Cataloging compulsive and avoidance behaviors – part 1

Cataloguing all of my compulsive and avoidance behaviors will be important because I will eventually need to do exposure to each one of these things. You can think of these compulsive and avoidance behaviors as the “rules” of my OCD, and they need to be broken in order to take back control. I’ve been working on the big stuff in my sessions with Dr. Osborne, but there is also a bunch of little stuff that I haven’t focused on that takes up just about as much time and energy when all combined together. I keep sitting down to record these compulsive and avoidance behaviors in a blog post, but every time I do I get overwhelmed. I think there is too much to record in a single blog post; too many nuanced details I feel like I need to explain. So, what I have decided to do instead is write a series of posts and elaborate on just a few of these behaviors at a time.

So, here goes. Here is Cataloging compulsive and avoidance behaviors – part 1.

  • Exponents of three. There are several behaviors I need to complete in exponents of three, meaning I need to complete them three times to make them feel like they’re done correctly. If it doesn’t feel right on the third time, I need to do it six more times so I’ve done it a total of nine times. If it doesn’t feel right on the ninth try, I have to do it eighteen more times for a total of twenty-seven. After that I usually give up (in the future I’ll indicate behaviors where this exponent rule applies by marking them “(x3)”).

The following are all behaviors that are part of my coming home routine.

  • Backing into my parking spot at my apartment (x3): car must be parallel to parking line, the ring formed by the back-up light must fall between two spots on concrete wall behind me. If I don’t succeed, I need to pull out of the parking spot and reattempt (x3)
  • Getting out of my car: the parking brake must be engaged first, then the steering wheel straightened so that it is perfectly centered, then I shift from first gear into second and back into first again (x3) to ensure the car is in first gear while parked, then I turn off the car and remove the key, then I ensure the lights are off by looking at the headlight knob to confirm it is in the off position and repeat to my self the word “off” three times (x3), I get out of the car and then lock the door manually (x3)
  • Checking the mail: key must be inserted into the keyhole in the mailbox perfectly (x3), and door of mailbox must be opened without any of the keys touching any part of the mailbox (if the keys hits any part of the exterior of the mailbox then I have to go get a cleaning wipe and clean that spot because the default for the keys is that they are contaminated and the keys have just contaminated that spot), I must retrieve the mail without touching any part of the interior of the mailbox (if I do, cleaning wipe), then I shut the mailbox and it must shut solidly without rattling (x3), I turn the key and it must not be concurrent with any sudden noises like a car driving (x3), removing the key has the same rule as turning the key but it also must be a smooth removal without the key sticking (x3), then I must stay and look at the mailbox while I count to nine before moving on
  • Entering my building: similar to the mailbox the key must be inserted smoothly into the keyhole in the front door without touching any other part of the door handle or… cleaning wipes (x3), the door is pulled open with the key and key only (x3), if I touch any part of the door with my hand I must clean that spot with cleaning wipes, the key must be removed smoothly without sticking at all (x3), then I must step in the door without the door touching me at all
  • Riding the elevator: there are spots in the elevator lobby (if you can call it that) where I’m not allowed to step, when I press the button to call the elevator I must press in the center of the button and depress it without the button listing to one side or the other (x3), the door must open and close in exponents of three, I step in the elevator and press the button for my floor (there are also spots in the elevator where OCD says I’m not allowed to step), I must have my eyes shut while the door closes and I must keep them shut for the entire ride to my floor, I must not move at all while the elevator is moving (not even a finger), I must keep my eyes shut and not move until the door opens on my floor, then I can step out
  • Entering my apartment: shoes must be removed outside the front door (there are a few pair that have accumulated there, see Unblock Me! post), my hands cannot pass between my line of sight and the shoes that are outside the front door (if they do, my hands get contaminated with whatever contamination is on the shoe) so I keep my hands high at eye level while reaching for the door, once I slide my feet out of my shoes I must not step anywhere outside my apartment, I can only step my socked foot inside the opened door on the interior floor of my apartment

Can you begin to see why these routine things are taking so much time? I would also note that when other people are around I will most likely break these rules because I don’t want to be embarrassed or look like a crazy person. If any of these rituals is interrupted by another person, I will often go back as soon as that person is gone so that I can complete the ritual correctly.