What OCD Note Taking is Like

My brain on OCD. Photo by BERTRY Nicole on Unsplash

When I was at the beginning of my struggle with OCD I didn’t think there was anything different or special about my note taking. I couldn’t find much on the internet. I found a few examples of hypergraphia and a couple gurus extolling their note taking skills, but that didn’t really strike me as my experience.

The first time I noticed that I was taking more notes than is probably normal was when I started my first professional job. I went through a 3-subject spiral notebook a week. Often the pages were covered in notes, in all orientations and seldom on the lines. I’d spend a lot of time reviewing my notes, or ruminating on the fact that I was taking so many. The occasional stray comment from my coworkers when they noticed made me feel ashamed, so I hid them away. Sometimes even on conference calls people would frequently commenting about my incessant typing. If I tried to stop, it would only get worse. People didn’t realize that that extra pressure would send me down a spiral of my own thoughts that could sometimes consume my whole day. For that reason I held my distress close and didn’t talk about it with anyone.

Down the Spiral. Photo by Faris Mohammed on Unsplash

The way I felt was how I imagine a salmon swimming against the river feels, except I was the salmon and the river was my stream of consciousness. Rather than glibly going with the flow, I was constantly trying to hold onto my thoughts, swimming through the audit history of my mental blockchain. It was exhausting, wasting all that nervous energy every day.

Essentially I didn’t trust my brain to do the thing that it’s wired to do subconsciously, remember what is important and let the rest fade. The downside to this, other than the mental gymnastics and wasted energy is that I was robbed of richer memories during a chunk of my twenties. Sure, I have tons of memories of taking notes on my phone and of driving around town trying to remember the last thing I was thinking while I was on my way to Wendy’s, but those aren’t exactly the memories I cherish.

The difference between me when I was in the throes of it and a normal person is that my anxious brain had no sense of what was important and what wasn’t important. My anxious brain didn’t listen to reason. It just felt what it felt. I was like a baby sanderling that wandered too close to the incoming tide, overwhelmed with stimulation and my brain (and my notebook) as the baby bird was overwhelmed by the waves, unceasing. My brain resembled Piper, the sanderling from the short film of the same name, twitching and nervous after she is ambushed by the tide.

This is not Piper. Photo by Joshua J. Cotten on Unsplash

Eventually I decided that I needed to do something (which I’ve written about before). I didn’t know what I needed help for at first. I had a sense that it was definitely mental, and maybe OCD, but I didn’t wash my hands a lot or run a tidy ship at home. I did some internet searches and picked up Jonathan Grayson’s book Freedom from OCD and it turned out that OCD was what I was struggling with, for sure. (And I also learned that when people say “I like to keep my car clean because I’m a little OCD,” most of the time they’re misinformed).

After checking out that book and doing some reading I felt hope for the first time in a while. I felt like there was a chance I could turn the ship around before it got worse. The journey was just beginning, but I was no longer lost.

Spoiler alert: I was able to get it turned around and today I’m happy and healthy. I still have my tendencies, but after plenty of help I have way more strategies for managing it. For that I am eternally grateful and today I’m able to go through life listening, observing, experiencing and making all those memories I missed out on in my 20s.

My hope is that by writing about my experience on here, that I can help someone else out there who may be struggling with the same issue. I don’t want you to search the internet and feel alone. You are not alone. ✌️ & 💜.

Before you go…

If you found this interesting or helpful, please consider supporting my writings by either leaving a tip, or commenting below.

You can find more of my writings about my experience with Obsessive Compulsive Note Taking at my publication of the same name.