I used to go an entire work day with a full bladder. I’d spend the drive home wriggling and bouncing in my seat, praying with every fiber of my being that I was strong enough to keep from squirting. Then when I got home, I’d run up the stairs of my apartment building (wincing at every step), go barreling into my apartment (passed my poor wide-eyed cat), and just barely manage to pull down my pants before hitting the toilet seat.
Aaaaah, such relief…
The point of that lovely TMI?
I tortured myself this way because I agonized over all the possible scenarios that could be a consequence of getting up to go to the bathroom at work.
What if they think I’m leaving and that I’m a bad worker?
What if I physically bump into them awkwardly and they forever think I’m awkward?
What if someone is already in the bathroom and I accidentally try to open a locked door and embarrass them or myself for not knocking?
What if someone tries to talk to me on my way to the bathroom? Should I prepare for conversation?
Do I make eye contact?
What if I accidentally go into the wrong bathroom?
What if someone suspects that I’m not actually pissing and am really just trying to get out of work?
What if someone comes looking for me while I’m away from my desk?
What if I make uncontrollable bathroom noises that everyone can hear?
So I’d either punish my bladder or wait until I was certain everyone was away at lunch so I could piss in peace.
I didn’t discover that I have obsessive compulsive disorder until I was 23. Why? Because I only new OCD for the hyper-cleaning, compulsive side of it. Typically when people think “OCD,” they think germaphobes and people who compulsively clean, count, and agonize over hygiene. But once I started going to therapy for depression, I learned about the other extreme of OCD: obsessing.
The obsessiveness side of OCD is less visible than the compulsive cleaning side of it, because it all takes place in the form of thoughts. I had never even considered that the obsessive thoughts I had were nonsensical, unrealistic, and exaggerated. I just assumed I was terrible at life and needed to obsess about everything in order to survive and keep everyone from discovering that I am actually a fraud.
Once I learned about my OCD, it became easier to understand the beast. I still struggle every single day, but the combination of therapy and medication with a self-care routine helps me significantly.
I’ve found it particularly useful to give my OCD a name. Doing so helps me separate it from my unadulterated bacon and torture myself less. I’m able to see it as its own entity, a beast or villain of sorts, that I need to guard myself against. It empowers me; the more I know about it, the easier it is to identify its weaknesses and whenever it tries to finagle its way into my brain.
Lucille holds me to ridiculous standards. She convinces me that I need to be constantly thinking, figuring things out and never letting my guard down. She tells me that anything bad that happens is my fault somehow. She’s certain I am no good on my own, and that every single decision, down to the color shoes I wear, has some astronomical, domino effect on my fate. She over-analyzes everything and believes I have no right to deserve anything good. She punishes me for everything that doesn’t go as she hoped it would. She makes me work well beyond what any normal human being should be physically capable of doing. And she won’t let me take a piss or shit at work.
So why did I name her Lucille? Lucille is the same name the character Negan, from the popular TV show The Walking Dead, gives his baseball bat. Lucille has barbed wire wrapped around her so that Negan can use her to smash people’s brains to mush. He relies on Lucille as a crutch; he feels lost without this incredibly destructive object.
Much like Negan relies on his bat, I cling to my OCD for survival. I’ve leaned on it for survival most of my life. However, in reality, it’s been very destructive, with its sole purpose being to wreak havoc on my brain.
Now, I’m certainly no expert on OCD. Every time I become complacent and think I’ve got Lucille under control, she takes a massive swing from an unprotected direction. Surprise! However, I am getting better at identifying the false beliefs she tries to engrave on my brain. It took me a while to recognize that certain beliefs I was convinced were true are actually lies Lucille has been brainwashing me with, using her sharp sting to blind me from reality.
Here are some common (false) beliefs Lucille tries so hard to impress on me that you may be able to relate to.
I’m a Bother
I cannot tell you how many times I have withdrawn from or stayed out of conversations because I thought I was a bother and that no one wanted to hear what I had to say. I’m not just talking about situations where I should stand up for myself; I’ve struggled with believing anyone has any interest in listening to me in any social conversation. Lucille defaults to the belief that I am an inconvenience, and have no right to share myself with the world.
Thankfully, this is one belief I’ve been (mostly) successful at overcoming. I still have lingering thoughts about being a bother, but these days you can’t get me to shut up.
I’m a Fraud
Just keep your head down, shut up, and don’t let them see that you actually suck at everything.
