It’s been about a year since I’ve talked about my mental health issues, since those issues stopped me dead in my tracks and psychologically blocked me from functioning in every day life in many ways. I recently started writing again, and revealed that I had started going to therapy. It’s been about a year now since I’ve started and I’d like to share what I’ve learned about myself. Hopefully, this will help those going through something similar either by helping them understand how they feel and think, inspiring them to seek help, or simply feeling less alone in their struggles. I’ll be posting articles like this from time to time about the various issues I have so this will be the first of several. Without further ado, these are my Obsessive Compulsive Disorder tendencies.
I am currently sitting at my desk. My keyboard is centered to the computer monitor and is on a XXL-mouse pad, which is a mouse pad meant to cover most of the surface of a desk. That mouse pad is straight on my desk and is justified to the left so it covers all of the space in front of my monitor. Next to the mouse pad at the right side of my desk, I have a glass of water on a coaster. The glass has a hexagonal base and when I drink from it, I make sure I sip from the center of one of the sides, even though the top of the glass is just a circle. To the left of me is my media shelf, which holds video games from various consoles, handhelds and PC, music CDs, vinyl albums and singles, and Blu-Ray movies. Most of the cases are setup to go from big to small from left to right, and the ones that are not bug me but they are necessary as I want to keep each media type and consoles together while also simultaneously have them be in alphabetical order. Even now, I’m noticing that my vinyl albums are actually not going big to small from left to right and I know I’m going to fix that soon.
To say that I am organized is an understatement, but it doesn’t tell the whole picture. I organize things the way I do so that it’s easy to find, but the level at how I do things is just for me. Alphabetizing is sensible, but ordering the shape of my media doesn’t do all that much to help find things. Drinking from a specific point of a drinking glass doesn’t help anyone or myself. Having some kind of symmetry to the layout of my desk doesn’t organize anything. But it’s how I want it, and is how I feel it should be. That symmetry, that visual aid from the progression from big to small, that feels right to me. This however doesn’t make any logical sense. Why wouldn’t I go from small to big? Why not a corner of the edges of the bottom of the glass instead of just an edge? Why not a specific edge? I don’t really have an answer for you. To me, this is just what makes sense. Sometimes to the point where I don’t understand why anyone else would do it differently.
This isn’t the only example of what I do as quote “the right way”. In the kitchen, the cereal boxes should go from big to small, left to right, with the nutrition facts label not showing on the outside. Soda and beer cans should always be out of their cardboard containers and all in the refrigerator with their labels facing out and with them lined up one after the other in however many rows are required depending on the pack size I got. When I eat, if I’m doing it “properly” and “efficiently”, I won’t need a napkin. All the food will be in my mouth and not on my face so I won’t need to clean myself. If I do need it, as with something messy like BBQ ribs, it should be minimal. In the bathroom, I have my deodorant, cologne, shaving stuff, and toothbrush and toothpaste holder lineup in a certain way. (would you believe it’s big to small?) In the shower, I do things in two waves: shampoo and face wash, and then conditioner and body wash. I could go on, but I think you get the point. This kind of mentality follows me everywhere. And I do mean everywhere.
There are exceptions. Dirty clothes don’t hold any importance to me so if they’re on the floor, it usually doesn’t bother me unless there’s an abundance of them. My clean clothes are organized, of course. Tops on one side of the closet, bottoms on the other, with shirts, t-shirts, jackets, sleeveless shirts, jeans, cargo pants, cargo shorts, cotton shorts, sweat pants, and pajama pants each grouped together (I don’t have a dresser, but I do have a small walk-in closet so all my clothes are hung). However, when they’re worn and dirty, that type of organization doesn’t make sense since it’s not for what you need to find but for how they’re going to be cleaned. Although now as I’m typing this, I think I would like a hamper each for whites and colors…
So what happens when something is out of place? Well, not too much thankfully. I don’t have an episode when something is off or anything like that. Does it bother me? Yes, it does. Will I get up to fix it? If I’m able to, yeah. If it’s left out of place for a long period of time, then it will bug to the extent where I will periodically look at where it’s messed up and just pine to fix it. Then given the first opportunity to, I’ll walk over it and fix it. Not in an exacerbated matter or overly dramatic way, even if after it’s done, I do feel better, as if a small but important weight has been lifted off my shoulders. However, it’s not a spectacle to behold and I doubt most will even notice.
