How to live with mild OCD and use it to your advantage
Why I never lose my keys around the house.
I have mild OCD, so they say! Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is a serious condition, but many people suffer a slight form, which makes them want to put things in order, check locks and light switches, hoard stuff, protect their territory, wash frequently, make lists, keep everything clean and tidy. I'm like that.
It's all down to my OCD! Obsessive-compulsive Disorder. It's quite mild, in fact hardly noticeable, but it means I have a place for everything and normally everything is in it's place. Well it can't be in it's place if I'm using it can it? What I mean is; when I've finished using something, I put it away in the place where it normally goes.
Take keys for instance; when I come into the house I still have my keys in my hand from unlocking the door. Instead of absentmindedly chucking them on the nearest surface like the hall stand, kitchen top, sofa, mantelpiece etc., I hang them on the hook where they normally go. There they stay until I need them again and "Hey Presto!" I know exactly where to find them.
I know this may sound pretty obvious to many people, but I'm sure we all know someone who, every time they are preparing to go out, calls out, "I'm just going out ... have you seen my keys anywhere?" This can be very frustrating if it happens regularly.
"Where did you leave them?", is the usual answer, as you try to be patient and wait for the inevitable accusation that YOU have "... done something with them."
Not so in my house. My keys are on their hook waiting for me. Mild OCD has its advantages. Take a tip from me, even if you don't have OCD; it takes far less time to trouble to put keys away in their proper place as soon as you come in than it does to turn the house upside down looking for them when you want to go out again.
Updated 19th September 2014
Is Hoarding one of your problems?
Depends what you keep and where you keep it.
When I was about 4 years old I remember playing with my Nan's button box. When a garment became unwearable, my grandmother always removed the buttons before throwing it away. The rescued buttons were put in the button box which always stood on top of a cupboard in the scullery. When Nan needed a button for a repair she could always find near enough what she wanted.
Perhaps that's where I get my passion for keeping anything which might come in handy sometime in the future. I keep bits of metal, offcuts of timber, old electrical items, scrap paper and cardboard, screws, hooks, nails, washers, string, rope, material, stationery items that previous employers were on the verge of throwing out.
To store all this stuff I accumulate, large cardboard boxes, old tobacco and biscuit tins, small plastic containers, wooden boxes, tupperware, jam jars and ice cream tubs. The net result of my collecting (hoarding) is that if I need to do a household repair or make something to amuse my grandchildren, I can almost always find just the thing I need.
The problem with hoarding is keeping everything tidy and knowing where it is when you want it. That's why all (most) of my "stuff" is boxed, labeled and stacked away logically where it does not encumber everyday living.
I couldn't live in a mess, but I could never part with my treasured bits and pieces. You never know when something will come in handy!
Now that's what I Call a Shopping List!
It's a regular chore we all have to do; the Weekly Shop! Do you just grab your purse, head for the store, and then wander around trying to remember what you need? That's a good way of forgetting to buy the very thing you went for in the first place.
Perhaps, like many, you make a list. Scribble down a few items in random order, worrying about spelling and being able to read your own handwriting, only to find yourself in the store going up and down the aisles over and over because your list is out of order.
My mild OCD saves me all that bother. I use PRE-PRINTED SHOPPING LISTS!
I designed my list to have most of the items I buy regularly, not only grouped under natural headings, eg., Fruit & Veg, Meat, Household Items, Frozen Food, etc., but also in STORE AISLE/DEPARTMENT ORDER. I print a few out from my computer and keep them in the kitchen. Whenever I feel a shopping trip coming on, I simply ring each item I need on the list. Because all the items are under group headings the list itself acts as a reminder to check our stock of certain things, or suggests something we haven't bought for a while and might try again. The list has some white space for adding the occasional extra item.
The pre-printed list is on A4 paper and has four columns, so when it's complete, I fold it in 4 to make it a handy pocket size.
This might all seem a bit of a long-winded way of doing things, but over the years I've saved a heck of a lot of hand writing, and trips back to the store for items I forgot!
Am I so weird? Or are there a lot of us like me?
When I tell friends about some of the ways I deal with everyday things, the small but regular routines, the straightening, the hoarding, the list making, my home filing system etc., their reactions vary but they show little real concern so I figure my problem, if it is one, is not life-threatening.
Some people laugh at me and say things like, "You're a nutter!" or "You always were a bit weird!". Occasionally when I explain one of my actions I detect the slightest of frowns or looks of puzzlement and this makes me feel, despite my rationality, a little different from others.
There's a method in my madness .... It's called Mild OCD!
On an OCD scale of 1 to 10, I'm probably a "1", but I know there are many individuals who would rank higher, if not by themselves, by the people around them. If obsessive-compulsive behaviour begins to interfere with the smooth running of everyday life, it is maybe time to seek help.
Christmas Cards - Another List!
My mild OCD helps me get organised.
It's that time of year again! You know it's going to happen, but I always find it a shock when the first Christmas card drops through the letter box.
The first one comes, then there is a trickle, ... then it becomes a TORRENT! Well ... in my case more of a gentle stream, but you know what I mean.
I still get cards from people I haven't seen for years and am unlikely to see ever again. We are all unwilling to break the chain, so year after year we send off cards to people we might not even recognize if we bumped into them in the street!
I now have a rule! I only send a card in response to one I received last year. If I didn't get one from that person last year, I don't send them one this year. Of course that involves another list.
Each year I get out my list of all the likely suspects. Family at the top, followed by close friends, then neighbours and acquaintances, and finally people I briefly worked with many years ago or met on holiday and, in a moment of madness, exchanged addresses with. I usually send off cards to the top 75% and wait to hear from the others. As I receive cards, I tick them off the list. If I get one from someone I haven't sent to, I rush to put one in the post.
