By my desk at work there’s a safe. I don’t have to use it very often, but I check that it’s locked many times a day. I do this out of habit. I’ve always been slightly obsessive about checking things, but it’s not as bad now as when I was younger. Then, I used to check things over and over again. For example, my family got used to hearing the beep of the smoke alarm test button in the middle of the night.
This obsessive behaviour didn’t stop at checking things like fire alarms. Each time my Gran taught me a new prayer at bedtime it joined the list I felt I had to say before I could go to sleep. I dreaded her teaching me a new one – in the end there was a list of five or six I had to get through every night. As I got older these obsessive rituals became less of a problem and I was able to reason myself out of them.
I still allow myself to do these sorts of things a bit, particularly when they are harmless, like checking the safe or counting things obsessively. The back window at Leftwing Idiot’s flat looks out over the gardens and houses beyond. I love the view from this window and if I’m waiting for him to finish something I count stuff I can see from it. At night it’s the lit windows in the houses and on a summer’s day it’s the pears on a nearby tree. The big difference between now and when I was a child is that now I can make myself move on if I need to.
I don’t have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) but it’s quite a common condition amongst people with Tourettes. For people with OCD these repetitive thoughts and actions are a much bigger problem and can be debilitating, or even paralysing. For me, these obsessive tendencies sometimes have a positive value. They can help me focus on big tasks and get through them efficiently.
Even though my obsessive behaviour doesn’t impact on my life very much anymore, I’ve decided to have a zero tolerance policy from now on. So today I didn’t check the safe. I went to do it, but caught myself in time. Leftwing Idiot, who was helping me at work, tested my resolve. As we left to go home he asked, “Don’t you want to check the safe?” I said, “No, I know it’s locked.” “Are you sure, it might be open?” I laughed and said, “No, it’s fine”.