I just stepped on a crack with my left foot, so now I have to step on a crack with the right one.  Ugh, I landed on the crack a little farther forward than I had with the left one, so now I have to balance it out and use my right foot again, but step more lightly and a little less far……….man, even though the second right step was lighter, the two right steps still outweighed the total pressure of the one left step, so I need to use a light left step to make up for the difference.  Aaaaagh!  It’s probably going to take me twenty steps to get this worked out. 

That happened to me all the time when I was a kid!  I don’t really know why, but if I brushed up against a wall with my forearm, I’d have to turn around and brush against it with the other forearm and try to match the same pressure and corresponding location used the first time.  And it wasn’t just cracks and walls–it happened with all sorts of touches.  I felt like I was nuts, and I literally remember wondering if I’d ever get over it.  I probably didn’t waste much energy on this after the age of nine or ten, but it definitely bugged me for quite a few years.  Even now, on rare occasions such thoughts still crop up ever so slightly, and it drives me crazy to realize that such irrational compulsions could ever affect me. 

My reaction at this age is to quickly balk at the absurdity and wonder at its origin.  The experience is very similar to what happens in dreamland when some frustrating compulsive action is being repeated, or there’s just something going on that I don’t like, and the welcome epiphany that it’s a dream and I don’t have to put up with it affords me a sigh of relief. 

Where does this come from?  The idea of going completely insane is scary, and even the threat of developing some sort of mental instability is pretty unsettling.  Both happen, and you have to wonder why.  Oh sure, somebody can rattle off an explanation about some receptors going on the fritz inside my head, but when it really comes down to it, you want to know how something so irrational is possible when we’re generally able to reason so well.  Or is the notion that we generally reason things out sensibly an illusion half the time?  Maybe my past struggle with those physical compulsions is just a primitive example of the myriad complex ways in which we can slip into thinking insensibly, and usually they’re so subtle we don’t even notice. 

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19 Responses to “”

  1.  I did the exact same thing when I was younger.
    One of my professors used to always say that personality disorders and maybe even mood disorders.. (dont remember) were traits that everyone normally did taken to an extreme… for instance we all have our own degrees of compulsion or obsession, some higher then others, but that doesnt necessarily make us obsessive or compulsive… Someone can lean to it more than another and not have anything wrong with them. Seems to me, you leaned. and leaning isnt scarey..at least i hope its not, cause I lean alllllll the time.

  2. Read chapter one of David Sedaris’s Naked. He reflects on his childhood when he was a little bit OCD and described his walk home from school every day. A two mile walk could sometimes take two hours. It’s pretty funny.

  3. I also had similar issues, especially when I was younger.  I mostly remember it with scratching.  If I scratched my right arm, I also had to scratch my left whether it itched or not.  Every once in a while, I reflect and realize that I have largely outgrown that desire for balance/equality (?) except when I am extremely stressed it seems to come back again in some form or another.  I think I am slightly slightly OCD — it makes sense what resplendantRachel said about us all being on the continuum.  (I wonder if it’s more common in Rice people?)

  4. Apparently being a Rice person I should comment. I don’t think I do the balancing thing physically, but I do do this weird mental thing which is kinda hard to describe. If you look up at the ceiling and there are fluorescent lights, you can sorta imagine lines extending out of them sideways or diagonally (easier to see if there are ceiling tiles). Anyway, for me, everything is nice and proper if all the lights are on the same lines and diagonals. Same with vents, and odd-colored tiles on square tile floors like in church.

  5. Wow, everyone has OCD. Actually, I do things like that. I have to check my alarm clock several times before going to bed…Sometimes I walk in patterns – especially on city sidewalks. One step, two steps, one step, two steps, etc. And, of course, if one side of me get’s hit or bumped, I have to make it even on the other side. My husband has great fun with this. I try to be subtle.

  6. You’re last post made you think you were insane, but I’m comforted to know it’s just a little OCD.

  7. yes! we should form ocd annonymous.

  8. I’m actually surprised to hear that other people have experienced the same sort of desire to balance out touch and other things! So it would appear that oatwoman is the oddball in this bunch…

  9. Well, I suppose I cannot be left out.  I mean, I didn’t go to Rice, but I definitely had some ocd tendencies when I was younger too.  I totally did the stepping on the crack thing and the balancing of touching stuff.  It used to make me so frustrated that there were things that I had to do and that they didn’t really make any sense.  I was always so scared that if anybody ever knew they would think that I was wierd or crazy. Thankfully, after I hit a certain age, the tendencies just stopped. It was such a relief!  Kinda interesting that you brought up the subject though.  The other night they had McInvale’s (Mattress Mac) daughter on KSBJ and she’s the national spokesperson for OCD.  She was saying that they have found that when people perform their compulsions they actually relieve anxiety.  Hence, when some people get stressed, certain compulsions can creep up on them.  Interesting huh?
    As for being crazy, I don’t think you are.  Well, unless you’re on benedryl….

  10. i think it’s hilarious that so many of you know exactly what he is talking about….i’m with oatwoman on this one.

  11. yeah like aaleonards said, a therapist once told me that a lot of my rhythmic patterns or obsessions were for stress..to lessen anxiety.. to bring in some kind of consistency when I was really anxious.

  12. my ocd ex-debate coach told me that her doctor told her that most women have some form of ocd, and it is very common in men as well.

  13. my childhood OCD was very similar to yours.. these days it looks a bit different, but it’s still there 🙂

  14. Wow…and I thought I was the only one! No, I think those things are more “not understood” than “irrational”. The brain is a spider web of stimuli….you ping a spider web at any point, the entire spider web shivers. Just because we don’t understand what the stimulus is for a given response, we call it irrational, when in fact, it is very rational…we just don’t understand the connective response. Think about it. We all had equal buoyancy in the womb. In there, we were balanced. If you read the book, “The High Need Child”, you would see physical reasons why some children do not adapt well outside of the womb due to that lack of bouyancy…they’re keenly sensitive to it, so they try to stay balanced in as many ways as they can. I doubt very seriously if it’s OCD as much as a natural desire to have the comfort of balance.

  15. A non-Xangan guy friend of mine who wishes to remain nameless told me this:+ + + + +hey, i still do that stuff that you wrote about. I touch things to both cheeks, both hands, etc and a whole lot more.I am especially sensitive to my fingertips and cuticles and the rim of my lower lip+ + + + +After hearing all this, I feel much better now. As I said in my post, usually whenever the compulsion to do anything arises, I quickly refuse and sometimes shudder to think that the thought occurred to me.

  16. it’s not so bad being crazy

  17. Okay… and you ask ME why I have to match things in my house?!?!
    And anyway… you might as well as someone why they should write a poem or a song… or, ahem, kiss girls while driving at 75 MPH (or more).  8-P (this is me making a face at you!)

  18. lol. i used to be like that when i was young too! just completely compulsive about certain things.. perhaps it’s our quest for structure and balance at the stage in life. =)

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