By Glen Tibaldeo
The cruise control is set on US-1, possibly the east coast’s busiest commercial thoroughfare--a traffic light popping up every four blocks. I flip through the radio presets in order. Meanwhile, what will I have for dinner, and what about Laura having to eat according to my latest dietary fad? Is it only fruit before noon now? Absolutely no carbs? Only smoothies before dinnertime? Only salads for dinner?
Why do I live like this? Let’s start with the borderline need to see every movie with over a three-star rating in The Miami Herald as a teenager, which was enjoyable, for the most part. But next thing I know, for example:
I was and to a lesser degree still am an extremist. A fanatical gremlin was my bully. Everything was on or off, good or bad, or thrilling or sad. I needed a way to deal with it. I created a life largely guided by self-created systems--guardrails, if you will. Right now, you might be thinking one of my systems is to use “--” every other sentence. It’s not. Friends and family began joking about my having Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD.) I became insecure that they might be right. I know now that they weren’t and that it’s no joke at all, given the havoc it wreaks on 4 million Americans every day. If I had OCD, I’d be controlled by the need to check things repeatedly, have certain thoughts, or perform routines and rituals over and over.
So I began to shove harmful things to the side of the road and manufactured guardrails to keep me from revisiting them again. Of course, change is a journey, and we stumble. In Radical Sabbatical I joke that I had Obsessive Car Disorder, a self-imposed need to keep two trucks over 15 years old running flawlessly in the remote jungle of a developing country, a practical and financial impossibility. The extremist will always be there. I’m still not perfect.
But don’t feel sorry for me. Heraticlus said that which opposes produces a benefit. As I wrinkle and wisen, I have found a wise teacher in my extremism. Do people joke that you might be OCD? Incidentally, if you really were, they probably would stop joking at some point. What’s more, have you struggled with addictive and on/off extremes and survived them? If so, talents may be blooming inside you to help you cope, such as:
In an era when everyone is being branded with some category of mental illness, it is very easy to succumb to a label and sometimes needlessly roll over. This is not to say these labels aren’t valid for those to whom they truly apply, and I am not discouraging professional help. Get it by all means. The important thing is that you meet your struggles with a modicum of excitement for the person you will be when you conquer them, for you will be so much the better for it.