"When I was a kid, I always imagined I'd be normal by now." —Hannelore, Questionable Content.
Before I begin, I want to make it clear that this is not the first time I have talked about my OCD, and the way it impacts my life. I don't talk about it in depth all that often, because it's a daily thing for me. I'm not "normal" five days out of the week, and OCD on Mondays and Thursdays. I'm not cyclical. I am programmed in a way that doesn't quite fit the currently defined human median, and that's how I function all the time.
I started displaying signs of OCD when I was nine, although I didn't get formally diagnosed until I was nineteen. Because I'm not germaphobic (if anything, I'm virophillic) or a "cleaner," it was easy to write my insistence on following patterns and maintaining routines off as just one more aspect of me being a weird kid. And I was a weird kid, with or without the OCD. It's impossible for me to know who I would have been with a differently wired brain, but I like to think that I would have been a version of the self I am now. Just maybe one with a little less stuff, and a little less esoteric knowledge about bad B-grade horror movies.
My diagnosis was almost accidental. I was depressed; I went to see a doctor about my depression; one thing led to another; we arrived at a place that we both agreed matched up with the contents of my brain. (OCD is sometimes connected to depression. Hell, OCD sometimes causes depression, either because you can't keep up with your obsessions, or because your compulsions make you sad. I've had both these experiences. Neither is particularly fun.) I promptly told absolutely no one, because the OCD jokes were already common within my social circle, and I didn't want to deal. But I did start putting some basic coping strategies in place, and things got better. I didn't fly into a towering rage over people being late if we didn't set a start time. I learned to eat food without mashing it into an indistinguishable slurry. The beat went on.
As I've gotten older, my symptoms have matured with the rest of me, as have my coping strategies. I've finally reached the point where I can be less than two hours early for my flight, providing I have a printed boarding pass and priority boarding. I can travel with people who are more laid back than I am (although, to be fair, that's everyone). I can even go for dinner without having a pre-memorized menu (I don't get credit for this one; it turns out you can, with time, memorize a wide enough range of food combinations to be safe within a number of specific cuisines). And I mostly don't take it out on other people when things go wrong.
One in fifty Americans lives with OCD. I won't say "suffers from," because not all of us are suffering; I am not suffering. I am no more or less normal than anyone else. It's just that I start from a different position on the field. Some people with OCD do suffer, because it can be a crippling condition. It's the luck of the draw, the same as anything else.
The dominant idea of OCD is still Adrian Monk or Hannelore, or Emma from Glee. I've been in tears over her twice this season, because it breaks my heart a little when I see her struggling to control something she never asked for, never did anything to earn, and has to deal with all the same. Most people with OCD aren't these stereotypes. They're your friend who always has hand sanitizer, or your cousin who never leaves the house until seven minutes after the hour. They're the guy you went to college with who has a collection of lawn gnomes in his bathroom, and buys a new one every six months. They're your favorite football player. They're that composer you like.
I made a comment on Twitter earlier today that I was an "odd duck," because I wanted to dance to a Ludo song at my wedding (no, one isn't planned, I just like to plan ahead). Celticora replied, "You're not an odd duck, you're a normal platypus." I think I'm going to roll with that. So the next time someone wants to be early, or can't leave the house without checking that the toaster is unplugged, or does something else you can't understand but that doesn't actually hurt you, remember, it's a big ecosystem. We have room for ducks and platypi.
Everybody loves a semi-aquatic egg-laying mammal of action, right?