O.C.D. And Me!
No, I do not have Obsessive-Compulsive-Disorder. Actually, Hubby hasn’t been diagnosed with it either, but I have given his behavior this name. You decide.
This morning’s coffee was accompanied by an explanation from Hubby about the importance of a “neat newspaper.” He is distressed daily when the pages are akimbo, all over the table, not in the proper order. He is upset when the pages are not neatly aligned, and will spend up as much time as required in straightening out each to his satisfaction. It could be thirty minutes… unless we distract him with another project.
This morning as I was reading the headlines, he scolded me for messing up the order of the pages. I laughed and made light of it. He smiled, but knew he was right in his concern. I told Hubby that after almost fifty years of marriage, I had decided that life can be imperfect and disorderly. He looked at me with a sweet nod and a bit of pity. Nothing will change his behavior. I have accepted this.
For more years than I wish to remember, our sleep-time routine included straightening out the covers on our bed. Hubby had a specific process of pulling and tucking which left me yawning, with hands on my hips becoming impatient. I could never understand this fastidiousness. We are going to get into the bed and mess it all up, why exactly are we doing this?
Yesterday, Violet and Hubby were sitting in the living room and he was directing her to reposition items on the cocktail tables. His brain is fascinated with his version of perfection, while I could not be less interested in his attention to such details of life. The big items hold my attention, but then Hubby isn’t aware that they even exist.
Detecting O.C.D. comes slowly. The condition offers many early clues. Hubby began counting the steps in our neighborhood, long ago. Not just counting, but memorizing the numbers of different staircases for future use. I always thought it was a way for him to focus on them so that he would not fall. Now I am sure that it was much more than that.
Washing hands is a very lengthy procedure now… a full lathering of the hands, making sure that no portion of the skin is ignored. A concentrated process of drying each finger before the task is finally completed. A totally focused project which repeats at least six times a day. Hopefully there is no line for others to use the loo while this fixation is in progress.
Hubby often requests something “hot” to drink. In our house that means English tea or coffee. (We really should add hot chocolate to the menu). When the coffee is served “it is too hot!”. An ice cube is added to accommodate. A few minutes later: “I cannot drink this… it is cold!” Thus, we add a bit of hot coffee to the cup, trying to achieve the perfect temperature for our resident royal.
Similar problems with serving a meal. Hubby likes it hot. Not too hot. So wifey (moi) purchased serving dishes with lids to keep the food warm. Apparently not warm enough however. Most meals (instead of receiving rave reviews), receive “everything is cold! I can’t eat cold food.” It is just wonderful to be married to a man who has standards!
Yesterday Violet told me that we were in need of more pita bread. “But I just bought it two days ago” I reminded her. I was sure my purchase was hiding in the rear of the fridge unnoticed. “Yes” she replied, but I can only use the bottom half of each pita because the top has too many dark spots. Hubby won’t eat anything with dark spots on it. Hence, we are running out of pita to serve him for his morning breakfast. Upon hearing her very reasonable explanation, I responded “You know… this is madness!” Our lives are now being controlled by Hubby’s obsessive self- imposed rules.
Mealtimes for the past few days have been disastrous. Lunch was a terrific turkey soup which cooked for hours. Served to Hubby, he focused on the bits of cilantro/coriander (depending on your country of origin) floating in the soup.
“What are these black spots?” He demanded an answer.
“They are not black – they are green herbs.”
“Sorry, I cannot eat this!”
The next inevitable step was removing the bowl of soup from his presence and pouring the contents into a mesh strainer. I returned with a clear broth, equally delicious, but with no weird things floating in it. He enjoyed the broth. I dumped the best part back into the pot for others to enjoy. I went to visit Mr. Google to find out if the broth of a soup actually has food value. It seemed like the best part was being rejected. Apparently, there is excellent value in the soup broth, which is further enhanced when cooking with soup bones. I will put soup bones on my shopping list. Tomorrow, we return to pureed soups with nothing afloat.
Tomorrow came and went. An entire head of fresh cauliflower was roasted in the oven and then turned into my divine pureed soup with ginger. I knew we would have a pleasant meal because Hubby adored this soup when I first created it. This time he proclaimed:
“What am I supposed to do with this, chew it or drink it?” as he pushed it away.
