Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Finally Coming Out

I know, I've been a Very Bad Blogger lately.  My postings have been irregular, to say the least.  Partly that's because I've been afraid of saying harsh things about the people who sold me this house, since as you know I have resolved to go back to the kinder, gentler me I was BB (Before Barry).  Partly it's because...because...OK, let me tell you something that, before last weekend, only one other person on earth knew.  I have OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder).

I've joked about having a touch of OCD before, but the truth is that I've been a counter for as long as I can remember.  I will see a flock of birds perched on a telephone line, or pencils in a cup, or people waiting for a bus, and I have to count them.  Usually I can justify the counting to myself; if each person takes 10 seconds to deposit a token and move into the bus, how long will those of us in the bus have to wait before it moves on?  If five people are in the line, though, I don't stop counting at five; especially if I'm stressed, my brain will count on to 50, or 150, or 500, or whenever I realize what it's doing and tell myself to stop.  Sometimes even then it drones on in the background while I force myself to mentally go on to other things.  Telephone poles, socks, semi-colons - given enough stress, I can count anything "to infinity and beyond."

One of the brightest moments in my life was when a New York co-worker told me that she was also a counter and we were able to talk freely about the problems it caused and how we coped with it.  I lost touch with her a few years later when she changed jobs and always regretted it.  Last week she found me again through Linked In, and I was so happy that I told my sister about it and about the counting.  Sue was flabbergasted; she looked at me as though I'd confessed to an ax murder and said, "You've managed to hide it well."

Well, no.  I wasn't really hiding anything; when I was a child I didn't realize that everyone's brain didn't work this way.  I think I was in my late 30's before I read an article on counting as a symptom of OCD.  I was shocked.  Sure, I've always had anxiety dreams where I'm responsible for the fate of the world, pretty much every co-worker I've ever had has made fun of how neat my desk was, one co-worker used to call me "Adrian Monk" when she was in a bad mood, various friends have suggested I organize closets for a living, and my husband Tom used to do an imitation of me striding through the house and shouting, "Order! Ve must haf ORDER!!" - but OCD?  ME??? 

The good news is that it doesn't control me.  At an early age I developed a fierce focus that lets me keep on going even when I can't get the counting to stop.  I can concentrate so completely on what I'm doing that I literally don't hear anything else, or when I do, I leap for the ceiling as if someone has set off firecrackers under my chair.  Bosses love this because I usually get as much done for them as any two other employees in the same amount of time (although I have to watch myself to keep from redoing acceptable work in a fruitless attempt to make it perfect).  Significant others hate it because they feel ignored.  Hm. Maybe I was meant to live alone.

At any rate, now you all know.  The main reason I haven't blogged much since July 22 (the day my house closed) is that I've been busy unpacking and obsessively arranging things.  A few more days and I should be completely finished, if I can keep from rearranging things to make them just a little more perfect.  And I have to say - the closet in the master bedroom is an organizational thing of beauty.  The kitchen will be, too, by the time I'm done, if I can just keep myself from being derailed by counting silverware.

"I do not have OCD OCD OCD."  ~Emilie Autumn

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