As a person diagnosed with OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) it comes as no surprise that my brother can be both obsessive and compulsive. I know, a shocker!?
As a theory the diagnosis is one thing, in practice another.
My regular encounter with the obsessive side of his personality centres around his acquisition of DVDs and Blu-Ray videos. He has hundreds of them. No sooner is one – or two, three or four – acquired then his focus shifts and locks upon another. And he cannot rest until acquiring the next one. Weekly I am recruited for some aspect of an expedition.
Although we have tried a number of tactics to set boundaries on this activity the only real perimeter seems to be money. When his monthly allowance runs dry so too must the purchasing. And then, emotionally, the pressure to obtain the next video simply builds like water in flood season filling a reservoir behind a dam.
There is undoubtedly enough material in his life for post-graduate study. But analysis and theory aside we cope, mostly.
One pressure point centres around gifts – Christmas and birthdays in particular.
Three to four months before the occasion his desire for a particular video will start to include the phrase “And you could get me this for Christmas (or my birthday).”
And I am torn.
A part of me resents his obsessions dictating what is supposed to be a gift. Something feels “off” when simply receiving what is necessary to relieve the pressure of an obsession gets categorized as gift.
I want not only the freedom to choose the gift but also for there to be some element of surprise and delight in the reception.
If only driven by wants and desires the world gets small very quickly – as his life bears witness. Where is the room for receiving something that we did not know we yearned for but when received enlarges our life and sparks joy?
I realize this runs somewhat counter to the flow of a consumer culture and self-fulfilment; yet, I persist.
The ache in my heart about my brother’s posture with respect to gifts is partly because I know the path too well. I know how effortlessly something can move from my emotional folder of “Unknown” to “Nice to Have” to “When I Get that I’ll be Happier.” And then once mounting the summit of acquisition the inevitable path of decline follows until a few hours, weeks or months later the thing coveted moves into the “Taken for Granted” folder to be replaced by something new. Could it be that my brother’s sequence is simply faster and more intense than mine?
So, do I get him the current DVD he “must have” or something else knowing that anything else will be met at least with disappointment if not betrayal?
Dare I move the criteria from “What I really, really want” to something that might enlarge his life in another way? And who am I to say what that might be? Or am I simply trying to control him in yet another way?