Dinner was home-made chili. I really make a great chili. Large lumps of beef, not too spicy…corn, kidney beans, and lots of cilantro. Hubby has always liked my chili. Not tonight. I served it with taco chips. Yum. He took one look at it and said:
“If I eat this I will vomit.” Such a delightful way to begin a meal.
Then he began a trip down memory lane:
“Mama would never have cooked me a meal like this!” My hackles are raised and I am now ready for battle.
“Don’t tell me about your mother’s cooking!” I maturely respond.
“What did my mother ever do to you?” He angrily retorts.
Mealtimes are my favorite time of day.
Lunch for Hubby can sometimes be a pizza. Purchased at the local grocery, it is kept in reserve for emergencies. An emergency is defined as whenever the meal cooked for the three of us is rejected out-of-hand. The latest pizza was also rejected. Why? I was oblivious to the fact that the oregano flakes constituted “black spots” and were hence verboten. It is not bad enough that I must dump another meal into the trash, but now I find myself looking for frozen pizzas where the photo on the box guarantees me that there is nothing atop of the cheese. But don’t be fooled, photos lie! I open up a new pizza only to find the dreaded oregano frozen in-place and challenging my sanity. Another trip to the grocery and I am now the proud owner of shredded mozzarella which I can sprinkle in an emergency to cover the unexpected little critters. Undoubtedly Hubby will complain that there is now too much cheese to his liking.
One of the few foods which are acceptable to Hubby is my invention of the apple-cheese fajita (the recipe can be found in the recipes section of this thedementiadiary.com). The problem here is that the fajita which cooks in butter in a pan on the stovetop, is often more browned on one half than on the other. Crisis! How can one possibly eat an unevenly toasted item? I resolved the problem (after the complaint) by cutting off the half which was unacceptable and cooking it a bit longer in the frying pan. No one has ever cared whether I was happy with an un-evenly toasted anything!
What upsets me the most is not that he rejects the food, (which I fully accept is a reaction he cannot control), but that his rejection turns into a problem which I feel I must resolve immediately. If I analyze it properly there is a pattern which always ends up with me feeling I must take action to correct this. The moment I recognize the problem, the stress hormones in my body release. I have now initiated a physical reaction in my body as a reaction to the obsessive behavior of another human who had no intention to harm me. This is not what nature intended. I am not at risk of being attacked by a grizzly bear!
When our subconscious takes over, we do not always react well. I love how I have inserted the word “we.” There is no “we.” I am trying to make others believe that I am part of a very large group – rationalization at best. When I say that my reaction is out of proportion to the event, it is true. Usually what awakens my irritation is the added responsibility required. Irritation leads to impatience. That leads to his irritation at my irritation, and the beat goes on!
If I am honest, in reflection, I am a bit like a person hitting their head against a wall and expecting the pain to subside. I cannot help but believe that if I correct the problem…it will not repeat. Apparently, I have not accepted that this is really not working. There is always something new to frustrate Hubby. What is Albert Einstein’s famous saying? Ah yes, “Insanity… is doing the same thing over and over again expecting a different result !”
It may seem to some that I am simply “indulging” Hubby. It would be so if he was your Hubby perhaps, but mine will not eat at all if I ignore his obsessions. I see my job as keeping him alive and as healthy as possible. What I have neglected to mention thus far is that OCD is a classic condition related to dementia. Like much else in their minds, once a thought, fear or attitude, comes to someone with dementia, it entrenches itself and their mind cannot be changed. It is almost as if the brain has forgotten what it learned in the past, and is now storing up new information. That information is accessible – but it is not especially helpful because it is stored not as a result of “learning” and “concluding”, which is the normal process. My conclusions on this subject are based on no scientific evidence whatsoever – only on observations of Hubby, day in and day out. I offer these thoughts for your consideration. Dissecting and trying to analyze the behavior of our loved ones allows us to separate ourselves from our emotional responses, and that is better for all involved.
Thus, at the end of the day, Hubby’s O.C.D. has magnified my own weaknesses. This is a battle which Hubby wins repeatedly, hands down.
I will conclude now as I need to search Mr. Google to find the name of my own situation. There must be a kinder term than “vanquished!”