Believe it or not, I’ve had more than a few people (back in the day when I was a believer) tell me that my OCD was a ‘gift‘ from God – and they actually used that part of that verse. I figured you’d find that amusing. Of course, mental illness is not funny. It can be, well, amusing. Trust me on this, I’ve got a few mental illnesses that I’ve been coping with for a while now. If one cannot laugh at oneself sometimes, I reason one would truly go completely insane.
I am going to write a few articles on mental illness, but am only going to cover the few that I have been diagnosed with. I cannot comment from a personal perspective on others, because I have no personal point of reference, nor am I trained in psychiatry. Today, I will write on OCD. Next time, Major Depressive Disorder. Finally, well, I’ll leave that one for you to wonder about. Now that I’ve got everything on my desk perfectly symmetrical, let’s get started.
Before I continue, if you don’t know what Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is, here’s the definition from the US Department of Medicine website,
“Obsessive-compulsive disorder is an anxiety disorder in which people have unwanted and repeated thoughts, feelings, ideas, sensations (obsessions), or behaviors that make them feel driven to do something (compulsions). Often the person carries out the behaviors to get rid of the obsessive thoughts, but this only provides temporary relief. Not performing the obsessive rituals can cause great anxiety.”
That is very basic. OCD effects different people in different ways, and I won’t go into them. This is not meant to be an in depth dissertation. It’s a personal story. A testimony, if you will. For me, it involves symmetry and order, as well as an aversion to people touching my stuff. I have things I am compelled to do, ritualistic methods of completing tasks and an aversion to non-intellectual change. Sometimes, these things are crippling – even more so than my physical disabilities. So much so, that on rare occasions, it prevents me from leaving my house.
It’s difficult to explain this, but not because I have an aversion to sharing aspects of my personal life with the Internet. That much should be obvious, by now. It’s because no matter how I write it down, it seems absurd that someone puts a premium value on freethought and considers it a detriment to be shackled by of indoctrination can be captivated by thoughts and ritual. It is, indeed, a paradox.
Why You Move My Stuff..?
Allow me to share a couple things I totally get:
Yeah, a place for everything and everything in it’s place. And in order, lined up and symmetrical, too. I can’t describe the feelings that I experience when something is out of order, or out of symmetry. Not quite dread, but very unsettling. So much so, that I am compelled to “set things right.” Even things that don’t belong to me. This can make me a very irritating house guest. But, I’m not a germophobe or even a clean freak.
When I visit someone’s home, I pay very little attention their housekeeping. It doesn’t bother me if they’ve not picked up the place. Some of my best friends are total slobs, and I love them, dearly. In fact, my own work area has been known to collect dust, discarded papers and empty water bottles. The fact, alone, that I am a heavy smoker means there’s usually ashes on almost everything. My nightstand, at any given moment, may include a plethora of odds and ends, candy wrappers, etc. But everything that is on my desk and night stand are at either right or forty-five-degree angles. It has to be, or I cannot continue with whatever is next unless things are put right.
What I do pay attention to is how things are ordered. What’s hanging on the walls, resting on the shelves or mantles, and how the furniture is arranged. I’ve been known to straighten pictures, slightly rearrange furniture, arrange things on counter tops and sometimes even go so far as to move a friend’s car if it’s parked crooked in the driveway. My wife and I have taken to calling this “Monking” something, after the character portrayed in the now-canceled but very popular TV show, “Monk.” She knows me so well, that when we are out somewhere and she sees that “look” in my eye, or notices something I would consider “out of place”, she knows what’s coming next. She’ll say something like, “Gonna monk that, ain’t ya?”
This is a great tension reliever, and we always get a laugh out of it. In fact, when we are preparing for guests, my wife might ask me to “monk” the house a bit before our guests arrive. After rearranging things, I find that giving them a little light touch puts everything right. I don’t go around touching things all willy-nilly, though. I can’t explain this one, either, though. It’s quirky, but usually so slight that I doubt anyone even notices it. It’s very subtle, and might appear like I am drumming on things. However, don’t even get me near a sheet of bubble wrap. I will drive you positively mad.
I don’t like my surroundings changed. I’ve moved my TV set exactly once since moving into my house, and that’s only because having it mounted on the wall above the fireplace was literally a pain in the neck. I derive a great deal of comfort when I am in my home, in familiar surroundings, where everything is where it should be, arranged in whatever geometrical pattern suits me. The first thing you will notice when you walk into my house, though, are about nine thousand pairs of shoes on the side of the main walkway, and probably pillows and blankets strewn on the couch.
