March 25, 2011

Flashback Friday: And speaking of freaking out

I wrote this blog post in November of 2009.

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) can be funny. I admit it. Who doesn't think a syrup phobia is the funniest thing since toaster waffles?* The television show Monk totally captures the humorous side of OCD. Monk is a private detective and consultant for the police department whose OCD both severely limits his life and helps him solve cases. His nonsensical, anal-retentive behaviors get on everyone's nerves, but they also come in handy. (Click on the link above to watch episodes of the show online.)

My own OCD rituals don't enable me to solve crimes, but I like to think they keep us safer and a little more organized. Sure, it's not necessary to check to make sure the windows are locked 4 or 5 times while saying, "This window is shut, locked, and secured, and it's going to stay shut, locked, and secured" each time. I'm sure once--without the narration-- would do the trick. But at least we know we're never in danger from an unlocked window (or door, or stove left on, or...) And perhaps it's not essential to balance my checkbook three (count them, three) times before accepting that the number I came up with might just be correct. But I don't bounce any checks.

At least these current rituals accomplish something. I much prefer them to the ones I had in college. Back then I had to check the seams on my clothes every day. There was no deep, meaningful purpose to that ritual. I was just afraid of being seen in public with a hole in my shirt. I also couldn't have six words to a line when writing college papers (because six was a "bad" number"). I'd actually change the sentence to make it more or less than six words. Oh, and there was my annoying scissor phobia. Yes, I'm probably the only person with two working hands who managed to get through college without using a pair of scissors. I tore paper instead. (Good thing I changed my major from elementary education!) Admittedly funny.

Closely related to the scissor phobia was my fear of someone cutting my hair off. I had long, (bottle) blonde, curly hair--and for a time, I worried that someone would do something to my hair that would necessitate a drastic haircut, or that someone would just reach over and cut it off when my back was turned. I believe the clinical term for that is "hairanoia." (Har har har.) I even recruited my friends to check my hair for me. The funny part about this is that they did it. (Thanks guys!) Ironically, the "cure" for this fear was to...cut my hair short. Huh.

Closely related to that fear was my obsessive concern that my eyelashes weren't even. People, I am embarrassed to admit that I rear-ended someone (in a brand new car, of course) when I was 20 because I was making sure my eyelashes were even in the rearview mirror. In rush hour traffic. Yeah, that's funny. I ain't gonna lie.

My obsessions and compulsions are humorous to me NOW because they're under control. In college I wouldn't have laughed. Back before SSRIs (bless them), I was spending up to 4 hours a day doing my OCD rituals. It felt like torture. It was like my brain was betraying me. I, like other people with OCD, knew the obsessions and compulsions were illogical. People with OCD do the rituals not because we think we're actually achieving something/solving the problem, but because it's the only thing that relieves the overwhelming anxiety caused by the obsessive thoughts. Not doing the ritual leads to more anxiety than the obsessive thought itself causes. And the relief is only temporary. That's why the rituals are repeated over and over. The cycle goes like this:

obsessive thought--->overwhelming anxiety--->corresponding ritual--->relief--->obsessive thought, etc.

One benefit to having OCD is that I am pretty tolerant of other people's eccentricities. Still sleep with a blankie at 35? No problem! Wear kilts instead of pants 7 days a week? So what! Afraid of little people? Pshaw. Have several personalities? Big deal. (See, you just gotta look for that silver lining.)

Well, I'm off to bed! After I lock up, that is...

*In college, I briefly dated a guy who had OCD and yep--a syrup phobia.


  1. Although not as severe as some, my boyfriend and I both have OCD tendencies. Mine has to do with cleaning, sanitizing and such. I'm over the top with it. Wiping down the same counter with 3 different cleansers that promise to kill 99.9% of germs on contact.

    He is OCD with papers and lists....oh my soul does the man make lists for EVERYTHING!

    Syrup phobia huh? Couldn't go on a date to IHOP then could you?

  2. Its good to be tolerant of other odd people:) That's why I like you.

  3. You are so funny, even with something that doesn't sound so fun. I've never heard OCD explained so well. I think my husband would like me to be more that way with the checkbook.

    I don't have OCD, but I do have intense anxieties over ridiculous things. And I KNOW I am being ridiculous, but just can help it.

    Have a great day! You're eyelashes are looking quite even and lovely in your profile picture, by the way. :)

  4. IHOP, hahaha! Well, that problem was solved by being broke college students!

    Man, contamination fears are challenging. I think of my brand of OCD as being "easier" than the contamination type. My son has some contamination issues too. As does my dad (and mom to a smaller extent).

    Family reunion at Howie Mandel's house! :)

  5. That's why I like your whole family, Byn! :P

  6. Janae, you crack me up! How thoughtful of you to check my eyelashes for me. You know, if I recall, anxiety disorders mainly occur in people of above average intelligence.

    Yeah, it's the price we pay for our genius. :)