Saturday, October 10, 2009

Let's See Your OCD

When I was still in nursing school, one of the subjects I loved and was fascinated by was Mental Health. On the very first page of my Mental Health module was a small introductory paragraph. The introduction itself is not memorable; what I remember, and always will remember, is the opening sentence:

Each one of us has small, varying degrees of different mental illnesses.

Oh sure! Now you tell me. Here I thought I was just a superstitious old fool. Now I can call it by it's proper name: Superstitious/magical thinking, a tiny corner of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. (A corner where we throw chicken bones to decide who gets first dibs on the bathroom faucet.)

The "crazy" thing is, the more superstitions you invent, the more things you start noticing. The more things you start noticing, the more things you start noticing going wrong, if you haven't completed your ritual. Also, you will notice more things going right, if you have done your ritual.

My superstitions began at the tender dewdrop age of ten. My best friend at the time, Christina, got me started. (Let's blame her; what the heck, she's not here.) The first superstition I ever had was the one she gave me: never, ever step on the first or last step of a staircase, whether you were going up or down. If you did, it meant you were going to grow up and marry Joe McK. and nobody wanted to marry him because he picked his nose and stuck pushpins through his sneakers. With the sharp ends pointed out.

Christina lived in a house that had stairs leading from the kitchen to the front door. When I would go down the stairs, I would touch the ceiling of the foyer where it ended to allow for the staircase. But only once per visit, because if I touched it a second time, my good luck would disappear and be replaced with bad luck. Bad luck like Christina's ghetto blaster would fall out of the window where it was perched. Or we would not be allowed to have a bonfire and a sleepover. If I touched that spot on the ceiling a third time, my good luck would return.

Now, I can look back and see that the ghetto blaster probably fell because we had New Kids on the Block cranked and it committed suicide we were jumping around and someone probably knocked it. Perhaps we were not allowed to have a sleepover and a bonfire because we were constantly at each others' houses and our parents wanted a break from our togetherness.

I no longer feel the need to avoid the first and last steps of a staircase, because I am already married and thus, the chances of marrying Joe McK. are slim. (Sometimes, just sometimes, I wonder if nose picking and thumb-tacked shoes might just be marginally better than nose picking, denial-farting*, and improper use of the flat sheet in bed.**) (I don't think Hot Stuff is open to the concept of a Brother-Husband, either. He's kind of stick in the mud like that.)

I do, however, still feel the urge to touch the top of doorways once, and only once, when I pass through. If I'm not by myself, I can usually resist the urge and tell myself that thinking of touching the top of the door-frame is an acceptable alternative. If I really need a shot of good luck, I will pretend that I'm stretching, or rubbing at a nick or scuff at the top of the door-frame. If by some chance I touch the top of the door-frame a second time, I must immediately touch it again a third time. It has to be either once, or three times. Never just twice.

Another of my superstitions is about salt. If you spill salt, you must throw some of the spilled salt over your shoulder. If you don't take this precaution, Bad Things Will Happen To You.

Here's the thing: when you eat breakfast at a restaurant and you knock over the salt twice (once right after the other), you must throw salt over your shoulder twice. One shoulder-throw is not sufficient; it must be once per spill. If you fail to do this, Bad Things Will Happen To You.

Bad Things like: You Will Make A Giant Mess Out Of Your Daughter's Birthday Cake And Spend Over An Hour Fixing And Cleaning Because You Caused Three Separate Small Oven Fires, In Addition To Giving Your Ego A Painful Blow Because You Like To Think Of Yourself As A Pretty Talented Amateur Baker.

Important Life Lesson: It's not OCD, people, this superstitious shit is REAL. Make sure you follow your rituals or Bad Stuff Will Also Happen To You.

So, let's see your OCD.

*Denial-farting: two people are in a room. The first person, oh.. let's call him "Warm Stuff," farts. The second person, we'll call her "Stoney" says, "Gross. Farty McFarterson from Fartertown Falls." Warm Stuff denies ownership of the fart, and continues to deny ownership of the fart, even though they are the only two people in the room and it is clearly Warm Stuff who cut the cheese.

**This is when one person, again, we'll call him "Warm Stuff" refuses to sleep under the flat sheet (the one that is NOT fitted, for all of you bachelors out there), so "Stoney" has no flat-sheet movement and is constantly trying to yank more flat sheet loose from the hulking, snoring beast known as Warm Stuff.


  1. When I was 7, a friend convinced me if I rubbed the lid of this tiny teapot for an hour every day for a week I'd get my wish (chocolate pudding for dessert, we were Hippy Granola Heads and I'd might as well been asking for American Cheese or Froot Loops).

    We have no denial farts in this house, except mine, which I blame on the cat. The men here are righteously proud of their noise/odor generation, and own them with enthusiasm.

    I have the same issues with the flat sheet, and if I get up to pee, he takes my pillows.

    I'm trying to think if I have any OCDish stuff, but since I'm already certifiably manic-depressive, I think I'll pass. Well, there is the coffee thing at 2pm...and the clothes in the closet lined up by color thing...and the must wear rubber gloves...well...ok. Maybe a little.

  2. Oh, I have my share of those. Like which number the volume is on, whether letters and numbers (when written) are completely "closed" or have gaps in the lines, hitting the roof of the car if I squeeze through an almost-red-but-not-quite yellow light, avoiding cracks in a sidewalk...

    I'm special like that.

