When I entered junior high in seventh grade, an unknown world of unfamiliar peers, my anxiety escalated. My fingernails grew shorter during those long days as I chewed each one down to the cuticle and beyond. I was frightened of almost everyone. I made a couple of new friends and still hung out with some old ones. I was far too insecure and did not feel “good enough” to branch out too much. There were so many pretty girls, each one involved in groups, clubs, and athletics. They had boyfriends. I knew I was never destined to be friends with any of them. I fumbled over my words even if I had to talk to them, never knowing quite what to say to them; they were so cool. Besides, I would never want them to know about my crazy thoughts and rituals. I would surely be an outcast if that ever leaked out.
During seventh grade, my OCD was what I will refer to as “normal” (what I live with every day), but when I returned for eighth grade, after summer vacation, my OCD skyrocketed, and I took a nosedive.
It was brought to my attention that two girls in my class had lost their mothers over the summer, both to cancer. My heart ached for these girls, but my OCD convinced me to be fearful of them. I never had these fears before, usually just thoughts occurred and I obeyed them. These were real people and this scared the heck out of me. I had to see these girls, possibly, every day. This was “real” death I was dealing with now.
The rules given to me by my OCD were as follows:
- If you see these girls, even from a distance, you will bathe when you get home, or your mother will die.
- Never talk to these girls, or your mother will die.
- NEVER touch these girls, or for sure, your mother will die.
Eighth grade was worse than any nightmare; at least you wake up from a nightmare. I was forced to live every waking moment in this terror. It even invaded my sleep, so by no means was I ever free from this incarceration.
I knew the routes the two girls took to their classes and did everything in my power to avoid them, but every so often they would change their routes. After seeing them I felt I was completely contaminated for the rest of the day. The only thing that would rid me of this feeling would be to take a bath. Until I got home and bathed, all things I touched were also dirty. I never took my books or school supplies home to work on homework; they were unclean and could not be washed. I was forced to complete my homework in study hall if time allowed. This is when my grades really started to slip, which certainly did not help my already low self-esteem.
The really sad part in all of this was the fact that both of these girls were really nice and I would have enjoyed their friendship. In fact, one of the two girls became friends with some of my friends and she began getting invited to some gatherings as well as me. I was unable to attend if she did, and once again missed out on a lot of fun. I eventually completely stopped hanging out with my friends to avoid the stress of saying no to their invitations.
All my friendships were beginning to show some strain as my OCD grew substantially worse, and some of my rituals became slightly apparent to a few of my friends. I had to walk like a soldier with my arms flat at my sides with my fingers pointed straight to the ground to avoid touching people. I might have to walk around poles a certain way or touch something a certain number of times to neutralize a thought or make things even. As the rituals grew, it became even harder to conceal them. I began missing a lot of school and I told people it was because my dad was traveling around the country driving truck and I missed him. But, that was not the case. It was just very hard for me to leave my house. It was a relief to just stay home and be tortured by the voices in my head in the security of my familiar room; the voices that caused me to behave very oddly. I would not have to walk around in fear of seeing or touching the contaminated girls, whose mothers’ had died, and then have to bathe and wash my clothes.
I was later able to convince my friends that my missing school, my never having them over to my house, and my odd behavior was caused by anemia, which I had, but certainly not the cause for my rituals. But they were young and didn’t know the difference. Either way, they didn’t think I was totally weird. By this time in my life I had become an expert on fooling people and covering up. Not a friend or family member had any suspicion about my OCD. I could have been nominated for an Academy Award for my acting. This was how I kept my OCD a secret for so many years; years of internal torment and aching.
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