Lucille likes to play this false belief on a constant loop. From work to socializing to my hobbies, Lucille makes me feel like I have to constantly be on my guard, always thinking ahead to keep anyone from finding out that I’m a fraud.
For example, I thoroughly enjoy improv. However, I still go to every improv show or rehearsal terrified that I’m going to suck, and that I’m just biding my time before everyone learns the truth. Lucille tells me that I have to prepare so as to avoid slipping up, allowing everyone to see my true pathetic self. I repeat every improv rule to myself over and over, so that I don’t risk forgetting and subsequently exposing myself. She tells me I have to be “on” the entire time, because I am not capable of saving face otherwise.
According to Lucille, there’s nothing more important than saving face.
I’m Not Allowed To Be Happy
Lucille believes if I’m happy, either someone else is unhappy or karma’s about to come bite me in the ass. “Common sense” thus dictates that I am not allowed to be happy. Everyone else’s happiness always comes before mine.
Ain’t that some screwed up logic?
I’m Not Allowed To Be Like Everyone Else
Along similar lines, Lucille says I’m not allowed to be like everyone else. This means I’m not allowed to give my mind a rest, take care of myself, pursue my dreams, or enjoy life’s simple pleasures without consequence. Whenever a sacrifice must be made, I’m the one who has to make it. If I mess something up, I don’t get any slack; I don’t deserve it. And I certainly don’t deserve to be the center of attention.
So stop looking at me, KAREN!
I Have To Do Everything Perfectly
Trust me, it’s not an ego thing; I don’t feel like I need to be perfect to show off or anything like that. No, when I say Lucille says I have to do everything perfectly, I mean she says it’s my obligation and responsibility to do so. As I said, I’m not allowed to be like everyone else, says Lucille. Everyone else is allowed to make mistakes, give themselves a break, do what they want, enjoy their imperfections; because they are innately worthy to do so. Lucille tells me this does not apply to me.
I’m Not Allowed to Make Mistakes
Again, Lucille demands perfection. As soon as I make a mistake, she says that’s it for me; I’m nothing. I’ve been exposed as the fraud that I am, and there is no coming back from it. I’ve let everyone down. Even if it’s something as simple as a typo in a blog post or locking my keys in the car.
They Don’t Like Me
You told a joke and they didn’t die from laughter. They don’t like you.
They only texted back “Lol.” They don’t like you.
You weren’t able to watch their cats this weekend. They don’t like you.
They already have friends. They don’t like you.
You’re the one who always starts the conversation. They don’t like you.
They didn’t give you a hug like they did the last time. They don’t like you.
They heard you pissing in the bathroom. They don’t like you.
This is just some of the bullshit Lucille pounds into me about people not liking me.
I Suck at This
Even before I have the chance to learn, Lucille says I already suck at whatever it is. She says I’m not competent enough to do anything.
You can imagine what math homework was like for me…
That Was a Stupid Thing To Say
The slightest smirk, blink, arm cross, or nose hair twitch I observe in someone after I’ve said something sets Lucille off on a rant about how stupid the thing was that I said. Then she tortures me, insisting that I figure out and understand exactly what was stupid about it, and consider all the possible ways the person I spoke to took what I said to form a negative opinion of me. Sometimes it’s not even something I said, but the way I said it (you laughed too much, you were too pushy, you sounded too sarcastic, you smiled funny, you should have smiled more) that Lucille claims was a major turnoff.
I Should Be More Like Them, They’re Better
Oh, how Lucille likes to compare me to everyone else. Especially anyone who has similar interests and passions as I do. She tells me that I better step up my game, otherwise everyone’s going to notice that that other person is ACTUALLY good at the thing I’m a fraud at. If they succeed, that automatically makes me a failure, and I no longer have any place doing whatever it is.
For example, when someone in the improv community has a particularly good show, Lucille says, “That’s It! Game over! If you don’t do better than THAT, you might as well throw in the towel. Everyone’s going to hate you now that they’ve seen what THAT person can do!”
Basically, Lucille believes I’m in a constant state of failure. She makes me feel like I have to continuously look for ways to balance out that failure. If I stop, I’m admitting defeat.
It’s All My Fault
Lucille always finds a way to convince me that everything, down to the most absurd things, is my fault. She says I somehow have control over everything, even just by the way I breathe. A single misstep can have major consequences.
For example, when I was about 10 years old, I lost a baby sister. She passed away just hours after birth. We knew it was a possibility for months, but I prayed and truly believed that my sister’s life was in my hands. If my faith wavered even an inch, I would kill her. I had to pray EXACTLY the right way; believe the right way.