However, you will immediately recognize angular and symmetrical patterns everywhere. If you move the bowl on my coffee table, I will move it back. If you pick up a picture and don’t return it exactly where it was, I’ll rearrange it back. Even the dog’s bowls have a spot they belong in. FSM help you if you leave a door or cabinet open ;). I am probably the most organized slob you’ll ever meet, and I’ve actually made myself late for appointments (and canceled a few) because someone has come through the house and picked up a lot of things to admire them, but set them back down in a different spot and I am compelled to set things right before I leave the house. Don’t get me wrong, I am not angry at my houseguests, and the items they look at might very well appear to them to have been returned to where they were, but my mind sees this differently, and it must be made so.
You probably think this makes me kind of a douchebag to live with, or my house seemingly an unwelcome place. This couldn’t be further from the truth. I love having company over, entertaining guests and having people feel comfortable in my house. I am a very jovial host, and my house is a very comfortable place to lounge, hang out or whatever in. On the surface, as I said, it sometimes even appears very “lived in.” I don’t nitpick with my family, either. Well, not usually. I do have my moments when it seems the whole thing is about to fall apart, but when that happens, I retreat into my study and write a while.
Fortunately, my wife has never cared for decorating in the sense of where the furniture goes. As far as the items that decorate our house, my wife has chosen nearly every single thing that is on our walls and shelves, and most of the furniture. I don’t have an eye for decorating with respect to picking out things. When I had my own apartment back in the stone age, most of the decorations I had consisted of road signs, cinder blocks and wooden planks. My wife has a great eye for decorating, and a flair for symmetry, as well, When she arranges pictures, knick-knacks, bric-a-brac and various statuary and floral arrangements, they are nearly perfect, and she has long since long since not been bothered one bit when I move something a half inch or so.
This is where it get’s uncomfortable for me. I know I do these things, and although I don’t fully understand why, they are compulsory. I have my keys on a carabiner clip. When I am not carrying my purse, they hook on the second belt loop to the left of my belt buckle, from my perspective. If the loop breaks and cannot be fixed, the pants are discarded. I check the all the locks on my house twice before going to bed. I’ll get up half an hour later and recheck them. The books on my library shelf are in order of size, from largest at the ends to the smallest in the middle, in pairs. If there is an odd one, I won’t put it up until I buy another one the exact same size. Unless under extreme duress, I will not use a public bathroom. I’ll roll my wheelchair backward before moving forward. I tap my razor on the water faucet three times before rinsing it, and I will turn it over three times under the water before applying the blade to my face again.
I roll my own cigarettes, and have a custom plastic cigarette case that has three compartments, each holding six cigarettes. The middle one is always empty. If I look at a clock and it’s within a minute of the hour, I’ll stare at it until it hits the top of the hour. The presets on my car radio have to be in ascending order, according to preset number and radio station. I have two sets of light switches in my kitchen that operate two separate light fixtures. On each one, both switches have to be either in the up or down position, together. I won’t leave the house if the clothes dryer or oven is still warm. I find it almost impossible to not check a doorknob. I usually tap the back end of a fork on the table before using it. I always back my car up a tad after pulling into a parking spot.
Food quirks, you say? There are certain foods I will not mix with any other foods. Meats are one of these things. They have to be on a separate plate. If someone drinks out of my glass, I won’t finish it – no matter how thirsty I am. If someone takes a swig out of my bottled drink, I’ll throw it away. If someone eats off my plate, I won’t finish anything else on it. However, I’ll share a smoke with someone in a heartbeat. Go figure. The lid on my coffee mug has to be at a certain position or I cannot drink from it. In fact, I have a lot of obsessive food quirks.
This list goes on, at length. Suffice to say, living with OCD is doable, and often it doesn’t interfere with my life at all. I deal with anxiety by hiding it, and when I cannot hide it, I stay home. I’ve tried various medications over the years, but the only substance that works is marijuana, and the combination of where I live and my notoriety for being an advocate for its legalization makes it too much of a risk to partake. Thus, I border on being a hermit. I go days, sometimes, without leaving the house. Unless I have a speaking engagement, or a doctor’s appointment, I rarely leave town. I don’t know why, and at this point in my life, I don’t care. I live most of my life online, anyhow, due to physical disabilities. Most people who meet me have no idea I have OCD, and those that do, likely suffer from it, themselves. I have no idea what brought this on, but I’ve been this way for a very, very long time.
Do you live in my world? Comments are open and unmoderated…