I was seven when I first figured out I had obsessive compulsive disorder. I was at the pool with my family, and I was swimming and one of my toes touched the bottom. I remember so clearly how that felt, because all of a sudden I had this unshakable urge, this need to touch the bottom of the pool again. And again, and again, and again, and again. I kept diving under, barely able to breathe, lungs struggling for air because if I didn’t touch the pool just one more time I would be endangering those I loved. Suddenly all I could think about was that pool, and touching the bottom, and feeling like nothing else on this earth matters except getting the right number of touches on the bottom of the pool. I felt my life depended on it, my happiness depended on it, the safety of those around me. This happened when I was seven, and it wouldn’t be thirteen years until anyone knew.
My OCD has taken different shapes over time. Sometimes it’s in the form of numbers, sometimes it’s in the form of touch or movement. I’ve had to walk down the street and touch every manhole cover. I’ve had to walk across a cross walk and touch every white line. I’ve had to end my text messages with exactly two exclamation points and make sure that the words are multiples of two or else I believe that my friendship with whoever I am texting will be over. Currently my OCD has taken the form of my inability to leave a room without turning the light on and off, i’ll make an excuse, “bump” into it or pretend to forget something. Having OCD is like feeling the entire world’s balance depends solely on whether or not you have turned on a light switch. I feel stressed, and I feel ashamed. It all sounds just as ridiculous to me as it does to you, but that’s the prison of OCD. No amount of reasoning can make it go away, which is what the inspiration was for what is written on my face in my photo: “it has to be this way!!” Steve added the two exclamation points at the end, a gesture nobody but him and I have understood until now.
I haven’t been open about my OCD because I know what people would say. You’re the messiest human being on god’s green earth, and you already have ADHD, and anxiety, how do you expect us to believe this?” I wish I could read everyone the textbook definitions of OCD, that it comes out in different ways, and if I could trade my rituals for a clean room I would in a heart beat but that’s not how disability works. Here I am world. It’s there, it’s in the open, the world finally knows and for the first time since I was seven I feel free from my prison. I have OCD, I will always have OCD, but for the first time I feel as if OCD doesn’t have me.