Looking back at my childhood, I am 99.99% sure I had undiagnosed obsessive-compulsive disorder. And though under control, there’s doubt I have it as an adult. As I think about my strange, childhood behaviors, I can’t help but wonder: how did this affliction untreated? Was everyone too focused on my speech impediments? Surely my parents noticed me making sure that that every Kleenex box was perfectly aligned and straight 30 times a day. Or, did I simply do a great job staying closeted about it?
Though my undiagnosed condition has been a sometimes a cumbersome, debilitating hindrance, I have learned to embrace it. In fact, I am convinced that my obsessive compulsiveness stems from the same part of my brain that fueled my obsessive devotion to a dream that a less obsessive person might have given up on. After all, rebounding from rejection after rejection is much akin to doing the same thing over and over and over until something gives. Because eventually, everything finds its place. The planets will be aligned. And wall will be right with the world.
In addition to the aforementioned Kleenex boxes, I obsessed over everything from the corner of a video game cartridge label peeling off, to a smudge mark on the cover of a comic book. The one thing that drove my family the most nuts was my insistence on making sure the bindings of my books never got bent. They knew better than to open a book of mine. Anytime somebody would attempt to open up one of my books, or (in rare instances, loan one of my books to someone), I would issue one simple, panicked caveat: DON’T BEND THE BINDING!
Though some of my OCD tendencies have faded over time, proper book care has not. And it’s just my books that I worry about. I cringe at the sight of any book binding abuse. If preserving a book’s binding means not being able to open it up more than half an inch and straining my neck in order to read the words on the page, then godammit, the book ain’t opening more than half an inch. And don’t even get me started on bent covers.
Here are some of my other ODC quirks over the years (and more reasons why I had such a tough time making friends):
1st grade: Obsessively staring at my digital Casio watch so much so, my parents had to take it away.
4th grade: Feeling the need to constantly clear my throat to make sure my voice box was still working
5th grade: The aforementioned straightening of Kleenex boxes.
6th grade: Crashing my R/C monster truck into a basement wall and then obsessively trying to tape it back on.
7th grade: obsessively putting sidewalk chalk over a bleached out portion of a Simpsons T-shirt.
The list can go on and on. Over the years, I have saved insignificant items from dates, ex-girlfriends, and even random friends, including candy wrappers, uneaten candy still in wrappers, ticket stubs, and napkins from dates, etc. It’s a wonder that I’m not a hoarder. I have come dangerously close. Fortunately, three women have made me get rid of things at various points in my life: my mother. And two wives. Especially whenever the time had come to move. I still have a box of love letters from my high school girlfriend stored into the deepest recesses of my basement. In fact, I have dozens of boxes spanning multiple eras of my life. Someday, the R.J. Fox historical society is going to really appreciate this fact.
My hoarder tendencies became magnified tenfold once I had children. God forbid my wife throws away a small scribble my son or daughter makes on a crumpled up piece of paper.
My undiagnosed condition still rears its ugly head in all areas of life:
I overly-obsess checking e-mail, Facebook, Twitter, etc. – no matter how busy I may be (and especially when I am writing). Then there was the time I re-painted a door over a dozen times attempting to cover up a small pockmark that was made after attempting to sand bumpy paint before it was completely dry. No matter how many coats of paint, the pockmark remained. I obsessed over it once I sold that house. And continue to obsess over it from time to time.
Every now and then, my OCD over small things lead to even bigger problems. Take, for instance, a recent incident involving an old pair of tattered gym shorts. (My inability to get rid of clothes – no matter how worn or old – is a side effect of my OCD). These particular shorts were navy blue, with a small a strip of white at the bottom. While re-surfacing our blacktop driveway, a small drop of black coating landed right on the white spot of my shorts. It drove me absolutely crazy that these old, raggedy shorts were now tarnished. In a frenzy, I whipped up a solution to the problem: bleach! Of course this would work. White on white! After dabbing a bleach-soaked cotton ball on the black spot, I laid the shorts upon my bed to dry, thinking that the wet part wouldn’t penetrate through my bedspread. Not only did it leave a bleach stain far larger and far more noticeable than the little black spot on my old pair of shorts, the bleach didn’t work (though in my defense, it was definitely more faded). Three years later, I still obsess over this incident and an endless others just like it. As much as I realize nothing can be done to change these things, my mind still acts as though it can.
Though I realize none of these obsessions really matter in the end, I think I much prefer living in a world where everything does.