Thanks to my mild OCD, I always know where last year's list is to be found. I refresh it every year and remove any names that are no longer valid. People die, or perhaps cross me off their list, etc. The list is also useful as a reminder that last year someone changed their address, or enclosed a letter, or mentioned something worthy of note, so I can respond accordingly. Apart from that ... Bah! Humbug!
Regular hand washing. Germs are everywhere!
I've just emptied the kitchen waste bin. We bag all our waste (anything we don't recycle) and never put loose rubbish into the outside wheelie bin. It's an old bin which came with the house when I bought it 10 years ago and it doesn't smell even though I have never had it cleaned. Nevertheless I think of it as being covered with several years worth of accumulated germs. Not necessarily MY germs, but those of many other people on the bin-men's rounds which get transferred from bin to bin as they are handled for emptying every week. I am not saying the bin-collectors are dirty, they wear gloves, but the gloves are used to handle dropped rubbish etc., and I doubt if they are exactly sterile. So, if I so much as touch the wheelie bin to open the lid to drop a bag in, I immediately wash my hands. And, if I straightaway went back out to drop some recycling stuff into the green bin, I will immediately wash my hands again! So what's wrong with that? It's called hygiene! I am very particular about regular hand washing, but once is enough each time.
Mild OCD prompts me to take care about picking up germs from other people, animals or inanimate objects they may have made contact with and my general health is a testament to this policy. There is an upside to mild obsessive behaviour.
OCD versus OCPD ... What?
Since I was a young man I've joked about OCD and confessed to having a mild form of it. When I explain to friends for instance about the lengths I go to with recycling my household waste, filing my paperwork, keeping and storing my 'stuff', they often laugh and say something like, "You've definitely got a touch of OCD!"
Everybody seems to have heard about OCD. Most people have a vague idea what it means. To them it usually means a person who is overly concerned with straightening things up, constantly checking lights are off, doors are locked and everything is in its place. They may not exactly know that the letters stand for Obsessive-compulsive Disorder or the precise symptoms or manifestations of the condition, but most people have definitely heard of it and know roughly what you are talking about if you mention it.
I have NEVER heard anyone speak of OCPD! ... Never in my life! I have only just read about it today for the first time. I bet most other people have never heard of it either.
So, there's OCD and OCPD. They are similar, but different in many ways. OCPD stands for Obsessive-compulsive Personality Disorder, and I think, to my dismay, that I actually have a mild dose of OCPD and not OCD at all.
I should be encouraged by this. Apparently, in a nutshell, OCPD is mainly concerned with perfectionism while OCD is centred around anxiety. Phew! I certainly don't feel anxious ... at least only very rarely.
The subject is too weighty to go into here and there is plenty of information available elsewhere on the differences between the two disorders. Suffice it to say that for the benefit of all those who, like me have never heard of OCPD, I shall continue within this light-hearted discourse to refer to my own condition as mild OCD.
Mild OCD routines are OK.
Here's my OCD routine to ensure I take my pills daily and once only.
I'm not on any kind of medication (unlike most people I know of my age) but I do regularly take vitamin pills. At least I try to take them regularly. Sometimes I lapse for a few days. The thing is I don't feel any worse if I don't take them ... AND I don't feel particularly better when I resume a regular dosage. So, do they do any good at all? Frankly I'm sceptical but they have become a habit. Not an addiction I hasten to add, just part of my routine and now my mild OCD has taken over and tells me it's something I do and, for that reason alone, should continue to do.
The OCD in me, (See!, I have convinced myself that a have the mildest form of a disease which can be an absolute scourge to many people), tells me that since I am committed to taking the pills, I must take them regularly ... but, ensure it's only once a day.
My OCD forces me into a routine. I always take a glass of water to bed with me to drink a little if I should wake in the night. Needless to say it is always the same glass, my special glass. When I come down in the morning I bring the glass and place it in it's special place on the kitchen top. I take my jar of pills from the cupboard and place it in front of the glass. This acts as a reminder to take the pills. Later in the day, usually after food, I take the pills and put the jar back in the cupboard. The glass is returned to it's place on the kitchen top. Since I can't remember later whether I took the pills or not, the glass with no jar by it tells me I did and prevents me from taking a double dose. Makes sense to me anyway!
List Making. Another mild OCD trait.
Lists help you remember to do things you might otherwise forget.
I make so many lists, I sometimes make lists of my lists.
There are PROS and CONS to list making. On the good side, lists help me remember things I need to do, record fleeting ideas, group items together as with shopping lists, do jobs in the right order as with a DIY action plan, etc. On the down side they can add to the clutter I seem to surround myself with. Sometimes when I half remember something I have to search through a whole pile of lists to find my original jottings.
Some people, I suspect, make lists almost without realizing it. A diary is a list, a calendar is a list, a recipe is a list, your address book is a list, and so on.
For someone with mild OCD like me, the perfectionist in me hates to forget anything, it's a kind of failure. Writing everything down is a great help, which is why wherever I am I'm never far from a pad and pencil.
I never forget to pass on phone messages for others, because as the phone rings I reach for a pad of sticky notes ready to record the call however insignificant. Even if the message reads something like, "Mary called to see how you are. No need to call her back," I still place the note where the other person will see it on their return. Common sense, I know, but many people just forget about the call.
Another problem with lists is maintenance. Handwritten lists quickly get scruffy with crossings out, amendments, additions, notations, calculations in any spare space. Sometimes when only a few items remain valid, the list may have to be re-written. As I have several lists on the go at any one time, these can pile up. Mild OCD prompts me to start a separate list: Item #1 - Consolidate old lists!
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