  3. Born in the wings of a theatre, (kinda, my Mom was an actor), I learned never to throw a hat on the bed, whistle backstage or utter the name of Shakespeare's "M" play before a performance of any kind. Those little nuggets of "magical thinking" (I like that description by the way, very fairies and unicorns) became my OCD touchstones even when not anywhere near the theatre.

  4. When I first read this I thought "Hhmm...I'm not sure I have any"...Yeah. Then real life interjected! I have 2 that I can think of right off the bat. 1. The "loaded with germs" sponge that's on our kitchen sink. I don't want that disgusting thing touching ANYTHING but a pan that may need a little extra scrub before it goes into the dishwasher. And yet,BSP continues to use it to wipe down the counters, the stove, etc!!! Doesn't he know that's the germiest thing in the house?!?! Over and over and over I tell him DON'T USE THAT TO WIPE DOWN ANYTHING but he seems to have swimmers ear or something 'cause he keeps doing it!!
    2. I HAVE to make our bed before I leave the house. If I don't, it ruins my entire day! I will sit at work and think about that un-made bed that will greet me when I get home!
    BTW: Loved the Farty McFaterson remark and totally used it on BSP this morning. However, unlike your husband, he proudly claims his gas. He is one of those "pull my finger" wouldn't you just love to have THAT?!?!

  5. My desk, I am totally OCD NUTS about my desk...people who touch it (and leave fingerprints) are taking their lives in their hands...

    Oh, so magicky thinking for you...toe tags. Toe tags come from the old Eastern European custom of tying a corpses feet together so if it were to rise from the dead, it would have issues walking around. :) I am a wonder of useless knowledge. Heh.

  6. OH YEAH, and the SHEET thing! Mr.E does that too, does not sleep under the flat sheet. I swear I think this is a serious flaw in his character and it makes no sense whatsoever. Mayhaps it is a man thing???

  7. I get superstitions. I have to set my alarm to a weird time like 8:04 or 8:11. It cannot be a nice and even number like 8am or 815 or it will drive me nuts.

    My J likes to sleep under the blankets, then gets hot, sleeps on top of the blankets and pins me in my blanket cave.

  8. I must have loads of soap in the house at all times. Because I am a dirty bitch.

  9. DUDE!! I totally do the magical thinking thing!

    And I am also quite superstitious! When I was 8, my friend told me that it was good luck to say "rabbit, rabbit" on the very first day of every month. Sixteen years later and I'm still going strong! But I've also added some "rules" to the superstition... for example, I have to say "rabbit, rabbit" as early in the day as possible - before I've said many other words at all - in order to have the maximum possible luck or avoid bad luck. I also have to say it out loud, so that can get kind of weird if I am in public and wondering "do I say 'rabbit, rabbit' and look like a crazy person or do I just not talk to anyone until I can find a bathroom stall where I can say 'rabbit, rabbit' and then still look like a crazy person?"

    This sounds even crazier now that I've written it... maybe I'll post it on my blog someday. For now, this is just between you and I, okay?


  10. rootie: i blame my farts on the dog even if she's in another room. or on another floor.

    TM: i never thought of letters and numbers as open/closed. letters and numbers have colors for me when they are written. one is white, two is blue, three is red, four is brown, etc...

    linnnn: throw a hat on a bed? where did that come from?

    lisa: i seriously lol'd at the "swimmer's ear" thing. and the Funky Sponge? nothing gets washed with the Funky Sponge, unless it has been running under the scalding hot water for a few minutes and has had dishsoap poured on it. then it can be used for washing up spills on the *floor* only.

    ren: thanks for the toe-tag info: i feel much better knowing that should the Undead (subtype Zombie, not subtype Vampire) come back, i'll have a head-start while they untangle that pesky tag

    meg: i really struggled with how to explain that whole flat sheet phenomenon. "blanket cave" really spells it out. how come you didn't tell me about blanket cave when i was *writing* this post?

    aunt becky: dirty, dirty girl! *heavy breathing on your phone* (o no the phone is calling from inside the house!)

    allie: your secrets are safe with me, i will not tell a soul. i will, however, sing like a canary to the Undead if they catch me and offer my freedom for *your* inner-wacko quirks.

  11. I throw salt, though every time I do, I cuss myself (since it's usually my kitchen floor that houses the luck remains).

  12. Never heard the one about the steps...I am very superstitious about walking under ladders in the house, and also umbrellas...these do not mesh well with 3 kids under 5!

  13. * I tap walls, filing cabinets, doors, fences - usually with a light rapping of three fingers (like if you're tapping on a table, waiting for something impatiently?) as I'm walking along the object in question. I can talk myself down if I *need* to. Sometimes.

    * I am fully entuned to the "step-on-a-crack" rule. I can talk myself down if it takes too much effort to not have a crazy-assed stride.

    * I peel labels off of anything that can have its label peeled off (immediately thinking: rubbermaid containers and school binders). I can't talk myself down from that one. I even peel off other people's lables (friends' RM containers). Not ID labels (tin cans). THAT would be crazy. Or in a store (pre-sale). THAT would ALSO be crazy.

    I accounted for several more amongst my "25(00) (crazy) things" I listed some time ago. If you were a really dedicated stalker, you'd find it.

    (on the flip-side, I appear to be the 13th commenter, but don't care)


Please, let me know how immensely my writings have changed your life for the better. Remember, one can never be too effusive.