The intrusive thoughts of losing my mom continued to invade my head day and night. The rituals began. What used to take me a half hour to walk home from school took longer and longer as I would retrace my steps and repeat, “Mom won’t die, mom won’t die,” to counteract the frightening voice—the voice of death. I would be frozen in one spot unable to take another step until I felt comfortable; until I had neutralized the terrible thoughts. I needed to repeat the positive thought one more time than the negative thought, so the positive would be greater. I had to perform this ritual over and over so my mom would not die. I, a ten year old child, felt responsible for my mom’s life and felt it would be my fault if something happened to her. I absolutely hated walking to and from school. I knew it would consume a great deal of time and I was so afraid that someone would notice my strange behavior and realize just how weird I was. There were so many rituals just involved in walking. If a bad thought made its presence as I went up or down a curb, I might have to step up and down, down and up, and up and down again in order to neutralize the thought and ease my anxiety. Then and only then would I be able to move on, only to confront the monster once again just a few short steps ahead. As fall and eventually winter arrived and the days grew shorter and darker and my walks longer and longer, I never arrived home before the sun went down.
Whenever or wherever I walked, I was forced to count my steps. An even number of steps were required. My OCD insisted that I walk the same even number of steps in each square on the sidewalk. So if I took two steps in one square, I would have to take two steps in the next, and so forth. This was the same when walking across a room or up a staircase. Sometimes I would have to take longer strides or throw a quick tiny step in, to satisfy my requirement. My final step always had to be a multiple of four or six. I must have appeared to be insane as I was skipping steps and trying to fit steps in, in order to keep my disease happy.
There were many times when I would be walking home with my house in plain sight, not being able to quite make it there with the thoughts and rituals keeping me in one place. After several grueling minutes, and countless times of repetition in my head, I would be freed from the force holding me and able to continue on. Next would be getting through the doorway, down the short hallway, and through the inside door of my house. This very task may take me another ten to fifteen minutes. The lifesaving rituals that made me feel like mom was safe continued as I burst through the door. An enormous burden was lifted; I was finally home. It was always a huge relief to walk in the door and see my mom intact; another successful day for me.
Along with counting steps, I also could not step on a crack or I would break my mother’s back (I took this very seriously!). All these walking rituals left me totally worn out by the time dinner rolled around. I had little time for homework and then it was time for bed.
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