At the beginning of our relationship, my now-wife “Charlotte” came over to my place for the first time and my room was immaculate. The pens and pencils on my desk were organized in straight lines. You could have bounced a quarter off my bed. Even the photos and posters on the wall were a study in flawless geometric alignment.
Charlotte just thought I was a “neat freak” at first, which, honestly, isn’t such a bad characteristic when you start seeing someone. But as time passed, she realized that my neat and clean ways went much deeper than just about being organized. After we moved in together, Charlotte started noticing some odd behaviors. For example, if something isn’t arranged just the way I like it on the desk, my breathing becomes heavy and I have a mini panic attack until the disorganized piles became organized piles. The first time she witnessed this, she thought I was overreacting and told me to “calm down — it’s just a little bit messy.” Yet my mind couldn’t think of anything else but the books that weren’t perfectly aligned, the pile of paper that wasn’t neatly stacked, the odd objects — a pen, a lighter, and some sunglasses — that were strewn about without any care about their placement in relationship to all of the other objects. I couldn’t continue on with my day without organizing that desk. So I sat down and organized it as Charlotte looked on with consternation.
She suddenly knew that she was in a relationship with someone who has obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). Keep reading »
My husband was always a little strange — but that’s par for the course in a marriage sometimes. Sure, he covered his face whenever he encountered the smell of bleach, and he took to maniacal cleaning rather than use poisons to eradicate a cockroach problem. He demanded we turned off the heat at night to protect his lungs. I thought all of it was cute. It took me a while to realize that his unusual quirks were actually symptoms of a terrible disorder.
I met John* on Craigslist. We were looking for a third roommate and he was one of the many people we interviewed that hot August day. He had a dark, curly mop of hair and a full face with dimples, and he seemed nice. He was from South America, and had traveled all around the world; I found him extremely compelling. We interviewed a few other people that day but felt that we connected the most strongly with John, so we asked him to be part of our household. Keep reading »
Do you love Skittles but hate disorder? Are you, well, kind of an OCD monster? Good thing Youtube user egenriether is thinking of you. He designed a fancy sorter using a phototransistor in order to identify and sort Skittles by color. It’s kind of mesmerizing. [YouTube]
I don’t obsessively wash my hands; in fact, I spend most of my time barefoot, germs faze me that little. I don’t feel an inexplicable need to count things. I don’t have any good luck charms, either physical (objects) or mental (numbers, letters, etc.). But I do have moderate OCD that has, over the course of my life, manifested itself in various ways at varying degrees of intensity.
OCD runs in my family; both my late grandmother and my uncle were/are incredibly repetitive people. My mom also has certain OCD behaviors; leaving her neat and orderly nest to go to college caused my OCD to emerge so I could instill a sense of order that I needed to feel safe. Looking back, my most extreme periods of obsessive compulsive behavior coincided with times when I was most unhappy, stressed, or conflicted about something. Attending to my various OCD needs gave me a place to focus all my anxiety and helped calm my mind. For a few years, I cleaned my apartment constantly, mopping the kitchen floor three times a day and fretting over whether my bedspread was laid perfectly symmetrical across my bed. I could spot a dust bunny from 30 feet away. It was maddening, but you could eat breakfast off my bathroom floor.
Nowadays, for a variety of reasons — medication that manages my associated issues with anxiety and ADD, general satisfaction with my life, ongoing therapy, a housekeeper who comes once a month, and new learned coping mechanisms — my OCD is much better. Sometimes I let dishes sit in the sink overnight. My remote control does not have to sit perfectly straight on my coffee table. I would vacuum less if Lucca didn’t shed so much. But my OCD does come out in some kind of random, less obvious ways. Here are some of them… Keep reading »
This piece is presented as part of The Frisky’s How To Deal Week, in which we’re focusing on mental health issues.
I have five fingers on each hand. I use them like this: I hold up my thumb and whisper, “Thank You, Thank You, Thank You, Thank You, Thank You.” Then my pointer finger. “Thank You, Thank You, Thank You, Thank You, Thank You.” Then my middle finger, my ring finger, and my pinky. I give small kisses in between each “Thank You.” I do this five times for a total of 125 “Thank Yous.” Then I say “Thank You” for specific things, like how bright the sun is today or how soothing it is to feel my wet hair on my back. These I repeat just once for each finger. Then I thank G-d for his infinite wisdom, infinite grace, infinite compassion, forgiveness, and honesty—one accolade for each finger.
This is the prayer I say when I get on the subway in the morning. I have to say it.
“Or else…?” asks my therapist. Keep reading »
Almost a year ago, we heard that VH1 had a new reality series in the works called the “OCD Project,” where a group of people whose need for order, fear of germs, obsession with death and reliance on rituals are ruining their lives. Basically, we thought it was going to be “The Real World” with an enormous amount of handwashing. Well, the show premieres tonight at 10 p.m. and it looks like it’s going to be amazingly intense. The six 20- and 30-somethings on the series live together for 21 days and work with Dr. David Tolin, whose approach to treating OCD is extreme—not only in analyzing triggers but in making patients do the very things they fear most. Participants will have to chew gum that they rubbed in toilets, go to fake funerals for their loved ones, sit in dumpsters and lick the bottom of shoes. In the end, hopefully they’ll come through healed. I cannot wait for this show, though am guessing a box of tissues will be required for viewing. Keep reading »