Monday, May 09, 2005

a few thoughts on being obsessive-compulsive.

I am working late (well, now I am just staying late to blog, but I was working late) and am in a lab which I normally work in and am often the last to leave, but to which I do not have a key. Even faced with the danger of locking yourself out of a room if you leave, there is only so long one can go without visiting the restroom. No big deal, I made sure it was unlocked before I allowed it to shut behind me.

About 8 times.

One must make sure a doornob will open again when they leave it, so trying out the lock (lock, try handle, unlock, turn handle, repeat...) isn't too out of the ordinary; it is appropriate cautiousness. But since checking locks and shutting and reshutting things has taken up a larger portion of my life to date than mere caution warrents, it got me to thinking.

I won't bore you with the details, but in college, when my bacon/corndog/salad/cereal/hawaiian punch/french fry/milkshake diet joined forces with my hypoglycemia to seize control of my mental health (never under estimate what your diet can do to your mind) while I was straddling being out/not out and attempting the reconciliation of my deep religious faith/wreckage of rural southern upbringing with my liberal arts/science education, I found myself on the receiving end of more than a few psychoanalyses. Which didn't really bother me too much, some of the tests are kind of fun, but the point is I was sudden faced with several pages detailing the specifics of what most people who have ever known me have known all along: I am smart and I am crazy. Specifically, suffering from anxiety, depression, attention-deficit, and obsession/compulsion. I don't like using the suffix 'disorder' when talking about these things, because I consider them pretty fundamental to who I am, even if there have been times when they have gotten the best of me. I have seen friends with their 'disorders' medicated out of them and I think I would rather just keep my crazy, thank you very much.

Anyway, playing with the door and feeling my blood rise and trying the lock a few too many times, it struck me how little of my time these days I spend retreading menial tasks and rechecking everything and began thinking that my tendency towards compulsions were rooted in what level of security I had that I could escape/undo the consequences of my action.

With this door, I realized that I retried it as a response to not having a key (if I had a key, I would have been feeling for it in my pocket before shutting the door) and what it would mean if I did lock myself out:

1) computer left on

2) workspace not cleared (workspace is shared; would affect other people)

3) planner and jacket trapped overnight

None of this is very interesting, but I was reminded that my compulsions don't affect me nearly as much as they used to. I still retry things and double (triple, quadruple...) check things sometimes, but not like I used to. I don't lean away from telephone poles as I pass them or meticulously avoid stepping on cracks or rearrange everything on my desk to sit at right angles. Why not?

Because I am less convinced that whatever disasterous consequence follows my lack of attention to detail will be permanent. Not that I ever thought that I would suffer forever for getting lost in conversation while driving and not leaning away from a telephone pole which I was passing, but there was some impending fear that something was missed and it was missed FOREVER. I should have leaned away from that telephone pole, and didn't and now couldn't. And at that point, I had generally missed a few more dire opportunities to lean away from more telephone poles but I couldn't care because I had already not leaned away from one, so what did it matter? But if missing one was bad, then isn't leaning away from even one good, so I should start leaning away from them again, right? Maybe I should also lean away from solid double lines and stop signs?

Whether you want to or not, the obsessive-compulsive finds himself with more of an understanding of rockslides and avalanches than one generally wants. If you have ever tried walking over loose gravel or dirt on an incline, what your legs feel like is what my mind felt like most of the time.

I find the world around me less inclined to avalanche lately, having been blessed with a few floods and earthquakes to move on some of the loose ground and crud that wouldn't support my weight, but tonight was struck that it isn't only that so much of the unsubstantial had been eliminated, but that I didn't really care so much if the door didn't open back up. That I have gotten to a place where I can believe that there is always another chance, that anything can be fixed or even if it can't, there will be something else. One indiscretion is no longer seen as the beginning of a disaster, but just one more thing.

This isn't coming out as clearly as it seemed in my head as I walked away from that door which I knew was unlocked, but there will be other times to sling around musings about obsessive/compulsive tendencies (or the lack there of).

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