I don’t have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. I am merely a diabetic.
After much soul searching, and even after consulting with a professional, I have arrived at the conclusion that my diabetes only makes me appear to have OCD. And given this revelation, I can say that it’s possible OCD-like behavior should be considered a new complication of diabetes. At least, that’s what I’m telling myself as I come to terms with certain habits I display.
I recently moved in with someone after having lived alone for many years. This new, happy event has revealed that, unbeknownst to me, I am “particular” about some things. Or, you know, a lot of things.
I can’t go to sleep without having the dishes done. I have to make the bed shortly after I get up. And, yes, I’m a bit of neat freak. By neat I mean that things in the house have to be in order. I don’t like clutter. I despise knickknacks.
I’d been previously made aware of my neatness thing. Friends would frequently comment on how straight and tidy my house was. I would deflect such arch-browed “criticisms” by explaining that as a professional writer, I spend a good deal of my time avoiding writing while still wanting to feel like I am accomplishing something. So, I clean a lot. It was a clever and cute way to put people at ease—“Hey, man, I am a professional!”—and it rarely failed to relieve people of the misapprehension that I was some sort of uptight freak.
But, my new living situation is causing me to more honestly examine my tendencies and their roots. I know that I don’t behave this way because of my family. They’re slobs. And I don’t behave this way because I am simply predisposed to be tense and anxious. I can say with pride that I am one of the most relaxed, uptight people you’ll ever meet.
No, the reason for my high-strung, hypertensive ways when it comes to not folding the towels correctly, or leaving shoes in the living room, or failing to sweep the floor in the bathroom when clearly it needs … where was I? Oh, yes. All this is because of my diabetes.
I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes when I was 11 years old. So, for almost 40 years I have been shackled to detail. I record numbers religiously. Blood sugars, dosages, and carbs are as familiar to me as yardage and penalty stats are to a fantasy football fanatic.
I am also very time-focused. My insulin, my food, and my exercise have to be at, or close to, the same time everyday. If not, I have to calculate how a change in times affects dosages, and carbs, and exercise. And, here’s the killer part, I have to do this everyday. Every. Single. Day.
Not satisfied that I was qualified to make such a groundbreaking diagnosis of this potential new complication on my own, I talked to a professional.
I asked Dr. Alan M. Jacobson, a psychiatrist who is one of the world’s foremost experts on the relationship between diabetes and cognitive function, whether or not diabetes influenced such behaviors. (I didn’t actually call him to talk about my peccadillos. It came up in conversation when I was interviewing him for an article for asweetlife.org because, lest us not forget, I am a professional.)
He basically said that it was possible that diabetes caused OCD-like behavior, but there was no way to really tell. But, he said, for a diabetic, being particular about niggling details was probably a positive attribute, given all the self-monitoring involved. Then he added that he, himself, was not a detail-oriented person. He’s more of a big picture guy. “So,” he added, “I would probably make a lousy diabetic.”
And there you have it! Hey, I just said it was a complication. I never said it was a bad complication. Jeez, try to not be so uptight about splitting hairs.