I don’t consider myself to have a diagnosable issue with OCD.
I have a lot of rituals and routines that seem to provide me with some relief from anxiety, but they are largely invisible and don’t cause problems. Does it really matter that I turn on the playroom light every time I turn on our house alarm, or that I take the empty hangers out of my husband’s closet the moment he travels so that I don’t have a visual reminder that he’s gone for the week, or that I have to eat my frozen enchilada meal oriented in the right direction? Is it the end of the world that I have parking spots I prefer (the ones that are directly next to a sidewalk, for instance) or that I like to arrive at important doctor’s appointments at least ten minutes early? Our household philosophy is “It’s not a problem until it’s a problem.” That may sound silly, but what it means is that we try to give ourselves leeway about our quirks. If they start to get out of hand, then we give it our undivided attention to try to get it back to manageable. It’s a little like when you know the house is gotten a bit messy, but you don’t obsess over it. Then you trip over a basketball and land on Legos and yell, “This is why we don’t let it get this bad around here! Time to clean up, now!” All of our family quirks are like that, when it is a problem we fix it, but we don’t consider it a problem until it really is one.
Well, my OCD tendencies are becoming a problem, in one very specific area – my phone.
I am going to confess something I’m a bit ashamed of. Every morning I have to check my social media. HAVE to. It has become something that causes me a lot of anxiety and distress if I
A. Don’t do it at all.
B. Do it out of order.
C. Don’t complete my rounds.
I HAVE to check Facebook, then my e-mail, then Pinterest, then Timehop, then Instagram, then WordPress, then Buzzfeed. It takes a ridiculous amount of time. Most mornings I am up too early anyways, so my rounds don’t interfere with anyone or anything else. I’ve tried to slow down but I find myself extremely anxious at not completing this routine. It bothers me immensely. I feel very unsettled and cannot move on with the other things I need to do. There is no good reason for this compulsion, and the interference with daily life – this is when you get into diagnosable territory. This is when it becomes a real problem and not just a “quirk”.
This morning, though, was the worst. My oldest had to wake me up at seven because I needed to get up and make lunches and give my youngest a bath. I knew I was running late. I knew I had forgotten to plug in my phone, so it was on very low battery. I knew that my oldest had been sweetly responsible in waking me up, and that he had been up for an hour and wanted to chat. What I did, instead of making breakfast or actually talking with my son, was I stood next to the charger with my phone plugged in, checking my rounds and ignoring him. I nodded and didn’t make eye contact, and I said, “uh-huh” in response to every question, and I left him out. He barely seemed to notice how much I had just invalidated him, how I had just demonstrated how much more important my rituals and my phone were than anything he had to say. That was the saddest part of all, his acceptance that he should play second fiddle to my anxieties and to a stranger’s comments on Facebook, and that he still loved me and felt no resentment towards me over it. It’s not a problem until it’s a problem. It is a very big problem.
I don’t have a resolution to this problem yet. But it sure as hell has gotten my undivided attention now. I am going to fix this, because my son shouldn’t have to be happy with scraps of divided attention; he shouldn’t have to share me with an iPhone.
7 thoughts on “My Social Media Confession”
I may not “have,” to do the same thing but I catch myself acting similarly, but my daughters have no shame in telling me as I so often tell them “Excuse me, we make eye contact when people are speaking to us!” Yes, sometimes it comes off sassy but let’s face it they come by it honestly and obviously I need the reminder. Eye contact and giving people our undivided attention while they are speaking is a paramount habit I have tried my hardest to instill in my children. We have lost our attention span as a society we are so A.D.D. never satisfied with the task at hand we must always be multitasking, or as I like to say multi-entertained, that we don’t even make time to stop and listen to the people we hold most dear our children. I’m just as guilty as the next person, this year I am trying a new practice that when my children are home and awake I stay off social media. I only get a few short hours with them outside of school/day care/work, I want to cherish these years with them not random people on the internet.
That’s awesome, and that’s the sort of thing I’d like to aim for. I never had such a hard time focusing since having this phone. It has been immeasurably useful in a lot of ways, but I use it too much. My boys used to get cranky at me on the computer, but they never complained about the phone. If they did I might have been able to check myself sooner-it worked for me stopping soda, as they would complain every time I had one and they couldn’t!
Well done you, it isn’t easy!
“Our household philosophy is “It’s not a problem until it’s a problem.” That may sound silly, but what it means is that we try to give ourselves leeway about our quirks. If they start to get out of hand, then we give it our undivided attention to try to get it back to manageable.”
Yes, yes, yes!
We don’t need to buff away every quirk in our character – they’re often the things that make us… ‘us’.
But when those quirks start interfering with our ability to do things, like give our family members our attention – that’s when we have to stop and reassess. Is this just a loveable quirk, or is it now a problem? And if it’s a problem, what am I going to do about it?
Good on you for recognising that your quirk in this area had gone from being a little idiosyncrasy to being a big problem. There’s no shame in realising that something has started to take over, or that you’ve given it a place in your life that doesn’t match the level of importance it should actually have (e.g. sons are more important than iPhones, so sons should come first!). We ALL have those moments!
The shamefulness comes not from the point before that, when you were unaware. Rather, it comes when you have to make the choice: will I continue to stubbornly keep going with my problem, or will I gracefully work towards changing myself? And when you keep choosing the former, that’s when it becomes something yucky in your life.
Thanks for being brave and open about this issue!
It’s something we don’t talk about often enough 🙂
❤ xx S.
Thanks so much! I am trying to develop a new habit of turning my phone face down every time the kids say something to me. I’m becoming more aware of how often I am staring at it, and while I haven’t been able to to stop myself from looking in the first place, it signals to them that they have my undivided attention at once. Unless I’m in the middle of talking to a doctor’s office, of course. Then they have got to wait! But it is getting better:)
That’s a wonderful improvement already! ❤