NOTE: I submitted this to The Secret Illness, a “creative project that explores the realities of living with obsessive compulsive disorder.” The photo of myself that I submitted to them will be pixelated if/when they publish the post, but let me just show it to you now. I’m not hiding this illness, anyway.
This version, however, has some additional lines and reflections.
If you wanna know more about OCD, read THIS.
Where do I start?
First of all: Please don’t judge me or anyone battling OCD. Please don’t label us as crazy people.
Second: Long, long post below. Read at your own peril.
I find it hard to explain, even in writing, since I’ve never really attempted to explain my condition in detail to anyone, and also because so many memories about it have been forgotten. It’s hard to recall everything or if there really is a reason behind all this.
Just imagine living with anxiety everyday. Imagine spending hours of your day as a prisoner of your own thoughts.
My OCD manifests itself in a number of ways: repetition of thoughts and tasks (or doing things or thinking about things a certain way), obsession with symmetry, obsession with cleanliness, obsession with the number 5, thoughts about death and dying, and so on. The most common manifestation in me, however, is the repetition of thoughts and tasks.
When I was a kid (I was probably 4 or 5), I loved the number 2. I don’t know why, but I just did. Maybe the way it looked or the way it sounded when you pronounced it. Two. It was probably the concept of repeating something, of having not just one of something, that appealed to me. At that age, I had to do things twice.
Sing songs twice? Check.
Ask my Mom why the sky is blue twice? Check.
You get the point.
Soon after, twice just wasn’t enough. Doing things, reading things, learning about things twice didn’t feel right anymore. There was discomfort. I had to go beyond two. I had to do things again. And again. And again. And again. And again, until it felt right.
I remember watching morning cartoons with my older brother (I was around 6 or 7), and when I didn’t understand what a certain cartoon character said, I’d ask him for confirmation. It went something like this:
ME: What did he say?
MY BROTHER: He said *insert sentence here*
ME: Oh okay. So he really said that?
MY BROTHER: Yes.
ME: But he really said it that way? He didn’t say *insert a variation of the same sentence here*
MY BROTHER: I just told you what he said.
ME: I just wanna be sure. So that’s what he said?
Of course, it annoyed the hell out of my brother so he’d give me the silent treatment. That wasn’t good for me, since I wasn’t satisfied yet. I wasn’t reassured of what the cartoon character said. It was awful, that feeling of not getting “it” right, whatever “it” was. Whatever that cartoon character said (or what I thought he said), that little detail, would haunt me for the next couple of days.
At some point between the ages 8 to 11, I also started to wash my hands repetitively (I still do this).
After a few years, I’ve had enough. I couldn’t go on repeating tasks and thoughts endlessly, and I knew I had to do something about it. Interestingly, when I was around 13 years old, I was obsessed with the number 5. I can’t really remember why, but it probably had something to do with symmetry. If you imagine 5 sticks, there’s always a middle stick, and there’d always be two sticks to its left and two to its right.
The number 5. Maybe I could limit my endless repetitions to just FIVE. It worked, for the most part.
Remember a specific detail about a specific movie 5 times? Check.
Read a paragraph I didn’t understand 5 times? Check.
Check if my door’s locked 5 times? Check.
Wash my hands 5 times? Check.
Say certain sentences or phrases in my mind 5 times? Check.
And then one day, 5 just wasn’t enough. If I read a paragraph 5 times but it still didn’t feel “right,” I had to read it 5 more times.
There’s the problem. I’d read it FIFTEEN more times, just to make it 5 sets of 5.
Then there’s another problem. I found that I obsessed about little details too much, especially if I find something really interesting. For example, if I loved the Los Angeles Lakers, I’d spend a whole day researching about the team’s history, championships, records, etc. If I found a specific detail about the team (the team won 65 games in 2009, for example), I’d focus on that detail, read it over and over again, until I’ve had my fill. At this point, the “5 sets of 5” rule no longer applied; I was back to unlimited repetitions of thoughts and tasks.
This would go on to many things:
- I obsessed over the 2002 Spider-Man film, especially the fight between Spidey and the Green Goblin inside a burning building. I watched that specific scene countless times in 2002-2003.
- Of course, when I watched the 2004 Spider-Man sequel, I loved the final battle. Same thing happened.
- When I had my fill of superhero films, I obsessed over Neil Gaiman novels around 2008. This would prove to be challenging, since I keep repeating certain paragraphs on his novels that I rarely get to finish any of his books (except the collections of short stories, since they’re easier to digest).
It was also in 2008 when Christopher Nolan’s “The Dark Knight” was shown, and it changed superhero films. I found the film PERFECT. It was.
Until it wasn’t.
I obsessed over the film, watching it over and over again, specific scenes and lines and details about the movie took my time over the next couple of years. It was because of this repetition and familiarity that I started to see specific details in the film that I didn’t like.
- Batman’s suit looks like he’s wearing a man-bra.
- How did the Joker kill Gambol, exactly? I don’t think carving a smile on his face would immediately kill him. The actual death wasn’t shown.
- The Joker was beating Batman in their final battle. In the comics (at least in the ones I read), the Joker was always inferior to Batman’s fighting skills.
- Did Batman kill Harvey Dent? Didn’t Batman have a “no kill” rule?
- Why call Batman’s motorcycle the Batpod if you won’t call the Tumbler the Batmobile?
The details above overwhelmed me. Days upon days were spent analyzing them, trying to find answers, even if there were none. I tried the “5 sets of 5” rule, but it didn’t help. These same details in the film have been haunting me since 2008, with some rest in between (by that I mean I shifted my obsessions to other things, with the same pattern of finding specific details and analyzing them). It doesn’t help that I can’t talk to anyone about it, in fear of being rejected or looked at as a psycho, so I can’t find any reassurance that things are “okay.”
It was around 2014 when I came up with a solution: Whenever I found myself obsessing over an unnecessary detail, I’d try to convince myself that the object of my obsession never happened at all.
That’s what I’ve been doing with The Dark Knight (or any films or video games that I find myself obsessed with). Since 2014, I’ve been pretending that Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy never happened. It’s the only way to not think about them, or at least to minimize the memories and thoughts.
This is why I’m afraid of liking a specific book, movie, game, athlete, artist, etc. I know, I just know, that I’d end up researching about every little detail about them, and then when I find something interesting (or imperfect), I’d obsess over that detail.
I can’t put every little compulsion and obsession I have in here, since I’d probably end up writing a novel (which I’ll never get to finish reading since I’ll keep re-reading paragraphs). Don’t even get me started on my recurring thoughts about car accidents.
If you’re my friend and if you’ve teased me at least once about being “OC,” please stop. I really don’t find it funny.
These obsessions and compulsions have taken away hours upon hours of my day. The weird thing is I can’t imagine living a day without them. It’s the only way of living that I’ve known all my life.