First of all, this week. It’s important because OCD is a very real, very tangible disorder that affects millions of people across the US. It’s often misdiagnosed or swept under the rug, but it’s very real and very painful.
I was diagnosed with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder as a teenager, but I’ve had it my entire life. As a child, I had very strict bedtime routines my parents would have to follow, and should the routine go awry or in a different direction, I’d beg them to start all over again. This meant singing lullabies in a particular order, tucking me in a certain way, and doing things in a proper order. As a child, I also had certain anxieties about smells. I’d even have my parents wash my toys because sometimes the smells of them made me uneasy.
As a teen, it was all about the obsessive thoughts and, well, obsessions. Thoughts about death and dying. Thoughts about sex and strange, peculiar, embarrassing fantasies. Obsessions with boys, people, routines. And a small-scale case of hoarding. Hoarding clothes, old makeup, magazines. To this day, I still hoard magazines – I have them saved in my closet for reasons unknown, but the thought of parting with them breaks my heart.
And as an adult, it’s the same story. Obsessed with routine, clinging to it desperately with a significant fear of change. Some days, it manifests itself as something more “minor”, like vacuuming the house until something inside of me clicks and feels better, or surrounding myself with magazines to feel more comfortable. Other times, it manifests as something far more sinister, and that’s when I begin picking. Nit-picking at myself and my flaws mentally, and physically ripping open my flesh and scalp with my fingers until I bleed. Those are the days where I feel completely overwhelmed by this disease; days where I feel like I’m stuck in a dark hole with the tunnel of light so far out of reach.
People often misunderstand OCD. OCD isn’t necessarily about being clean and tidy, though that’s most common. My OCD fluctuates. Some days, I’m obsessed with order and tidiness. I like my kitchen to be spotless and obsess over crumbs and counter stains until I can rid them. Other times, I have so much anxiety building up that piles of things build up, too. Books, magazines, receipts, pens, wrappers, clothes, garbage. I’ll be surrounded by it all without really noticing it. It isn’t until my mom comments on how my room is so dirty or someone complains that our kitchen table (where I work from) isn’t even visible under the piles of stuff. Then I get embarrassed. How did I let this get so bad? How did I let myself go?
It pains me when people make comments about being “so OCD” or joke about the disease. Just because you load your dishwasher a certain way or like to color coordinate your closet doesn’t mean you’re OCD. OCD is much more than that, it’s so much deeper and darker. It’s an insidious monster that affects the person’s every waking thought and action. In fact, each action we make, we’ve likely already obsessed about making it for hours, if not days before hand. We’ve already fantasized these elaborate scenarios of what could happen – what could go wrong – that when the scenario happens, we’re exhausted from dreading it and probing it for so long. It isn’t about wanting clean hands; it’s the intense, very real fear that something terrible will happen if we don’t clean them repeatedly. That sense of doom, like a dark cloud of dread and depression, looming over us, ready to open its arms and surround us any second. The very tangible feeling of panic coursing through our veins, our minds replaying everything in painstaking detail on repeat. That is what it’s like living with OCD. It’s no joke. It’s not funny. It’s very painful, very real.
And I understand that people joke. It’s not like I’ll start crying or slap you across the face if you make a joke like that. But personally, I liken it to the dreaded word “retarded.” I’d never make fun of someone and call them retarded because that hurts those who do have mental and/or physical disabilities. So why would you call yourself OCD when you don’t live your life suffering with it?
All I want is for people to be more aware of what they’re saying and how they say it. That’s all. And to have some compassion for those afflicted with this disorder. There’s such a gross, unnecessary stigma against mental illness in this country, making it often impossible to get the help people desperately need. We need to be more understanding and compassionate toward those suffering and offer an ear to listen, a shoulder to cry on, and a heart to help them heal.
I hope, if nothing else, that you are more aware of OCD after this post, and will make the changes in your life to end the stigma of mental illness and raise awareness about Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder if you know someone who may be suffering. And please, don’t blame them for the pile of magazines everywhere – sometimes, that’s the only shred of reality they have left.
Now, let’s talk about something far less sad, shall we? Liiiike these Dulce de Leche Cheesecake Bars, for example. They’re loaded with amazing caramel flavor and topped with a sprinkling of sea salt for that intoxicating sweet-and-salty goodness. And they’re a cinch to make!
Let’s just say Iatethewholepan. Because I’m not a liar and had no shame when devouring every last crumb. You will want to devour every last crumb, too!
*adapted from my Perfect Cheesecake Bars recipe
Dulce de Leche Cheesecake Bars
- 1½ cups cinnamon graham cracker crumbs finely ground
- 1/4 cup brown sugar
- 1/4 cup melted butter
- 2 (8-ounce pkgs) cream cheese softened to room temperature
- 2/3 cup sugar
- 2 eggs
- 1 Tbsp vanilla
- 1/3 cup sour cream
- 1 (13 oz can) prepared dulce de leche
- Sea salt for sprinking
- Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Line an 8x8" pan with foil, extending the sides of the foil over the edges of the pan. Mist the foil lightly with cooking spray and set aside.
- In a large bowl, combine the graham cracker crumbs, brown sugar and melted butter and stir until moistened. Pour into the prepared pan and press into a compact, even layer. Bake for approx. 12 minutes.
- While crust bakes, prepare your filling. In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream together the cream cheese and sugar for about 2 minutes or until fluffy and light. Add in the eggs, one at a time, until combined. Lastly, add in the vanilla, sour cream, and two Tablespoons of the dulce de leche sauce.
- Pour the filling over the crust and return to the oven to bake for approx. 35-40 minutes or until the center appears just about set and isn't super jiggly. Tent with foil if the top begins to brown too fast. Cool completely, then spread with the remaining dulce de leche in an even layer. Sprinkle with sea salt and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight before serving.
Have a sweet day!