They call it Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, or OCD. I’ve always had it, even before it had a name.
Well, maybe it had a name in fancy academic circles, but in our tiny little red brick house on Beech Street in Ashdown, my dad just called it, “afflicted.”
First, let me say that I’m not making fun of people with OCD. That’s the job of the writers on the TV show, Monk. Even if I am making fun of OCD, I get a pass. I’m one of those lucky enough to have it.
Let me explain. OCD is something that can be a blessing. In a way, it gives you super powers. Powers of observation, powers of recall, powers of obsession.
Hence the name.
But, there are also some pretty humorous aspects to the affliction.
And it can be an affliction.
Before science gave names to all kinds of human flaws, the old folks called whatever you had, an “affliction.”
Great Grandfather: “That boy’s afflicted.”
Dad: “Yessir, he is.”
As an 8-year-old, I thought everyone measured their bedspread so that it was exactly eight inches from the floor – all the way around the bed. That was one inch for every year I was old.
The upside for my mom was that I was the rare young man whose room was immaculate, completely in order, and his bedspread was exactly eight inches from the floor.
The downside for my dad was that I was afflicted.
If you have OCD, the world is not in order. That’s true for people who don’t have OCD. But if you do have it, the world is really out of order, you want to fix it, and you never stop trying.
An example: A few years ago I was helping with a summer camp for kids. I’d never been to the main lodge of the camp before, which was built decades ago by amazing craftsmen. But as buildings age, things stop working and become out of plumb.
At the top of the main door there was a latch lock, which no longer would engage. As the rest of the world continued to turn around me, I took out my multi-tool (which is always in a holster on my belt) and repaired the lock. After fixing it, someone said to me, “You haven’t heard anything I’ve said, have you?”
For me, grammar is important. Oh, my writing doesn’t always follow my own rules, but if someone on the news uses the wrong word or there is a misspelled word on the screen, I feel as if I need to alert the Pentagon.
Light switches are an obsession. If there’s anything that sets me off more than every light in the house being left on, I haven’t found it yet. If you leave the room, turn off the light. How hard is that?
I’ve decided that I can’t die before the rest of the family because there’ll be no one left to turn off all the lights.
The upside of OCD is you develop a remarkable memory and can connect dots that most others cannot. I’m not sure of the reason for this, but recalling events and conversations that happened decades ago as if they happened yesterday is an upside. Especially if the memory includes someone you care for who’s no longer with you.
Recalling moments you spent with family members or friends is much like watching an 8-millimeter home movie. Only the playback is more like a blu-ray DVD.
Then there’s the random fork in the silverware drawer. Somehow, it made its way home from a reunion or other gathering, and it’s now living with your regular set of eating utensils. You want to get rid of it, but your wife won’t let you.
The fork doesn’t match, so you try to avoid it. But it manages to scream out to you like a puppy at an adoption center.
“Pick me! I can spear that piece of steak just as good as the others. Better, even! C’mon, let me show you!”
So, you give it a chance, but you feel as if you’re cheating on the regular silverware. The entire meal feels like an illicit tryst.
Darn you, random fork.
As with most things, there are degrees of OCD. If you’ve watched the TV show Monk, you likely have the idea that anyone who has obsessive-compulsive disorder is virtually debilitated with it.
Oh, some people certainly are, but not all. In one of the Monk episodes, Adrian Monk’s brother is featured. The brother hasn’t left the house in years because he’s unable to deal with the disarray in the world due to his disorder.
And OCD is a disorder. But, it’s a treatable one.
Some of us learn to use OCD to our advantage. I’ve managed to take something that could have consumed me and funneled it into writing, playing along with Jeopardy on TV, and figuring out who the murderer is on a TV show about seven minutes into an episode.
Formulaic patterns become easy to discern when you have OCD.
The desire to fix everything can be overwhelming. But if you just take things as they come and redirect them, it’s not bad at all. But, if you realize you have a consuming type of OCD, please seek treatment. It’s out there and you need it.
By the way, it should be called CDO. Whoever decided not to put the abbreviation in alphabetical order is wrong. Maybe even afflicted.
©2021 John Moore
John’s new book, Puns for Groan People, and his books, Write of Passage: A Southerner’s View of Then and Now Vol. 1 and Vol. 2, are available on his website – TheCountryWriter.com, where you can also send him a message and hear his weekly podcast.