I Believe in the Power of a Hat

Kip McNeil

Drawing by Kip McNeil

I believe in the power of a good hat. I have OCD. It affects my life. It prevents me from doing otherwise ordinary things. You don’t really realize, for example, how hard walking down a hallway is until some idiot interior designer decides to get fancy and use an abstract geometric pattern for the carpeting. People see me walking funny and ask me about it. I then have to awkwardly explain that "I’m not walking funny, it’s the carpet." They give me a confused look and we move on.

Most people don’t really understand the reasons behind obsessive-compulsive actions. It’s sort of a way of thinking. Instead of giving a good amount of attention to the important things and little attention to the trivial things, a person with OCD gives equal attention to every task no matter how unimportant. For example, making sure I don’t step on any of the cracks in the sidewalk takes up just as much of my attention as making sure I actually get where I’m going. Further more, the thought process follows a repetitive and compulsive train, often jumping from one thing to another and back again, worrying over nothing and frantically planning things that have already been planned over again. For me getting up in the morning I often go through a million tiny worries. My head sounds like a short circuiting wire, a constant stream of ‘…did I forget my ID do I have all my papers should I bring an umbrella it looks cloudy will it be cold out no it should be warm do I need an umbrella did I forget my ID what am I going to eat oh my god what time is it am I late…’. For the most part it’s a livable experience, but it can get tiring. The compulsive thoughts would wear me down, until I finally found a solution.

See, a while ago I became fed up with the constant anxiety. I decided that if my mind was capable of thinking about so many things at once, it should be capable of shutting up every once in a while. I was tired of looking a mess and always having to straighten things, and of people calling me neurotic. So I searched for a cure.

My quest led me to an unlikely solution. You’d think I’d do the normal thing and get myself on Prozac, but what part of me screams “normal” to you, anyway? What I found was a hat—a really comfortable, handsome hat, mind you. It was an old black golfers hat, an ‘old man hat’ as my mother liked to call it, and I devoted my mental capacity to giving it meaning. I convinced my mind that under this hat was a “no worry zone”, and while it was in use I would be forbidden from thinking in that tiring compulsive way. So long as I had it on, I would be free to go about things in a laid back fashion. Childish? Maybe a little, but the impressive thing was that it worked. My hypothesis was correct. The mind, being powerful enough to engage in self-destructive habits like compulsive thinking, was also powerful enough to believe in these strange superstitions, to give power where there was none, and to psych itself into complying.

Over the years, I like to believe that the “Worry Hat” began to translate over to my actual habits. After a while I no longer needed to wear it to stop the compulsive thoughts. The hat itself has been traded in a couple of times for newer ones, the old ones having been worn down beyond use. My current hat is a tattered looking green ‘old man hat’, which I still carry with me constantly, even though I don’t really need it. After all, every once in a while, when I become so anxious that I can’t control my own thoughts, I still believe that a dirty old man hat can save me. Besides, it looks pretty damn good on me.