My family first got the idea that I might have some kind of mental disorder when I was about six years old. We were visiting my cousins-- actually the cousin whose wedding I was destined to one day ruin.
But more on that later.
I had been showing signs, even then, of being “selectively social” so my parents had given me very strict instructions to go out to the back yard and play nicely.
My four cousins’ back yard was a disaster zone. A perfect storm of disorder. Already famously neat and possessive of my things, the discombobulating array of debris shattered my sensibilities. Yet I had been told --and had promised--to play nicely so I could not take the terrible revenge my six-year-old brain conjured up.
Instead, I immediately set about to achieve the more humble goal of correcting the problem. Starting on the outskirts of the back yard, I started gathering up the bits of toys and tools scattered about and putting them in their rightful places. A sense of great satisfaction filled me as tools, rusted by the weather, found their way back to the sanctuary of my Uncle’s tool-shed. Toys, long since deemed ‘missing’, were set neatly in the spots that seemed most fitting for them.
A few times I had to tip-toe into the house to put away toys that belonged in my cousin’s toy box. My mother caught me a few times but, assuming that I was genially doing my cousin’s bidding, she let it go.
Just as I had gathered everything I could, my mother and aunt came out and called us all in to dinner. Knowing that resistance would only result in me getting put into “time out” I went in without a fuss. However, even as I walked through the back door, I was formulating a whole bevy of excuses to escape back into the yard to finish my work.
The minute we sat down to our sloppy joes, I immediately raised my hand
“Mama, I have to go to the bathroom” My mother gave her permission. Like a shot, I raced back into the back yard, hurried to pick up five things and put them into their assigned places, and raced back to the dinner table.
Before I had eaten my first sloppy Joe, I had asked to leave the table to ‘use the bathroom’ 3 times, ‘wash my hands’ four times, and get a clean fork twice. Each time, my mother gave consent, I ran out the door to blissfully clean for another few moments. The back yard was returning to order and my mother was none the wiser.
By the time we left the house, the yard was spotless and my six-year-old self was practically glowing with pride.
You may be thinking, at this point, that my mother isn’t very sharp witted, or at least that she isn’t very observant. Let me reassure you, you are wrong. The next week was the first time I met with Dr. Marvin, my psychologist.