I went over to my parents’ house last week in search of writing, school papers, drawings, pics and whatever other childhood relics I could find that had the potential to give me a glimpse into my mental processes at the time.
I’m currently in the planning stages of writing a book about what it’s like to have OCD. What’s it’s really like, from my perspective.
And of course, that’s a topic that’s been done to death, which is why I want my book to be different. I want the reader to truly understand and empathize with what I’m saying. No clinical shit, no cliché, no feeding of preconceived notions of what OCD is.
In order to accomplish this, the book has to be about me, with an OCD undercurrent, a vague, perpetually changing intangible thing permanently interwoven into the fabric of my psyche. And if I want readers to understand me, I must first spend a little time getting reacquainted with myself.
When I arrived at my parents’ house, I knew immediately that I was going to get more than I bargained for, as I quickly realized my mom was using this as an opportunity to get me to clean out their attic.
I was happy to do so. After all, they’ve done more for me than I’ll ever be able to repay.
Box after box came down until we had about eight or nine of them spread out across the kitchen floor.
There was a shocking amount of garbage in them. I saved everything as a kid. I clipped news articles and made themed scrapbooks, I saved pamphlets from roadside attractions we visited while traveling. I saved the wrappers from Dum-Dums suckers, in hopes of eventually having one of each flavor. I was a collector, a hoarder. What they used to call a “pack-rat.”
Well, the real rats(mice, but you get the picture)had at some point gotten into and ransacked many of these boxes, rendering their contents totally gross and unsalvageable.
Some, however, were sealed tightly enough as to remain unmolested by vermin.
We quickly perused these boxes and set things I wanted to keep in a “save” pile, chucking the rest.
I’ve become increasingly minimalist over the years, getting rid of a lifetime’s worth of junk I’d carried with me, selling cherished childhood toys just to get rid of them and trying to shrink the amount of possessions I have to keep track of down to manageable levels.
So it didn’t bother me to get rid of all of this stuff even though so much of it opened the floodgates of my memory and took me on a bit of an emotional roller coaster ride.
So many little odds and ends that at one point I’d seen every day of my young life but had long since placed the memories of into mental storage seemed as familiar to me now as they did back then.
There was munchy, a mouse head-shaped hand puppet my mom used to entertain me with as a very young child. I remembered him well. As did my mom, who remarked on how many times he’d saved her on those long car trips we used to take to South Dakota and Indiana every year. Munchy went straight to the trash because he was disgusting.
I used to play with a doll. Just a regular old infant doll, like a girl would play with. I took it everywhere, cherished it, for whatever reason. I’d ascribed immense value to it.
I remember losing it at a sears store one time in the early 80s and discovering that it was gone only after we arrived home . It was at least an hour’s drive to the mall, but my dad got back in the car and drove all the way back and found it, brought it back.
I held that doll for a moment and fondly reminisced about this incident before tossing it in the trash.
In the end I came up with a single box of goodies to take home and pore through, mostly writing, drawings and schoolwork but also a few books and old magazines that I’ll likely read again. I mean, I have a set of GI JOE “choose your own adventure” books. I may be a minimalist now but the pack rat still lives somewhere deep down inside of me and I could hear him crying out from the distant darkness, pleading with me not to toss them. Besides, I could give them away or sell them. Books never lose value, and I saved all the ones in the non-mouse tainted boxes for donation or sale or personal enjoyment.
Oh, and I found a lot of T-shirts from jr high that I can wear again now that I’ve lost 100lbs. I washed them while I was there and immediately tried on my eighth grade soccer jersey.
I went there on a mission to find early written materials and ended up finding a lot more and jogging my already scarily vivid memory(OCD’s attention to and poring over life’s odd details tends to cement them in one’s brain via repetition)a little more than I had anticipated.
It did feel kind of wrong throwing away things that had so much sentimental value, but I’ve come to realize that the memories and the people and the events associated with them are the true valuables. Not things. Things are garbage when they no longer have practical value, and these things didn’t. But I still have the memories. I’ll never throw those away.