Do I have OCD or Am I Bipolar?

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It snowed last night.  Not the fluffy, dry snow that is easily removed from driveways and sidewalks, but the heavy, wet snow that sticks to tree branches, even the smallest, skinniest of branches.  It makes looking outside at the trees feel like you’re staring at an Ansel Adams photograph, you know, everything black and white with lots of clarity,  depth and contrast.  Very nice to look at.  Quiet.  Serene.

But looking outside, I also see the potential problems with this type of snow.  One primarily being, that this is the exact type of heavy, sticky snow that can cause branches and power lines to snap, resulting in severe injuries and even death (from falling branches) and the indefinite loss of television and computers due to power outages.  I’m not kidding about the death part either.  Several years ago, during a particularly heavy snow fall, there were a few people killed by falling branches in NYC’s Central Park.  Of course, being killed in Central Park is just a part of living in NYC, and something you should always be aware of, and prepared for, should your number come up one day.

Anyway, I find that looking at the snow, on the trees, outside, makes me contemplative about lots of things.  Like today, I’m thinking about how I always have a “noisy” mind, I really can’t sit still for very long and have racing thoughts about innocuous things that make my head spin.  For example, after waking up today, I looked down at my shoes at the foot of the bed and I thought about how I always line my shoes up perfectly.  All “left” and “right” shoes must be next to each other, with the tips pointing perfectly straight out and the soles of the heels of all the shoes within the line up touching their “neighbors” as best they can for the entire length of the shoe — heel to toe.  I also find it necessary to do a similar thing with other objects that I place on a desk or a dresser at the end of the day.  Things need to be lined up, only they don’t have to be touching, but they do need to be equidistant from each other, and always in a perfect line.

So I’m wondering now, “Do I have OCD?”  No, I say to myself, it’s not like I’m Jack Nicholson in “As Good as it Gets” —  the movie in which he plays an author with severe OCD, and needs to turn the lock in his door 3 or 4 times, back and forth, back and forth.  He does the same thing with a light switch in the movie.  Before leaving a room he turns the light off, then back on, then off, on, off, on….. .  His character is also obsessed with cracks in the sidewalk and must avoid stepping on them in such a way that he appears as though he’s playing some bizarre game of “Twister,”  weaving this way and that while hopping over the cracks as he weaves.

His character is a germophobe as well, bringing his own “plastic ware” to the diner where he eats every day, at the same time, at the same table, ordering the same thing, from the same waitress (played by Helen Hunt) who must serve him everyday. I can’t blame anyone for being a germophobe, what with this being a really bad flu season and Key Opinion Leaders from the medical community appearing all over the news (unless you have a power outage) warning everyone about the dangers of shaking hands and catching the flu and dying or being hospitalized.  In fact, the flu is so rampant, that it’s now reaching the tipping point and may soon be categorized as a “pandemic,” which coincidentally makes me think of the word “pandemonium.”

So, am I a person who suffers from OCD?  I googled it and, while I have many of the symptoms associated with the disorder, I don’t know if I qualify as having full-blown OCD. I did find out, while googling, that I may indeed have low-level bipolar disorder (bipolar 2 to be exact).  There’s a whole checklist of behaviors/symptoms listed that, if you can check more than 5 or so of the boxes, indicate that you may suffer from bipolar-ism.  For instance, one symptom is talking too much, too fast, due to an onslaught of racing intrusive thoughts (I have that, check the box).  Another symptom is saying inappropriate or off colors things at the inappropriate time, in an inappropriate situation.  I do that too, check the box!  I also engage in “risky” and “self destructive” behaviors sometimes so I guess I can check that box as well.  Although, truth be told, isn’t choosing a career in public relations in and of itself, risky and self-destructive?

All of this sounds a lot like Larry David’s character from “Curb your Enthusiasm” — a character I not only identify with, but actually empathize with.  Yes, I feel and act like Larry David much of the time.  I have specific examples of that as well. Last week I wrote about taking a walk at the beach and coming across a “salt water taffy store” and a “fudge store” and discussed how those products are almost exclusively sold at the beach and why that bothers me so much.

