I have a tendency to obsess over things. Clearly, I obsess over my thought as I spend way too much time inside my head. But I obsess over little things too. Things that should have little to no relevance in my life.
When I visit my parents, sometimes I help my mum with hanging out the washing. I obsess over her peg basket – how it is filled with pegs of all different shapes, sizes, colours and different stages of bleaching by the sun. When I hang up an article of washing, I have to search for two pegs that match. They have to be identical – right down to how much they have faded by exposure to the weather. When we both lived at home, my brother used to deliberately use two pegs that were completely different. I’d have to spend time going around the washing line, fixing each piece of washing so that identical pegs were used.
If I get my hand “dirty” because I had to use it to touch a railing, or elevator button, or something else that is public access – my hand is effectively rendered useless until I have scrubbed it clean, or at the very least smothered it in antibacterial gel. Help me if I have to wait longer than a minute before I can do one or the other. By that time, I fancy I can actually feel the germs crawling over my skin, spreading up my arm.
All of the times I’ve had an intravenous drip in my hand/arm – within minutes of it being inserted I am fixated on it. Something in my mind snaps, and I have a singular focus on the drip, panic floods me and all I do is mutter repeatedly how it needs to come out, needs to come out now. It is as if I can simply will it out if I repeat the mantra enough times. I get hung up on the needle under my skin, and like a dog with a bone I just can’t let the obsession go.
I have been listening to the same 7 songs on repeat for the past 6 or so weeks. That should have driven me mad (maybe it has and I just don’t realise it!) But apparently my fixation on this band’s music has left no room for any other music in my life right now. I’m very familiar with this type of obsession, getting well keen into a band, or an actor, or something and saturating myself in nothing but said fixation. Eventually I’ll lose interest, but for now it’s like being in love – I can’t imagine not feeling so passionately and strongly as I do about said band right now.
If I have had even the tiniest most insignificant unpleasant or embarrassing interaction with a person – the event plays over and over in my mind like a broken record. There are several stages to this. The first 50,000+ mental replays are the embarrassment/anger phase – where I’m repeatedly reviewing the interaction trying to make sense of what happened. Stage 2 is the beating myself up about it – another 50,000+ replays chiding myself for not reacting appropriately, or saying the wrong thing, or not saying the right thing. Basically it’s about abusing myself relentlessly because I didn’t handle the situation in the “best” way. The final stage is trying to change the past in my head – recreating the scenario and imagining all the alternative outcomes that could have occurred. Inserting the snappiest comeback, or not reacting, or reacting differently. In my mind I am rewriting what happened in a manner that creates the best possible outcome for me. All in all, I will be hung up about a particular interaction for days and even weeks at a time, unable to move past it until I’ve played it out enough times in my head.
I have a ritual when I get in to work in the morning – I open my desk drawer to pull out my notebook, pen, highlighter, calculator and ruler and I have to line them all up on my desk parallel to the edge of the desk. My coworkers sometimes tease me by nudging things out of place when I leave my desk. Of course I notice, I always notice, and I have to realign them when I get back.
These are just a handful of things I obsess over. I kind of find them funny when I look at them through the eyes of “the scientist” because logically none of those things matter. The world won’t end if I use 2 different pegs, or don’t line up my pen to my notebook and make sure they are parallel to the desk edge. I won’t die if I don’t wash my hands immediately after pressing the elevator button, and the drip in my hand won’t kill me. But, for whatever silly reason in my head, if I don’t comply with these rules I’ve created for myself, it all seems to come crashing down around me and I can’t “keep calm and carry on”.
I put it down to my need for control. When my mind is running riot, at least I have these little things that I can control. I suppose they allow me to make sense of my strange and sometimes scary world.