I’ve alluded once or twice to my battle with OCD, and I’ve noticed that when I do I often get asked the same questions over and over. Here’s a brief self-interview with some info about my OCD, and how it relates to minimalism and simplicity.
Does having OCD mean you’re a germophobe?
For me, not necessarily. Many people assume that OCD equals an aversion to germs, but (while it is true for some people) that is not the case for me. My anxiety stems from an inability to easily reconcile what is from what my brain believes should be. Most people can understand and easily adjust to unmet expectation, but this is harder for my brain than for others’. For example, if my brain says that my kitchen floors should be clean, but I can feel crumbs under my feet as I walk around, I will experience anxiety because things aren’t right. In this case, it is a surface cleanliness that causes me problems, rather than germs. (The floor could be horribly germy, but if it looks and feels clean, I’m okay.) Other facets of OCD rear their ugly heads occasionally. I have minor issues with symmetry and order (three pencils on the desk should all face the same direction), noises (I often have to leave the room if others chew too loudly), and familiarity (I struggle to use unfamiliar utensils, or spend a lot of time in unfamiliar rooms).
What happens when your OCD is triggered?
OCD is an anxiety-inducing disorder. For me this means I experience severe difficulty breathing, dramatic temperature changes, sweaty palms, insomnia, and hives. Before I got a better handle on my asthma, I would often experience stress-induced attacks as well.
Do you take medication?
I have never yet been medicated for my anxiety. While I definitely don’t look down on anyone who does choose pharmaceutical help, I hope to never take medicine for this disorder. I used to take medicine for my asthma, allergies, and arthritis, and over the last two years I have worked very hard to get myself off of all of my prescriptions. I don’t want to go back to chemicals unless I have no other option. For now I’m working on a mixture of Emotional Freedom Techniques and immersion therapy, and I’m beginning to see some improvement. I’m optimistic!
Can’t you just talk yourself out of it?
Yes and no. The anxiety that I experience is a physical reaction, much like a fight-or-flight response. I have no real control over that reaction at this point. The mental processes that lead to that anxiety are in my mind, so to speak, so hypothetically I could train it out of myself (with help and time.) This, however, is a process not unlike training your body to stop having an allergic reaction to something. Much time and hard work goes into the endeavor, and even then some people will never be able to control their OCD without medication. I do yoga and meditate to help myself remain calm in trigger situations, and that helps a lot. Generally when I find myself becoming anxious, I just try to stay peaceful and wait it out.
Is your OCD the reason you became a minimalist?
On the contrary, my OCD was my biggest obstacle to this lifestyle. I had spent so much time as a pack rat that the idea of letting go of my familiar possessions and striking out into the unknown caused me a lot of struggle. Like with many mental disorders, I have good days and bad days, and often my “down swings” strike right around the time of a move or other dramatic life change.
Does simplicity help your OCD now that you’ve adjusted to it?
Very much. The time I’ve created by simplifying my schedule has allowed me to incorporate yoga and meditation into my daily routines. I lean on my breathing techniques pretty heavily when I’m experiencing anxiety. Having fewer possessions has made keeping my home clean exponentially easier, which keeps my atmosphere (and therefore my mind) very peaceful.
Do you have any other questions, or thoughts on OCD and Simplicity? Leave me a note in the comments!