When my sister still passed away upon birth, I was so disappointed with myself. I must not have prayed the right way. For at least a year, I continued praying, trying to find the right way to pray, honestly believing that I could somehow bring her back. Maybe we’d learn that the doctors had made a mistake and surprise! She’s actually still alive at the hospital. Or maybe God would make an exception and perform one of His biblical rise-from-the-dead miracles. Or something like that.
Obviously, I didn’t get the results I longed for, so Lucille plagued me for years for doing it all wrong. She told me I was a bad child who doesn’t “do faith” the right way, and that taking my sister away was God’s way of punishing me.
You can imagine the weight that lifted once I finally realized my sister’s death wasn’t my fault (some 13 years later… but better late than never, right?).
I’m Responsible for Fixing Everything
This is where toxic people like to swoop in and attach themselves to me like bloodthirsty leeches released into a pool during a summer birthday party.
No matter what it is, Lucille says it’s my responsibility to fix it. Someone grew up with drunk parents? Lucille says, “How dare you let that happen? Make them happy to make up for it.” Someone is going out of town, but has no one to watch her cats? Lucille says, “You better watch those cats and spoil them rotten!” My brother didn’t wash the dishes after dinner like he was supposed to and now Mom is upset? Lucille says, “Wash them dishes, bitch, and while you’re at it, scrub the floor, too!”
The same applies when I have a rift with someone. Even if I’m the one who was hurt, Lucille says, “Send them a lighthearted message and apologize and insist that it’s no big deal and go buy them a cupcake.”
I’m a Bad Person Because They Reacted Badly to What I Said/Did
Can you imagine if the colonies decided not to fight for America’s freedom because Great Britain didn’t like it and reacted badly? If Lucille had anything to say about it, the colonies would be sulking and admonishing themselves for being terrible people. “How could we have suggested something as awful as freedom?? We’re going to hell, for sure!”
Whether it’s religious differences or something stupid like I couldn’t find the liquor store they wanted me to swing by, when someone has a bad reaction to something I say or do, Lucille scolds me for causing someone any inconvenience or displeasure. I’m a horrible person if someone isn’t all sunshine and lollipops after interacting with me.
Move over, Satan. Hope you kept my seat warm.
They’re Talking About Me
Lucille obviously doesn’t think people have anything better to do. You told them you were too tired to go out tonight? Girl, guess what they’re probably saying about you! They’re going to figure out how much of a fungus you really are! You better overcompensate and hang out with them a ton next week. Or You were out of town for your friend’s birthday party? Oh boy, they’re all going to talk about how absent and unreliable you are.
Looking at it realistically, I know this is all hooey and that people have better things to do with their time. For the few who DO talk about me that way, I remind myself that it has nothing to do with me and everything to do with them. It’s not my responsibility to worry about what others think or say about me.
(Easier said than done, am I right?)
I’m Never Allowed to Take a Break
Another side effect of having Lucille on my shoulder is that she whispers to me that I’m not allowed to take a break. I mean, what is this “free time” I hear so much about?
Lucille says I am wasting time and “failing” or falling behind if I’m not constantly working at something. Home from work? Do some work from home to get ahead. Eat? Clean or do laundry instead. Go for a walk? No, your time is better spent reorganizing your mail for the gazillionth time.
It’s Not Them, It’s Always Me
Ever walk away from a social encounter feeling super shitty? Whenever this happens, Lucille immediately places full responsibility on me. You must have said something stupid, gave off a negative vibe, talked too much, came across too needy, were too distant, weren’t pretty enough, or you just bring out the worst in people… It’s always on me. Hell, according to Lucille, I’m solely responsible for my last two romantic relationships going sour. It wasn’t until I began my journey to mental health that I finally started considering, “Huh… Maybe it’s NOT just me, maybe it IS them….”
Some people ARE just assholes.
So yeah, Lucille can be a real bitch. But ever since I put a name to the beast, it’s easier to pull myself out whenever I get stuck in my head. It’s still a challenge, don’t get me wrong; I still have my breakdowns where I grapple with Lucille as she continues to relentlessly smack me where it hurts, and has me circling my thoughts round and round. But this pain in my ass has also made me extremely resilient, which has served me well in many instances. I’m never going to stop fighting her, which will only make my mental muscles stronger.
She’s certainly given me a resilient bladder, in any case.
Do you have a name for your mental disorder? If so, share it in the comments! If not, what WOULD you name your mental disorder, and why?