Nathan Feuerstein, better known as NF, recently came out with a new album titled “The Search.” Let me warn you — this album is straight fire. Each song is an outpouring of his soul. Heavy and raw. The kind of art that leaves you with goosebumps on your arms, tears in your eyes, or both. His music proves you don’t need to swear to be a rapper, you don’t have to be perfect to be a follower of Jesus, and you don’t have to be neat and clean to have obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). NF’s struggles are laid bare for all to see, and because of his transparency, I realized he and I are not so different.
Here is a fraction of his words from the song “Leave Me Alone.”
“Diagnosed with OCD, what does that mean? Well, gather ’round
That means I obsessively obsess on things I think about
That means I might take a normal thought and think it’s so profound
Ruminating, fill balloons up full of doubt
Do the same things, if I don’t, I’m overwhelmed
Thoughts are pacing, they go ’round and ’round and ’round
It’s so draining, let’s move onto something else, fine.”
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again — obsessive-compulsive disorder is not an adjective; it is a noun. It’s not something you are; it is something you have. Having OCD is not the same as being hyper-organized, tidy or clean. Color-coding your folders is not OCD. A meticulous kitchen counter or desk space is not OCD. Needing to have things your way is not OCD.
OCD looks different for each individual — no two obsessions or compulsions may be the same, and the intensity of the symptoms can vary from person to person or may be heightened during a particular season or situation in one’s life.
The adjectives of neat, clean, organized, particular, anal and the like cannot be exchanged for obsessive-compulsive disorder. OCD is an anxiety disorder, a mental illness; it is not a scapegoat you can hide behind to get out of everyone thinking you just want things your way. It isn’t a character trait or an everyday preference. It is not something that can be “made happy” by coloring inside the lines.
“I keep it together, but have a disorder
I go to my room and I sit in my corner
And talk to myself in a language that’s foreign
I think of a rhyme and I have to record it
But know if I don’t, I’ll wake up in the morning
And question my life again, always avoiding
I hate to be different, but hate to be normal, so I…”
NF’s song “The Search” also gives mention to his diagnosis with OCD.
“OCD, tryna push my buttons
I said don’t touch it, now y’all done it…”
“The sales can rise
Doesn’t mean much though when your health declines
See, we’ve all got somethin’ that we trapped inside
That we try to suffocate, you know, hopin’ it dies
Try to hold it underwater but it always survives
Then it comes up out of nowhere like an evil surprise
Then it hovers over you to tell you millions of lies
You don’t relate to that? Must not be as crazy as I am…”
I am so glad NF is starting a conversation about a disorder that is so misrepresented in our society. When I open up to share that I have OCD, I almost always have to follow up with its definition so I am not misunderstood for simply being particular about things. Even still, some people respond with, “yeah, I get anxious too,” or “me too, I can’t stand when things are out of place!” Insert facepalm emoji here.
We are missing the point, and we are missing an opportunity to dive into the complicated minds in our midst. Sure, there is a lot of unhealthy going on in there, but there is also a depth and beauty to a mind that repeats the same song over and over in hopes it finally hears what it needs to. How else can one truly learn all the words?
If you dig in deep enough to the mind of one with OCD, you’ll find fear, the roots of which lie in a longing for something they don’t have or don’t feel they have — safety, health, love, etc. For me, it is a desperate need to be loved and appreciated that manifests itself in checking and rechecking and replaying (and rechecking) conversations, text messages, blog posts, lesson plans, diaper bags, to-do lists, movie times, etc. Nothing can be left out. Nothing can be forgotten. Everything must be just so… or I’ve failed you. Thus, failing myself. And why do I lay this bare for all to see? Because maybe, just maybe, once you dig in deep enough to know all of that, you’ll step in to remind me I am loved. And maybe, just maybe, I will heal.