I’ve mentioned before on this site how my OCD is more on the obsessional end of the spectrum than the compulsive. That is to say, I am light on the ticks, the needing things to be a certain number, all of that. However the other day I came across a story of someone with very typical OCD, an OCD that sat right in the middle of the spectrum. This person mentioned some compulsions—but the reasoning behind them really got me thinking about my own OCD.
See, some people with OCD don’t just need to—say—tap their alarm clock three times every day. Rather, they need to tap their alarm clock three times every day, or else in their mind a loved one will die. This is a real thought process, and a weight of reasoning I never considered much, as I do not have this type of OCD.
However, my OCD. I realize that indeed my obsessions are tied up into events of tremendous rarity in regards to their potential for actually happening. While not tied into compulsions, I am obsessed with omens. Actually, I’ll modify that—if one can consider the act of suppressing thoughts a compulsion, then indeed my obsessions with omens does have a compulsive part.
What are omens to me? Well, on the surface they’re merely bad things that could happen to me. But that’s the surface, and nothing I think exists on its surface level—even if it should. What defines an omen for me is the thought placed in front of me, that has many figurative avenues, and turns, and directions to take—to get to a place that would be life-altering in the negative. To top all of this off with another problem is what I consider “life-altering in the negative” is most likely just a bump in the road1
I’ll give an example. I was walking down the street to my apartment one day when I met a man who had been living in the neighborhood much longer than the five or so months I had been there. Very friendly man, and he meant well when he mentioned what a good deal on rent I got for my place, and how my landlords—who he’d known for some time—were very good on not over charging rent based on the typical ups and downs of neighborhoods in a city. A conversation he meant to start with the best of intentions. Or, really not much of a conversation in his mind—just small talk.
This became the most hellish thing I could possibly hear. So much so that I immediately left, went to my apartment and began pacing2. I began not thinking of the potential of my rent rising, and soon (which at the time would have been a big problem.) No, I was assured, by my mind, that because this was randomly mentioned to me by this man, that this eventuality was absolutely going to happen.
And my only compulsion I could think of was to try to get the thought stuffed deep into some place in my brain that didn’t have the capability to think about it. I could only believe that such a place exists in the brain, I could not access it, and thus I was left obsessing over this thought. For days. Because of a few—what we should all consider relatively meaningless—sentences from someone’s mouth. Over and over I would think this. If I saw my landlord, I was convinced she would mention a raise in my rent. Every day I came home on the bus, I imagined a letter stuffed under the door with my new rent amount. I had to stop myself—and not without a big internal fight—from researching rent averages in the neighborhood, where I was convinced I would see I was paying much less than others, and the laws of economics would catch up with me.
My rent was never raised. Not even when the lease came up. That’s right, I was thinking this would all happen—ignoring the reality of myself being under a friggin’ lease!
But in these times of sensing omens—reality does not matter.
So, OCD. Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. The obsession here is obvious, and obviously where most of my disorder lies. But the compulsive end is much more complex. I tend to have what I would consider “empty compulsions.” I wish to take actions that physically and mentally cannot occur. Tapping three times on an alarm clock is not my compulsion—though I can now understand it.
And here is how I understand it, and how it doesn’t apply to me. Other OCD brains can channel real-life things that need to occur for omens to not become true. They often seem silly to others—saying something five times, shutting a door over and over to prevent one’s grandmother from dying. I do, indeed, have this as well. But my compulsions are all inward, and do not have an endpoint. I don’t have an escape that tapping an alarm clock three times gives someone else with OCD.
It is important to note that these more tangible (if that is the right word) compulsions are not really much of an escape for people with them. Because they must keep doing them, doing them once does not quell the beast of the omen.
So if I make the demand to you, “don’t say that!” It is because I am asking you not to start an infinite loop in my head that will involve so much obsession over the potential of what you’re saying happening. However, it is not your fault. It is my brain. My brain is in control of all of this.
And I still have yet to figure out the place to put thoughts so they can’t be thunk.