Living with OCD: A Journey Through the Corn-Maze of the Mind

Living with OCD: A Journey Through the Corn-Maze of the Mind
Photo by Adrian Swancar on Unsplash

Hi, folks! I’ve been thinking a lot lately about something that touches the lives of many, myself included, yet often remains shrouded in mystery and misconceptions. I'm talking about Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD), a complex mental health condition that's much more than the stereotypes of just washing hands or organizing shelves. Today, I want to unpack what OCD really means, share some personal stories, and discuss the ways those with OCD navigate their daily lives.

What is OCD?

First off, let’s clarify what OCD is. At its core, OCD is a chronic mental health disorder that involves recurring, unwanted thoughts (obsessions) and behaviors (compulsions) that a person feels compelled to repeat over and over. It’s like having a glitch in your brain’s matrix; certain thoughts or fears trigger intense anxiety, and the rituals or actions are the mind’s way of trying to quiet that alarm. For myself, I never thought that something bad would happen if I didn’t do a certain ritualistic thing, touch a towel, check locks or ovens, etc.  It was just there for odd things, just stuff that was annoying.  

The Many and Oddball Faces of OCD

OCD isn’t a one-size-fits-all issue. It wears many masks and affects each person a bit differently. Some common themes include fears about contamination, a need for symmetry, (that’s mine) horrific intrusive thoughts, or worries about harm coming to loved ones. The compulsions that follow might be visible actions like excessive cleaning or hand-washing, or more mental rituals like counting (yup, me) or repeating words silently.  I have a compulsion for even numbers on volume controls and thermostats, etc.  (I know, odd, but that’s what this is all about)  I also get songs or parts of songs stuck in my head, I hear them over and over.  

My Story

Growing up in the Midwest, where the general idea is often to 'get over iron your own' or 'deal with it silently' talking about something as misunderstood as OCD wasn’t done. I first noticed my own symptoms in grade school—a constant, wanting for equal and even numbers and items, counting steps when I walked, and the like. I never had it really bad, but I did want my skin to be smooth and even, so I picked at my fingers incessantly, sometimes till raw and bleeding.

Sharing this with family was not happening. The few times I tried, I was met with well-meaning but dismissive comments like, "Oh, you will grow out of it," or "That’s just a quirk, it’s not serious." It took years and a loving wife for me to seek professional help, where I was finally diagnosed with OCD.  The professional I found, however, wasn't much help overall.  Finally, I just gave into it and I deal with it daily in my own way.  My symptoms are so minor, I just deal with it, as my midwestern upbringing encourages.

The Road to Management

Managing OCD is not about getting rid of it; it’s about learning to live with it. Treatment often involves a combination of therapy and medication. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), particularly Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP), is considered gold standard. ERP involves being exposed to the source of your anxiety and learning to refrain from compulsive behavior.  The psychologist I saw wanted me to learn to play the guitar, why?  I will never know, I did not learn, and didn’t care.

Personally, therapy was useless, as the psychologist I saw wasn’t very good. It was like being taught to walk around the symptoms instead of seeing and working them out. Medication did not help, it just made me feel like a zombie. Smoothing out the peaks of my anxiety just made me “not feel at all” and I hated that.  I am currently not on any meds at all, but I believe my condition is VERY minor, Lord help those that have it bad!

Daily Life with OCD

Living with OCD is a daily balancing act. For me, on good days, my minor odd routines feel like a quirky part of my personality. For some people, on bad days, they can be all-consuming. Over the years, I’ve learned to celebrate small victories—like not dragging a hangnail till it bleeds, just clipping it and going on.

Support systems are very helpful. Having friends and family who understand that my actions aren’t just quirks but part of a larger battle means the world. Education plays a big role here; the more we talk about OCD openly, the easier it is for those affected to get the understanding and help they need.  It may not be right, but usually I just make a joke and laugh it off, the best I can.

Misconceptions and Stigma

Despite increased awareness, plenty of misconceptions about OCD persist. It’s not about being neat, nor is it a beneficial trait for being organized. It’s a disorder that can significantly disrupt some lives. The stereotype of OCD being a 'neat freak' condition is damaging and trivializes the true struggle of those affected.  

Stigma also remains a barrier. Mental health is still a touchy subject in many parts, and the idea of being labeled 'crazy' or 'unstable' prevents many from seeking help. Breaking down these stigmas is essential, and it starts with conversations like these.  The psychologist I saw gave me one good bit of information, he did say that O.C.D. and ADHD were like a razor’s edge and some, including myself, have a paradoxical inclination to get overwhelmed and just give up on whatever task is at hand.  That one I fight tooth and nail.  Otherwise, I don’t get much done if it looks the least bit daunting.  


Living with OCD is like navigating a corn maze where the paths keep changing. There are hurdles and setbacks, but also paths that lead to better management and understanding. The journey isn’t easy, but with the right support and treatment, it’s possible to live a fulfilling life even with OCD.

For those struggling, remember you’re not alone. For those who know someone with OCD, a little empathy and understanding can go a long way. Let’s keep the conversation going, spread awareness, and support each other in our journeys. Here's to finding our way through this maze, together.  Howie Mandel is a huge advocate for those affected.

Stay kind, folks, and remember, every person you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about. Be as gentle as possible, always.

Dean Benson, “The Dean of Rock & Roll”, middays on the “Only Classic Rock” channel.

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