Tuesday, June 21, 2011

My quirks, my "things," my obsessions


OCD is a frightening condition, characterized by obsessive routines (compulsions) and thoughts, often referred to as "magical thinking."   It affects roughly 5 million Americans at some point in their lifetime.
It's distracting.  It's  real.  It's serious.  And very scary, especially for teenagers, for it's in those teenage years that the symptoms of OCD first appear.
But what's universal about OCD is that we all have our quirks, our "things," our obsessions that we cling to for comfort.  Over the next four weeks, I'll be  hosting discussions on both the universality of OCD, as well as the seriousness of the actual disorder.  I'd love to hear about your own quirks, your "things," your obsessions that drive you (and your loved ones?) bananas.
It's only right that I go first.
I'm an avid sports fan.  Born in a suburb near Philadelphia, I'm hopelessly in love the Phillies, Eagles, Flyers, and Sixers.  I have a long and sordid history of bizarre behavior when it comes to rooting for my team on TV.   If my team falls behind, I change seats on the couch.  Or change my snack from tortilla chips to pretzels.  Or switch from water to juice.  Or change t-shirts.  Or lay down on the floor, as long as there's a rug there (gotta draw the line somewhere).
If my team is ahead, I like to stick to what's working: the certain snack, the winning beverage, the lucky seat.  I avoid boastful phrases like "we got this," "it's over," for fear that the tide will shift.  Not until the game is over--really over, after the final buzzer/bell/pitch/whistle/horn--will I rejoice.
Luckily for me (and my wife), I've gotten better.  The years have mellowed out my sports craze.  But every now and then, usually in the playoffs, when the game gets tight, I play the mental game: the seat, the chips, the t-shirt . . . it all becomes a factor.  If only the Phillies would appreciate all the work that goes into their playoff victories!!!
Outside of the sports world, I'm a huge fan of blue Precise V7 pens, I enjoy a morning workout, I usually park in the same spot at school, and I'm a sucker for the same breakfast: an "everything" bagel with butter.
The good news--and what separates these idiosyncrasies (or, yes, compulsive tendencies) from the serious disorder--is that my life will go on if I can't find my favorite pen or the bagel store is closed or I overslept my morning alarm, and if someone takes my parking spot, I don't hike up the stairs to hunt down the driver and demand that he immediately move his car or else I'll crack him with a knuckle sandwich.
But some people do.  They don't use the term "knuckle sandwich" because it's old and corny and sounds like something only my grandpa would say, but they do stress out and panic if things aren't just so.  And they do this every waking second of the day.
The sad thing is that even though everyone has their quirks, their "things," their obsessions, very few people talk about them, so people with the actual disorder think they've completely lost their mind, which is scary for anyone, but especially for teens, for whom identity is so critical and confusing and fragile.
If you'd like to share your own quirks, please comment or feel free to reach me via the contact link above if you'd like to guest post.
Hopefully, these features over the next month will highlight the idiosyncrasies that we all share, and lessen the stigma (and fear) that OCD sufferers feel on a daily basis.

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