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This is obsessive-compulsive disorder

title or description
The idea in this poster is good. The spelling isn't.

One day last week, I took inventory of the things I write with in my office.

I keep Parker Jotter pens in a small, wastebasket-like mesh pen holder. A year ago, I went on a jag and bought a Jotter in every barrel color I could find. I've probably got 15-18 of 'em. Each day, I close my eyes and grab a pen du jour. I have a mechanical pencil in there with them, and this bothers me because it's not a Jotter. But it's a nice pencil, dark blue and black in a marble finish, so it's worthy of being with the Jotters. Besides, I don't have a better place for it.

During my pen-buying spree, I also bought a Parker Big Red pen, which is a different design than the Jotters. It's so different that I don't like keeping it with the Jotters, but again, I can't figure out where else to put it. And after all, it is a Parker. I didn't care for the Big Red at first. It didn't write well. But I changed the refill last week; as you might expect, after I decided to do this, I had to do it right away, before I went home for the day. Now, the pen writes smoothly. Now, I'm going to try to buy as many Big Reds as I can in different colors.

To get back to my office routine: In a big coffee mug with an Elvis photo on the side (a gift from cwmackowski, I keep highlighters, several each in yellow, orange, blue and green. I decided I didn't like the blue or green ones anymore, so I unwrapped the rubber bands around the green highlighters and the blue highlighters and took them home.

Finally, I have some stick pens that write in different colors: turquoise, purple, green, blue, and black. I don't have any red ones because I figure students are averse to red ink. Last week, I decided the blue and black ones were too dull, so they're gone now. The others wound up in the Elvis mug.

It took me about an hour to do this because I had to make sure every pen and highlighter was in the right place. How do I know what the "right" place is? It would take way too long to explain.

This weekend, I've undertaken another OCD task. I use two search engines: Safari and Firefox. Friday night I decided to move all of my work-related bookmarks to Firefox and every other bookmark to Safari. Because I had so many bookmarks (again, OCD), this turned into a project that just now ended.

I should note that compared to many people with OCD, I have it easy. It can be debilitating: checking and re-checking actions to make sure they've been done (turning off lights, locking doors), uncontrollable counting: for example, counting seconds has the water been running while the person with OCD washes her or his hands for the Nth time because of a fear of germs; anxiety caused by being afraid of making mistakes; anxiety caused by the need to perform rituals (such as having to do a certain event at a certain time, or perform other actions in the same order each time) and being held hostage by unwanted thoughts. I have those symptoms too, but they don't control my life. Many people are virtual prisoners of the condition. But my OCD often is helpful in terms of time management and organization. It's not entirely troubling. For many others, though, it's literally a disability.

What's next for me today? Just to my left (I'm in my home office) are two containers full of pens. Well, actually, one is full of pens; the other contains highlighters, a mechanical pencil and Sharpies. But they're safe; I arranged them last weekend and threw away the entire lot of one line of pens because I didn't like them anymore.

Just to make sure everything was in order today, I opened my desk drawer, where I keep four other pens. These are the best ones I have. Three were gifts; the other is a nice one I bought for myself. But a Jotter from work somehow wound up in that drawer. I couldn't continue writing this post until I took it into my bedroom and put it next to my wallet so I won't forget to take it to work tomorrow.

If you're sitting there shaking your head, I am, too. It ain't easy being me.


( 14 comments — Leave a comment )
Feb. 10th, 2013 10:22 pm (UTC)
An interesting glimpse to the inner clockworks. Thanks. I see our young'un's tendencies towards ocd as rather helpful for him, because they keep anxiety at bay, rather than bringing it on.

