Guest Author - Bonnie Sayers
Everyone seems to have them, some more than others. I have kept mine under wraps for years and follow certain routines to make sure I do not succumb to them. Even as a child there were compulsions in my thoughts, taking up space in my mind that I can still recall to this day.
I wanted so badly to put a bobby pin inside a plug outlet to see what would happen. I do not understand this fascination, and look at it more of a curiosity issue. Kids are curious in nature and like to explore things around them; inside and out.
Somehow I managed to never place foreign objects into the socket, but as an adult I have compulsions that have stayed with me all these years. This is the case with the toaster. I imagine what would happen to my hand if I placed a knife inside the toaster as it is plugged in.
Having never seen this occur my curiosity is still there, waiting to view this imagery I have locked in my mind. What would happen if I did that? I take steps each time I take the toaster out of the cabinet and place it on the kitchen counter. Luckily I have limited counter space and never keep a toaster in eye view, especially close to the kitchen sink.
I was able to have a toaster oven on the counter for a few years, but it took up too much space and I switched to a plain toaster. I always place the knife and condiment for the bread or muffin on the kitchen table, away from the counter and the toaster.
Most times I wait for the toasting to be completed before getting the utensil, this way I avoid any nervousness around the plugged in unit and can safely concentrate on the task at hand instead of wondering if I should try it out this one time. One wrong jerky movement and I might just test it out.
I also worry if my children might have these thoughts inside their head as well, so to be safe all around I always stay in the room while the toaster is plugged in with one eye on the red coils, wondering in the back of my mind.
As a young adult I found a strange habit to deal with holiday dinners and my fascination with compulsions. I started poking my fingers through the candle in a back and forth manner. I soon learned nothing would happen to me by doing this, and so this became my safe compulsion. No one ever seemed to make a big deal about this, so I kept at it. The last time I did this was at my parent's home about eleven years ago. My Aunt was not impressed with my teaching her nine-year old at the time in how to play with a candle and not get hurt.
While in high school my father would drive me to school before catching his train. We had breakfast together before the rest of the family woke up. It never failed each morning, as I would enter the kitchen all the cabinet doors would be open. It was like a game since my Father knew I could not stand to see the doors left open and I went around closing them all before I could sit down to eat.
When dinner was finished I had to wait for my parents to finish their coffee before I could clear the table and load the dishwasher. So I stood there removing items from the table to get the job done without having to leave and return later. This is a habit my nonverbal autistic son has picked up from me. Most times he takes the milk carton and butter tin from the table before I have had a chance to use them.
He must also touch every single piece of bread that gets put on a plate in this household. He likes to squeeze the egg carton and grab the milk carton before he can close the refrigerator door. The rug on the floor must be in a certain direction before he can relax in the kitchen.
My son also follows me around and puts rugs back as I am trying to do the vacuuming. He does the same thing after I mop the bathroom floor putting the rugs back down on the floor. Everything has to be in its place.
I have issues when it comes to notebook paper and paper towels. I cannot use a paper towel that has not been cut exactly even. If there is a tear or tip I dispose of it because it is not perfectly even on all sides. I have noticed my higher functioning son doing the same thing at times.
He is almost exactly like me with the notebook paper. I have to use a scissor to cut the page evenly over the garbage can or recycle bin. The little loose papers annoy me to no end and I cannot tolerate having those on the floor anywhere. I do this even with notebook pages that have perforated lines, as they do not always tear evenly. I will not use a piece of notebook paper that has little pieces on the side or is torn.
I will not use any appliances in the bathroom and always make sure the emergency brake is on in my vehicle. I check the doors constantly and do not talk while I am driving. As a teenager I was taunted constantly by my Uncle and Father while driving around country roads in New Jersey. I was always scared I would fall out of the truck and they would deliberately try to open the door to spook me while they were driving and make fun of my fears. To this day if I do not feel comfortable I stop the car at a light or stop sign and open and close the door – just to make sure it is securely closed.
My nonverbal son likes to watch water boiling and steam from the George Foreman grill. This is part of his self-stimulatory behavior, not sure if it is also a compulsion, but I do not feel comfortable boiling any items on the stove or having steam come from any pan. For these reasons and my skin issues relating to the hot kitchen I prefer to use the microwave for our meals. A few years back my older son burned his hand on the hot plate at summer camp. To this day he freaks if he walks into the kitchen and a hot pot is on our stove. He walks all the way around it in the opposite direction and has to repeat the warning about getting burned.
Before I leave the house I always have to re use the bathroom, does not matter if I did that ten minutes earlier, because now I will be away from a toilet and should go one more time to empty my bladder. I remember my Sister always having to do this too and my Mother making a big stink about how that was not necessary.
I used to love to write my name on everything I could find, especially those little cards inserted into magazines. I would sit there at the dining room table and fill out every single reply card and then leave them in the magazines. Then my Mother got in the habit of removing all those cards from the magazines. To this day I still remove every little card that is inside a magazine and toss them into the recycle bin.
I did not even mention how particular I am with hangers. I can still remember the Joan Crawford line in her life story, "no more wire hangers". I have to make sure all clothing articles are facing the same way and that all tags from clothing are removed.
Compulsions, quirks, irritating annoyances and habits - all these are hard to break or overcome. We deal with them one day at a time at my house.
Previously published on Gather.
Dr. Oz goes to OCD boot camp - Oprah show aired May 21, 2008
Explore, Expand and Evolve - Download your Free Illustrated Guide to the Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT)
ocdandparenting - yahoo group
Helping the child with autism self regulate
Self Stimulatory Behavior
When you become scared of your child