22, 2001: I dont call it OCD
I call it "being particular."
I have a couple hypochondriacs
in my family. And Im not talking about
your run-of-the-mill "I think Ive
got that cold thats going around"
garden variety type. Oh, no, no, no. These
are people that have contracted and successfully
conquered every known form of cancer, usually
within a forty-eight hour span.
Aching bone cancer. Pounding
brain cancer. Pesky stomach cancer. Luckily,
these turned out to be nothing more serious
than your commonplace muscle aches, headache,
and upset stomach, but who knew?
Of course, there was that
time when they both had incurable back cancer.
Of all the rotten luck! Which, they realized,
how could they both
have rare cases of back cancer at the exact
same time?! Its not like its
contagious for Gods sake!
I just hope they steer clear
of the recent newspaper reports about Geraldine
Ferraros bout with blood cancer. Yikes!
Anyway, I recently got to
thinking about illness and hypochondria
thanks to my own self-diagnosed case of
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Frankly,
I always thought of myself as simply being,
well, particular. Milk belongs on the top
shelf of the fridge. All my money faces
the same way and is stacked in descending
denominations. Sandwiches are cut in half
lengthwise, not diagonally. And I always
use two paper towels not three and
certainly not one after washing my
hands in a public bathroom.
Nothing too weird, right?
Hey, Im sure each and every one of
you has your own particular "quirks."
But I bet you dont go
into a panic when you think your favorite
pen has run out of ink. And Im almost
positive you dont let out a girly
squeal when you realize you werent
pressing hard enough and theres just
enough ink to get you through the day.
As long as you use it sparingly.
Upon reflection I realized
that this is just the latest in a long line
of pen obsessions that might be, um, I dont
The first was in grade school
when I wouldnt write with anything
but those classic Bic ballpoints. You know
the kind: clear body, pointy cap great for
jabbing people. Black ink, medium point.
I mean, what kind of man writes with a fine
In high school I graduated
to the Papermate Write Bros., the kind with
the solid blue body. The flat caps werent
as good for poking, but the ink had a better
flow to it and my "handwriting"
had less of a serial killer look. The only
problem was in the quality control
they had a tendency to gob up at the tip,
and I was forever smearing ink on the back
pages of my notebook. Listen, if I want
to go to that kind of trouble Ill
use one of those crazy quills you can buy
at Independence Hall in Philly!
The pen fetish sorta broke
down in college. When youre trying
to figure out how to scrape together $7
for a case of Natty Boh, the last thing
you need to obsess on is your choice of
My post-college years have
been an ongoing experiment in regaining
that feeling of calm the Bics and Papermates
of the world provided. The Micro Uni Ball
was a hit for a while, especially when I
could lift boxes of them from my employers
supply room. But they ran out of ink too
fast and were undependable. There were even
times when I flirted with the retro feel
of those classics from my youth. Unfortunately,
we can put monkeys into space but we still
cant put metal in a microwave and
Papermates still gob up like a trashcan
in a cystic fibrosis clinic.
These days Im using
the Gelly Roll PQ that my girlfriend recently
gave me. (Check out that cool spelling.
Oh so very hip-hop!) Okay, she gave it to
me so I wouldnt permanently "borrow"
it. But it is now my pen, my favorite pen.
Its got a groovy translucent body
that gives you that immediate ink feedback
thats so crucial, and the way some
of the residue hangs out at the end of the
barrel totally kicks it old school. It even
feels "just right" in my hand
and Ive switched to blue ink, but
only because I havent experimented
with other colors. But I will. Oh, trust
me, I will.
Sensing that all this money
stacking, fridge organizing, and list making
was at the root of a much bigger problem,
I did what anybody looking for a quick mental
health diagnosis would do
up the Internet. Where else could I go?
The womens mags wont be running
their OCD quizzes until later this year
and I cant wait!
The fine folks at the OCD
Foundation were kind enough to let me
know right off the bat that I wasnt
alone. In fact, according to their statistics,
1 out of every 50 adults struggles with
the urge to brush their teeth five times
each morning and count their pistachios
each afternoon. But its "only
when symptoms persist, make no sense, cause
much distress, or interfere with functioning
do they need clinical attention."
I feel so much better.
Before my life turned into
a bad remake of WHAT ABOUT BOB? I decided
that I should either count the change in
my coinbox again or take the OCD Quiz. Yes,
you too can find out if you have a debilitating
mental disorder treatable only thorugh years
of therapy and the occasional prescription
drug. Then again, maybe that urge to push
strangers in front of oncoming trains is
Well, 20 questions or so later
and I'm feeling that my mental state is
right as rain. Based on my test results,
it would appear that I "probably do
not have OCD." While this wasn't the
warm, fuzzy ringing endorsement of my mental
health that I was looking for, it'll certainly
do in a pinch!
I'd love to stay and chat,
but I have to go make sure I filled all
the ice cube trays to the exact same level.
Until next time...