Every word I say is important. No, not to the world—not at all, though sometimes delusions of grandeur do sneak up on me. Rather, every word I say is important to me in the way it may be interpreted. I am obsessed over words, especially mine. I parse all words said by anyone to an excruciating degree for cadence, subtext, and purpose. So naturally, the words that come through my brain out into the world, I prepare for the same scrutiny. Even though I know this is not how most people operate. Strike that, I know this on the surface—but I assume it anyway just in case.
Words are work to me, I am an architect and constructor with everything I say, and I don’t take my creations lightly. With my OCD, I obsess over them as I would any creation: thinking of every eventuality I can, anticipating every outcome I can, trying to steer relationships in the direction I wish. That last one there, that may sound manipulative—but be assured that I am not often molding conversions for gain, but for security.
I don’t generally know what people think of me and my words. I have a social blindness that goes both ways: I can’t interpret social queues very well at all, as well I can’t tell what people think of me unless they say it with pure and utter frankness. I don’t receive “pure” very often, thus I am often left wondering what people really think of what I say and by extension of me.
I do know that at times people find me to be a very quiet person. I also know I’ve been told I am too talkative. Yeah, I’m fairly used to mixed signals from the world around me, I’ve imbibed a universe of just that since the day I was able to think concretely. We’ll stick to quiet me right now.
Because of my OCD, my brain never turns off. This is quite common, and it presents itself beyond this in different ways for different people with OCD. One thing is for sure, words are always firing. Often towards myself, often formulated for others. I am talking to you in my mind even if words are not coming out. And I am generally saying the same thing over and over in different ways. But I am not speaking. Why? Because I am obsessed with finding the perfect way to say what I am thinking. And what is perfect? Generally, something that will put me in a good light, something that will ensure my safety emotionally, and something that cannot be misinterpreted.
So I have a brain that never turns off in terms of words, even though those words may never come out of my mouth. Until they do. There is a figurative switch that is flipped in conversation—one I have no manual for understanding—that assures me I am in a safe place to let my words flow. I am somehow found the right combination of words to feel ok about letting them out into the world to be shared with one or more people1.
At this point, my words cannot be turned off. If things are right, the conversation—often one way—flows. This is because I want to have control if I feel I can. Again, not for manipulation’s sake—I do not want to manipulate others—but for the sake of accurately depicting who I am in relation to the conversation at hand. And often beyond a little bit. Or a lot if I’m allowed to keep going with my words.
Here’s the thing: I am obsessed with people seeing me accurately for me, for all of my complexities. I don’t need people to adore me, I’d prefer if people do not dislike me, but most of all I want to make sure the me I know (oh, and I’ve studied that person for decades) is the me other people know me as. An accurate picture is all I ask for—though that picture contains all of the complexities I can think of regarding myself. If you leave me be, I’ll tell you them all. I’ll make sure you see the deconstructed engine that makes me run for each detail within it.
Note both the quiet and the conversational exists only at extremes. This is me. Extremes. That is all my OCD works within. I am never in what one would consider a “normal” conversation. I may at times seem to be, I am not—again—sure of how I come off to people. But in any social situation, however, I am acting, words are being formulated, structured, reformulated, restructured, and back again in my head. Quite possibly out of my mouth as well, but not always.
In beginning this article I imagined the phrase “small talk” not coming up. No, that doesn’t happen with me. For all the reasons that are probably obvious now2.
INT. A PARTY
How’s it going?
(thinking for two minutes)
How long do you have?
1 Generally one, I am generally in this state with a single person. Talking with multiple people is a whole other universe with other edges, shapes, angles. Except when I am actually selling something—then ironically I don’t have any of these issues. I just talk. And sell. And well. However, that is for another article. [BACK]
2 Or so I hope are obvious, I could write another nine hundred words, ya know? [BACK]