I’m going to concentrate on two facets of my OCD in this post: counting and fear of losing things.
Looking back, I realize that I was displaying OCD symptoms by at least age nine. My parents were fighting all the time. Despite the fact that my father had abused me, I was consumed with fear of “something bad” happening to our family. I would set myself a deadline to finish a task. If I finished the task in time, things would be okay. They weren’t, of course. My father left and took his girlfriend and disappeared in Florida. I never saw him again. Now, I realize that was the best thing that could have happened to me despite the financial hardship we endured because he never paid one cent of child support.
I already had the counting and magical thinking symptoms of OCD. As I grew up, I had many things stolen from me by relatives. I had my move to New York to live with my fiancé planned, but an emergency disrupted my plans. I had to move suddenly, taking only my clothes and a few special personal belongs, just what would fit in the car. My plan was to take the train back to North Carolina, rent a U-Haul, and move the rest of my belongings to New York. When my fiancé and I came back to North Carolina to move my things, I found that the same relatives who had stolen from me in the past had plundered my bedroom. They stole diaries, clothes, knickknacks, jewelry, even my rare Stevie Nicks photos.
I moved my furniture–the cedar chest and rocking chair that my mother gave me, the bookcase that my grandfather gave me, the antique vanity that my aunt gave me, the wardrobe and chest of drawers that I bought with my tax refund–and the personal belongings I had left to New York.
My marriage was falling apart at my wedding. When I decided it was time to leave him, I wired money to rent a box truck to a friend in North Carolina. She drove to New York alone and helped me pack all my things into the box truck. The kitchen and one bathroom were downstairs. The living room and bedrooms were upstairs, and there was a loft accessible only by a ladder. The only way to get into the attic, where some of my things were stored, including Christmas decorations belonging to my deceased grandmother, was via the loft. I have vertigo. I couldn’t climb the ladder. My friend couldn’t climb it due to health reasons. I could hardly ask my estranged husband to get them for me. And, all of my furniture was upstairs. The only things that my friend and I could get out of the house were the bookcase and rocking chair.
That incident caused me to develop vivid nightmares, and intensified my fear of losing things 1000 percent. I mean, the cedar chest that my mother gave me and the Christmas angel that was on the nightstand when my grandmother died are still sitting in my old house in New York. So I’ve developed a terror of losing anything.
I walk the house at night looking for books, photographs, costume jewelry, and tonight, my set of fine-point drawing pens. Pillowcases that match a set of bedding. Where’s my camera? I just got up and checked. It’s in the bedroom. Where I left it. Where’s the crochet hook that my grandmother gave me when she taught me to crochet? It’s right here in the box in my desk where it always is.
I will be almost sleep, and something will pop into my head. Where is the collar that my shelter cat Mika was wearing when I adopted her? I get out of the bed. It’s in the box where it always is, where it has been since she died.
Then I get back in the bed, but I don’t sleep because my mind is racing. I can’t stop thinking about the things that people have cruelly and casually stolen from me over the last 30+ years.
OCD manifests in many ways. They all take time out of the lives of OCD sufferers, and often, their families. I’m lucky. My mother understands what’s “wrong with” me and tries to help. I think that most other people like me probably aren’t so lucky.
If you know someone like me, try to help them. If you are someone like me, you’re not alone.