Nathan Feuerstein, better known as NF, recently came out with a new album titled “The Search.” Let me warn you – this album is straight fire. Each song is an outpouring of his soul. Heavy and raw. The kind of art that leaves you with goosebumps on your arms, tears in your eyes, or both. His music proves you don’t need to swear to be a rapper, you don’t have to be perfect to be a follower of Jesus, and you don’t have to be neat and clean to have OCD. NF’s struggles are laid bare for all to see, and because of his transparency, I realized that he and I are not so different.
Here is a fraction of his words from the song “Leave Me Alone.”
Diagnosed with OCD, what does that mean? Well, gather ’round
That means I obsessively obsess on things I think about
That means I might take a normal thought and think it’s so profound
Ruminating, fill balloons up full of doubt
Do the same things, if I don’t, I’m overwhelmed
Thoughts are pacing, they go ’round and ’round and ’round
It’s so draining, let’s move onto something else, fine
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again – Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is not an adjective; it is a noun. It’s not something you are; it is something you have. Having OCD is not the same as being hyper-organized, tidy, or clean. Color-coding your folders is not OCD. A meticulous kitchen counter or desk space is not OCD. Needing to have things your way is not OCD.
OCD looks different for each individual – no two obsessions or compulsions may be the same, and the intensity of the symptoms can vary from person to person or may be heightened during a particular season or situation in one’s life.
The adjectives of neat, clean, organized, particular, anal, and the like, cannot be exchanged for Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. OCD is an anxiety disorder, a mental illness; it is not a scapegoat you can hide behind to get out of everyone thinking you just want things your way. It isn’t a character trait or an every day preference. It is not something that can be “made happy” by coloring inside the lines.
I keep it together, but have a disorder
I go to my room and I sit in my corner
And talk to myself in a language that’s foreign
I think of a rhyme and I have to record it
But know if I don’t, I’ll wake up in the morning
And question my life again, always avoiding
I hate to be different, but hate to be normal, so I…
NF’s song “The Search” also gives mention to his diagnosis with OCD.
OCD tryna push my buttons
I said don’t touch it
Now y’all done it
The sales can rise
Doesn’t mean much though when your health declines
See we’ve all got somethin’ that we’ve trapped inside
That we try to suffocate you know hoping it dies
Try to hold it under water
But it always survives
Then it comes up out of nowhere like an evil surprise
Then it hovers over you to tell you millions of lies
You don’t relate to that, must not be as crazy I am
I am so glad NF is starting a conversation about a disorder that is so misrepresented in our society. When I open up to share that I have OCD, I almost always have to follow up with its definition so I am not misunderstood for simply being particular about things. Even still, some people respond with, “yeah, I get anxious too,” or “me too, I can’t stand when things are out of place!” *Insert face palm emoji here* We are missing the point, and we are missing an opportunity to dive into the complicated minds in our midst. Sure, there is a lot of unhealthy going on in there, but there is also a depth and beauty to a mind that repeats the same song over and over in hopes that it finally hears what it needs to. How else can one truly learn the all the words?
If you dig in deep enough to the mind of one with OCD, you’ll find fear. Fear whose roots lie in a longing for something they don’t have or don’t feel they have (safety, health, love, etc.). For me, it is a desperate need to be loved and appreciated that manifests itself in checking and rechecking (and rechecking) conversations, text messages, blog posts, lesson plans, diaper bags, to-do lists, movie times, etc. Nothing can be left out. Nothing can be forgotten. Everything must be just so. Or I’ve failed you. Thus, failing myself. And why do I lay this bare for all to see? Because maybe, just maybe, once you dig in deep enough to know all of that, you’ll step in to remind me I am loved. And maybe, just maybe, I will heal.
When it comes to my own diagnosis of OCD, I have been doing really well as a whole during this year. I am on a low dosage of my medication, and I am improving in noticing when I fall into the trap of obsessive thoughts and getting myself out before they turn into compulsive actions. I have strategies at my disposal, and I feel mostly confident in their success.
That being said, this is still a daily struggle for me. My mind is relentless. Once the (O)CD starts skipping, it doesn’t stop without a fight. In addition to my usual checks these days, various somatic sensations have been heightening some compulsive responses. The feeling of dust on my fingers is one my body cannot stand. Upon a recent trip to the Grand Canyon, my husband, dad, and I went for a hike. Beautiful, wonderful, all grand things. Once we returned to the car, I knew I couldn’t take my shoes off. They were caked in red dust. I quickly remembered the feeling of dirt on my hands from playing softball as a child. I was constantly licking my fingers because I couldn’t handle the way the dust felt. Something about wetting my fingers helped the icky sensation go away. I knew that taking my shoes off at the Grand Canyon would elicit the same physical response and distasteful compulsion. So, ashamedly, I asked if my dad or husband could untie my shoes for me. They did, and we all laughed. But THIS, friends, is OCD. Had I chosen to untie my own shoes, I know I would immediately need to get the dust off of my fingers, and rather than using water like a sensible human, I would use my tongue. And then I would press my thumbs onto my shorts as if to “rub off” the feeling. I would continue to use my tongue and press my thumbs until the sensation on my left hand fingers matched that of the sensation on my right. And if they were uneven, I would need to start over. This same feeling can present itself after touching fleece material, though the compulsions don’t last near as long. I’m not sure that these somatic compulsions stem from any particular obsession in my mind. I think I just feel so unsettled by them, I must complete the compulsion until my mind reaches a peaceful equilibrium.
YIKES. Here’s the thing – I know that all sounds crazy. I know it is irrational. And yet.
This life on earth is so tough. I can’t know why I deal with this, just as much as I can’t know why you experienced that loss, or why the sky is blue. I just keep hoping and trusting in a Good Father who I know will restore all things to His perfect order someday soon. And while I wait for that day, I will strive to be who I was created to be, even if that includes my pals, O, C, and D. And I am thankful that NF, and others who get it, are here to walk the journey alongside me – infusing understanding, angsty lyrics, and hope into our paradoxically restless and tired minds.
Now, go listen to NF’s album. Whether or not you have OCD, you will feel understood. Or at least, you’ll understand me a little better 😉