Many people describe themselves as OCD.
Far fewer actually have obsessive-compulsive disorder, a clinically diagnosable condition.
Dealing with OCD can be exhausting, isolating and downright terrifying. Shane Larkin – who has played for the Mavericks, Knicks, Nets and Celtics while bouncing between the NBA and Europe – opened up about his experience with the condition.
SHANE LARKIN OPENS his eyes, sits up and embarks on his own tortured version of “Groundhog Day.” He grabs the remote, clicks on SportsCenter and hops out of bed to wait for his “number.” He is 8 years old, and every morning presents a new set of unpredictable parameters that are purely arbitrary. As he starts to get dressed for school — a ritual that can last a few minutes or sometimes hours, depending on the number for the day — he notices an image of Ray Allen flickering on his television screen. Allen, it seems, hit eight 3-pointers in a game the night before. Suddenly, a sensory message makes a beeline for Shane’s brain and informs him of the number for the day: eight.
“And then I know,” Larkin tells ESPN, “that I have to wash my hands eight times.”
After scrubbing fastidiously, Larkin carefully picks out his clothes. But if his shorts touch the carpet by mistake, he not only has to toss them in the hamper and replace them with new ones, he must retreat to the bathroom again to wash his hands.
From there, Larkin attempts to navigate breakfast in a kitchen that is a cauldron of potential germs. He engages in a deft obstacle course as he sidesteps errant spills, a soggy sponge, a dirty dish. As he approaches the front door, with seconds to spare before he misses the bus (again), the family dog patters up to him, tail wagging, and licks his hand. Larkin has no choice: He heads back to the bathroom for eight more cleansings. By the end of the day, his hands are so raw from the obsessive washing, he falls into bed with bloody open sores.
I can barely imagine living that way for one day. Larkin did it every day.
Interestingly, Larkin said his OCD never affected him on the basketball court – a sweaty, physical, grimy place. But he couldn’t spend his entire life on the court.
He tried medication, but that didn’t work for him. Tough love from his father, baseball great Barry Larkin, didn’t help, either. Through meditation and other relaxation techniques, Shane Larkin has learned reduce the stress that worsened his OCD.
Larkin is not alone, and him telling his story will provide hope for others with the same condition. Like Kevin Love, DeMar DeRozan and several other NBA players recently, Larkin is showing courage by coming forward. His story could be ridiculed by the ignorant, but it will also help people.