Friday, March 27, 2009

"This is a public service announcement...

...this is only a test." Warning, by Green Day.

I have discovered something today that my closest friends and family could probably have told you. I must admit, though, it came as a genuine surprise to me.

I was sitting at my desk, trying to do physics. In the back of my mind I began to think of all the other things I also needed to be doing (20-page, single-spaced paper due Thursday, smaller paper due Monday, 3 lesson plans, 2 presentations, and non-school items that really need to happen--like grocery shopping--for which I simply do not have the time) and as my shoulders tensed and I my stomach knotted with the anxiety from stress, certain things began to cause an unreasonable amount of pressure in my mind.

The dust on my desk began to really bother me. I tried to ignore it for a good ten minutes, but every time I'd shift my eyes from textbook to notebook, or notebook to computer, the dust would catch my eye, and we would stare at each other for a moment until I would force my eyes back to the book. I finally got up and got a damp washcloth and dusted off my desk.

A few rooms away, someone was singing off-key. This person almost always sings off-key, and it's usually quite endearing. Today it was Annoying. I turned up my music to drown the sound out. But my music grated on my nerves at that volume level, even the piano music to which I turn when I need to think. I put in headphones, so I could turn it down but still drown out the rest of the world.

My colored pencils, which I use for drawing the graphs, were not all sharp. This bothered me. I sharpened them. 

My desk organizer thing, where I keep my sticky-notes and paintbrushes and all the other random things one keeps on a desk was sloppy and had papers sticking out at odd angles. I also knew that in the recesses were little screws and paper clips and things that actually had other homes. I emptied it out and straightened it, putting everything away. 

There was a bowl on my sink that I ate cereal out of last night. I knew it, and it niggled in the back of my mind until I finally got up and washed it and put it away, and sat back down. 

When I ran out of time to do physics, I couldn't pull myself away from my room to go to class until I had straightened my book shelf, and actually put the socks that hadn't quite made it into the dirty clothes bag inside the bag, and set the bag in its little corner. 

The baseball I keep out for tossing to myself whenever I'm thinking has been coming out more and more lately, flying from my right hand to my left with alarming alacrity. 

Physics binder, always fairly neat, now became organized to the point of absurdity, with each sheet being straightened beyond reason, and every "dot and tiddle" erased or white-outed so that the formulas shone with pristine precision.

The pictures on our wall were crooked. I snarled at them as I straightened them.

My earrings were not all hung on their little stand. I jabbed them viciously into place. 

Indeed, I fairly stood in the middle of the room, panting as I felt every tiny detail that was out of place weighting on my already overborne mind. I could actually feel the disarray of the shoes in the closet, and fairly smell the only-slightly murky water in the fish bowl. My brow furled, my jaw set, my shoulders scrunched, and I couldn't concentrate on any one thing, because each time I'd turn to accomplish one task, the next would call to me with such insistency that my hands would shake, or my mind would simply hit a brick wall and refuse to think any thoughts of substance. 

Other odd behaviors:
  • Uncontrollable urge to type out long passages from The Wind in the Willows.
  • Blogging.
  • Creating new specialized playlists on itunes.
  • Taking and editing pictures of random things. 
  • Cutting my fingernails very short and painting fingers and toes the same color. 
  • Playing only folk songs on the guitar.
  • "Purging" my facebook wall, email inbox, and text message inbox.
  • Alphabetizing everything with a title, author, or label that can be alphabetized. 
  • Chewing on my lip.
  • Stalking wherever I walk, and forgetting to smile.
  • Eye twitch.
  • Embarking on long and unnecessary creative endeavors and then giving up after spending an ungodly amount of time unsuccessfully.
  • Insomnia.
  • Bleaching things--because if it's supposed to be white, it should be WHITE.
  • Re-arranging furniture. 

I could go on, listing the various behaviors that have been increasing themselves more and more lately, but the bottom line is this: 

I become incredibly OCD when I am stressed.

I can fairly hear my sister laughing as she reads this. "Well, duh!" she probably is saying. But I had no idea! I thought I was simply a multi-tasking, easy-going, organized, neat, and cheerful accomplisher of many things. Perhaps when I'm not to this level of pressure I am, but it seems that when I meet the point of "beyond what I think I can do," and when there simply is no physical way to finish everything I need to finish, perhaps that is when my OCD decides to surface. 

I'm sure there is a use for this trait. Indeed, up until the point where I cannot finish anything because I'm trying to do everything I do have incredible drive to finish a multitude of unrelated tasks, which is useful. My room is usually clean. My books are usually organized. I can almost always put my hand on whatever I want. Messes bother me, as does disorganization in any part of life. I think through things to the point where I can understand them from any direction. 

Yes, all this is well and good until you live with someone who does not share these traits when they are under pressure. 

I have never experienced this myself, but I have observed that for some unfathomable reason, some people can accomplish more in times of pressure when they just let other areas go to seed, as it were. Bedrooms become a complete wreck, but schoolwork excels for these people. The analysis is brilliant, though the desk looks like someone camped out at it for 6-months. The person looks like a homeless vagabond, but the artwork is gorgeous. 

Not so for me. I must have order, and it must be orderly order. It must be ordered down to the back of the bottom drawer, and out as far as my radar can sense. It may be "artistically slurred" or it may be asymmetrical, but it MUST be as it is for a reason, and I must be able to comprehend that reason. 

So yes. 

And the funny part is, most of my best friends, including my sister, are of the latter type--the type who thrive in disarray. So I spazz as they do well, and when I obsessively clean, they begin to spazz. 

Isn't it ironic?

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