I had the idea of writing out snippets of the rules I live my life by. Everybody lives by rules of their own, but I’m more writing this out for other people with OCD specifically. I know that when I went through YouTubes and things posted by people with OCD and heard some of their own stuff, I felt a lot better about myself — knowing I’m not alone with some of the stuff. So I like to share this, in case anybody else out there ends up feeling less alone, too.
So this particular topic is specifically regarding saying goodbye and saying goodnight to people. This is the first one on my mind because I’m living with people right now who do not always say goodbye or goodnight.
This started for me back in middle school and became very clear to me by early high school. Basically, I had the thought one day that the person I was saying goodbye to at the time might die before I next got to see him/her. So after we said goodbye, I watched them leave until the very moment they were out of sight. That is when it started. It took off from there. First, I became afraid of the word “bye”. For at least three years, I did NOT USE the word goodbye in ANY situation. I would say “later” “see you later” etc. I felt that if I said goodbye, the person would die. When I signed off from chats with people, I ALWAYS used “bye4now”.
I also had to watch a person leave until the last possible second. I HAD to, or the anxiety was too overwhelming for me. It didn’t matter if I was late for something else. Nothing else in the world mattered at that moment but to watch them leave. Sometimes this would take several minutes, standing there and watching. This included watching my parents ski out into the woods, often taking quite a while to go out of sight completely. I would be up at the window, watching. And of course no “bad” thoughts could come to mind then, or I’d be flooded with anxiety that some harm would come to them because of it. After learning something about energy flows in the body or whatever, I also couldn’t cross my arms or legs (this one is still powerful for me).
The same thing happens when I am living with people. I basically had to say goodnight to each person, preferably individually, and that person would have to hear me. But of course, if that was not possible, I would always at least whisper it, but still experience some anxiety.
It is interesting because now I am living with one person who only says goodnight to me about 5% of the time. I am doing okay with it, remarkably. Yet the person I usually say goodnight to each night, well he sometimes goes to bed without a word. I’d guess it happens about 8% of the time. But with that one, assumedly because I’m used to us saying goodnight, does cause me anxiety. I literally send him a text that says “Goodnight” on those nights, even though he won’t receive it until the next day.
But really I should focus more on why it DOESN’T really bother me that the first person goes to bed without a word. I know that for OTHER OCD things, I have learned to be okay with quite a lot as long as it’s done by a different person (for example, if the toilet paper roll is placed on the holder facing the “wrong” direction — I’ve learned not to fix it if someone else put it on — of course, that is because I essentially told myself it would be ‘bad luck’ to fix it if someone else did it… so the rule still holds, even if I am not fixing it. But the NOT fixing it is still holding back anxiety**). So maybe because this first person has never really been into saying goodnight and stuff, it’s why my anxiety is fine with it–just like somebody else loading the toilet paper.
**This is actually one of the main points I want to explain to people who don’t experience OCD like this. It’s actually why I decided on the topic for these particular snippets to be called “Living by the Rules”. For me at least, rules don’t go away. They’re always present. Whether they change or alter is fine, but they’re always THERE. For example, whether or not I ‘fix’ the toilet paper roll to be the ‘right’ direction on the holder — no matter what I do, I’m following some kind of rule. Whether I set my glass down in between counter tiles or whether I allow it to rest touching the grout — it’s all part of a rule. They don’t just go away. The way I deal with OCD stuff is with “work-arounds”. Nowadays, I actually USE the OCD to alter older rules to be more manageable. I’m lucky that it works for me as much as it does. I haven’t gotten everything sorted out yet, but a LOT of my older rules are less demanding on me now.
For example, I do try to turn away after I say goodbye to people now. But I still sort of “have” to watch people from the older times. So it only works for anybody new to my life. New since about 2007, I think. So I’ll still watch my parents leave. But I won’t watch most other people. It’s all a conscience thought, though. It’ll never go away.
I think I’ve made the people I’m living with a little uncomfortable every now and then. For example, last night one of them was going to go for a walk. I was too tired to join. So I stayed near the door, waiting to say goodbye. Only, they weren’t ready yet. They started doing just one more thing … For like 20 minutes!!! And started questioning why the heck I was still standing/sitting there when I’d said I was going to get ready for bed. Then someone else came up too, and also wondered why I wasn’t getting ready for bed yet. Oops.
I do have some problems while people are in the midst of traveling, too. For example, if a loved one is on an airplane, I have high anxiety. I get very fearful of my thoughts. This is one of the only times I still have some problems with intrusive thoughts. There are a lot of things my mind can pull up that worry me that I’ll cause the person to crash. There are certain things I “can’t” do or think or say while a loved one is up in the air.
Oh! I forgot about saying goodbye in present times. So I am no longer anxious in response to the word, “goodbye”!! The word itself is no longer triggering for me. But in present times, I do get anxious when people leave without saying things that tell me they’re leaving. For example, if I wake up and somebody is gone without a word, I get very anxious. This was a huge deal in marriage, too. If he left without saying goodbye or anything, I would freak out.
For me, it’s some kind of feeling of closure, and I am always afraid that this could be the last time I see somebody, and the way we end our time in the same location is important to me. I will always be part of the send-off group for departing company. I’d be too anxious not to. It’s too important-feeling.