My Struggles with being OCD

Hello from a quiet moment.

I am sitting in the loneliness of a quiet house at the moment and realizing how much I obsess on little things and how much I sometimes need to understand the why if something. I did not always comprehend my obsession with seemingly minuscule things, but I have been well aware of my ability or need to question things. I understand my questioning as a different issue than my liking order, but lately I see them as more of an extension of each other. Ironically, one of the things that has helped me manage either element of my daily existence has been through my teaching of freshman writing. That might seem counter-intuitive, but hear me out. First, I need to thank my colleague in the College of Education,

It started with a conversation during our providing snacks and coffee during finals week, something our faculty union did for students. While attending this event with a colleague, one who ironically interviewed here the same day I did, a third colleague, who teaches Business Law courses, questioned me about issues of grammar. As one who is in his 60s, who diagrammed sentences in junior high and beyond, was corrected when he misspoke as a child (and all those things some who read this understand), and as noted is OCD, an interesting conversation ensued. While my immediate instinct was to lament the incessant tearing down of grammar rules near and dear, I realized the world was no longer the same. Additionally, one of my former linguistics colleagues professed adamantly that language is post-modern by its very dynamic nature. While this is a bit of a bitter pill for me to swallow, I have been somewhat swayed to fall into her camp. Language is the consequence of personality, culture, and education. All three of those components are more complex than you might imagine, and when you put them together the complications multiply. And yet there is an order; there is an expectation; and those are the things than mystify and excite me. Those are the things that create some of the most interesting expectations and experiences in my classes, particularly my Foundations of College Writing sections.

As I ponder my own personality or practice, my propensity for needing neatness and order began early in my life, before the age of two. I remember as a two year old trying to make my bed and get myself dressed. My Great-aunt told me about those events also, so it was not merely my two-year-old imagination attempting to alter reality. Throughout my life my desire to structure and order was implemented to create a sense of security. If you have read my blog over the years, my need to feel safe and secure is a central need. And yet, what offers security? What provides my inner-self the feeling of safety? Predictability is part of it, and feeling sure of what might happen next allowed no possibility of anything that seemed remotely calculable. Looking back, perhaps taking control of the minutiae was my initial attempt to feel safe. If I had even a modicum of order, of certainly, I could find a glimpse of hope that my life would make sense. These are difficult connections and realities for me yet today.

The last 24 hours most definitely are defined as unexpected. Plans made and revised with intention were scuttled by an unanticipated mechanical dilemma. However, in an attempt to maintain as much of a plan as possible, alternative plans have been secured. There are still things to manage, and there will be some consequences, but an very different experience and new things for me too. Perhaps what astounds me most is I have taken most of it in stride and did not get overwhelmed by such significant issues. I am quite sure that would not have been the case earlier in my life. And yet, there are things I see myself doing to keep some sense of structure and order to the present experience of organized chaos. It is helpful that Georg has been quite chill about all of it. I just told him thank you and his response is this is not the first time, so I may need to investigate. One of the things I have worked hard to put into practice is if I cannot control it, I cannot waste energy on it. I am much better at that now, thank goodness.

The past year has prompted me to ponder beyond the semester and realize the reality of living life beyond the working to live, which is what most of our life consists of. We get up; we have a routine; we go about our daily tasks as if they are thrust upon us and we are the victims of our daily existence. I do not think I have spent my life as such, but I think that is because I am always pondering the why. Why does this or that happen? More importantly, why does it matter? For me making sense of the non-sensical or perhaps it is more needing structure to manage the non-sensical has been my life’s task. And yet, more importantly it has allowed me to live my life as more of a giver. Indeed, for me, the line from the Prayer of St. Francis is what has sustained me more often than not. – hoc dando accipimus – it is giving, we receive. It is a simple adage to understand, but one difficult to establish or practice. My human selfishness gets in the way at times.

It also relates to the practice of forgiveness. Between my seminary studies and my life experiences, I’ve come to realize how powerful the gift of forgiveness is. It is something we need to provide each other regularly. It is something that is too often withheld because of our own weakness. It took me 25 years to forgive a person who caused incredible injury to others, myself included. However, I am still blessed that it finally occurred. That ability to give, even that long after the fact, released me from so much pain, resentment and anger. It changed my life. And it has changed my outlook on so much more. I still need my structure and my predictability. And yet through the freedom of forgiveness, be it given or received, I am able to understand the possibility of another avenue. I am able to compromise more freely and openly. It amazes me how both structure and freedom, seemingly oxymoronic, are to essential qualities for my happiness. As I ponder, I realize some of that initial structure or understanding of structure came from the very person I needed to survive. Ironic that even now as I sit in the quietness of the morning, in the afterglow of what Christmas has become all to often, I am content in the silence. I am blessed by a gift given that has given back so much more, and unexpectedly. In my piety, I am hoping that all who were once part of my human existence and have left this worldly life celebrate a holiday of the ultimate forgiveness and giving together.

I miss those memories and those experiences. In the meantime, I will ponder and organize, but I realize in that structure I do have security, safety, and possibilities. Blessed holidays to all of you. It is nice to post after so long.

Thanks for reading,

Michael

Published by thewritingprofessor55

I am a professor at Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania and the director of and Professional and Technical Writing minor, a 24 credit certificate for non-degree seeking people, and now a concentration in Professional Writing and Digital Rhetoric. We work closely to move students into a 4+1 Masters Program with Instructional Technology. I love my work and I am content with what life has handed me. I merely try to make a difference for others by what I share, write, or ponder through my words.

2 thoughts on “My Struggles with being OCD

  1. Very nice Michael. Thanks for sharing. You are not by yourself in this writing. I know several people who are right there with you.
    Happy New Year to each of you. Dona

  2. Good evening, Michael.
    I glanced through the titles of your blogs. This one is significant to me. My son has OCD also. His psychiatrist made the comment once that it is one of the worst cases he’s seen. Like you, he showed signs of it early. His first grade teacher told me during a PTA meeting that he was meticulous about the order of his desk. Small things over the years, the way he had to turn around three times when he was up to bat during Little League, the insistence of reading the same book over and over; even the tone of my voice had to be the same each time. Long story short, he has all but given up driving because it’s exhausting for him to have to park the car EXACTLY how it was parked previously. When he gets out of the car he goes through a litany of checking and rechecking. The poor guy is mentally exhausted. One time the psychiatrist asked him to name a few things that he does that are OCD. He replied “life.” His whole life is taken up by this disease. His short trip to hell, via heroin, was a cry for peace in his head. He had a wonderful doctor who realized this. The pandemic, as I’m sure you personally know, kicked the crap out of him. Routine was gone. The whole world was changing. Quite honestly, I wasn’t sure he would make it. So, I’m sympathetic to your plight.

    I, too, think about forgiveness often. I don’t seem to have difficulty forgiving others. That doesn’t mean that I do it lightly. It’s sincere. It’s myself I have trouble forgiving.

    You seem to come to terms with your struggles. It takes a while, doesn’t it? All we can do is do the best we can, continue to help others with their struggles, practice patience and kindness.

    I’d prefer this not be a public comment if you don’t mind. Take care.

    Vickie

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