Effect of OCD On Travel

Minor Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

OK, I admit it. I think am probably borderline OCD. First, I am an inveterate counter. For instance, I know that there are 19 steps to my second floor apartment because I count them every time I go up or down the stairs. I know the numbers to my credit cards, driver’s license, passport, and license plate by heart. Once I have dialed a phone number a couple of times, I can remember it until I no longer need it, at which point I erase it from my memory. I count the number of steps I take when I am walking. I even count the seconds it takes to get from one place to another or the number of seconds between events.

I also seem to have an amazing internal clock. Once, when I was in High School, we were learning how to give artificial respiration the old way – with the victim face down, pushing on the upper rib cage to force air out of the lungs and then pulling both arms up and off the floor to force air into the lungs. We were graded on how close we came to completing 12 rounds in a minute. I did it in EXACTLY 60 seconds. I can wake up at any time of the night or first thing in the morning and know what time it is without looking at the clock. I stopped using an alarm clock years ago.

While it doesn’t bother me if there is a little dust on the furniture or the floor needs vacuuming, it drives me crazy if a stack of books is crooked or papers on my desk are not lined up just so. Frankly, I think if people would always put things back where they found them, life would be a lot easier. A place for everything and everything in its place means there is never a need to search for things.

The clothes in my closet are sorted by type of garment, then by color, lightest to darkest, with short sleeve tops separate from long sleeve tops. I’ve had more than my share of comments from friends who’ve seen my closet over the years – they simply can’t conceive of being this organized and I can’t understand how anyone can function without this level of organization.

I make lists for everything. I believe that if I don’t make lists I will forget or overlook something. For my upcoming trip I have created the following:

  1. A list of things to do before I leave.
  2. A list of what to pack in my carry on suitcase, what to pack in my backpack, what to carry in my purse, and what to wear the day I leave.
  3. A list of things to go over with my house-mate before I leave.
  4. A complete itinerary that details where I am going, what hotels I will be staying at, contact information, etc.
  5. A list for each country that I might visit that contains visa, embassy, cultural, historical, financial, tourist, and transportation information. Each of these lists is saved in a Microsoft Word document format to carry with me on the laptop, a text format to copy to the iPod, and a PDF format that I uploaded to my Webmail, where I can access it remotely if need be. The Webmail now also contains copies of all my important documents, should I lose them while traveling.
  6. A list of banking tasks that I have to do each month while I am away.
  7. A list of birthdays that will occur while I am on the road so I can email my friends on their special day.

I could go on but you get the idea.

I’ve always just accepted that this is the way I am and never gave it much thought. Recently, however, I seem to be more aware of how this behavior is acutely ingrained in my personality. I think a lot of it has to do with change. Almost everything has changed in my life over the past three months. I retired. I moved from North Carolina to Florida. I moved from a 3000 square foot, 5 bedroom house on 12.5 acres to a tiny 650 square foot, 2 bedroom apartment that I am sharing with a friend. I sold my Yukon and bought a new Toyota Rav4 because I no longer need to haul people around showing them real estate and I wanted better fuel economy. I walk almost everywhere now because I live downtown and everything I need is so close (the last time I put gas in the car was February 2nd and I still have half a tank left). I cut my hair short. I’ve lost quite a bit of weight from all the walking. My glasses broke and I had to get a new exam and a new prescription. Blue Cross/Blue Shield finally approved me for new health insurance coverage. I have a new massage therapist, mechanic, hairdresser, yoga teacher – even new friends.

I stopped using the same purse and started switching between various backpacks each day to determine which one I liked best so I’d know which one to take on my trip. You can imagine how crazy this made me – every backpack is designed just a bit different, so every time I switched I had to figure out where to put all the stuff I carry. Suddenly there was not “a place for everything and everything in its place.” Each time I reached for my wallet, I had to think about what zipper to open and if I chose the wrong one I would go into instant alarm mode, worrying I had lost my wallet. I started checking two and three time to make sure my wallet was with me before I left the house.

I’ve always thought change is good and adapted well to it, but I think I may just be on overload at the moment. It’s been a beneficial process in that it has made me more aware of my actions and my surroundings – that’s a good thing when traveling. The thing is – I wonder if I am only one who does these things? I suspect that this behavior is more common that I imagine. But it would sure help me to hear from some of you out there that you’ve had the same experiences. At least I’d know I’m not totally crazy!!!

3 Comments on “Minor Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

  1. I actually printed this out because it reminds me so much of how I act. i make a list for everything I do, I probably have about three different lists on the fridge right now. I cant stand when things on like the coffee table are not parrallel with each other and if everything is not straight I cant stand it. my boyfriend will purposely move things crooked because he knows i cant stand it. I count everything, and I cant stand not being organized, I organize everything! You’re not alone!

    Gina

  2. Don’t expect too many comments on this one. You have sent all your friends and family now hiding in shame. Of course, most people would say that you must not have a life if you spend so much time organizing everything, but people who are organized by nature only organize one aspect of their life ONCE, then keep it that way. And as you say, you always know where everything is.
    I see myself in you a lot, but not to that degree. And I rarely make lists. Obviously, it works for you and that kind of order around you gives you peace and serenity, even control. But in my mind, it is all the matter of the brain, how you perceive things, so, it probably shouldn’t even be debated. As they say: live and let live. And if it is OCD, so be it.
    Love ya,
    Angie

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