It all started six years ago. A younger, happier version of me skipped through the school hall to her class, lunchbox in hand and backpack slung over her shoulders. For a while, I had felt the need to do everything evenly. If I moved my left hand, I had to move my right. If I moved my index finger three times, I had to do the same on the other hand, the exact same way.
A boy, let’s call him David, had greeted me one morning when I was walking through the hall. I didn’t speak to him much, but he was my friend’s ‘boyfriend’, you know how 6-7-year-olds are obsessed with growing up fast. He said something along the lines of “Hey Holly, do you have this thing where if you do something with this hand, you have to do it with the other hand too?” I had agreed, happy to find someone the same. To this day, I still don’t know if David grew up with OCD too.
It carried on for a while, the dreaded hand ritual. It soon involved everything- legs, toes, eyes…
Let’s fast-forward a few years, to when I was about eleven. Until then, everything had calmed down a little, and I had marked myself as a perfectionist on many occasions. Everything had to be perfect, but no consequences were introduced to me by my own brain. Things gradually got slightly more noticeable, everything I did was neat and all my coloring had to be inside the lines. I was, and still am, a very creative person, infatuated by art and design. I can’t remember details exactly, but I know there was a huge pause that seemed to occur in my head- I didn’t have any symptoms for a while- when I was suddenly hit with a crippling phobia of germs. I had to wash my hands before every meal. I would live in dread of illness. If someone in my class was ill, I’d hide from them. Literally. I remember a time when I was around 5 and I was in the lunch hall, and my friend said she felt sick. I started crying out of distress because I wasn’t allowed to move away from her.
Anyway, eleven. My fear wasn’t just sensibility anymore, it was an obsession. I wouldn’t eat any food if anyone had touched it. I wouldn’t share a packet of crisps with anyone. I was scared that people were trying to poison me if they offered me food.
This went on for a year, and then the rituals started.
First, it was just feeling satisfied when everything was neat. I was always a neat type of person. I would get annoyed with the asymmetrical nature of my hair, which is why I now have boy-short hair. Soon, it turned into violent panic attacks when someone was ill. If someone was sick and went home, I’d stay away from their friends. I’d constantly eat healthily, tricking myself into thinking that it would stop me from getting ill.
I was wary of everyone. Nothing went unseen by me. If someone touched the floor and then tried to touch me, I’d be close to tears.
Then, we got a new rug at home. We still have it. I hate it with passion. Not because of the way it looks. It’s nice. It’s just NEVER STRAIGHT.
The rug. The bath mat. The bedsheets. The couch covers. Bags. Notebooks. Sketchbooks. Pencils. Books. Piles of paper. Everything had to be straight. Everything had to be perfect.
When I turned 13, things went downhill. And quickly.
Constantly getting into heated arguments with my parents when they try to stop me ritualising. Crying from frustration. Building on rituals without realizing it. Not wanting to get things out of my schoolbag because I’d have to ‘fix’ it. If something wasn’t perfect, I’d spend hours making it perfect. Fixing my skirt every time I sat down in school. Mumbling. Longingly, desperately staring at the light switches. I had routines for every minute of the day.
It was living Hell.
Here I am now, having seen a doctor almost five months ago but still not been referred to Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy. Things are hard, but I’ve promised myself I’ll get over it someday.
Thank you for reading.