My husband took me to the cinema last night. On the way I felt a sudden pang of panic. I became worried that I might not have enough “OCD stuff” with me. I quickly opened my purse and did an inventory. These are the items I pulled from my purse; assorted superhero Band-Aids, multiple tubes of lip balm, and a little Deadpool figurine. My panic quickly alleviated when I saw these items. This is what obsessive compulsive disorder can look like.
I don’t publish new blog posts often enough. Perhaps I think blog posts need to be formal. Although, I do post to social networks frequently. This is typically something I’d post to social networks, but today I want to blog about the things I carry for obsessive compulsive disorder.
I’m living with obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). I have two primary obsessive compulsions; skin-picking (dermatillomania), and lip balm application.
You might be wondering why Band-Aids, lip balm, and a little Deadpool are so important to me. Here’s why:
Band-Aids for Skin-Picking
I’m living with dermatillomania; an obsessive compulsive skin-picking disorder. To clarify, I don’t mean picking at a hangnail. I mean picking relentlessly and obsessively at my hands, arms, legs, and sometimes my face. This obsessive behavior is present constantly, but heightened when I’m anxious.
I often use Band-Aids to cover up the spots that I pick, especially when I’m in a public place like the cinema. This can keep my picking to a minimum. It also covers the visually unappealing wounds that I create. However, I don’t always notice that I’m picking. Sometimes it has to be brought to my attention by my husband or a friend. If my skin-picking goes unnoticed it can get pretty out of hand…
For example, During Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom I was skin-picking my fingers, but I didn’t notice. I picked for so long that my hands were covered in blood. I had to leave the film to wash my hands and use hand sanitizer. I returned with multiple Band-Aids covering my fingers. It was painful, embarrassing, and totally unsanitary. However, if I notice my skin-picking, I quickly apply a Band-Aid and work to put the urge out of my mind. It isn’t easy.
Lip Balm Not as Directed
I apply lip balm as an obsessive compulsion. I’m not talking about applying lip balm (as directed) for chapped lips. In my case, lip balm application is a severe and unhealthy obsessive compulsion: it’s a repetitive behavior that I feel the uncontrollable urge to repeat, over-and-over, in response to my obsessive thoughts.
I apply lip balm every 10-30 minutes and more often on super anxious days. It sounds unbelievable, but it’s true. It’s an all-consuming compulsion. If I need to apply lip balm, and don’t have any, I become extremely panicked almost immediately. It’s terrifying, inconvenient, and embarrassing.
I recently set a record that I’m extremely proud of, though. I didn’t use lip balm at all during my second cinema viewing of Deadpool 2. I went to the cinema alone. I sat in my seat. I put my lip balm inside my purse. I didn’t use it at all during the film. It was a really, really big deal.
A Little Deadpool Always Helps
My little Deadpool figurine is a relief item. It serves many purposes. More than anything, he’s my anxiety contingency plan…
Mechanically, he can serve as a fidget that keeps me from skin-picking. In some instances, I notice myself picking and put on a Band-Aid but I still can’t shake the urge. I sometimes find myself picking the Band-Aid off. So, for those times, I pull out little Deadpool and fidget with him. He’s a nice distraction.
Emotionally, he’s a nice reminder that I don’t have to be perfect. Living with a mental illness isn’t exactly easy. I often use humor to cope, and nothing can make me laugh more than Ryan Reynolds. I mean, Ryan Reynolds himself once said, “laughing can serve you in dark moments, and help you crawl back out”, and it’s absolutely true. When I’m in the depths of darkness, depression, or confusion I watch films. Ryan Reynolds can always make me laugh. That’s worth something. Ryan Reynolds also talks openly about his anxiety. It makes me feel like I’m not alone. That’s priceless. I even wrote a blog post about this topic. So, having a little Deadpool to fidget with helps me emotionally.
Why I’m Sharing This
You may be wondering: “why would she share this ugliness?” I share because someone like me might read this, and I want them to know that they are not alone. To me, this is real life. This is real life for many people living with obsessive compulsive disorder. If you are like me, and you are reading this — you are not alone. If you are struggling, reach out and ask for help. Call a helpline. Go to the doctor. Talk to a friend. There is strength in asking for help. There is strength in support. You are worth it. You are spectacular. Please, remember: you are strong and amazing.
Something Else I Want You to Know
Most people probably carry Band-Aids and/or lip balm around. However, there is huge a difference between carrying something around because it’s convenient and carrying something around because of an obsessive compulsion or dependency on the item. I have an actual dependency on these items, their absence would cause me a great deal of anxiety and pain. Also, having to carry all of this around everywhere is super inconvenient.
Please, keep this in mind before you make an insensitive comment about how you’re “sooooo OCD too sometimes” and how during the Fall months your “lips are sooo chapped” so you “totally know what I mean about the OCD thing”. Because no, you totally don’t know what I mean. I’m living with a disorder that is misunderstood by the general public. My disorder is unfairly used as a punchline, a trendy adjective, and as a way to explain common organizational quirks. So, please don’t do that. If you want to learn more about OCD see the basic definitions at the end of this post.
Sincerely, Elizabeth Banks
The Uncustomary Housewife
PS — Also, for those who are curious. My husband and I had a great time at the cinema last night. We watched ‘Where’d You Go, Bernadette?’ and ‘Hobbs & Shaw’ (yes, Ryan Reynolds). It was a really fun night.
You can keep up with what I’m doing and read more about mental health by connecting with me on social networks: Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. You can also subscribe to the Uncustomary Housewife Blog.
Learn More About OCD
What is Obsessive Compulsive Disorder?
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is characterized by two main things; Obsessions and Compulsions. Obsessions are repetitive and intrusive thoughts that are often unwanted. Most of the time, people know their obsessions are irrational but are unable to divert their attention from the obsession. Compulsions are irrational and excessive urges to complete certain actions. These repetitive actions can temporarily relieve the stress brought on by an obsession. Most of the time, people know that these rituals are irrational, but are unable to prevent the need to perform them. Like obsessions, people may try not to perform compulsive acts but feel forced to do so to relieve anxiety.
What is Dermatillomania?
Dermatillomania (also referred to as skin-picking or excoriation disorder) is a body-focused repetitive behavior and is related to obsessive compulsive disorder. It is characterized by the repeated picking at one’s own skin which results in skin lesions and causes significant disruption in one’s life.
To be diagnosed with obsessive compulsive disorder, a person must have: obsessions, compulsions, or both that are upsetting and cause difficulty with work, relationships, other parts of life, and typically last for at least an hour each day.