Coming out of the (super clean) OCD closet

We all have little quirks, but what happens when these “little quirks” evolve into big problems? Should we do everything in our power to rid ourselves of them, or do we let our obsessive behaviors make us who we are, even at the risk of becoming crazy?

One, two, three, four, five, six, seven.

Okay, enough now.

One, two, three, four, five, six, seven.

Seriously. Enough.

One, two, three, four, five, six, seven.

I know there’s no use fighting it. There’s one more coming. IF I don’t start over, that is.

One, two, three, four, five, six, seven.

I have seven teeth on the top right side of my mouth. Also seven teeth on the top left side. The bottom is the same. How do I know? Counting them with my tongue is one of my OCD behaviors.

Want to know how many tiles make up the floor in my department at work? No? You’ve never thought about it? I have. And, even though it never changes, I check it daily to feel certain. Turn up the TV until the volume is just right? As if. I use multiples of five on the volume indicator, whether or not the level of sound is appropriate.

There’s more.

I’m obsessed with tapping my fingers. Right hand only. Thumb, pinky, pointer, ring, middle. In that order. Many, many times over.

Not to mention my sleeping ritual which if not performed perfectly means starting over or I go a night without rest. Meds, then lotion, then lie on my left side–right leg up–in what can only be described as “mid-march,” with the sheet woven between my two big toes. When I get into just the right position the counting begins. I count backward from 100 regulating my breathing to one breath per number. If I move, even so much as to scratch an itch or fix my pillow, the whole process begins again (minus the meds and lotion). If I get down to one, I start at 100 again. On sleepless nights I can complete the countdown dozens of times.

And don’t get me started on the Dermatillomania side of things. The mirror at work is my worst enemy, possibly because my job is so anxiety-ridden. I have to be called out of the bathroom several times every work day over the paging system, and I often emerge with blood coming from some part of my body that I’ve scratched madly while in there. My current obsession is my scalp–which is perfect because I’ve got thick, dark hair to cover my wounds. I’ll part my hair with my hands, looking for imperfections and, of course, finding them (because I’ve created them by scratching) and scratch them some more.

There are dozens more things that bug me just enough to keep me from feeling comfortable. Like someone tapping you on the shoulder constantly. I’ll notice something and my inner voice will say, “That does not matter. LET IT GO.” But I can’t, until that thing is how my brain needs it to be in order to relax.

But relaxation never comes. There’s always one more thing. Just one more ritual. Forget the inconvenience–OCD is exhausting.

In a recent issue of Allure magazine, the beautiful and quirky Megan Fox came forward to talk about her struggles with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder.

“This is a sickness, I have an illness, this is not OK anymore,” the actress said.

About refusing to use public restrooms without paper seat covers:

“I’m never doing that again. Every time someone uses a bathroom and they flush, all the bacteria is shot into the air.”

And about her feelings on restaurant silverware:

“Putting my mouth where a million other mouths have been, just knowing all the bacteria that you carry in your mouth? Ucch!”

Okay, so she doesn’t exactly have a way with words, which is why movies have scripts. However, she’s just the latest in a recent wave of celebrities coming clean about their OCD.

Charlize Theron can’t abide by messy cabinets, Leonardo DiCaprio is distracted by cracks in the sidewalk, Cameron Diaz doesn’t like dirty doorknobs, David Beckham needs everything in his three (three? THREE!?!) refrigerators lined up perfectly symmetrical, Billy Bob Thornton has to repeat actions, and Jessica Alba’s nightly ritual is to unplug all the appliances in her house. And, of course, let’s not forget the Hollywood poster child for Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, Howie Mandel, who is notorious for his phobia of germs: going so far as refusing to shake hands and shaving his head to feel cleaner.

This kind of honesty from people who are often admired makes me feel a little better about my behaviors and sharing them with the world. And, it’s nice to know that the odd folks are getting ahead. In fact, Jessica Alba credits her OCD with her success.

“I can be a little obsessive compulsive about things, but that just means that when I do things, I do them proficiently and I do them to the best of my ability.”

As for me, I’ve started medication. While I don’t want to cure my quirks (I’ve come to love them as part of my unique personality), I’d like a respite from them from time to time and a chance to heal a bit. A vacay from my cray-cray, as it were.

What I’m looking for is a version of me that feels real, but with the goofiness turned down from 20 to 15. After all, knowing exactly how many teeth are in your mouth might be the key to fame and fortune. But, I’d be willing to start out as Cameron Diaz’s doorknob cleaner.

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The Checkout Girl

The Checkout Girl is Jennifer Lemons. She’s a storyteller, comedian, and musician. If you don’t see her sitting behind her laptop, check the streets of Richmond for a dark-haired girl with a big smile running very, very slowly.

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