A Comment on Compulsion

A Childhood Compulsive

From a young age I have had a compulsive personality. It began to present itself around 11 years old and started with me thinking about the order in which I did certain things. This then developed into repetition of these routines until it was done correctly to satisfy my compulsion – for example, having to walk through a doorway with my right foot, which if I didn’t do, I would back-track and start again, counting steps until my right foot passed through the doorway first. Once in a routine, obsessive thoughts about what would happen if I didn’t follow a set pattern made ignoring the compulsion more difficult and a cycle began. For the next few years this cycle affected even the most trivial of activities, ranging from pressing a button on a television remote exactly in the middle, having a certain amount of gulps when having a drink, checking the bathroom door 6 times before use and eventually hoarding pointless objects for sentimental value or “just in case”.


Overcoming Obsession

As I got older and the confidence in myself grew, I learned to control the obsessive thoughts to a stage where they eventually disappeared completely. My compulsions dwindled to a more manageable few, but my hoarding was still an issue. It did more than verge on the ridiculous, it dove head first straight into a sea of ridiculous-ness, wearing triviality as a swimsuit. I threw nothing away. I kept everything from pieces of string, stones, an empty tin of peanuts from a holiday with my first girlfriend, enough stationary to open my own newsagent and toys that I hadn’t seen in years, let alone played with – everything had some attachment that meant that I couldn’t and shouldn’t get rid of it. I very quickly ran out of storage space and every nook was crammed with stuff.

It wasn’t until I met Claire, now my wife, when I was 19 that I started letting go of objects. She is a very tidy person with no room for clutter in her life and she taught me that if something isn’t used, then is it really worth keeping? Fast forward 9 and a half years and I am hoard-free, although the tendencies still linger at the back of my mind, but remain restrained. By having regular clear-outs of stuff, it also helps clear out the old obsessive me.


Breaking the habit

Now at present day, I feel that I have overcome so much in terms of my behaviours and am proud to have the confidence in myself to do this. However, I am still compulsive in certain aspects and these make themselves known every day of my life. Some days are better than others and I won’t have many things that I do, but in others I will be deep in various anxious antics. These present themselves in a few forms that I am documenting, not only as a part of this blog, but also as a confession to myself that I still have issues that need to be worked on. At times I fool myself into thinking that these aren’t compulsive, just like an alcoholic convinces themselves that they only have the ‘odd drink’ and it is about time that I made a conscious effort to battle the behaviours, combat the compulsions and finally put my anxieties to rest and focus on enjoying my life and my son Isaac. He picks up on what we do and how we are and I wouldn’t want him appropriating any anxieties and creating compulsions of his own. It is my aim that he remains as relaxed and care-free as he is now and enjoys every moment in life that he can.

So here goes, my confession, my to-fix list of current compulsive actions;

1. Fiddling with my beard.

2. Clicking my tongue at the back of my throat.

3. Checking the front door 3 times.

4. Eating my food in a specific order.

5. Eating sweets in colour order and ensuring that there are even numbers of each colour.

6. Checking the apps on my phone in a certain order – Facebook, Twitter, Email, WordPress.


Some of you reading this who know me, may have seen me do these and thought I was bored or unaware I was doing anything – not the case in most of them. I realise what I am doing most of the time and the frequency in which I do increases dramatically when I am stressed, angry or upset. When feeling this way, it is very difficult to calm myself down as I’m quite hot-tempered and causes this behaviour to spiral. This doesn’t happen often though and I live a normal, but ordered life.


The next step…

The only way that I am going to break the habits that I have formed over a lifetime, is to make a focused and committed effort. This is a daunting feeling as, now I have these compulsions, they are a security blanket, they are at times how I deal with difficult or stressful situations and without them, it will just be me. I realise that sounds a bit weird, it sounds weird to me writing it, these routines have been with me for 18 years, a part of who I am and the thought of not having them is positive, but formidable in equal measure.

There is no real ending to this post, as this is an ongoing journey. So let’s not call this an ending, but a statement of intent – the beginning of change.