My Obsession

My mother picks her cuticles until they’re bloody.

I remember watching her pull at her skin while we were on family vacations – long road trips with plenty of time to stew over one’s troubles.

She is a nervous person, my mother. And I surmise she tugged at those dry and ragged bits of flesh out of absent minded worries. My supposition comes because these 25 years later I find myself doing the exact thing, pulling skin away from my nails until they’re rimmed with raw and red flesh.

Nervousness is something I cope with.

Nail biting, scab picking. I have strange ways to physically cope with nervous energy when it creeps into my psyche.

I think at some point I realized there are things I can’t control; I am quite deliberate with occasions I can manage.

I know full well there’s plenty more of the former than the latter.

Control is an interesting thing. I don’t think it’s a learned behavior. I can go through my genealogy and single out relatives both older and younger who cope with control issues.

Some of us inherit freckles or a gaping overbite. Other ancestors pass down quirky behavior traits.

My relationship with psychology is confined to a Psychology 100 class way back in 1995 with Dr. Golding at UK. I’m no expert, but my hunch tells me many people with control issues also struggle with OCD.

And a little bit of that lives in me, too.

I have rituals. After showering, I dry off the exact same way every time. Face. Arms. Hair in a towel turban. The second towel takes care of everything else.

Apple’s ear buds cause me trouble daily. No matter how hard I try, I can’t let myself put the right-designated bud in my left ear. It’s a quirk I’ve come to accept.

Every morning when I leave my apartment, I search my purse for my keys no less than three times. One time right after the other. Sometimes people in a rush don’t like waiting for me, but I need to check to make sure they’re there.

I don’t know if it’s my financial sensibilities (ringing up the landlord on the weekend to unlock the door carries a $75 fee) or the threat of inconvenience, but part of me suspects it’s my OCD.

My ears likely present my greatest obsessive experience. I clean my ears maybe two, three times a day. If I don’t have a q-tip handy, I’ll resort to using a bobby pin. Intellectually I know this is not a healthy behavior, but I can’t help it.

My worst moments of OCD typically involve losing something. Yesterday I double-backed two blocks to search for a missing glove. Sunday I tore apart my house for 20 minutes to find a missing scarf; my frantic search sidetracked me for an appointment with a friend.

I don’t talk about my mental health often, but I know full well there’s a great big world of other folks coping with their own idiosyncrasies, too.

My nervous ticks have been bothering me lately, and I thought a little bit of transparency and sharing might make me feel better, helping me remember everyone is dealing with their own brain gunk.

A friend reminded me this weekend that everyone has issues; the power is in owning them and figuring out how to overcome them or at the very least working to ensure they don’t control us.

A perfect challenge for a control freak, eh?