An Open Letter to My Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

Photo: Getty Images/Cavan Images
Dear OCD,

Get your butt over here. I'm pissed, and we're due for a chat. Oh. Right. You're already here. Like always. I could use a GD second alone, but since that's not happening, let's use this time to get a few things straight.

So, Is That Blood—that’s the name I’m giving you, based on the question I ask 100 times a day—how are you today? Whatcha worrying about right now? That red mark smeared across a work proof, which is clearly red pen but—bye, rationality!—has a .0001 percent chance of being someone’s blood, “contaminated” with who knows what? (QUICK, GO WASH YOUR HANDS!) Or wait, I know. You're stuck on that work decision I made three years ago that will surely affect my career forever, lurking around the crevices of my cortex whispering mistakemistakemistake… Because if there’s one thing you refuse to do, it’s forget. You slither your way deep into my neurons, poisoning them with shards of blame and slices of second-guessing. Of all the things I hate about you, I hate that the most.

But you know this, right? You see how I react to you. Sit tight, Is That Blood—there's more. And you need to hear it. Know this:

I wish you were a better friend

If only you could be the Holmes to my Sherlock, the Nutella to my French bread, even my beloved work wife. But if I were a rose, you’d be less soil or sun and more like that thorn Poison sang about—ready to prick at my petals, sometimes drawing literal blood, particularly when the air is cold and crisp and I wash and wash and wash away that other-person’s-blood and create hand cracks of my own.

You have such a knack for undermining completely rational decisions. What a delightful time-suck it is to repeat mantras in my head that help me obsess less, accept more. And lest we dodge your flair for making me eat five Cheez-Its, even if I only want two or four: Congrats! I will gobble up those extra squares each time because I don’t want the “bad thing” to happen, which illogically might just happen if I don’t stick with the number five.

Still, I think your best talent—and really, this one deserves a bold font on your résumé—is conjuring mean thoughts, thoughts I don’t actually feel or believe, about people I love. Which you then guilt me with for hours, convincingly arguing that somehow the thought could lead to its actuality.

It irks me when people think you're me

I resent you when others give you the recognition for my attention to detail, when they laud you for my creativity. But I guess they can’t be blamed: How is anyone to know where I start and you end, Is That Blood? Might you, actually, be partly to thank for the best of my attributes, or do you simply exist alongside them?

Most people are equally shocked to find out I’m not neat or tidy. I create lots of piles. I let dust bunnies hole up and hop around. Sometimes I leave Band-Aid scum on my leg for a day or two. Despite all the OCD myth stories that abound, being overly clean just isn’t in your particular skill set. That is, unless I’ve touched something you deem threatening. Then, enter your bestie: the bathroom sink.

When anyone I know—kids, coworkers, random people on the street who I maybe brushed up against but probably didn’t—has pink eye, you may as well rent me a luxe king suite in said bathroom, with an ocean view and scads of soap. By God, then I’m a cleaning machine, wandering my house or office with Lysol wipes to disinfect doorknobs and surfaces and Legos and everything. I don’t need to exhibit any eye symptoms myself, mind you: The pillowcases are still getting lots ‘o QT with the washing machine, taking a moonlight swim night after night. What fun! Hope the water’s warm!

Speaking of fun, there’s one other whoop-whoop area at which you excel: creating unnecessary waste. Of half-drunk LaCroix cans that I can’t 100 percent convince myself are mine (has someone else’s lip gunk touched the rim?), pens (dens of bacteria, them!), razors during a hotel stay (because, naturally, the cleaning crew might decide to shave their armpits while changing my towels), sometimes even shoes (they stepped on that red stuff on the street, which was surely paint but could have been blood, and even though studies say most viruses die outside the body within minutes, you question that fact with the zeal of Johnnie Cochran!).

I'm sick of fighting

Oh, Is That Blood, I wish I could imagine life without you. The possibilities! Maybe I’d use my own surely-hygienic-enough fingertip to fix a lipstick smudge like EVERY OTHER HUMAN rather than fold a cardboard notecard and scrape it over my skin to remove the excess color. I might even let my kids sip from my water bottle when they’re desperately thirsty. I certainly wouldn’t have to pretend-laugh with people who think it’s simply hilarious when I repeatedly ask about something silly. (For the record: I get that it’s silly; I just can’t help that it's consuming my brain.)

Will you ever go away? I’m finally accepting the answer is no. Life with you may never get easier, though I do know you make other people’s worlds a lot worse. You truly suck, Is That Blood. But should some Walking Dead virus infect America’s ballpoint pen supply, at least I’ll be safe, knowing that the only beings who will have ever touched my pens are me—and you.

Your host,


Amy Keller Laird headshotAmy Keller Laird is the EVP of Brand & Audience Development at Remedy Health Media, which produces,, and, among other brands. Previously, she was the Editor-in-Chief of Women’s Health, and she runs a mental health Instagram account at @club_mental.

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