Quite Literally

During the many years of my life when OCD was in charge of me and not the other way around, one thing that it demanded was that every single thing I say be true– literally true.

There were no sudden exclamations to friends of “You’re my favorite!”  No declarations of “This is the best!”  If I was leaving a voicemail at 12:14, I wouldn’t say, “Hey, it’s quarter after; call me back.”  There just wasn’t any room for that in my mind and in my life.

Lyrics were difficult.  I was very careful with what lyrics came out of my mouth; I didn’t want to make any promises or statements that I couldn’t hold to or that weren’t true.  I had to stay one step ahead of the singer to gauge whether it was okay for me to sing those words.

I remember one evening, I was singing along in my car to an Andrew Peterson song.  In it, he is singing to God, and the lyrics are, “I will sing your song from sea to shining sea.”  As soon as the lyrics flew off my tongue, I started to think about how I now was required to plan a cross-country roadtrip just to keep my word.

As a writer, I was very timid about memoir, believing that if I didn’t get every detail right, it would amount to a sinful travesty.  Dialogue?  Way too risky.

Even sarcasm was difficult sometimes, though I never entirely abandoned it.  I did wonder for a time if writing fiction was sinful in and of itself, since the stories were made up … you know, lies.

I tiptoed for so many years.  I was so exact, so literal, so bent on perfection.

Today, I am an honest woman– but I have freedom.  When I tell stories, I don’t worry about getting every detail right.  I have space in my life to breathe.


8 thoughts on “Quite Literally

  1. Jackie, I was the same way. I would repeat myself and go back and tell people the “real” facts that I had gotten “wrong.” I was so obsessed about not being literally true at all times that it was sometimes easier just not to say anything at all.

  2. I totally did this!! And also, if I was thinking something that was kind of mean, I’d have to say it to the person, because otherwise “I wasn’t really being honest”. 😛 It’s funny because I totally thought it was my conscience at the time; it took years before I realized it was OCD.
    I wonder if anyone else has had trouble telling their conscience and OCD apart? I still do sometimes, to be honest!

    • Oh my gosh, Libby, I felt that way all the time! And I would sometimes wonder if it wasn’t my conscience but GOD. Like, “does God want me to go talk to those people in the bookstore right now?” And if I didn’t do it, I would feel so guilty.

      OCD is such a liar.

  3. Oh my goodness, I can totally relate to this! I had episodes where I used to wonder if I had lied or obfuscated something because I didn’t tell EVERY detail about it, or even if I didn’t want to (“You don’t want to tell about XYZ? YOU’RE A HORRIBLE, SINFUL PERSON.”).
    I also went through a prolonged amount of time where my mind would spontaneously generate “vows” to God, or make deals with Him, in the vein of “if You do this, then I’ll do that,” which almost drove me crazy. Promises are still occasionally a stumbling block to me, because my mind will tell me that I must make a promise to do something (i.e. “I promise to die for my family if the need ever arises” or “I promise to get rid of X if it ever becomes an idol” etc.). Just saying I’d do it if it ever became necessary isn’t enough; I need to PROMISE, and there’s something terribly wrong with my spiritual state if I don’t want to. 😦

    • Nonny, I did the promises thing too … but my promises were awful and illogical and couldn’t always be kept. The promises WERE my intrusive thoughts … this was probably when I was in high school, and I CRIED OVER IT SO MUCH.

      Gosh, I hate OCD.

      • A lot of mine were, too. Some still are (“I promise to never sin,” anyone? Yeah… >_>). Luckily, it’s not as bad as it once was, ever since I found out that other people with OCD had trouble with unwanted promise-making, too, but it still comes back every now and again. I’m glad that you don’t have this problem anymore, though. *hugs*

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