I'm not going to die, my world isn't going to end, my family is not always in danger are things we must tell ourselves daily. We need someone there or in our head to remind us if we are doing things as safely as we can, the likelihood of calamity is small. We don't have to dread the worst case in every scenario. We can stay safe by being smart, washing our hands, avoiding crowds, wearing masks, and cleaning things. We have to remind ourselves that we will be okay and that if we end up in a bad spot, we can work our way out of it; that it’s not necessarily the end for us. Having my mother to be my voice of reason is a huge tool in dealing with my anxiety.
Also, take advantage of the opportunities you get to talk to people; Zoom with people and have interactions. A lot of people with mental illness are being forced to do things virtually and for some that’s hard. Take advantage of those virtual support groups, though. It may be hard at first but it gets easier. Can you imagine what it would have been like to deal with the Covid isolation in the past? Where technology didn't allow us to connect like we can now? It would have been brutal. Just use everything you have at your disposal.
So in addition to hearing that voice of reason, and being smart by listening to recommendations to help stay safe, there are two more things we can do while dealing with Covid. The first, is doing things each day that make us happy. If you think about what would be the best thing for your life, it is doing things you enjoy as much as you can. It takes your mind off the stress and allows you to calm down and love life. The second thing we can do is to pray. Praying isn't for everyone and each individual has their own version of God. However, for me, this has been crucial for my sanity. I pray every night to deal with everything life throws at me. Having faith that you will be safe and taken care of goes a long way. These ideas aren't cure-alls, but they’re at least worth considering.
I'd like to say thanks for checking out this article and being willing to open your mind to new ideas. I hope everyone can stay safe and we can come out of this. That is my mindset and it’s helped me.