Quote of the day...er...week...umm...hey, look, a quote!!

"...besides love, independence of thought is the greatest gift an adult can give a child." - Bryce Courtenay, The Power of One

For old quotes, look here.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Expanding on some thoughts, part two of whatever...

Warning: This isn't sweetness and light. It may well contain TMI. It does contain strong language and adult themes...but not the fun kind. Read on at your own peril.

Want to have some fun? Find someone with OCD, play a game of Monopoly, Payday, or Life with them, and...gasp...put the money away all mixed up!!

Then stand back, keep your hands and arms in the ride at all times, and enjoy.

I covered the depression, now I'm moving on to the next item on our mental health variety plate - OCD, or Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, for the uninitiated.

A few nights ago, I spent a quiet few hours playing games with my family. Mum was down for a visit, our roommate was home and feeling sociable, and even T got in on it. First, mum, J and I played Life, and then we all played Payday...a game none of us had played before, so that was interesting. Both games have fake money. At the end of the games, I collected the money and put it away. Faced. Faced means it's all facing the same direction...each bill and each denomination. Unfaced money may be one of the things that makes me itch the most. When I worked retail, my cash drawer was always neat, always orderly, always exactly right unless someone else had access. I hated giving anyone else access. My home may look like the mess monster put in overtime, but my cash was beautiful.

T handed me his pile of play money, claiming it was all in the right order. Yeah, I'm going to believe that? I have OCD...I can't just let it go. I checked. He was WRONG!! One bill was facing opposite all the others. Eek! I gave him a small ration over that - he wasn't trying to sneak one past me, he'd just missed it. Our roommate wanted to know if it really mattered.

Yes. Yes it does. Quite possibly the world will come to an end if the play money doesn't face the right way. Quite certainly I will not sleep a wink, knowing that it's all...messy. One bill facing the wrong way is a disaster that would shake this house to its foundations. Best not to tempt fate. I checked all the bills. Better safe than sorry.

Sound silly? Yeah, it is. But...it's serious. I'm really quite lucky...my OCD is mild and usually amusing. I have never felt the need to watch my hands until they are cracked and bleeding, never had to walk only a certain way or lock and unlock the deadbolt a certain number of times. You ever see "As Good As It Gets"? There was a fine example of an OCD in Nicholson's character. Mine is manageable, even redirectable. Hey, I think I just made up a word! I often mention that my home is messy...but that's because if I try to clean it the way I need it to be cleaned, I won't eat, sleep, or take care of pesky little details like feeding, clothing, or dressing my son for days. I can do a little at a time. Bathroom one day, kitchen the next. And the OCD lets me get away with that.

Laundry...oh, I do enjoy doing laundry. Yes, that's weird, but if you've read this blog for more than a few minutes, you'll know that...well...weird 'r' us, and I'm OK with that. Weird can be amusing, especially among the mundane. I like doing laundry. I like hearing the washer whush and slosh, like the hum and tumble of the dryer, like the smell of clean things, like to feel the warm cotton (almost every bit of clothing, linens, etc. in this house is cotton) as I fold it or place it on a hanger. I like putting everything away, nice and neat. Underthings here, sorted by color, design, manufacture, age. Socks there, sorted by style, color, age. T-shirts folded a certain way, sorted by type and age onto shelves labelled "Golf shirts", "Nice T-shirts", "Not Nice T-shirts", "Long-Sleeved T-shirts". T's work clothes on hangers, all the shirts facing left with buttons buttoned, collars neatly smoothed down. Work pants next, first shorts then long pants, all folded so that there will be creases down the front of the leg, pockets to the rear, draped the same way over their hangers. Are you seeing a pattern? Non-work clothing sorted by sleeve or leg length, color, and level of formality. The shirts I wear are made from sarongs, and I fold then all the same way, sort them by age and niceness and put them in a drawer. Every now and then I shake things up by reorganizing the clothes, but then I stick to the new system until the next shake-up. And the closet order doesn't change, if I have my way.

To be honest, I don't go in there much right now...it's in disarray, and I can't deal with it. T has no sense of order and mixes up his clothes, tossing them on whatever shelf makes them out of his way while he roots around for whatever he wants to wear. I feel faint. Things get displaced. They get crumpled. My skin itches. Things get tossed to the floor and mixed around on the hangers. Is it hot in here?

