I marched my little feet down the road, ready to catch the bus to school. I was five years old, probably dressed in one of those terrible 90′s outfits my mom seemed to love so much, probably angry because I’d had to stop reading whatever book my nose was currently stuck in. I don’t remember a lot about being five, but I do remember that day. The beginning of the war in my brain.
There was a broken beer bottle lying on the ground, shards of glass decorating the pavement, light reflecting from the warm brown bits that were strewn through the neighbors’ grass. It was mesmerizing. I couldn’t stop staring, and I didn’t know why.
And then suddenly, I knew. The terror I would come to know so well began to bubble in my stomach, closing my throat and stopping my breath in its tracks. It felt like my esophagus had been slashed in half. I pressed my hand to my chest in disbelief, the image of the shattered glass dancing across my vision. Tears blurred the already unfocused picture. This was it. I was going to pick up one of those jagged-edged shards, and I was going to swallow it. And I was going to die.
It sounds so silly, looking back on it now. Clearly, I was aware that swallowing broken glass was a dangerous thing to do. I knew exactly what would happen if I did, and those consequences were unbelievably undesirable. But I was so sure that I was going to do it. Video clips of that very incident played loudly in my head, over and over, mocking my fear with their vivid and terrifying pictures.
My parents didn’t understand. Neither did my friends. It would be fifteen years before a psychologist would actually tell me what it was, why I was plagued with such terrifying thoughts and visions. Years of having to close my eyes in cars because I was so afraid I would open the door and launch myself onto the highway. Years of being too scared to pick up a knife because I was certain I would purposely slice open my own arm. Years of the unspeakable things I was terrified I would do to the people I loved.
Sometimes, OCD does have to do with washing your hands a lot or keeping things perfectly organized. Those are manifestations of the disorder, and they are valid and serious. But there are so many dark thoughts and emotions that the common vernacular seems to gloss over, so much time spent hating yourself for the peace your brain will never let you have. Every day is a battle, and the hardest part is that you have to wake up and fight yourself.