It’s amazing what behaviour parents will accept as normal.
I was a child obsessed with having and keeping things, but what started with a frustrating quirk would eventually turn into a condition that would serve to impact every facet of my life.
Having and keeping things is in many ways a habit that is baked into human nature. We’re descended from hunter/gatherers and, for me at least, ‘gathering’ would become something that I would obsess over. That’s a part of the symptom that so many people fail to think about when they refer to themselves as being ‘a bit OCD’.
The definition of ‘obsessive‘ is:
‘an idea or thought that continually preoccupies or intrudes on a person’s mind’
The key word to think of there is ‘continually’. That’s the key difference between someone who is ‘a bit OCD’ and someone who lives everyday with a form of OCD. It’s not just an odd, casually charming personality defect that you choose to pull out every now and again as a party trick, it’s a constantly pervasive thought, an impulse or need to do something that eclipses all other thoughts. In my case it was an obsession over my belongings.
My parents had not noticed the beginnings of my compulsion at this point in my life, but they had begun to become unnerved by the manner that I treated my stuffed toys. Unfortunately, a 2-year old child jealously coveting their toys was not something that my parents saw the need to worry about. I was an only child, so sharing my toys never cropped up as an issue until my started my Mother started organising play dates.
Like any other kid I had my favourite toys when I was a baby, but unlike other kids my favourites never fell out of my favour. Each new addition to my collection would be exalted as a new heir apparent to the kingdom of plush toys that I had come to amass, born into a family of equally cherished creatures that I would look upon proudly each and every day. My parents knew for certain that something was up when I didn’t allow my new friends to play with any of the toys. I’d say that they didn’t like being touched and that no one could touch them. My obsession had become as large as my collection and soon it was the only thing that I thought about – ensuring each and every one of those toys was safe, untouched in their preordained position.
My parents didn’t seek help for me, perhaps fearing what kind of diagnosis I would be given. It’s impossible to know if I’d have turned out any different if they’d taken me to get help sooner, I try not to think about it too much but they’ve both exhibited regret in letting me leave home with over 150 stuffed animals.
University was a tough time for me, it was a stressful period of change that led to me leaning on my compulsion more than ever, but it also led to me meeting some fantastic compassionate people who saw my habits for what they were and led me to getting the help that I’d so desperately needed for most of my life.