22 April 2013

Put a sock in it

While chatting with two girlfriends over dinner recently, I realised that I hadn't told them much about my OCD.

In an attempt to convey what the condition makes me do, I described the regimented arrangement of the things on top of my chest of drawers (see last week's post). Employing items on the table - salt and pepper pots, glasses, cutlery - I illustrated the point with an impromptu demonstration of spacing, centring and pattern-making.

Friend A frowned a little. Friend B shrugged and said it sounded 'quite normal'. Not quite the reaction I was looking for.

I girded myself to share a more 'weird' practice, something that would really prove the point - and settled on my bathroom light pull. How, you might wonder, can OCD influence your approach to a light pull?

Photos: Peter Gettins Photography

Here's how. The pull is a teardrop-shaped piece of wood with a fingerprint swirl of grain on each side; one dark with only a couple of whorls, one lighter with multiple loops. On leaving the bathroom, I swivel the pull around, so that the lighter side faces me, and the fingerprint is centred. I don't know why, it just 'feels right' - which is the basis of much of my OCD. An inexplicable feeling of things being 'right' or 'wrong' that traps me into repeating a compulsion, until I feel the internal shift to 'right'. 

As Friend B didn't seem to be getting it, I moved on to another aspect of my condition. 

'I've lost sight of what normal is,' I said. 'I mean, how do most people arrange their socks?'

Friend B sat bolt upright. 'What do you mean, arrange their socks?'

'Well, you know? How do you put your socks away?' I was uncertain why she was so agitated.

'You arrange your socks?!' she said, genuinely horrified.

So that was it. She had finally come unstuck over one of my lesser OCD evils; one which, to me, is only a few steps removed from simple tidiness. At least I'll know how to get the message across next time: go straight for the sock drawer.


Anonymous said...

Ah, has your friend B never heard of sock dividers for drawers? They come in all kinds of shapes. Diagonal, honeycomb, square...and fit most drawers. You get them virtually everywhere. Lakeland, Amazon, Ebay... You can use them for underwear as well. When you're after dividers for small items you can go for egg cartons. They nicely do the trick.

There's nothing strange about organising your socks. After all we do the same with cutlery, to name just one example. Personally I don't sort my socks. They all live in one box used by the whole family. Thank God we all have the same sock size. ;-)

So what happens when you enter your bathroom and the dark side of the light pull stares in your face because a guest didn't bring it back to your desired position? Do you break out in sweat or do you turn it round and get over it?


Helen Barbour said...

Hi Bettina

Funnily enough, sock dividers feature in my next planned post!

My OCD is sufficiently under control that I can, by and large, set it aside for short periods, eg when guests visit. I just have to put everything 'right' when they've gone.

Which, of course, begs the question why I can't do that for longer periods...I suspect perhaps having an end in sight to the 'mess' is all that makes it tolerable.

I would certainly never be able to take your approach to socks with my other half - I'm a 6, he's an 11.

Lindsay said...

After reading your blog which, by the way, is both interesting and informative, I got my daughter to read it. She could identify with the dressing table order, as while not bound by 'rules' does like symmetry and certain patterns herself. I'm pretty sure her sock drawer is a tangled nightmare though!

Helen Barbour said...

Thank you for your positive feedback, Lindsay.

In later posts I'll be looking at what differentiates people with OCD and those who have one or two OCD-style habits, but not full-blown OCD. Two of the key differences are how long people spend on their habits and the degree of distress they experience while performing them.

Unknown said...

I put the white ones in the first row, coloured ones in the back, stockings in a different drawer. Folded together, opening facing me. Hope this is still "normal tidyness". Or is it simply Swissness...?

Helen Barbour said...

It's all a matter of degree, Karin. That sounds like 'normal tidiness', but it depends how long you spend on it, whether you have many other such compulsions, and whether those compulsions cause you any distress. More about socks coming very, very soon in this week's post...