But this isn’t really how it affects me. It’s the time I take and set aside so I can do this that affects me. It’s the hour or more I’m going to set aside to take out all of my vinyl albums and reorder them so they’re alphabetical and big to small from left to right. It’s the hours I’ve taken to rearrange my room so it’s efficient to how I want things to be positioned, whether it be so there’s no light glare on the TV (flat screens not getting glare is bullshit) or making sure my desk is adjacent to it so I can still run a HDMI cable from my computer tower to the TV, or positioning the couch so it’s precisely in front of the TV. The time to organize the soda cans, my closet, my bathroom toiletries, my games, my CDs, my movies, my computer files, my personal files, my pencils (yes, even my pencils), my little Sonic the Hedgehog figures, my game controllers, my notebooks of various creative writings, my instruction booklets from all of the electronic devices I have, my books, my cups, my plates, my cereal boxes, my food, my everything. My life.
Here’s the problem though. You can’t organize life. You can organize elements, sections, parts of life, but not life as a whole. Something unexpected will always happen, something new will always introduce itself, and void that which was previously organized. If you’re me and that happens, you don’t know what to do with yourself. You spent all this time getting things just right and in an instance, it’s all wrong. My Google Calendar is listed with things to do for my various projects as well as real life obligations (doctor appointments, grocery shopping, etc) and fun time. I plan out to do fun stuff occasionally (I mean stuff like watching a movie, not going on a cruise. No money for that shit), though I’ve been better about that recently. Even today as I’m writing this (which is different from when I first started this post), I had my day planned out, but I woke up a half an hour late, and then my mother needed help in the yard and she wanted me to sign her up for Sling so she can watch the Opening Day game of the Los Angeles Dodgers but that didn’t work because the game was blacked out so fuck Sling and…I had to push back all the things I wanted to get done today and reschedule them at different times. Do I mind doing all these extra things? Not really. It’s not the situations themselves that bother me. It’s that my plan has to change that bothers me. Will I still finish what I wanted to do today? Probably, but it’s not going to go how I wanted it to.
Sometimes, life will do you one better. Things will change so much, it’ll completely throw out the entire system you used to organize it in the first place. Then, you’ll have to start over. And when you’re as organized as I am, it doesn’t take much to throw your hands up in the air and just start from scratch. Is it throwing the baby out with the bathwater? Absolutely. It might be harder to try to salvage what has gone wrong but at least it’s not as demoralizing as it is when you start from scratch. However, the dirty little secret is some people enjoy creating that baby more than caring for it afterwards. I enjoy organizing things. I feel accomplished. I like the planning and the carrying out of the plan. The maintaining of the plan is also fairly enjoyable. But this is all meant to open my life up to more important activities rather than spend it dealing with menial things. But that’s not what I do. The fact of the matter is I think I enjoy organizing my life more than living it. And that’s probably one of the reasons I’m not as happy as I’d like to be.
Like many things, organizing has become almost like a drug. My addiction is to planning, and like many addictions that are hard to understand, it’s difficult to find the line when there’s a lot to what you’re doing that is actually positive. It actually complicates things since I actually am not that bad. Like I said before, I don’t freak out when somethings out of place and I even have exceptions to the rule. Hell, this piece is titled “My OCD Tendencies” for a reason. I have not been diagnosed clinically with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, because I could be so much worse. I don’t have rituals that I perform or problems throwing things out. I do tend to double check things but that’s due to me second guessing myself a lot, but that’s for another post. What I’m getting at is it’s good to keep things in order in life, but just not to the extent that I do. Personally, I just can’t find the line anymore. At least not yet. I think I will someday. Maybe.