This past weekend, it was a relatively nice day, so I went to the beach for another walk.  I came upon an older guy sitting on a bench with his wife, and at his feet was a huge slobbering dog.  I asked him, “Is that a Saint Bernard?”  He replied, “No, it’s a Bernese Mountain dog.”  A Bernese Mountain dog is much bigger than a Saint Bernard, and can probably carry a keg of beer under its chin, unlike a St. Bernard, which can only carry a small, wooden cask of whiskey under its chin, to bring to lost mountain climbers so they can drink the whiskey and at least feel good for a little while before they slowly freeze to death.

I leaned over to the man’s extremely large dog to pet him, doing it the proper way, with my palm facing upwards and slightly below the dog’s chin (which did not have a keg of beer under it) and the man said, “No, don’t do that, he doesn’t like men.  He only likes women and dogs.”  Without missing a beat I said, “Oh, I get that.  Me too. I only like women and dogs, and sometimes when I’ve been drinking too much, I like the women more than dogs.”  A racing thought, the inability to hold my tongue, saying something off color and inappropriate.  Another symptom.  Check another box.  I got lucky though, everyone laughed and my inappropriate comment suddenly became entirely acceptable and a welcome addition to the conversation.

I’ve found that I’m very lucky in that I can get away with saying inappropriate, off color things most of the time.  In fact, my good friend Sherri, in response to anyone other than me saying something inappropriate or off color, will often say, “Okay, that was really over the top, only Russell can say what you just said and get away with it.”  Thank you, Sherri, for having my back and making me less concerned about whether I truly have OCD or bipolar 2 or not.

And then there are things that also pop into my head that I am unable to shut down without saying something that, while not entirely inappropriate, cause people to stop, and stare at me as though they are wondering why in the hell I would say something that I just said. Like the other day.  I was at the dentist getting FOUR cavities filled and while I was sitting in the rather comfortable chair, tilted at a near 180 degree angle like the seats they have in the First Class cabin on the better airlines (Virgin Atlantic and British Airways if the client has enough budget), I had my eyes open during the whole Novocaine, drilling and filling procedure.  I started thinking to myself, “I wonder how many people keep their eyes open while getting worked on at the dentist versus those who keep them closed?”  So, at the end of the procedure, I asked the doctor (very much like Larry David would), “So Doc, whaddya think?  Open or closed?”  He looked at me, then at  his assistant then back at me and said “I’m sorry?”

It always bothers me when someone says “I’m sorry” or “pardon me” or “excuse me” just because they didn’t quite get what you said to them.  I mean, it’s not like they did anything wrong that they need to apologize for.  So why not say the more accurate thing like, “could you repeat that” or the more “New England” blue blood response, which is to simply say,  “say again?”)

But he didn’t use those “more accurate” responses, he said, “I’m sorry?” (with the up-inflection at the end so I would understand that it was a question and not a admission of any wrong doing).  I explained my question further, saying to him, “You know, with patients… eyes open or closed?”  To which he replied, “How do you mean? Do you mean, do I prefer my patients to keep their eyes open or closed while I’m working?”

“No, no,” I replied, somewhat frustrated at his inability to grasp my rather simple question.  “I meant, what do you see most often, like, do the majority of patients keep their eyes open or do they keep them closed?”  (No need for up-inflection as I had clearly asked him a question).  He looked at me, squinted his eyes a bit and said, “You know, I never really paid much attention to it.”  He then turned to his assistant and said, “What about you Jen, have you ever noticed whether more patients keep their eyes open or closed?”  She had no definitive answer for that and they both agreed that it was probably “fifty-fifty.”  I replied, “Hmmph, okay, I was just curious” and I thanked them and left, completely unsatisfied with their response.

So here we are;  I’ve rambled on long enough and given you all (hopefully) something to think about today, as I still ponder the question of whether I have OCD or bipolar 2 or not.  I’d like you to consider “liking” this story so I’ll know if I should keep writing or not and, equally important, PLEASE, “share” this story with others as you be would be:

  1.  Doing a tremendous service to those who do not have OCD or bipolar disorder but have friends or family or colleagues who do, that they must deal with on an ongoing and frustrating basis.
  2.  Helping those who do have OCD or bipolar disorder to recognize some of the symptoms so they can seek help from a medical professional and get a proper diagnosis and treatment for either of these conditions.  (As long as they are not on a MAO inhibitor, have liver disease, glaucoma, Crohn’s Disease, Epilepsy, migraines, double-vision, or have visited a foreign country within the last six months).

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