An Imperfect Bookshelf: Unpacking with OCD

An Imperfect BookshelfOCD makes unpacking hard.

So we moved to North Carolina in October, and we’re still unpacking those last two boxes that seem to take an eternity to unpack. But I’m not talking about those pesky last boxes. Today we’re talking about books and all the other symbolic images you might pull from that.

I love my bookshelf. As a child, I spent hours organizing my books over and over again. It always started out a fun project, but very quickly grew tiresome. All because it couldn’t be done perfectly.

Fast forward to my adult life when I actually HAVE to unpack my books and it’s not being done for fun.

  • The special Lord of the Rings books are too tall for their little 8″ x 5″ counterpart novels.My education textbooks must sit on the bo
  • My education textbooks must sit on the bottom because they’re not pretty.
  • My fairy tale collection from Dickerson to the Brothers Grimm should be in the middle where everyone can see them most easily.
  • Our religious books should all sit on the same shelf…but they don’t fit. That means they’ll have to touch my American history books.

This might seem silly, but for those who have OCD or OCD symptoms such as I do, simple organizational tasks can quickly grow to become burdensome and arduous. Even worse is when you have fourteen stacked boxes (Yes, fourteen. You read that correctly.) full of books that you can’t see because THEY’RE STILL IN THE BOXES. So how on earth are you to know which to put where?

Because you can’t possibly stack them the way they were stacked at the last house.

Houston, we have a problem…

As with many tasks in OCD, however, I didn’t realize it was a problem until I realized I had been standing there staring at the bookshelf and holding the same book for several minutes. At that rate, I was going to finish filling the bookshelf by the time the Air Force decided to move us again.

It’s easy to freeze when we’re faced by tasks that our obsessive compulsive qualities make complicated and difficult…tasks that should be simple.

Like filling a bookshelf.

I love organization. It makes me feel less anxious when things are at rights. So much so that clutter will give me full-blown anxiety attacks, complete with hyperventilation. Now, I love my toddler more than life itself, but I must be honest in saying that toddlers leave very little organized in the wake of their little path of destruction. As my bookshelf is (mostly) too tall for my daughter to discombobulate, it’s one of the few places in my house that actually stays organized and has the capacity to bring me peace.

Which means, of course, that it must be perfect. Because perfection will help with my anxiety.

But as I was wandering along this thought process (and still holding the book), I asked myself a very important question. What was the worst that would happen if I didn’t place my books in the correct order?

An overactive “fight or flight” response is really what is at the heart of much of OCD. The body’s natural response to threats is over active, and has difficulty in judging what is really a threat and what is different but not a threat.

The National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) says in its article, “Enhanced Avoidance Habits in Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder,” “One of the longest standing accounts of OCD symptomatology is that compulsions are not habits but rather are rational avoidance responses triggered by irrational beliefs…Irrational beliefs are considered the product of cognitive bias in OCD, including, for example, the overestimation of threat…increased personal responsibility…and thought-action fusion….”

So really, was less-than-perfect bookshelf a reason to feel threatened? I laughed at myself in a sad way. There I was, still holding the stupid book in front of a nearly empty bookshelf with a room full of boxes behind me. But, thankfully, I wasn’t doomed to stay stuck.

God’s been working on me for years, now, and after research and experience, I can safely say that He truly is opening my eyes to better understand my own tendencies. And as I have often found it, awareness is the key. I’m learning to become aware of the habits that aren’t healthy even though my anxiety desires them.By continuing to stand there and allow my anxiety to direct my decisions, I was feeding my OCD. For what did it matter if I had to rearrange the books later? I had been envisioning my guests walking into my new, larger house and sighing in relief as they saw what an organized, homey place it would be.

By continuing to stand there and allow my anxiety to direct my decisions, I was feeding my OCD. For what did it matter if I had to rearrange the books later? I had been envisioning my guests walking into my new, larger house and sighing in relief as they saw what an organized, homey place it would be.

Upon brief consideration, I decided that I could *gasp* reorganize the bookshelf later after all the other boxes were unpacked, should I desire it. And would you believe it, I don’t think a single visitor has really looked at my bookshelf since they’ve begun to arrive.

It’s just this way with so many other little areas of life. It’s easy to let the OCD creep in and dictate our little actions and steal away our minutes. From staring at an empty bookshelf to going back to check locks, there is no easy cure.

But on a personal level, I’m finding that awareness is the key. Because if I’m aware of my propensity to dwell too long on details, I can remember to seek out God’s grace in all the corners of the globe when the oppression of anxiety weighs me down. Is it a cure for my OCD? No. The OCD symptoms will probably be there until the day I go to Heaven and my perfected body there. But it is a welcome cool glass of relief whenever my mind feels parched and dried by its constant questions and nagging. Is it perfect? Is it perfect? Is it perfect?

No. But by God’s grace, that’s okay.

How do you handle moving if you have OCD symptoms? Have any comments or questions you’d like to share? Just comment in the box below! Also, don’t forget to sign up for my weekly newsletter for extra information about neurological disorders, education, and encouragement. And as always, thanks for reading!

Other Posts You May Be Interested In:

Posted under: Anxiety, OCD

Tagged as: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Time limit is exhausted. Please reload the CAPTCHA.