Having OCD Is Not Always Fun
It’s normal, on occasion, to go back and double-check that the iron is unplugged or your car is locked.
But in Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) things can get pretty traumatic at times. Let me give you an example.
I was walking through IKEA; that Temple to which all OCD sufferers must travel on a regular basis. There, laid out before me in dazzling arrays, were my fixation; my great love; my lodestone: The IKEA 365 range. I stood beside a stand, a display of the 365 coffee mugs. Row upon row of pure white, unblemished china, every handle turned to the exact number of degrees as its neighbour. Beckoning me wickedly with their purity of line, their transparent naughtiness. Each called out to me to pick him up; to caress him; to put him in my trolley.
But as ever, when I had chosen one and put him safely in the trolley, his nearest neighbour looked deep into my eyes; his little heart worn on his pure, virginal white sleeve. “Why not me?” he seemed to cry plaintively, “You looked at me but chose my neighbour. What’s wrong with me?”
And so I picked him up too, and laid him carefully beside the other in my trolley; taking care not to have eye to eye contact with those that I had left on the display.
This is as it is, and this is as it always has been.
My friend Judi says that she has never known me to buy one of anything. She says that there is something strange going on in my psyche. Just because I find it difficult not to buy… no, impossible, not to buy anything singly. I am happiest when there is no option and I have to buy in complete sets. For example, six Dragon teaspoons or bread and butter knives. But then, I find it very difficult not to buy two sets. You never know when a dozen Dragon bread and butter knives will come in handy.
Judi understands me. Judi is my best friend. She isn’t exactly OCD, but she is the only person I know, and possibly the only person in the whole world, who can recognise and name every White on the Farrow and Ball Colour chart. At a glance she can recognise and name every one of the hundreds of Farrow and Ball Whites from Chalk, through Elephant’s Breath to Refectory Ceiling. Bone of course is a doddle, and so perhaps is Dover Chalk to the uninitiated, but she can understand the subtle nuances of Egyptian Cotton, a White, according to Judi which is “rich without being demanding” as opposed to the dramatic intensity of China Clay.
But Judi would never be described at being OCD. She is, as she and I would both agree, more focussed than OCD.
But she does understand me.
Getting back to IKEA (how comfortable), I mentioned earlier that I not only find it difficult to resist the 365 range, especially their white china. I also love the simplicity of their Dragon cutlery range, as you have already noticed. So my heart leapt in my chest, when, some years ago, IKEA brought out the “Complete” range of Dragon Cutlery (And when I say Cutlery, I mean Cutlery and Flatware, of course).
What they had on offer was gloriously simple:
· There were six table knives.
· There were six table forks.
· There were six pudding spoons (also useful for soup spoons).
· There were six bread and butter knives.
· There were six short teaspoons.
· There were six fish knives.
· There were six fish forks.
· There were six smaller pudding spoons.
· There were six smaller forks to be used with the smaller pudding spoons.
· There was a large serving spoon.
· There was a large serving fork.
· There was a butter knife.
· There was a cake slice.
· There was a large ladle.
· There was a smaller ladle.
They were lovely. They came in a long white, heavy duty cardboard box. Each piece was fixed perfectly in place with long, thin, plastic rods which kept them in place (and so prevented any less than tidy individual from rearranging and destroying their beautiful symmetry). On the box was written, in large black letters: “Dragon Cutlery … Sixty Pieces”.
I loved them. And of course I bought a box; and an IKEA plastic cutlery tidy thingy to go in the cutlery drawer. I took them home and washed them in the dishwasher (Just in case) and, when they were finished, and dry, laid them out neatly; I counted them; I arranged them in the plastic cutlery thingy, so they were all pointing the same way. The spoons played spoons. The forks played spoons. Even the fish knives played spoons. I was a happy man.
I was a happy man for at least a week. Then I started to think to myself that they looked lovely in the drawer, and I certainly liked opening that drawer and counting them, and I loved putting them back beside their companions when I had taken them out of the dishwasher and…
Another box wouldn’t go amiss. You never can have too much cutlery.
And so I returned to IKEA and bought another box of “Dragon Cutlery … Sixty Pieces” and took it home and set them out in the drawer. I now could open my drawer and see that :
· There were twelve (a dozen) table knives.
· There were twelve (a dozen) table forks.
· There were twelve (a dozen) pudding spoons (also useful for soup spoons).
· There were twelve (a dozen) bread and butter knives.
· There were twelve (a dozen) short teaspoons.
· There were twelve (a dozen) fish knives.
· There were twelve (a dozen) fish forks.
· There were twelve (a dozen) smaller pudding spoons.
· There were twelve (a dozen) smaller forks to be used with the smaller pudding spoons.
· There were two large serving spoons.
· There were two large serving forks.
· There were two butter knives.
· There were two cake slices.
· There were two large ladles.
· There were two smaller ladles.
I was so happy because I knew that every time I opened that cutlery drawer, I could make sure they were tidy, I could count them, and just appreciate them.
Being OCD is fun; don’t let anybody tell you otherwise; but it does take up quite a lot of time.
But it can have its terrors. One morning, just after breakfast, I opened the drawer and was about halfway through counting the cutlery, when the most awful truth dawned. One of the bread and butter knives had disappeared. I don’t know which one it was, but whereas there had been twelve (a dozen) when I had last counted them; now there were eleven. I counted and recounted; looked in the dishwasher; looked everywhere that a bread and butter knife may have been lost… There was the bitterest truth: One of the bread and butter knives was missing. I spent a whole week (I should imagine) searching and searching, but at the end, I had to admit that where formerly I had had my Dragon collection in even numbers, now I had only eleven bread and butter knives.… What could I do?
