Friday, October 5, 2012

Let's take a journey into OCD

There are two components of OCD that a lot of us deal with. The first is the most talked about, and that is compulsive behavior. Frequent hand washing, ritualistic behaviors such as having to step on cracks on the sidewalk, etc. Both Perrin and I struggle with these, and if you'll ask the family members that have had the misfortune to live with me during a heightened OCD era, they can attest to my compulsive cleanliness. When John and I moved into our first house, I would vacuum beautifully perfect lines into the carpet and make people walk around the edges of the room so that they would remain perfect. I know how crazy that sounds, but if I could see footprints in my rows, I would become very anxious and couldn't relax until the prints were vacuumed out. Not to mention the rage face that would occur if someone left a dirty dish in the sink.

Perrin, too, has these rituals, and he is the king of organized chaos. This is the current state of his bedroom.
Look closely. To the non OCDer, this may look like a tornado hit his room, but they are actually very organized rows of items that he has grouped together with purpose and intent. He knows the exact location of every single item in his floor, and if one thing gets moved, he becomes quite anxious. This slowly built up over the course of several weeks and started out as just the rows of toy bins at the head of the air mattress he's been sleeping on for the last month. That, too, is very precise. 4 pillows, 4 blankets, and his bed's mattress on top of him for added pressure. Sensory issues are a whole other ball of wax that I will cover another time.
If you're asking yourself why we enable this behavior, I'll be honest with you and say that we probably shouldn't. But as a person with OCD who feels a certain sense of security with my own organization, I empathize with his need to be surrounded with this. To us, it looks like a huge mess. To him, it means safety and certainty. Nothing in this world stays the same, and for a kid who has a very hard time dealing with unpredictability, the knowledge that his room, his haven, is exactly the way he wants it, provides a lot of comfort. It isn't dirty; I don't allow food or dirty clothes to remain. So, for the time being, it will remain. The only issue is that during playdates, he panics a little when his friends want to play with his toys because that means moving them from their spots. We are working on this with him, and I'm confident this phase will pass soon just like all the others.
The other part of OCD that a lot of people may not know about, or talk about, is the obsessive thinking. The thoughts that don't go away. That song that gets stuck in your head for days at a time. For some of us, this is heightened to a sometimes debilitating degree.
Some people have hobbies. They like things or don't like them. I'm told that neurotypical people can have casual interests or things they "sort of like." This boggles me because I am not ambivalent about anything. I either hate it or love it. I either have zero interest in something to the point where I'd prefer it not exist or I'm so completely obsessed with something that it will consume my thoughts for weeks at a time. If I hear a new band that I love, I will listen to them on a loop and then google the hell out of them to the point where I will know every member's name, parent's name,  place of birth, etc. I can tell you who every actor is married to, every movie they've ever been in. And I know you don't care, but I will tell you anway. My head is filled with mostly useless pop culture trivia because it's one of my obsessions. When John asks me, "Who's that guy who was in that movie with that girl," I usually know. I'm a master at "Seven Degrees of Kevin Bacon."
Perrin's obsessions are Marvel superheroes and Power Rangers. He has zero interest in anything else and will ignore any attempts at a conversation that doesn't include them. He has this amazing imagination and creates complex characters and breathes such life into them that they become part of him. He is now mentally stable enough to be able to separate his Extremo from Perrin and can switch on and off at any time, so it's no longer a concern. However, he gets a bee in his bonnet and frequently starts a topic, such as "We need to create a kingdom where everybody on the planet will live in our house," and then repeat this phrase over and over again for several hours. Yesterday he fixated so much on getting some sort of freeze blaster to build this kingdom that he paced in a circle around the house for about 2 hours talking about it nonstop. I may have lost my gourd just a wee bit around that second hour and went out and bought a damn toy gun in the hopes that he'd shut the deuce up about it. That was a temporary fix, and then I had to ask him to talk about something else for awhile because I was starting to go to my happy place a little too much.
The brain is such a persnickety little creature, and obsessions can be consuming. I can't tell you how many nights I lie awake trying to sift through the dozens of thoughts and images that run through my mind. I can spend hours replaying a conversation I had where I thought I may have offended someone or said something stupid. It makes me kind of an uptight, nervous person who has a hard time relaxing and just going with the flow. I am working very hard on being a more mellow person who doesn't care about socks left on the floor or worries about why a friend hasn't answered an email or text. Perhaps one day being around me and Perrin won't be quite so much like being in a Woody Allen movie.


  1. it is so interesting hearing about others that have ocd too. in my side of the family, there is alot of ocd history on paternal and maternal sides.My family was always neat freeks, organized in every place, cleaning house daily. My son inherited alot of the ocd. He will push against faucet handles constant until pushed way back where handles loosened up. He cant stand the sounds at home of people smacking noises while we eat, if you touched his food he will think you have dirty fingers, insists on jogging pants, does not like the feel of pants over belly to pull up and other thoughts in head do not leave his mind, watches sky- thinks meteors will come down to earth- watched history channel years ago and looks up to sky always thinking something will fall. Ocd is so amazing the thought process does not leave. interesting to hear from others. thanks

  2. OCD certainly is a mixed bag, isn't it? When I was about 20, I watched a lot of UFO documentaries and convinced myself that I was going to be abducted by aliens. Then again, I did live in the middle of a corn field ;)