The following piece was selected as one of the winners of this year’s Refuat Hanefesh Creative Expression Contest. Age group: High School. It has been lightly edited.
I look just like you.
But I am living in a different world than you. I live in the world of OCD.
You sit next to me at the nail salon. You close your eyes and relax as you enjoy getting your nails done. I squeeze my eyes shut and try to control my breathing. I can’t handle the place where the polish doesn’t quite cover my nail. The pinkie that is not smooth enough. My cuticle that isn’t cut exactly like the others. They make my heart squeeze itself. They make me feel like I’m choking. My chest hurts and I need to throw up. I shake and want to run out of there. But I try to breathe and pretend to be normal. You look over and smile. I look just like you.
You sit in class taking notes on the lesson. I also take notes. But I need to go back over each word and rewrite it. Because it makes me nauseous when the letter isn’t complete. When one letter is bigger than the next. I don’t like how that “k” came out. I redo it. And redo it again. And rewrite each letter. I try to keep up with the lesson, but I’m busy battling my OCD. It’s hard to listen to the teacher and fight myself at the same time. My hands shake and my heart flips and flops and I need to throw up. I want to die right now. You look over to copy a line of notes that you missed- mine look just like yours.
You appreciate organization, don’t like messes. You like to clean up our dorm room. But you don’t know how I kill myself over our room. Since I can’t clean up for six girls, the obsessions and compulsions I’m suppressing overtake me in my own things. To you, I look like any other neat girl. But only I know how much more than that it is.
I line up my jewelry, all in the right order, one ring not a centimeter out of place, my watch at the perfect angle, my necklace perfectly centered directly in the middle of my bracelet. It takes me a full five minutes each night to get it just write. Five minutes and a whole lot of agony, nausea, hands shaking, and horrible thoughts that I can’t seem to control. You sit on my bed and marvel over my organizational skills. I cringe. You don’t know the torture and anxiety that just went into taking off my jewelry for the night. The suicidal thoughts that plague my mind as I look around the room. But you don’t know that. To you, I look like any other neat girl – just like you.
And then you go and rattle off “OCD” like it’s some kind of slang term. “I’m so OCD”. “Yeah, I’m OCD about my makeup”. “She’s so OCD”. If only you would realize that OCD isn’t some sort of slangy expression. Nor is it an adjective. I am not OCD. I have OCD. If only you would respect that. It is a disease that plagues my mind, messes with the way I function, makes me want to kill myself. I did nothing to get it. I am working to fight it, working to overcome. Please watch how you throw those three letters around. They mean more to some people than you think.
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