Strange Things My OCD Has Made Me Do

by Author

My OCD has existed since I was a little kid, although it wasn’t until middle school that the symptoms of the disorder really showed themselves. It was then that my
obsessions and compulsions became obvious, expanding from counting in my head to more noticeable antics.

Growing up, I had to listen to Mariah Carey’s greatest hits album every night before bed but didn’t quite understand why. I just knew I had to. The tape was put in my Barbie CD player by my mom, innocently enough. I knew listening to it nightly would keep me safe, at least until I reached track eight, which played a remix of “Fantasy” featuring Ol’ Dirty Bastard. I immediately understood that the song was evil. If I had fallen asleep by that track, it would be fine, for I wouldn’t be able to hear it play, but if I hadn’t fallen asleep by then, I would have to restart the album. Sometimes I listened to tracks 1 through 7 five times in one night. I never listened to the songs that followed eight.

When my mom packed me a Pop-Tart for lunch in sixth grade, it was unlikely she anticipated the impact of that action. Even though I wasn’t a fan of blueberry Pop-Tarts, my brain convinced me that in order to secure the safety of me and my loved ones, I would have to bring one to school every day as a sort of unspecified sacrifice.

I brought my daily Pop-Tarts to school, but I didn’t eat them. At the end of the year, when my mom cleaned out my backpack and pulled out the individual Ziploc bags full of broken toaster pastries, she was both confused and disturbed by the discovery.

My brain liked to make up weird rules about what would keep me safe, and because I wasn’t prepared to find out what would happen if I didn’t follow them, I obeyed.

In seventh grade, I rotated between two pairs of Old Navy sweatpants that qualified as Safe For Me To Wear. Although they were less than stylish, I was comforted by the Guaranteed Safety that I would be granted from wearing them.

It was around this time that my brain decided vanity was a bad thing. If I cared about how I looked, something bad was doomed to happen. I abandoned most things that had to do with aesthetics and brushed my hair no more than twice a week.

There were physical places my brain forbid me from going to. While some places were more obviously marked by some past trauma, others felt entirely random. Regardless, I was unwilling to question these rules. So I avoided Post Offices.

Part of my OCD that has always existed is rules surrounding food. There are certain things I absolutely cannot eat, whether it is because they have made me ill or simply because my mind says so. Chicken is one of those things. Although I never particularly liked it, it’s strange to think that out of my twenty-four years of life, I only ate it for about nine. I don’t miss it.

There are small compulsions that I do daily without thought. I pick and bite vigorously at my cuticles, a habit that is hard to disguise. It’s a cycle of almost perfection that is knowingly unattainable.

In high school, pulling out hair on my head was both a compulsion and a coping mechanism. Before I knew it, I had rid the perimeter of my scalp of any and all hair. This decision (or lack of) would cause me a lifetime of irreversible side bangs and back-of-the-head baby hairs.

There are some things I do that probably don’t even register as strange. I only enter and exit my bed from the right side. I only sleep on the right side. Even when I’ve been single and alone in my queen size bed, the left side remains off limits.

I knock on wood for extra security. I will sometimes search an entire room for wood to knock on and even leave if I cannot find any. I knock on wood even though I once read that knocking on wood doesn’t work for Jews, and even though I’m a Jew and think that makes no sense, I still knock

I have a reoccurring nightmare that I’m chewing gum and the gum is expanding in my mouth and so I choke (and presumably die). This is a dilemma because I love to chew gum. It calms my nerves (and also causes it). My brain decided that as long as I chew only half pieces, I won’t choke and die.

It’s stereotypical OCD of me, but I check the doors on my locks frequently, sometimes five times in a row, sometimes more. I lock the car door as soon as I get in, a habit that probably does more good than harm, but is a compulsion nonetheless.

I repeat phrases in my head, oftentimes without realizing. I most often find myself telling myself that I’m okay. I repeat it internally as though the sentiment can be manifested into reality. I tell myself I am okay most often when I am not, when I need to believe it most.

“You are okay, you are okay, you are okay,” until I believe it. Most times I do not believe it. I stick with it in hopes that one day I will.

Danielle is an MFA alum and professor of rhetoric & composition at Chapman University, forever trying to make the transition from poetry to fiction. She has a fear of commitment in regard to novel writing and an affinity for wiener dogs. Her work has been published by MTV, Maudlin House, Crab Fat Magazine, Hobart, and others.