I could conceivably buy another… but IKEA only sell Dragon in sets of six, or lovely big boxes of “Dragon Cutlery … Sixty Pieces”.
I decided to lie!
That very day, I went to IKEA and blatantly lied. I approached an Assistant Manager; there was one to hand… and I lied. I told her that I had bought a box of Dragon cutlery (“Dragon Cutlery … Sixty Pieces”).and upon opening it, discovered that there was one bread and butter knife missing.
She believed me… I didn’t.
She knew as well as I about the long thin plastic rods which kept the cutlery in place. But she chose to believe me. I felt shame and inward humiliation, but that is the lot of the OCD person at times. But I also knew that at home, nestled comfortably in the cutlery draw, there were eleven bread and butter knives which, basically, looked wrong. I knew it; they knew it. Every other piece in those drawers were in groups of twelve (a dozen) or in pairs… the bread and butter knives were in a group of eleven; an odd number; a prime number.
The Assistant managed pressed a button beside a till. An employee in dark blue trousers and a yellow jacket appeared as if from nowhere (It’s like that at IKEA; they come and go, as if by magic).
“Denzel,” said the Assistant Manager, “The customer requires a small Dragon knife”.
I was about to correct her, and explain that it was a bread and butter knife that I wanted, but Denzel pre-empted me.
“What?” said Denzel.
“A Dragon dessert knife,” said the Assistant Manager. “Go and get the customer a dessert knife from the storeroom”.
Denzel went to get the customer a desert knife. She turned to me: “If you would like to sit there, Sir, he shouldn’t be long,” and she went to do some Assistant Manager busy stuff.
And then I sat some more. Denzel had been gone a long while. The Assistant Manager whisked by, looking very busy: “He should be with you in a minute,” she reassured me, and whisked off.
I waited. Thoughts rushed through my mind. “I have told a lie, but for a worthy cause”. “Incomplete sets are an anathema to the OCD person in this world”. “IKEA can afford one bread and butter knife”. “Denzel has forgotten me. Or they’re on to me and have gone to inform the police”. “The Assistant Manager didn’t believe me, and they’re not going to do anything”.
Then when I had almost decided to give up and go away, Denzel reappeared.
He was smiling all over his beautiful face. I could have embraced him. In his hand he held a “dessert knife” (bread and butter knife, really).
He held it towards me. It was beautiful. He was beautiful. My set was complete. I could have kissed him.
“Thank you,” I said, “Thank you”.
“Sorry to keep you waiting, Sir,” he said. “I had to search all over for it, but because you were so patient and kind, please accept this” and he winked at me. With that he thrust a second Dragon bread and butter knife into my outstretched hand.
“Take care!” he said, and I forced a smile of gratitude onto my face. Panic. I now had thirteen Dragon bread and butter knives; an odd number; a prime number; thirteen (a Baker’s Dozen).
Having OCD is not always fun.
Dealing with the traumas and problems of the condition known as OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) This is the definitive series of four hubs dealing with OCD.
- Having OCD Is Not Always Fun
Its normal, on occasion, to go back and double-check that the iron is unplugged or your car is locked. But in Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) things can get pretty traumatic at times. Let me give you an example.
- Having OCD is Still Not Much Fun
Dear friends and confidants, do you recall the tale I told of my infatuation with IKEA, and the amazing calm I experience there, surrounded by rows and rows of carefully laid out china and cutlery; the peace and tranquillity I experience when surroun
- OCD May be Debilitating But Is There a Cure?
Is There Light at the End of the Tunnel? OCD may be debilitating; it may be fun, at times; it can be jolly useful (Look at Hannibal; where would have been if he hadnt been a collector of elephants?) but take heart there can be a cure; there is a cur
- OCD - A Case History Self Help in Extreme Cases
Is It Efficacious or Does it Simply Prolong Eventual Rehabilitation? Did I tell you about my fascination with order and sets and balance? Oh, did I? Of course I must have. Did I ever tell you the awful tale of how I lied (manipulated the truth, actua
This is a series of four hubs dealing with OCD.
1. You, I hope, have you read the first hub Having OCD Is Not Always Fun on this debilitating condition? Well, have you?
It's up there.If you haven't, I suggest you go to it straight away. There's no point in starting half way... especially if you have OCD. You don't need to be told that, do you?
Well, go on. Don't waste your time.
2. Have you read the second hub Having OCD is Still Not Much Fun on this debilitating condition?
Now you are almost finished, but there is no point in getting off your metaphorical horse mid-metaphorical-stream, now is there? You are almost cured… or you should be.
Go on, read Having OCD is Still Not Much Fun. It won’t take long, and you won’t regret it.
3. When you have read that, the next hub is very reassuring and it’s well worth a read. Have a good look at it and see what you think, at: OCD May be Debilitating But Is There a Cure?
4. If you have got this far, you are almost finished. Are you sitting comfortably, or would you like to go and have a coffee and a sticky bun? And perhaps spend about ten minutes trying to decide which spoon to use and what cup to use, in case it feels as if it is being left out. I know how this feels. I start to make a coffee and when I open the cupboard door, there are eighteen identical coffee mugs looking at me; begging to be turned so that their handles are all 45 degrees to the left.
When you get back here, have a look at OCD - A Case History – Self Help in Extreme Cases the fourth and final hub.