OCD and ADHD, a love affair?
As a kid, I wanted my books organized by color and size on the bookshelf so I could find them easily (plus it looked so neat and pretty with all Nancy Drew books lined up evenly).
Today, I still want the bookshelves neat with books soldier straight and in color order. Although I’ve never been diagnosed, my obsession with order could be called OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.)
Yeah, yeah. All the docs will tell you it’s the co-morbidity thing. When you have an ADHD brain it’s highly likely that you have some other brain-y stuff going on, too. Like depression. Or anxiety. Or bi-polar disorder. Or learning disabilities. Or OCD.
Not to be too simplistic, but Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is characterized by either obsession (repeated thoughts that you try to stifle but that drive you crazy) or compulsion (thoughts or actions that repeat in an effort to calm your anxiety) or both. The classic example is Jack Nicolson’s character in the movie “As Good as It Gets” with his compulsive hand washing and complex security routines.
But I’m not so sure that what I have is full fledged OCD. I am not “driven by a motor” (to use ADHD diagnostic language) to organize my books, though it does calm my brain. And in other areas of my life, I am completely disorganized (I call myself a Professional Disorganizer). Instead, I suspect my ADDiva brain is trying its level best to introduce some semblance of order in my otherwise chaotic life.
I’ve heard a lot of ADD folks talk about their compulsive need to have things “their way.” That’s why it appears to the world that we are divas: it’s our way or the highway. But it’s not willful selfishness that drives our perfectionism. It’s our lack of ability to be in control of our stuff (and ourselves) with ease and flow.
It occurs to me that we can’t depend on our brains in the linear sense, so we have to impose rigid order consciously. I think we have to be obsessive about some things because our brains aren’t dependable in the linear sense. We can’t trust ourselves to remember so we compensate by obsessing (a little bit) over some details.
When our brains focus so intently on consciously creating order, the door opens w-i-d-e to forgetting other things. Like a doctor’s appointment. Or buying toothpaste. Or even brushing our teeth (sigh).
It’s a vicious circle, this ADHD battle with control. Despite outward appearances to the contrary, I truly love living in a clutter free, serene environment. Little pools of that tranquility exist in my life, emphasis on the word “little.” While I continue to strive toward widening those oases of calm, my distractible and busy brain often thwarts my best efforts.
That’s a pretty frustrating way to live. The only option I see is to make peace with my clutter. Oh no. The minute I wrote those words, my anxiety kicked in. Can. Not. Allow. Clutter.
For now, my motto will continue to be: Keep. Trying.