The conversation returned to this century when someone asked about OCD and work ethic. The presenter, laughing, exclaimed, "My OCDers are some of the best workers ever!" I think I actually laughed, too.
It's true that OCD affects my work ethic, among other parts of my life. I thought it time to count my blessings.
One necessary, precursory caveat: Sure, OCD was nothing I chose, just as I didn't choose any of my innate characteristics. Therefore, I'm not going so far as to be proud of my condition, as if I've accomplished a great feat in having it. I'm merely pointing out that nothing, no matter how hard, is all bad. Here's why that's true for my life:
- I apologize when I'm wrong. When obsessive compulsive disorder did what it's named for, i.e. throwing my life into chaos, I tried to get a hold of the intrusive thoughts that came with it. If I couldn't, I could at least feel guilt for them, which taught me what an apology really is, and when it's necessary. If I've hurt you or wronged you, you can be sure that I am comfortable humbling myself to ask for your forgiveness.
- I DO have an excellent work ethic. My job requires me to check things, and make sure they're correct. Guess what? I'm really, really good at it! Even better, this kind of controlled checking teaches me to be mindful, giving me daily practice at understanding how much is reasonable and how much is unrealistic perfection. Beyond checking, though, I have an honest desire to be good at everything I do. Again, an exercise in limits, but still.
- I think about things others don't. Whether it's tackling a problem or relating to another person, I do things a little differently. I posted before about my non-linear thinking, but there's more. Maybe it's akin to magical thinking, but I often make mental connections that aren't obvious to most other people.
If you and I have similar obsessions and compulsions, maybe these things are true for you, too. Do you care about people's feelings? Then love well. Show it, even to strangers. Are your thoughts a little off-kilter? Find a career that welcomes quirky creativity. If you haven't ever seen the other side of OCD, here's your challenge: In what ways has OCD made you who you are? How has it made you better?
Now, in the words of an old friend, I'll catch ya on the flip side.
*If you're interested in people in history who have OCD/scrupulosity, put John Bunyan on your list, too.