“During the five years I’ve been in practice. I sometimes picture these unfortunates as men and women being pecked to death by predatory birds. The birds are invisible – at least until a psychiatrist who is good, or lucky, or both, sprays them with his version of Luminol and shines the right light on them – but they are nevertheless very real. The wonder is that so many OCDs manage to live productive lives, just the same. They work, they eat (often not enough or too much, it’s true), they go to movies, they make love to their girlfriends and boyfriends, their wives and husbands . . . and all the time those birds are there, clinging to them and pecking away little bits of flesh.”
― Stephen King, Just After Sunset
It had been forever since OCD won. But it did that day. I woke up hopeful and free, so I knew if any day it could happen that was the day. My guy says, “Hey, you should go.” My usual answer creeps in as it always does. “No, I can’t.” But I wanted to so badly. It has been years since I had seen my family and they were all in town. I so badly wanted to see them, hug them, hold them in my arms. Show them for once OCD won’t win despite them never even realizing it is a battle I faced every day at even the contemplation of seeing them.
The new faces, they are unsafe. The different environment, contaminated somehow by the unknown. I plowed through it. I nudged myself pass the crazy thoughts of “what if”. I was determined to not let it win. It was easy. I had my friends texting, I had my guy pushing me. I had things to do. I had to get ready.
Then I was in the car, ALONE. The very worst place for me to be. It began bubbling to the surface. I swallowed it whole. “Damn you, OCD! You won’t win. I want this!” I did what I do when I am with my family. I set goals. If I just make it to that stop light if I still want to turn around, I can. I passed the stop light. If you make it to the train tracks, you can keep moving. I made it. Then the guy in front of me hit his breaks. It broke me then.
I made it exactly another few miles into a high school parking lot. My phone was silent. I had checked it approximately 106 times and I knew. That stupid OCD was winning. I texted my guy, “This stupid OCD. I just can’t do it.” He texts quickly back, “Yes, you can. Ignore it.” I couldn’t bare to tell him I had already stopped moving forward. I waited. I hoped it would pass.
“Where are you? Just think you are a little over your drive to work. It isn’t far at all. Just make it half way.” I think, boy he is all too familiar with the tricks I play in my head to get even just an inch further when it threatens to take over. I slowly text back, “It is too late. I parked.”
It was quiet for a few minutes, the radio playing, “Somebody I Used to Know”. The girl part of the song slides in saying, “Now and then I think of all the times you screwed me over…” Oh how I could relate. Yet again this damn OCD is pulling me away. Isolating me. Then it comes, “Don’t let it win!”
I text back, “I just did.” By then I was on my way home. No one gets it. It is embarrassing to admit that something like this rules my head. The idea of the unknown and the what ifs. They don’t keep others cars at home. Somehow they manage pass them or hurdle over them. Me, I don’t. I can’t. They win.
What happens next is deep regret, foolish feelings, sadness for normalcy to just get into car and drive like a normal person. A trip that is 2 hours to not feel like the trip of a lifetime. It has been years since my journey took me any further than my old backyard. Others might not realize that. But I do. At 18 I was eager to travel and see the world. At 35, I am scared of looking out in my backyard sometimes.
How do I not let OCD win when it convinces me my phone will die, I will be lost and and alone on the side of road and no one will care. And what if? I know I will survive. But there are deeper issues in that moment that I cannot even begin to touch. Too deep for a public blog. And I wonder why when I know the logical answers, but in OCD logic doesn’t prevail. I have had it long enough to know that!
The joy of having my girls is they can help me shut it out by doing what kids do. But what happens when they are not there? Like they weren’t there Saturday. I have to face these demons and I have to find ways to live a normal life. So I can say, “I went there, I did this.” So that I don’t miss those important moments, those moments to hold my family close. To live in those moments when OCD doesn’t win. They do happen, sometimes I just get lost.