A few days ago, I posted on Facebook that I'd only checked the alarm clock 3 times the night before. Down from the usual eleventy-six. I thought it showed great promise.
Seriously, I usually check the alarm countless times. I use the alarm on my iPhone. Well, alarms, actually. I have two of them set. Even though the little button switches to blue and clearly says "On", I just can't shake the thought that I will mess it up somehow. I'm not sure why this freaks me out so much. Of course, no one wants to oversleep, but if it happened, the world wouldn't end. My boss is incredibly cool. As long as it wasn't happening weekly, he's not going to flip out and fire me because once every couple of years I oversleep. Still, the thought haunts me. So I check the alarm. Then I check it again. And a few more times. And then I ask my husband if he has his alarm set.
In reply to my post, my friend Serena offered a helpful suggestion. She said her husband does similar things, like obsessing over whether or not he unplugged the iron. So, he employed a code word. When he does unplug the iron, he says "Cougar!" or some other word. Then, when he's freaking out in the driveway, he can come to terms with the fact that he DID unplug the iron because he knows he said "Cougar!"
I thought "Hey, that's a pretty good idea!"
Then I spent the next 24 hours trying to figure out what word to pick. And was I just supposed to pick one word? Or a different word for each of the tasks that trip me up? Because, let's say I chose "banana"... so I say "banana" when I've successfully set my alarm clock. Then, then next morning when I turn off my hair straightener, I say "banana". Then when I have tugged once on the front door to make sure it's locked, I say "banana" again. So I get to work and think "Did I turn off my hair straightener?" and I can't be sure because I've said "banana" so many times recently... how I can I be certain it was "hair straightener banana" and not "tug on the door banana"?! Clearly, I will need separate words for each task. But how will I keep the words straight? Should I put them on an index card?
No. That seems a little OCD.
I know, right? You were wondering when I would get to that.
The thing is, I don't know that I actually have OCD. Maybe a twinge, but I kind of think we all do. For me, those few tasks I mentioned and maybe one or two others are the only things I get huffy about. Other than that, I don't wash my hands 46 times. I don't have to turn clockwise three times when I enter a room. I don't turn the lights on and off a set number of times. My house is definitely not compulsively neat. It's kind of cluttered, but not hoarder-ish either. I don't have OCD. I'm just quirky. And logical.
And so what if I occasionally tap someone on the shoulder at church and ask them to put their song book back in the rack correctly. I mean, why would you put it back upside down? That's just silly. And backwards?! It interrupts the nice, clean flow of the pew. That's not OCD. That's aesthetics.
Why wouldn't you want to make sure all your digital clocks are set to the same time? It's not that hard to stand in the kitchen with one hand on the stove and one on the microwave and have someone else stand at clock / radio beside the bed (from back before we used our iPhones but still have for some reason) and then say "NOW!" when the minute clicks over. It's not like the kitchen and bedroom are in slightly different time zones. That's not OCD. That's science. Or geography.
Plus, a box of crayons should be kept in ROYGBIV order. Why wouldn't all the purples want to hang out together from lightest to darkest? When choosing a green, wouldn't you rather have all the choices right together so you can easily tell the nuances between them? If I'm going to color Tinkerbell with my niece, I think it should be the official Tinkerbell green. That's not OCD. That's art.
I am not a germaphobe. Really, I'm not. So I sprayed one roommate with Lysol. But she was very sick and I told her that I needed to spray down the living room. It's not my fault she stayed on the couch. That's not OCD. That's legitimate decontamination.
So what if can't stand for things to be asymmetrical? I mean, one-shouldered tops and dresses are pretty but I would just feel off-balanced. And it's unfair to the other shoulder. And why wouldn't you want all the words on a document lined up perfectly? That's not OCD. That's Asymmetriphobia. It's different.
Who doesn't have a violent reaction to repetitive sounds? I'm from the digital age. I see no value in a ticking clock. I can trust that time is passing without having to hear it do so. Also, not putting your phone on silent when it's right beside you out in public and making me hear your text ding every 12 seconds is rude. And leaving the keyboard clicks turned on on your touchscreen device is pure evil. That's not OCD. That's manners.
So, I think it's clear I don't have OCD. I've done plenty of research on this. Not an obsessive amount, mind you. Just plenty. These things don't interfere with my life. I do not fear horrible things will happen if I don't perform these tasks. Except maybe the hair straightener. But that's not OCD. That's electrical fires. I am not superstitious. ("But I am a little 'stitious...") At any rate, the code word thing might be a good idea.
After some Facebook crowdsourcing, I've decided on "BAZINGA!"
The jury is still out as to whether I need additional words for other tasks. I probably do, right?
Oh, crap. Never mind. Don't answer that. I do not have a strong need for your approval or reassurance. If I did, I would have to mark "Yes" on number 53 of the self-test for OCD that I printed off the internet.
Seriously though, I can joke about these things because I know it's weird what things bother me and what things don't. If I actually reached a point where these things were taking up large amounts of my time, consuming a lot of my thoughts, or where my family was concerned about me, I would absolutely get help. Whether it's OCD, depression, an eating disorder, or any other mental health concern, there should be no shame or judgment in talking to a doctor or therapist! If you're in a place where you can laugh at yourself, like I am, I'll laugh with you if you want. But I'll never laugh at you if you're struggling.