BY: EMILY ANTONELLI
It’s an itch you can’t scratch. You know the feeling? No matter what you do the uncomfortable biting always works its way back into your system. So you try to ignore it. You do anything to take your mind off of it. Your mind races. You feel like you’re drowning. You wonder if you’ll ever breath easy again. Sometimes you feel like banging your head against a wall, a desk, anything to numb the sensation. You bit your lip, hold your breath, stomp your foot. Your eyes begin to water. You find nothing satisfies the itch. So you scratch. You scratch and scratch until your skin is raw and scarped and bleeding. Still you find no relief. Does this seem a bit dramatic to you?
That is what OCD feels like. Like the worst itch you ever had. The kind that gets under your skin. Except it never goes away. Ritualistic OCD is a curse. It isn’t fun or cute or quirky, as some people believe. It’s a nightmare, and it’s embarrassing. The worst part about OCD is that you know nothing you do is justified. You know that what you are doing is not actually helping, not really. All the same you have to do it. No matter how stupid or embarrassing it is. No matter where you are or who you are with.
For example, don’t ask me why I have to say airplane every time I see an airplane, or sit in the same seat in the car, or why I wore the same hat every day for nearly eight years, no matter how disgusting or torn it got. Don’t ask me why I had to wear the same outfit every day in eighth grade, or why I have to say a chant before I go to bed every night. I don’t know why I have to do these things or how they became part of my rituals. They just did. I can’t help it. My brain tells me I have to do it. I have to do it or else something horrible is going to happen.
Do you really think I liked wearing that outfit every single day? Do you think I didn’t know people always made fun of me for it? I didn’t want to wear it, I had to. I don’t expect people without OCD to understand. There is no rational thinking behind it. I knew it was weird. My anxiety did not care. Thankfully that ritual faded away. Others, however, still plague my mind.
“Airplane. Airplane. Airplane.”
“Yes. It’s an airplane.”
“Yes I see it. It’s right there.”
“Don’t talk about it! Airplane. Airplane.”
“Why do you keep saying airplane?”
“Stop talking about it! Airplane.”
I have to keep saying it. Even as I type this I have to say it. Just thinking about an airplane triggers it. I say it over and over again until my brain is satisfied, until the anxiety is numbed.
All the while you know what you are doing is silly and you hate yourself for it. You think about how better your life would be if you did not have to do these bizarre rituals. It’s the anxiety’s fault.
Why can’t I just be normal? Why can’t I just let things go? Why can’t I just go to sleep at night without having to do the same steps over and over again until my brain is satisfied? I’m tired enough as it is! Going to sleep is a chore in itself because of this disorder. I can never relax. My brain is constantly on the look out of triggers.
I am drowning in anxiety and no matter how many times I repeat these rituals I will never catch my breath. There is nothing fun about OCD. That is why I get so angry when people throw the term around like its nothing. “I’m so OCD about this!” How can you be so casual about something that torments so many people? If only you knew how disgusting OCD makes you feel. You would never want to be associated with it again. I am disgusted by my OCD. I hate the anxiety that causes it, I hate the rituals I do because of it, and I hate myself for not being able to control it. And I hate how people treat me because of it. One minute they say they understand and the next they make fun of me for saying “airplane” over and over again.
“Why don’t you just stop saying it?” I don’t know why. Trust me, I’ve tried.
I’ve bit my tongue, covered by mouth, and pressed my lips together. In the end anxiety wins. It wins every time. It’s the itch. Better to scratch it now than to suffer for the rest of the day. Even if it never truly does go away.