Can the constantly firing synapses and resulting emotional turmoil of OCD be of any practical use to those of us afflicted by this insidious disorder?
I can remember exhibiting signs of OCD by the time I was five. I’ve always had a scarily good memory. I can lie. I can manipulate the shit out of people if I want to. I can draw information out of people that they normally wouldn’t volunteer. Without trying. Just by listening without judgment.
I’m not an asshole, though. I don’t utilize my manipulative skills unless I’m trying to get myself out of trouble. 😂
On a more positive note, I also tend to pick up on the subtle signals people project when they are in the midst of semi-heightened but well-concealed states of emotional distress, and I know words. My vocabulary rolls deep, son. And I know how to use them to convey exactly what I want to say. Ginsu sharp, in that regard.
I was reading at an adult level by the age of 10.
Math? Different story. I can barely count change without intense effort. I struggle with basic mathematical concepts because inside of my head there are five radio stations playing simultaneously at all times. I don’t have the concentrative abilities required to solve the simplest of problems without utilizing the handy dandy calculator app on my phone.
Sometimes I feel really stupid as a result of this glaring shortcoming, but hey, that’s what calculators are for.
Anyhoo, why is my memory so good? Why do I remember what I age for dinner in 1984? I was seven! Why is my deductive reasoning so on point? Why can I see through lies and ascertain the truth based on context and precedent?
All of these things I’ve mentioned, I sincerely believe they are a byproduct of the very same mental condition that has me compulsively scouring the yard and perimeter of my house with a flashlight at 2am looking for evidence of termites because I saw a sponsored post from an exterminator on Facebook. The same “disease” that tries to convince me that if I speak the name of a certain deadly disease aloud that I’ll somehow develop it because of that. The same condition that makes me have to step outside once in awhile and let loose with a throat-shredding primal scream because I just can’t fucking take it any motherfucking more.
It’s all about details. As most anyone with any form of OCD can attest or relate to to, minutiae rules my life. I hear every sound. I read between the lines. I ruminate on each and every tiny little thing that is placed on my plate as nauseam.
It’s not that I want to. I don’t want to be like that. I want to wake up, yawn, look at the clock and go “Welp, off to work. Another day! Hope it’s a good day.” I want the outcome of my day, whether it’s good or bad, to be determined by the things that happen during it. I don’t want my day to be a steaming pile of shit because I woke up terrified of some imaginary boogeyman my brain has seen fit to concoct for me, as if there’s a tiny Stephen King who has taken up residence inside my cranium, hunched over an old typewriter and grinning maniacally as he pounds the keys and says things like “Oh shit, this one’s really gonna fuck him up!”
It’s the rhythm in the chirping of crickets. The awareness of breathing. The counting of steps. Detail. OCD.
I can tell when someone I know fairly well is lying to me. They give off subtle clues that are child’s play for someone who overanalyzes everything in life to the nth degree to recognize.
Here’s the catch, though. I may have an encyclopedic knowledge of album release dates, producers and track listings for hundreds of albums stored in my memory, but I can lose my keys, stare directly at them and still not see them. I leave the house and come back inside to retrieve something I’ve forgotten at least three times daily before I get on the road. And that’s on a good day. In many ways I’m a bumbling idiot.
There’s just so many details to absorb that the more obvious ones are sometimes lost on me. “Do you remember what time Jeff is supposed to be there?” No…but he had on green shoelaces and he was obviously very distraught about something.
I recently read an old Sherlock Holmes story, which I’d never done before. I’m now convinced that Arthur Conan Doyle either had OCD or wrote the character of Holmes that way. Not that OCD was a thing at the time. I’m sure it was just called “eccentric” at best or “crazy” at worst. (I haven’t looked into whether or not it’s been postulated than Doyle or his most popular character are OCD, I have no idea, this is all me talking out of my ass, so bear with me here)
It got me thinking, though. Is Holmes the detective he is because of OCD or something akin to it? The way he reads clues and people and takes note of the non-obvious, and looks like a total weirdo in the process, that is so me.
We’ve viewed our disorders as handicaps for so long that we’ve resigned ourselves to a life of coping instead of hoping. We want to control and suppress our symptoms.
What if we could learn to use OCD to our advantage? What if we could harness it instead of suppress it, steer it in positive directions instead of letting it steer us in negative ones?
Those of us with OCD have been given a gift. We don’t use it. We try to make it go away in an effort to be normal.
But what if we did use it? I’m 100 percent certain many already have and do, whether they’re aware of it or not. Why do you think words like “eccentric” and “genius” so often go hand in hand?
I’m not advocating tossing out pills and quitting therapy or whatever it is you do, those can all be positive tools. But are we using those tools to learn how to cope with and eliminate symptoms? Because they ain’t going nowhere, ladies and gents. We have to live with them until we aren’t living anymore. You’re not going to be “cured” or “get better.” We must learn to coexist with our symptoms and harmonize them with the flow of life around us.
So you’ve gotta live with this thing then, right? Whaddaya do with it?
There’s gotta be an answer. I feel like I’m on the verge of a breakthrough, but it remains out of reach, a shadow of an idea lurking in the distant fog.
Someday the fog will clear, and like Scott Summers, aka Cyclops (of X-men, for you non-geeks out there),who couldn’t open his eyes without blasting holes in things with his laserblasting eyeballs, I will find my ruby-lensed sunglasses that will enable me to control and focus my own chaotic blasts of energy. Now I’ve just gotta ascertain what that is!
If you have OCD, listen to me: We aren’t faulty, we aren’t damaged, we aren’t nature’s mistake…we are the mutant superheroes of the real world. And don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.