Are you someone who suffers from OCD or Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, and you are trying very hard to tackle this for a long time?
She is halfway down the driveway, juggling car keys and coffee in one hand, a briefcase and papers in the other, when ‘The Worry’ suddenly comes to her mind, just as it does every morning. “Did I remember to lock the front door?” she hears in her mind. The question is more of an accusation than a question.
Like a highly trained soldier performing an about-face, the woman swivels 180 degrees and double times her pace back to the house. She then vigorously twists, turns, jerks, tugs, and otherwise assaults the handle of her front door. After a brief tussle, she feels reassured that the door is indeed locked.
With a sigh of relief, she heads back to the car, gets in, takes a deep breath, and starts the engine. Just then a sharp tinge of anxiety pierces her newfound calm. “But did I really twist the doorknob hard enough to know if it was really, really, really locked?” Biting her lower lip the seconds’ tick by. She can’t be 100% sure.
Swearing under her breath she gets quickly out of the car, trots up the driveway one more time, and vigorously tests the door handle again (Round Two). “OK, stop being ridiculous” she mumbles to herself. The anxiety begins to ebb away, replaced with frustration and embarrassment.
Down the driveway, she heads for the third time that morning. Shifting the car into drive she heads down the street. Looking at her watch she thinks “Not bad, I can still make it to work on time.” Just then another thought comes to mind “But did I lock the back door?”
A high school student slowly pushes his books away and stands up. The past five hours have been entirely focused on chemistry. His eyelids feel like they are made of lead. Sleep is rapidly advancing on him, despite his best efforts to remain awake. Stumbling to his bed he crashes down on the mattress like a tree being felled in the woods.
His muscles uncoil, and sleep begins to wash over him in a warm wave. But life is seldom simple for this teen. Suddenly his eyes blink wide. Scanning the room, he looks over to the desk.
“How could I be so stupid?” he moans. His notecards are laying on top of a pen. What’s more, two textbooks have been left open next to his desk, and his spare reading glasses lay on the bottom shelf of his bookcase.
A sense of dread begins to coil around his heart. Jumping out of bed he totters back to the desk.
Five minutes later the desk is tidy. All but a few items placed neatly into drawers. Those few things left on top of the desk have been painstakingly arranged and rearranged until they were perfectly situated. These ‘on the desk’ items form a small cadre, a group whose membership has not varied for the past three years: a spiral-bound notebook, two pens (one with black ink, one with blue ink), a stack of Post-it Notes, a metal ruler and spare pair of reading glasses.
Each is meticulously placed so as to make one long row, each item being 4 inches from the top edge of the desk.
When you know in your heart that something tragic will happen if your desk is not perfectly neat, there is little room for making a mistake.
The little girl sits alone, wracked by anxiety because she is angry with her mother. She knows with certainty that these angry feelings will eventually lead to the death of her parent. How could she be so reckless as to let her anger become so strong she wonders. The guilt of this moment, and so many moments preceding it, is crushing.
Her only hope now is to reverse the impact of her anger by visualizing her mother being perfectly healthy. The little girl knows if she can do this, and hold that picture in her mind for one full minute, the danger will have passed. The mother’s life, in the child’s view, depends on this – and it is all her fault. It was her angry feelings that endangered her mother, now she must fix the problem.