The Origins of OCD: Calming the Chaos, Discovering My Drug of Choice

Dana Leigh Lyons
2 min readOct 2, 2022
Image by Markus Spiske, Unsplash

As a toddler, surrounded by bits and bobs of toddler toys, I would line up the smallest bits single file. Placed with precision, one after the next.

Order. I made order. And so it was. Until it wasn’t.

Before long someone or something or perhaps a simple noticing would come along. Before long, one bit among the multitudes would fall aside or shift askew or otherwise refuse to follow the rules.

Ruined. What once was well was ruined. Chaos ensued. I lost my shit.

Oh, the horror and injustice! Oh, the unpredictability and shocking nonchalance of others!

Milling about, unaware and unbothered. Acting as though everything was as it should be. Acting as though our tenuous grip on carefully constructed, neatly organized reality was fine. Just fine.

Of course, in a rather short eventually, my mom swept in and righted the wrong, fixed the line, made things well. Order restored, I could stop my wailing. Rules upheld, I could relax.

Except, beneath the surface, I could never fully settle. Except, beset by dread, what’s known cannot be unknown.

Don’t you see? We’re not safe here. The entire arrangement can implode in an instant. There is no solid ground.

And yet, long before spoken expression, I’d found a makeshift fix. Order, however temporary, calmed the chaos. Rules, however contrived, promised safety.

If we can just get the line straight enough, it’ll be okay. If we can just focus on one thing, all will be alright.

Ritual was born. And patterns. And obsession. And compulsion.

The specifics changed throughout the years. The specifics are, in any case, besides the point. Namely: It worked. Namely: It didn’t.

Because the promise is never kept. Because relief is ever fleeting. Because feeding the pattern reinforces more of the same and cuts off our fullest, wildest, most honest expression.

Thank you for reading. I’m a doctor of Chinese Medicine and write about sobriety and soulful living. Find all my links here:

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Dana Leigh Lyons

Doctor of Chinese Medicine, Writer, Medium Top Writer in Poetry, Health, Travel, LGBTQ.