My family and close friends love to tease me about having Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. I'll admit that I do have some of the behaviors associated with OCD: spending a lot of time washing or cleaning, ordering or arranging things "just so," feeling that everything must be lined up "just right". Yes, my shoes are arranged by color in boxes on shelves in my closet. My clothes are grouped by short sleeved shirts, long sleeved shirts, pants, sweaters, and dresses. The pictures on my refrigerator are in magnetic pockets lined up evenly across both doors. The cans and boxes in my cabinet are lined up by height with the labels facing forward. I constantly straighten pictures on the wall and move things an inch this way or that on shelves and tables. Before I leave my classroom each day I put everything on my desk in neat stacks and straighten all of the student desks and chairs back into rows. I have what some might consider an unnatural need to control everything around me. (Now that I've written it down - maybe I'm worse than I thought!)
I wasn't always this extreme with my need to control everything though. It started during the last few years of my marriage and intensified following Eddie's death. After several years of living with Eddie's drinking, I had to accept that I didn't have any control over what he was doing. Eventually I reached a point where I didn't feel like I had control over much of anything in my life, so I found something I could control - the order of "stuff" around me. When I got upset with Eddie or was worried about him or wondering where he was, I would clean, straighten, or rearrange things around the house to occupy and calm myself. After his suicide, which was another thing I had to accept that I didn't have any control over, I found myself becoming more "obsessed" with keeping the things around me in order. The events of my life over the past years have been so chaotic, I 've had to restore order in whatever ways I can find. As a result, I have a need to "fix" things now - to have everything correct or perfect in order to feel comfortable, safe, and in control of my life.
My need for order and perfection may make some people uncomfortable, and if it does I apologize, but it has helped me to relieve some of the frustration at being powerless over the events in my life. I will never "get over" everything that has happened, but I am getting through it. Maybe my need to be in total control will lessen with time. Maybe I will eventually be able to relax and let go. But for now the order I've restored to my life is making it possible for me to move forward. Maybe a little OCD isn't such a bad thing after all.
"The closest to being in control we will ever be is in that moment that we realize we're not." Brian Kessler
"Control is never achieved when sought after directly. It is the surprising outcome of letting go." James Arthur Ray