Wednesday, July 14, 2010

in between spaces

In the decades I have suffered from OCD, the obsessions and compulsions I have experienced have evolved considerably. Sometimes these vanished compulsions feel something like a missing limb, or a quiet shadow filling in the space where an unrelenting, unexplainable need use to be. This is especially true of my childhood compulsions, which I performed without knowledge that something about my actions deviated from the norm.

As a child, thinking my actions were normal, I wondered how so much time could be spent out of a human life on such meaningless tasks, and yet people were still able to achieve things like build skyscrapers and cure diseases and become president. The fact I remember these inner monologues is a reflection, I think, of how much time I spent wondering about this. It was a great, unanswered question about Adulthood and Growing Up that I assumed would be answered in time.

I could never step foot on a crack in the pavement. There was a nursery rhyme that told you not to, and I followed this with unwavering dedication. Of course those cracks were sinister; the earth beneath them could break apart and swallow you whole, and your mother, with her broken back, would be left searching for you, beneath the pavement, forever.

I never understood how during recess, other children would carefully pick their way down the sidewalk, and then forget the game as soon as the bell rang. It infuriated me, their casual disregard for something that was so clearly an important, unwavering rule, important enough to be passed down through generations of children on the playground. It took me careful, painstaking ages to walk the distance back to the classroom. At this rate, I wondered, how would I ever become President?


  1. I have had trouble with cracks in the ground since I was a little kid. I never actually believed the rhyme, but there was this feeling of dread that would come over me if I accidentally stepped on a crack, which then meant that I had to step on a crack with my other foot to make it even. I'm mostly over that annoyance, but every once in awhile when I'm extra stressed about something, I find myself watching the sidewalk as I walk, taking care to avoid cracks, making sure my steps are equal. On these occasions, I have to make a conscious effort to look up from the ground and ignore my steps. Sometimes that's harder to do than others.

  2. I always find it interesting when I hear about others who experienced OCD symptoms as a child. I was really young when I started showing symptoms, but wasn't diagnosed until I was an adult though my parents sought help for my symptoms. Were you diagnosed as a child or taken in for treatment? Just curious about how others handled their OCD prior to adulthood...

  3. Fellow OCD Sufferer,

    I was diagnosed when I was maybe 12 years old. My mom started seeing signs much earlier than that. I tried medication and counseling at the time but none of it was much help. That and I didn't realize how crazy I was (or would become), so I opted to just deal with it on my own.

  4. @Fellow OCD Sufferer:
    I saw a therapist a couple times when I was a child, but this early treatment never came to anything-- I wasn't diagnosed at this point. I was finally diagnosed at 16, when my disorder finally became an impediment to everyday living.
    As I alluded to in this post, I had no idea that any of my thought processes were unusual or disordered. Because I knew nothing else, I assumed I was normal.
    In retrospect, I'm somewhat thankful for this-- I'm very glad that I had no idea I was 'different' until I was mature enough to accept this. In the end, I figured out what OCD was through references in popular culture, and told my parents I thought this is what I had.