A few weeks after being discharged from the hospital, I was looking through a box of "get well" cards I'd received. I came across a scrap piece of paper where I had messily written down a bunch of names of random people. Some of the people I knew well. Some I barely knew. There was no rhyme or reason to who I chose to write down or at least not one I've figured out yet.  

Anyway, I had taken all these names and made notes of how they were related to each other. I was confused on what this all meant? My wife informed me that I'd become rather "obsessed" with remembering names of people and who was related to who while I was in the hospital. So after all my visitors had left for the night, I would lay awake in bed and make these lists. I wasn't aware of it at the time, but I believe this was when my OCD started.

OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder) is "a medical condition where people feel the need to check things repeatedly, perform certain routines repeatedly (called "rituals"), or have certain thoughts repeatedly." I know we tend to joke about this disorder and discuss it tongue-in-cheek, but it's a real thing that can negatively affect a person's quality of life. This is something that's became glaringly obvious to me since my traumatic brain injury.

But before I start complaining about all the negative ramifications of this new condition, I also need to give it some credit. I actually think my OCD was instrumental in my return to medicine. Because I knew that my memory wasn't as sharp as it used to me, I became "obsessed" with remembering details when working and seeing my patients. This was effective for awhile, but unfortunately, wasn't a sustainable long-term solution.

In addition to its detrimental effects on my work longevity, my OCD was also negatively affecting my home life. I couldn't be the kind of husband, father, or friend I wanted to be or thought I needed to be. I couldn't live in the moment, be flexible, and had an extremely difficult time dealing when anything happened unexpectedly. For example:

  • I made to-do lists, either writing them out or formulating them in my mind, and obsessing over them until everything was completed.

  • If I lost something, no matter how obscure and pointless the item was, I couldn't think about or do anything else until I found it.

  • I often would recognize faces but had difficulty putting a name to the face. I couldn't do or think of anything else until I remembered it.

  • I worried about forgetting information, both important and unimportant. This led to me being distracted from what was going on around me as I ran things over and over my mind in an attempt to remember them.

I eventually started seeking help from physicians, psychologists, and therapists. I can't say my OCD is now a thing of the past, but these have all been effective for me.

But you know, there are times I wonder, do I just need to admit that OCD is a necessary part of my new normal? I mean, I still need to remember certain things to be productive. I still need structure and organization to be at my best. But are the coping skills I'm using to overcome my new TBI-related issues a little too much? Have I taken it too far? 

I know there has to be a healthy balance between too much and too little out there somewhere.  And I'm going to continue trying to find it.


*** If you or someone you know is suffering from OCD, I would strongly encourage you/them to talk to a doctor or other medical professional (psychologist, therapist, etc.). There are treatment options, both pharmacological and non-pharmacological, that can help you/them.