“One two three four five six seen eight one two three four five six seen eight ” every time I walk, I’m counting in eights. That’s the “right” number, and the one that I have to repeat over and over until I’m jolted out of my inner counter, usually because I’m finally sitting down. I’m not just counting, though. I’m making sure that I don’t step on the wrong piece of the ground: a crack in the pavement, a leaf, the imprint of an animal paw in the clay outside of my office.
It used to be that if I broke any of these rules, I would have to turn around and make the walk again. It was like I was in a movie, going back to my mark and starting the scene all over again. And again, until I got it right. With a lot of work with my therapist, I’ve gotten better at this, but the counting remains. I grind my teeth to a four-count. There are certain words I can’t say because they’re bad luck.
It’s the same with chewing. I have to do four chews on both sides of my mouth. And when I’m writing I have to make sure I delete and re-type things in even numbers. The more I try to come up with examples of this, the more I realize how ingrained they are in my brain. So much so that I don’t even notice all of the routines I have set. I just scratched my nose exactly four times, because three would have felt wrong. I never would have remembered I did that until just now.
It’s like my brain has two reels going at once: one to focus on what’s happening in my world, and one to focus on my secret world. I have to keep both of them up, lest I come across as a space case (I couldn’t think of a better word for this), or look like a complete bonkers person.
Just like with my stutter, where I’m constantly thinking five steps ahead in a conversation to make sure I can convey what I’d like, with OCD I’m constantly on edge, waiting to discover the next set of rules I have to follow. If I don’t follow them exactly, there’s an ominous cloud of awfulness that’s bound to happen and it will be my fault. I have to keep doing these things for my safety- for yours. And I know how completely nonsensical that sounds, but somehow my brain is wired to just know that it has to be done.
I’m working with my therapist on this, and I’m making progress. But in the meantime, if you ever need someone to keep track of anything in fours, you know how to reach me.
PS I hate Monk. It was a dumb show.