Dear OCD…

Posted: May 31, 2011 in OCD
Tags: , , , ,

Okay, fair’s fair. I’m a big man. I can admit it. You’re winning this little battle.

Actually, I should rephrase. I’m letting you win this little battle. Which, I guess, is still you winning this battle, since you’re in my head and all. Hell, this gets kind of complicated if you delve too deep, doesn’t it. Umm…

Fuck it. Point is, you’re winning this battle. I’m talking about the eating thing. Right. Bet you knew that already, though. You’re probably off crowing about it to somebody right now. “Oh, look, Bezuidenthustra thinks he’s all tough, but he can’t even eat a pepper. What a bitch.” Yeah, yeah. I know how you roll.

So I’m admitting it. You’re right. I’m being a wuss. I’m too comfortable and settled to want to tinker with this problem. But let’s face it, OCD, if I’m already moving on to tackling the eating thing, it means I’m beasting you when it comes to everything else. So HA!

That said, this is a serious problem for me. Until recently, eating like a five year old wasn’t that big of a deal. Sure, it looks silly. (Although I will never apologize for loving bubblegum ice cream, assholes!) And yes, it’s not very healthy. And yes, it can get quite boring. And finally, yes, in certain situations it can cause me considerable social grief, making me avoid places and snap at people. But, generally, it was kooky rather than calamitous. This made it easy to ignore, to shove to the back of the list of other issues I may face on any given day.

Things, however, have changed. The boredom has finally caught up with me. Eating’s becoming a drag, particularly since I’m now trying to avoid the worst of the things I love (Big Macs… mac and cheese… cheese pizza… mmmm…). More worryingly, my general health is on a consistent downward trend, which shouldn’t be surprising for someone who’s more likely to mock a vegetable than eat one. (As I’ve mentioned before, I do like some vegetables. However, I grow bored with them much more quickly than other items of food, and I’m too lazy to cook them regularly as a result. In any case, even if I ate nothing but these vegetables all day, I still wouldn’t be getting a wide enough range of vitamins, minerals, and fiber from them. And I don’t really eat fruit, either.) I generally feel like shit, even if I control for all other variables.

In short, suddenly the kooky food habit’s become one of my major concerns. I can’t ignore it anymore. I need to do something. And besides, OCD, I fucking hate letting you win at anything. Who the fuck are you to tell me what to do? I told you I’m eventually going to sort out all your little anxiety tricks and get rid of you, and I meant it.

Of course, we both know I resolved to conquer this koppie a few months ago. Turns out that’s easier said than done. I didn’t realize it was this complicated at first. The other “blessings” you bestow upon me, once analyzed, can be tackled with little more than a controlled environment and some positive resolve. Eating, however, suffers from a few additional drawbacks: history, necessary routine, energy demands, money, and the very nature of a meal. Turns out this is complicated shit.

Why My Eating Habits are a Total Bitch

First of all, my zany food habits are my most deep-rooted issues. For example, I’ve always been a perfectionist, but that hasn’t always amounted to OCD manifestations. Food, however, has always been an anxiety thing for me, and therefore always given to compulsive behavior. It’s irrational and silly, but it’s true.

Most of the things I don’t eat now are things I refused to eat even as a little kid. Believe me, my parents tried to rid me of this problem, but I think my anxiety was palpable and they quickly tired of the fight. Besides, most kids reach a point where they just forget about nit-picking and start trying shit they avoided when they were younger. As kids my brother and I crusaded against those evil commie tomatoes, but now he chomps them down with the best of ’em. I’m sure my parents figured I’d get there, too. But I didn’t. If anything, it just got worse. I don’t just have an aversion to the things I won’t eat, I’m repulsed by them. They may as well be radioactive. Get your Chernobyl tomatoes off my plate, dammit!

Point is, it’s been around so long, it’s almost woven into my bones. Extracting this is like sucking out marrow. It’s really fucking hard and less fun than a helmet full of wasps.

