I started a new job as an assistant director at a new library in December. For a long time, my concerns were taken up strictly by the tasks of moving and settling into a new house, and learning the aspects of my new job. Eventually it seemed like I had a handle on everything I was going to, and I had more time to ruminate on the change in position, the change in town, and the change in the nature of my job.
I am in charge of the performance of actual human beings now. I had a department with which we had some trouble, and the stress was making me anxious. That seems to be working out. But my anxiousness wasn’t going away. I had gotten rather worked up about a lot of cataloging issues. The Star Wars books were not in the same area because they were catalogued by author. The DVD section had movies from the same series in both the drama and sci-fi sections. I found a book in the biography section that was OBVIOUSLY supposed to go in the 636s, because it was the biography of a cat, not a human. I had new books piling up for young adults, even though they weren’t really new because no one kept track of them.
The bulging shelves and the multiple copies were stressing me out. I would walk past yet another biography of Hitler, and wonder how many a library could have, then start calculating how many were published by mainstream presses, and therefore available for libraries to buy, and determined I would have to get rid of nine books to keep up with the yearly influx of books about Hitler.
This stuff made me angry when I wasn’t at work. It made me anxious when I was in my office, and would put me near a meltdown if I saw too many consecutive ’out of order’ or ’not-right’ things as I walked through the library.
I had a headache all the time. My office was a shambles and I wasn’t getting to all the things I wanted to do, because my mind was filled to the brim with ’not-right’ things existing outside of my office. And while under my control, technically, as a library administrator, it was out of my control just how many of them there were. I could spend a year fixing everything, and it would never be right.
It was miserable, and overwhelming. Only I didn’t quite realize that it was my obsession with fixing things that was overwhelming me. It is very common for a sensory processing disorder to accompany autism. I was used to that. Bright lights, loud sounds, bad textures of clothing and food…it really could be a nightmare sometimes. Something that had made my evenings at the library unbearable due to loudness level had been taken care of, and things were very quiet.
Eventually I got in to see a new psychiatrist. That is one of the problems with moving–you start over with every single doctor anew. Which meant rediagnosis. It isn’t a fun part of the process. She started asking me questions down a long list, and I ran through them as always. Yes, no, here is what it is like…and then came a bunch of questions I had answered before, but answered more honestly this time. Yes, I have to have a routine in the morning. BUT IT ISNT Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. IT IS SO I WONT FORGET ANYTHING. Yes, I count things. BUT IT ISNT OCD. It is because I just like to.
And I knew every single one of these questions was directed toward a certain diagnosis, and while I answered them honestly for the first time ever, I kept saying how it couldn’t be OCD. It was the autism or it was just what I liked to do, and it wasn’t hurting anybody, therefore it wasn’t OCD.
I left the office miserable. I really didn’t need one more thing to deal with. On the one hand, if I had OCD I had been dealing with it all of my life without noticing. And dealing with it poorly, in some cases. On the other, there comes a tipping point where people don’t believe you can possibly have THAT many disorders. Especially invisible ones that make your life hell, because oh, you are so successful.
But I started applying OCD to some of the things causing me headaches–the cataloging, the locations of things, how things looked at work…
It was a library. It’s was supposed to be orderly, damnit. And here we were with biographies about cats in with the biographies about people! I was having a hard time with things being “good enough” instead of “right” as dictated by my strangely wired brain. That evaluation helped me take things down a notch. Because I was certain I was doing everything wrong and that I was working on all of the wrong things because I couldn’t get everything done all at once, or fix the entire collection, all at once.
I am sure normal librarians (whatever those are) do not spend three or four hours contemplating exactly how to catalogue a Dungeons & Dragons manual so that it will be visible and accessible. Especially when it is going into a room that will be locked (and therefore inaccessible) most of the day. I felt like I was being destroyed by tiny things. Is that what my life had become? A fiefdom of tiny issues that did not matter in the grand scheme of the library, much less the world? I really felt like I had dedicated myself to something stupid and pointless.
I suppose, in retrospect, the nature of my job, or my life was not wasted on a miniature kingdom of microscopic problems, my brain was inflating those problems and constantly putting them forward on my “to do” list so they were always hanging in front of me. I’m not sure how to deal with it yet. I am going to go to work tomorrow and only fixing the DVDs I have already put in my office. I will actively attempt to ignore thinking about the Star Wars and Forgotten Realms books spread out across the library.
I will start using an actual list program to truly prioritize what really needs to be done. And then I will go from there.