Soon after making someone’s acquaintance, whether online or in “real life,” folks start to notice: there’s something a little bit odd about me. Sometimes they notice topics I revisit over and over, streets I can’t drive because they’re the wrong direction, an obsession with lint (don’t ask) or my complete inability to improvise that moves me to tears if I’m forced to do it anyhow. It doesn’t take long, at any rate.
I’ve lost friendships and boyfriends over it, and a few jobs, too. My children have lost playmates because of it. I’ve probably given myself an ulcer due to it: obsessive-compulsive disorder, commonly called OCD.
It’s not fun, and only a cruel person would find it funny. Incredibly, it can be a blessing, although mostly it drives other people nuts. In my case, it’s probably connected with a seizure disorder I’ve endured since I was a young girl.
The type of epilepsy I have, Temporal Lobe Epilepsy, has been identified in studies to have a higher incidence of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder than other groups. Epilepsy and Behavior reports that behaviors like “checking, neutralizing, doubting, ordering, hoarding, and washing” are more likely displayed in individuals with TLE.
The person with OCD has heard the phrase “let it go” approximately 40 zillion times by age 30, and it’s no easier a direction to follow a decade later, the 60 zillionth time they hear it. Trust me.
Portrait of the Artist as a Young Woman
It would be incorrect to assume that my clothes are organized by size and color (they’re not – my closet’s a mess – I have a complete inability to organize anything) like the television detective Adrian Monk. He does, however, share my issues with public ick and his fondness for antimicrobial wipes. My social skills are only slightly more evolved, unfortunately.
I can’t drive south on the interstate…ever (I can, however, head north, providing I drive someplace I used to live). If I don’t drive the exact same route every time I go somewhere, I’m convinced I’ll get hurt or lost, so I use the same roads, even if it takes me an hour out of the way. I visit the same gas station, and the same pump, every time. If it’s busy I wait, even if there’s a vacancy 10′ away.
I’ve locked friends out of my home because they showed up unannounced, and had massive anxiety attacks not knowing what to do next. Friends who’ve known me longest (and love me anyway) know to schedule visits weeks or even months in advance. Even then, it’s extremely hard for me to handle the change in routine.
I planned the births of all three of my children (complete with very detailed birth plans.) I packed a suitcase months in advance, and rechecked it every few days. Before you ask, yes, I also scheduled their actual births. Naturally, my inconsiderate babies had their own ideas once the ball started to roll, which meant my plans were somewhat compromised.
I’m the woman who’s never late (in fact, I’m sometimes an hour early for an appointment). Tardy people bother me. In fact, most people bother me. They’re not, well, me, for starters, which makes them unpredictable. I like rules. I like schedules.
I’ve heard about changes in diet and even Vitamin D deficiencies, but after four decades with the condition, I’ve never seen evidence that either would make a difference, and I like my current routine (naturally). Understanding friends and family, in my experience, are the best medicine of all.
I prefer avoidance to medication, although I use it when the anticipation of a future event becomes too difficult to manage without it. I prefer my lemur-esque jumpiness to a foggy medication haze. At this point in my life, I appreciate that my differences have given me a gift for observation and attention to detail.
I’m happiest when I find my comfort zone (which is someplace quiet and predictable), surround myself with a routine that works for me and my family, and avoid situations that — and people who — damage my calm.
The clock’s ticking; time to get back on schedule.