And as an organizer, your arrangements are in perfect sync with my "like with like" mantra. You'd be surprised how many people keep shoeboxes and bins full of pens that don't write and pencils with no lead or worse, with erasers that leave dark, angry, unerasable smudges. Why? Why do they keep these things? Often times because they've simply not taken the time to NOT keep them.
Feb. 10th, 2013 11:16 pm (UTC)
A couple of weeks ago I went through one of my "miscellaneous stuff" shoe boxes and threw away five watches that didn't work. Why I hung onto them for so long is a mystery. Or maybe it isn't.
Feb. 11th, 2013 12:22 am (UTC)
Just an fyi, if you guys have a Goodwill store or one of their semi-trucks in a parking lot, even stuff like that that doesn't work is donate-able. Watch tinkerers love old ones for parts, or to see if they can get them working...unless something is clearly trash, I take it to donate; they even get credit for unwearable clothing as a bulk-weight of rags.
Feb. 10th, 2013 11:30 pm (UTC)
Friday at work we were discussing playing with Lego bricks. My son dumps them out and just starts building. I have to stop and sort them by color first - at least until I get a good pile to play with. OCD takes may forms, you are correct.
Feb. 11th, 2013 01:14 am (UTC)

Whenever I have to do a presentation or represent a client in a hearing I can be assured of two things; awakening at 3 am and spending from that time until my alarm goes off obsessively running the presentation in my mind or imagining the many questions or scenarios the judge may ask. I have done both of these things hundreds of times and yet I am helpless. I know it's my OC, and I try my cognitive behavioral tricks bu to no avail. I guess I am lucky, some have intrusive thoughts that truly dictate their ability to interact in society.
Feb. 11th, 2013 03:06 am (UTC)
But there's an upside to that too, right?
Feb. 12th, 2013 01:46 am (UTC)
I feel it is wasted energy, the preparation is not necessary nor useful to the end result.
Feb. 12th, 2013 03:04 am (UTC)
My advice to you, then: better sleeping through chemistry.

As opposed to sleeping through physics, of course.
Feb. 11th, 2013 03:03 am (UTC)
Man, do I feel this post. Or it feels me. The founder of the art's colony at which I'm currently residing knocked on my studio door yesterday to show a tour group what a writing studio looks like. "It's so clean!" one of the tour members remarked. It's clean or I spend an inordinate amount of time adjusting my papers so they're at just the right angles to the edge of the desk, my computer, each other. The mug has its place, but that's too hard to explain. The books, too. Alphabetical, in case you're interested. I had to stop writing that just now, because I got a new book and had to make sure it was in its place. It was. Every time something moves, by necessity or accident, everything else has to move to remain properly aligned, otherwise something will happen.

Jury's still out on what that might be, but I'm not gonna take the chance to find out.
Feb. 11th, 2013 03:11 am (UTC)
Alphabetical? I hear you. I sort mine by vertical size: tall ones left, short ones right.

I really shouldn't have written this post, because now I'm watching myself to see how much of my routine activities are rituals. And I suspect neither one of us wants to talk about washing our hands about a kerjillion times a day.
Feb. 12th, 2013 02:25 am (UTC)
Thanks for sharing, Pat. That kind of experience is something that is hard for me to imagine (I'm unabashedly messy), and I'm sure it's infinitely frustrating for you. But we all learn from experiences laid bare.
Feb. 12th, 2013 03:08 am (UTC)
"But we all learn from experiences laid bare."

Feb. 28th, 2013 09:14 pm (UTC)
Pure OCD
I've a son who suffers from a form of OCD known as "Pure-O." He has only a few observable or external compulsions (he'll check the refrigerator door several times to make sure it's closed, and checks to see if the back door is locked, etc.). His obsessions are internal, and these internal thoughts became debilitating for him last year as they kept repeating over and over and over, and over, for him. It really was like a broken record for him, and he was unable to move beyond the repeating part of the record. Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy saved him, thankfully. The book "Brain Lock" by Dr. Jeffrey Schwarz helped his mother and I better understand what OCD is and how it can be beaten.
Mar. 1st, 2013 03:22 am (UTC)
Re: Pure OCD
Thank you for trusting me with this information.

I can't imagine what it would be like for a parent to have a child with OCD. It's good to know that therapy helped your son get beyond "the repeating part of the record," and I hope he remains on that path.

( 14 comments — Leave a comment )

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