But unlike some of my other OCD-related issues, I have to eat. I can’t avoid it. This makes it difficult to control the slow build-up of anxiety related to my diet. The feeling is that I should always be challenging myself to try something new and step out of my box. When (inevitably) I avoid stepping outside of my box and don’t try something for a few meals in a row, it’s easy to let this thought drag me down into a feeling of failure. “Fuck, Bezuidenthustra, you’ve had the same thing for four days now! Whatever happened to trying new shit?” If that feeling builds up, I want to give up entirely. And I do. It’s the old “deep end” conundrum: you can’t just toss someone into the deep end if you want to teach them to swim, because even if they make it to dry land alive, they’ll never want to swim again. And they won’t want to be your friend anymore, either. Whoops.

But let’s change the scope. Let’s reduce the mountain to a mole hill. Let’s just look at any given meal, because there are factors at play every single time I have to think about what to eat.

To overcome my food-related compulsions, I need to expose myself to food items I haven’t put in my mouth for more than two decades. I will have to sit with the anxiety of ingesting alien bits of vegetable or fruit, and once I’m calm, there’s a chance that I still won’t like this thing I’m eating. Only now, at least, I’ll have good reason to not want to eat it. This is a gamble most people take on a regular basis, of course. “I’ll try that. If I don’t like it, at least I know I don’t like it.” Nibble at freshly-purchased Vomit Al Fresco. Grimace. Discard. Shrug and carry on with day. No biggie.

But that is a biggie for me. It’s a problem because I have a ridiculously fast metabolism. I can’t just shrug and figure I’ll be okay until the next meal. I won’t be. I’ll be starved and drained of all energy until I can force something that isn’t a medical device or ethanol-based into my stomach.  I burn through fuel like a leaking Ferrari, and when that shit runs out, I’m basically a slug on ketamine. Every meal counts. I can’t waste one. When I do, it can ruin my entire day. Those who know me know not to talk to me when I haven’t eaten. My head might implode and warp the very fabric of space and time. It’s not a good idea.

But let’s just assume for a minute that I could go without a meal now and then. Back to trying stuff and deciding I don’t like it. So I bought a bowl of alien testicle soup and didn’t like it. No biggie now, right?

Well, it’s still kind of a biggie. You see, I don’t like spending money on food at the best of times. I’m not exactly rolling in dough, and the little extra money I do have I prefer to spend on things I love, like music or books or lap dances or whatever. I have a pretty bland palate at the best of times — honestly, I can’t smell or taste most nuances in food or drinks — which means I’ve never really listed food (whether exploring or cooking it) as a passion or hobby of any sort. And because it’s not an interest of mine, it’s hard to justify essentially wasting money on it. If I tried that bowl of alien testicle soup, didn’t like it, and had to discard it, I would be really annoyed. That shit BUGS me, people!

But, again, let’s pretend that neither the energy nor the money factors are enough to turn me off trying new stuff even when I run the risk of not liking it. If I get over those issues, then there are no hang-ups, right? Now I can just point at a random item in Slobbering Sam’s Saucy Salads menu and live with whatever shows up because, hey, if I don’t like it, I’ll toss it. No biggie now, right?

Nope. Still biggie. The final issue is that a meal doesn’t amount to just a single item. Meals are collections of items, concoctions of various edible things spiced to achieve some sort of textured flavor. For this reason it’s really tough to isolate one or two things I used to avoid and now want to try in any given meal, because they’re often accompanied either by other things I avoid or, even worse, things I don’t avoid but already know I don’t like. If I can’t simplify the meal I’m trying to containing just the elements I know I can eat in addition to the specific elements I’ve been avoiding, I have very little control, and if I don’t have control I’m not effectively tackling my OCD.

Now, people might say that I should just buy stuff and cook my own little meals, then. They’re right, I should. But because I don’t have a refined palate and don’t particularly like cooking, this feels like a horrible waste of time. And time is my scarcest resource. I’m busy as fuck. This may be one solution, but it’s not one I really want to explore. Again, makes it easy to avoid.

So there you have it, OCD. For me, eating is much more complex than most other places where your spoor can be traced in my life. There are complex reasons why you’re still winning on this front. These are the reasons why I’ve been reticent to jump into the fray. But like a cunning general, now that I fully understand your tactics and the lay of the land, I can map several battle plans for the next assault.

And that’s exactly what I’m doing. I’m sniper-picking my targets and literally bringing reinforcements. I have only just begun to fight, fucknut. Each one of the problems I’ve listed has a solution. I’m going to put it all together over the next few days, and then we’ll see what’s what.

In the meantime, OCD, I invite you, as always, to bite me.

Palatably yours,


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