'Scuse me.

Where was I?

Dishes are the same...I have learned to let others do dishes when they offer, but I usually have to leave the room. See, I load the dishwasher a certain way, and that's the only way to load it. Except no one else seems to grasp my system, so if I want them to do the loading or unloading, I have to stand back and take nice, deep breaths. And yes, everything faces the same direction in the cupboards, goes in a certain place in a certain way. Sigh.

Some people count everything. I just count stairs. The upside to counting stairs is, I never need a light to go up or down in the dark. I won't fall ass over teakettle if I have to ascend or descend at night, and I don't have to waste electricity either.

I make lists of what to pack whenever I go on a trip. They are categorized. They are extensive. Nothing gets packed if it isn't on the list. Sometimes, the lists are even alphabetized.

It's hard to describe what OCD feels like, at least for me. There's definitely a feeling of being out of control when it's really bad. I call it "being in the teeth of the beast", because I feel like a rat in a terrier's jaws, shaken every which way and unable to stop the ride. Sometimes I just have to hang on until it's over, then pick up the pieces and move on. OCD is about control...control over the self, over the environment, control over events and control over others. From what I've seen, it usually strikes people who have lost some element of control over one part their life, so they try to control everything else. They need that sense of power because they've been made powerless somewhere else. 'Course, I'm not a shrink, so what do I know?

Once, when T and I were first dating, he came over and found me in a state. I had emptied every closet in my condo, every cupboard and drawer, every box and bag. I couldn't find my glue gun. I needed it. I needed it to live. He didn't understand...couldn't it wait until tomorrow? He'd had a long day, was looking forward to a quiet night. No. No it couldn't. I needed that glue gun to live, didn't he SEE that?? And please don't touch me or stand in my way, you're standing in my way and I can't see everything at once and I am having to squeeze past you and don't sit down because you may sit on it even though it has never even been in the living room but it might be there now and you are in the way so I have to search harder because YOU ARE IN MY WAY!! I looked in the freezer, in the dryer, in the sink. He asked me if I'd looked...? I snapped yes, of course I had looked there! He offered to drive me to the all-night Evil Empire. They sell glue guns there, right? Right! Genius! Let's go! Now!!! He drove us there...and the whole way I was shaking my leg up and down and wringing my hands. I couldn't talk to him, couldn't bear to have him touch me or try to comfort me. For him, that had to be a strange ride. We got there and he hadn't even shut the truck off before I was hurrying into the store. If the greeter had gotten in my way, I would have knocked the poor soul down. Must. Have. Glue. Gun. I ran to the crafts area and couldn't see one. Horror! Now what? Panic! Panic! Pan...wait, is that a glue gun?? Success...it was hanging in the wrong place. A ninety-nine cent glue gun put the world back on its axis. T found me there, holding the glue gun and breathing again. I smiled, asked him how his day was, let him put an arm around me and walk me to the register to pay for the ninety-nine cent fix. Then we went back to the condo, I put the glue gun down and didn't think about it again. Hi there, welcome to OCD. I didn't even want the stupid glue gun, wasn't going to use it for anything...I just couldn't remember where I'd put it, looked in the box where it should be, and got stuck in the teeth of the beast. The weirdest part of that whole episode? T didn't run like hell. Wow.

If I can't control things, most of the time I can let go of the need...so again, I'm lucky. I may get annoyed, or even angry, but I can function and survive until it passes. Some folks can't. They just can't handle it when a table gets moved, or a wall painted, or a door shut or opened the wrong distance, or the wrong fork is put in the wrong place. My own little dose of OCD is a bother, but manageable...I can only imagine what it must be like to be so lost in the need to act a certain way that I couldn't find my way out.

Don't mistake a simple need to have things your own way as OCD. Wanting your environment arranged just so because it's esthetically pleasing and makes sense to you is fine. Needing it that way or you start to itch, twitch, tremble, feel short of breath...that's another thing entirely. Making an effort to keep your world sensible is fine. Focusing so intently on keeping things exactly as you just KNOW they should be to the exclusion of everything else? Yeah, not so much. The difference is a simple as: "I want this..." versus 'I NEED this..." When you need it like oxygen, when life stops because something isn't exactly right...well, that's OCD.

Now, if you'll excuse me, the forks in the dishwasher are mingling with the spoons...

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