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Sunday, February 5, 2012

My Battle with Obessesive-Compulsive Behavior

For years now I have experienced what I refer to as obsessive-compulsive tendencies. I would never use the term OCD, because I know there are people out there with serious issues, and so far my issues have never been serious. I do get involved in things to the point of obsession though, all the time. I have learned though, to focus my obsessiveness into things that are either productive, or at least, not too destructive. At least most of the time.

In my early twenties I began seeing signs of obsessive-compulsive behavior in my everyday actions. I have always been pretty self aware, I have studied psychology both in and out of school for decades, and usually I am the first to recognize when my thought processes are headed in the wrong direction. Now whether I took steps to fix those thought processes or not when I saw them is a whole different story, but in this case I did try. And I still do. That's the thing, living with any “mental illness” is about being vigilant in some respects, and learning the difference between vigilance and obsessiveness is pretty important.

I am an obsessive-compulsive shopper, but only when I have money to spend. Through the years I have come to understand that credit cards are not good for me, so I do not have any. I set a very strict budget when I go shopping now, which is pretty easy when you don't ever have very much money. I am also an obsessive-compulsive artist, and most of the time my compulsive shopping relates to my obsession with a new art medium. In some cases I have made this work to my advantage, in other cases it could be seen as a disadvantage.

Over most of my adult life I have had an obsession with buying fabrics, especially after I started quilting, but even before that. It wasn't really a problem until after I met my wonderful husband, because I never had enough money to accumulate a large enough stash for it to become a problem. But since my life has change so drastically after meeting him, my little obsession can get out of hand. I actually had to start quilting because I couldn't think of enough other things to do with all of the fabrics that I could not stop myself from buying.

Now , I am currently in the process of selling off my fabric stash, for the second time. My interests have changed, and while I still Love every piece of fabric that I bought, I only want to use my own fabrics in my art, ones that I dye and embellish myself (Hell if I had the time and the room I would probably want to weave it myself too!), I would rather have the money back than store the material that takes up so much damn space. But that's the thing, with the fabric, for the most part, I can pretty much make my money back. I never pay full price for fabric (or much of anything else for that matter). I always buy on clearance, or really good sales, and last year, the price of fabric went up. So I can take the fabric I paid $2 a yard for 2 or 3 years ago and sell it for $5 a yard today and everyone is happy. Of course between fees and expenses the profit margin is actually much smaller than that, but at the very least I have usually broken even, and it has been a better investment plan than a lot of those who had their money in Wall Street, so it works for me. There is no way in Hell I would have been able to just “save” that money all this time, unfortunately I am just not capable of “saving” money. So I buy things that I can re-sell later, and hopefully make back some of that money so I can spend it again. I have learned to use my obsessive-compulsive shopping habits for me, instead of letting them control me.

I actually go through spurts of obsessive-compulsive behaviors. They usually last for a week or two, and then I get distracted by the next one. I try to make sure that I focus some of them on things that Need to be done. Like Spring cleaning, or doing work for one of the businesses. I will never do those things as often as I “should”, so when I do them, I do them obsessively, until I either finish them, or I just have to do something else. I am very fortunate that my husband loves me enough to understand and accept how my “dysfunctional” brain works, even if he doesn't always like it. And I am trying to learn to not neglect the rest of my life when I start obsessing on something. There is more to life than the singular focus of my attention at any given moment, and some of it should not be ignored for extended periods of time. I still have a long way to go, but I think I am finally heading in the right direction in learning to make my “dysfunctions” function for me.

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