The day I realized something was wrong with me was when I had a 2 hour breakdown over the fact that someone touched my water bottle because it wasn’t where I had kept it earlier, because the thought of someone touching or drinking from my water bottle alone was enough to send me into a full-blown panic attack.

For people who do not get what I am referring to, I am talking about Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) A cocktail of consistent discomfort coupled with a brain that never really seems to quiet down because it is a never ending party up there because the intrusive thoughts just don’t really know how to quit.

The concept of neutrality does not exist when it comes to OCD because your obsessions drive you to do things that you know are not normal, and you cannot help but stick to them because these ‘rituals’ are important. These rituals are adhered to because of your irrational beliefs. In my case, it was someone dying or just the fear of being ‘filthy.’

This means not using the same plates or utensils as everyone else. It means wiping everything before you dare lay a finger on it because it is as though you can physically feel the contaminants travelling up from your fingers towards your body and just thinking and typing about this bit alone has me scratching at my hands.

It always starts out small, you don’t step on cracks, you walk on tip-toes when bare-footed and then it begins to escalate. Wearing gloves when handling dishes, using your shirt to open door knobs and car doors, not wanting to eat in restaurants and ultimately (in my case), not wanting to eat at all because everything just seems so filthy and you cannot trust anything to be truly ‘clean.’

You see obsessive compulsive disorder is more than just wanting to rearrange something so that it looks symmetrical, or wanting to keep your room clean or organized;

Obsessive compulsive disorder is telling yourself that if you do not clean your plate or someone else’s plate before handing it to them, they will die.

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is telling yourself that if you have too much fun, something will go wrong at your house.  

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is telling yourself that if someone touches you (including your own mother), you are covered in filth and that you need to wash the ‘affected’ area till you can feel your skin burning.

However, that is not what breaks you. What breaks you is watching the people around you distance themselves from you because your ‘rituals’ are getting out of hand and you cannot do anything about it. What breaks you is the embarrassment. You want to cry while explaining to your friend that no, they cannot use your bathroom, or, taking the fork they offer you and then asking them to wash it again while you watch. OCD is watching your mother ask what went wrong and all the while, you have no answers to give. OCD is being called a freak or an abnormal and you want to tell them otherwise but in the end, you know they are not wrong so you just come to accept it.

I am not going to sugarcoat, use any jargon or beautiful metaphors here, this is me using a platform to talk about what went on in my head for the longest time. It took 8 months’ worth of sessions coupled with exposure and eidetic therapy and the only reason I am talking about this today is because I was fortunate enough to be a ‘mild case.’ Fortunate enough to seek therapy and fortunate enough to have the support I needed.

There are still days where I relapse and this struggle will always be there, but I am my mother’s daughter after all, forever stubborn and unyielding. So, come, shake hands with me the next time you see me around the university, and this time, I promise I will return it.

 

-Aasma Adnan.

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