“What neurotic habits do you have?”
When I looked at this question in my book of inspiration, I immediately went on the defensive. I’m not someone who’s troubled by OCD, I’m certainly not a clean freak (as my housemates will testify). That’s why I chose this task, though! I wanted to challenge myself; to make myself really question, perhaps from an onlooker’s perspective, what my neuroses are.
Firstly, I had to check the definition of “neurotic”. Of course, I use it in a conversational context, but I wasn’t completely sure of its breadth of meaning or scientific use. It encompasses “behavioural symptoms such as phobic avoidance, vigilance, impulsive and compulsive acts” as well as “cognitive problems such as unpleasant or disturbing thoughts, repetition of thoughts and obsession, habitual fantasising, negativity and cynicism, etc.”
However, I’m not obsessive about locking doors, or other forms of vigilance. I also don’t think I’m compulsive about any specific acts, like tapping the wall three times before I go out. Frequently I check that my house keys are in my bag when I set off in the morning, but I happen to consider that a sensible, rather than neurotic, act.
I do have little habits, of course, which are now so ingrained that I forget that they might not be usual for other people. If I don’t have Radio 4 on, I cannot fall asleep. I also have to select my programme carefully. With comedy or quizzes I start listening too intently, and am still awake at the end of the show. I often opt for crime serials; at Radio 4 pace, they’re not so thrilling that I have to stay up to listen to the resolution.
My neuroses multiply infinitely whilst waiting for exam results. Currently, my hair looks as though I have my hand on a van de graaf machine. I pull on it, strand by strand, until my scalp aches, leaving my hair straggled and bedraggled. My eyebrows also suffer. Given that I use my right hand to write, it’s my left brow that is half-missing, as I tug at it repeatedly.
My cheeks have taken the brunt this time, though. If I look at the insides in the mirror, I can see white ridges like valley peaks and troughs. Without realising it, I chomp on my oral mucosa all day long, until I taste the metallic tinge of blood. Running my tongue along the inside of my cheeks, it’s like a mass of craters. When I use mouthwash my gums burn excruciatingly as the liquid hits the bitten away areas.
Tomorrow I’ll be on the lookout for any unconscious neurotic habits that I have…
Until next time, bye!