This week is exam week – that joyous moment of trying to prove that you have taken something in over the last semester and that your vague, day dreamy look was actually your special concentrating face.
In the last year or so I have started having a problem around exams. It’s not the actual questions that stress me out, or even answering them, it’s all the silly admin bits that come with it. Did I hand my paper in? I have been known to spend hours going through my bag again and again to check. Did I sign the piece of paper? Did I write my name on it? Did I stick the special stickers in the right place? Did I write my student number legibly?
It’s got worse recently and has been commented upon by my lecturers. To be fair, it’s probably not everyday that they get a student chasing them up the corridoor to beg them to check if I handed my paper in, or making them go through the pile to check that I signed it. So when it was brought up by a lecturer (who was probably at the end of his tether with me), I was honest – I have OCD, and it’s making me doubt. A week later and the same thing happened, and again, I was honest. Both times they understood (although one followed it up with a lecture about standing up to it, as if I hadn’t thought of that before).
Yesterday I was called in to see my head of year to talk about something completely different, but at the end of the meeting she told me that she had heard I was having problems handing in exams. To be honest my first reaction was one of mortification – I hate the idea that it’s got back to her. But she didn’t throw me out, or tell me that I shouldn’t be studying Psychology. She didn’t look at me as if I were totally insane or give me a puppy dog stare of pity. She just asked if there was anything that she could do to help. It felt as though a weight had been lifted from me.
I have hidden my OCD at university and never been open about it to more than a select few individuals. So yesterday I was. I told her that what I hated was that I spent more time worrying about all the admin bits than I do the exam. It can take ten minutes to fill in my name because I’m so determined to get it neat enough. I get so worried about the end of the exam that I can’t even concentrate on what I’m writing.
Together we worked out a plan. A plan that involves her personally checking that I have handed in everything I need to. A plan that involves giving into the OCD.
And that’s what this post is about – picking your battles. I know that I should stand up to OCD all the time, that there is no time like the present, that if I give an inch it’ll take a mile. I know that these fears are illogical and that by giving in I am handing it power. I know that involving someone else in the whole vicious circle is a no no, that asking for reassurance isn’t the way forward.
But I need to do my exams, so this time I’m giving in. Sometimes we have to remember that we’re human, that we can’t fight the whole time. Sometimes this dragon slaying can get tiring. It’s okay to give in from time to time – fighting OCD cannot be the full time job that it needs to be. We have to carry on with our lives, even if that sometimes means making arrangements with the OCD to get five minutes peace.
Maybe I’m just making excuses. Maybe standing up to the OCD is more important than my grades right now, but I don’t think so. I’m just picking my battles.
Obesessively compulsively yours,