I don't mean that in the sense of "I matter," but in the sense of actual mathematics: I count. One, two, three. Things. Items. Steps. Calories. Breaths. Cigarettes. Paper clips. M&M's.
I am a counter. A person who counts. Counts all the things.
I don't know when it started. My best guess is that the counting of things is an offshoot of my habit of counting to ten -- there it is again, the counting -- when I find myself getting overwhelmed, angry, frustrated. Previous therapists have suggested this as a coping strategy, a way to get my head straight, a method of stopping myself from doing or saying things that I know I should not.
Sometimes it works, the counting to ten, and sometimes it doesn't.
I guess when the counting to ten stopped working regularly, because my stress and anxiety levels got to be too much for little life-hacks to be able to handle, I started counting other things. I fixate on things that are insignificant but repeatable. Scientific method: How many steps to the bathroom? How many squirts of hand soap? How many ice cubes? How many packs of Post-It Notes? How many hours between meals?
I catch myself, sometimes, when I am in the middle of counting things. Why? I ask myself. Why are you doing this? What does it matter? What are you trying to do here? How is this helping? When I catch myself doing these things, doing these weird things, doing these crazy things, I stop myself, deliberately change the environment. Move papers around. Put the paper clips in a different slot of a different drawer. Use the ladies' room in another department. Make a cup of tea. Grab a handful of candy.
I do other things then, too. I only eat M&M's two at a time, one candy on each side of my mouth, and I won't eat two of the same color at the same time. I can't. I won't. I will arrange them all in front of me, in pairs, a red with a green and a blue with a yellow and a yellow with a brown and a red with a blue and a blue with a green. If there are extras, an uneven number, or too many of one color to split them all up without making a mismatched pair, I leave the stragglers, the troublemakers, in a paper cup at my desk and I save them for the next time.
I know that this behavior is abnormal, irregular, unhealthy. Most people don't observe and analyze everything around them before utilizing these same things. Most of the people I know don't observe or analyze hardly anything.
I have a new therapist now, because I need one. I am losing my mind, losing myself, losing track of all the things I have been counting, losing track of all the things that still need to be counted. I cannot count all the things. I'm not sure that I even want to. It's just something I do, now. Count all the things. Why? To control all the things, because there are other, bigger, much bigger things that I cannot control.
I am anal-retentive. A classic Type A personality. Detail-oriented and deadline-oriented to the nth degree. Relentlessly perfectionist, even as I know that there is no possible way that any one person could ever achieve what I unreasonably expect myself to achieve. There are not enough hours in the day, so I do what I can to take every single minute, every second, every nanomoment, and make it count.
I can't do it by myself, and nobody expects me to. But still I fixate. "If you want to get something done right, do it yourself." I know I can do it right, so I expect that I will always do it right, all the time. It's up to me to save and protect the world, or at least the little slice for which I am responsible. I am a control freak. I am obsessive-compulsive. And the rest of the world is anything but.
So I count. Count all the things.