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.