If I had to dissect aspects of my personality I didn’t like, I’d probably say that my OCD is one of the worst traits I have. OK, it’s not a trait, rather a mental illness, but still. It’s one of the least desirable of an already grim lot.
I never really thought I was controlling until my therapist pointed it out to me the other day. Well, he didn’t point it out per say; he just lead me to that conclusion via a string of enigmatic sentences like a mime giving me a bizarre tour of my mind. As soon as I arrived at this realisation I was gripped by an eerie sense of dread. How the hell do I fix something that’s so intrinsically grained into me?
OCD isn’t a disease that bothers, it’s a disease that tortures. If you don’t live with OCD then let me describe it for you. OCD feels how food would taste if it were slaughtered then retrieved from a murderer’s basement and reheated in an electronic armpit. It’s like chewing on cotton wool that’s peppered with hints of used condom. But your mind has you at gunpoint, it’s screaming that you need to eat it. There’s no choice, you have to. It’s embarrassing; it reaps havoc in your day-to-day life. It’s always there. Like your shadow, only it barks like a seal and is a gaudier colour.
Living with my OCD.
I am the Monica of my friendship group. Organised fun, love to be a host, cooking for friends, and cleaning after. All sounds good, right? The sort of dude you’d want to party with? Wrong. If you deviate from my plan then I’ll be teetering on the edge of a meltdown so terrifying that my collapse into madness is full blown Norman Bates. But it’s not about being a neat freak, it’s so much more.
I need people to turn up on time. If they don’t my entire night will fall to pieces and no matter how hard people try you cannot put it back together again. If I cook, or lay out snacks, I need reassurance that everything is find, that everyone’s happy. If I see one glum face or don’t get feedback (you can even write a review if you want) then I have failed, and subsequently want to start from scratch. This happened the other night when I made a pasta bake for a friend and it wasn’t perfect, so I binned it, and he had to wait another hour or so for dinner.
After years of training in a Tibetan monastery, I can now fight most of these urges. However, of all my lovely OCD demons, cleaning is the most insidious. Cleaning is my anti-jam; it’s that song that’s stuck in my head, the one you fucking hate but need to sing along too. I have come to call this even demonic cleaning possession ‘Evil Monica.’
Cleaning isn’t my only OCD trait, but I’d say it’s the one that interferes with my life the most.
If I’m in someone else’s flat, or car, fuck even a shop, and something’s a mess it literally takes every ounce of self-restraint I can muster not to go full blown Kim and Aggie. Seriously, pan the camera to my face and then zoom in and you’ll see an increasingly alien-looking bulge throbbing from my forehead. That’s what it’s like in other places, so imagine how hard it is to resist that urge in my own home?
Even now there’s one glass and knife in the sink and I’m forced to regard them with the same disdain I would a child predator. I am telling myself, ‘Topher, you can clean them after you write this’ but they’re just looking at me, sitting there, all smug in their uncleanliness, the colour of pure horror. Now, I am trying to make this sound funny and I am aware that the humour is translating as unhinged, but that’s my point. I’m trying to illustrate how debilitating OCD is. It’s not just ‘oh, he likes to clean.’ It’s that I feel the need to abandon whatever task I’m doing to clean.
Even just now, when I went to put milk in my tea, after I’d counted to ten (keep reading), I noticed a spot inside the fridge. Before I’d even thought about it I’d held the tiny spec of dirt hostage with a Flash Kitchen Spray bottle. You don’t know what it’s like to live with the mentality that if you don’t do something, then something bad will happen. Yet by controlling everything you enjoy nothing. So I’m trying to fix it.
In an attempt to exorcise Evil Monica, I’ve deliberately stopped myself from cleaning. Ironically, I’ve now become OCD about not-cleaning which has sent my urge to clean into a frenzy. If there’s a plate on my counter, or in my room, I no longer immediately take it through and wash it. Now I just make a point of not washing it, because washing it would give into my OCD urge to ferociously clean everything. Then I feel my rooms too cluttered or the kitchen’s dynamic is totally thrown off by three dishes and two spoons neatly stacked next to the sink, so I wind up cleaning up anyway. So, I guess I failed that one.
Other OCD urges include-but-are-not-limited-too: Having to wash my hands all the time, counting to ten when I stir my tea, needing a window to be open at any given time if I’m in the room because I am genuinely terrified there’s going to be a gas leak, or some contemporary outbreak and I will asphyxiate slowly unless one-or-more windows aren’t slightly ajar.
There are others less punishing ones, such as certain socks on certain days, needing know where everyone is at any given time because I’m unbelievably convinced everyone is either plotting against me, or hanging out without me. (FOMO!) There’s also a need to hold my breath if I lose my place on a page until I find it again and also having to make my bed before a certain time each day. Which, FYI, is the worst when a guy’s trying to get intimate with me and I ask him to hold off until I’ve made the bed and fluffed the pillows – talk about massacring the moment.
Still, cleaning is undoubtedly the one that’s most notable. I can subtly open a window, but I can’t subtly attack surfaces with bleach or start scooting around the room with a hoover (I’ve tried, believe me.)
The point of me writing this is because I have been neglecting this blog out of fear that people are talking about me. Three weeks ago someone called my blog and myself ‘narcissistic’ and like anything negative that’s said someone with a mental illness, it’s rode around in my head ever since.
More so though, I want people to realise how difficult it is not only having OCD, but living with someone or having a partner, a sibling, who suffers from it. The amount of guys that have seen my OCD rear its teeth and fled is ridiculous.
I have recently started therapy again, and I’ve yet to find someone else who is/has documented their journey through it. So, I’ll do it myself in the hope that maybe someone will stumble upon this and find it comforting. Or maybe someone with astronomically bad taste will find it funny.
PS People have been calling me a narcissist since I was four years old so really it doesn’t have an effect on me, so choose something more creative.