As part of our series on mental health, “Neither pathologization nor romanticization,” people who struggle with their mental health are invited to share pieces of writing, whether in the form of prose, poems, or in between, and pieces of art and that come out of these experiences. You can read the introductory text and other pieces as they are added here.
They say thoughts and breathing happen naturally and automatically, but with my mental illness I learned to listen to every inch of my body, to monitor my thoughts, my breathing, and any sensation I get. If you get a panic attack, write down where you were, what happened, what were your thoughts? What do you think the trigger was? And how did you handle it? Map your triggers, reason with your thoughts, differentiate between thoughts and beliefs, find the patterns, was it your stomach or your mind? Fear or thoughts? If both, what triggered the other? Maybe I got obsessed with this therapy approach and took it too far, probably I took it too far, until I turned every process that should be natural, into mapping tables, every fear, every thought, every living sensation I get. I’m not human anymore, I’m tables and tables of reason and logic that I have to dissect and make sense of. There are your thoughts and there are OCD thoughts, they say, but which are mine and which are its? It’s a nervewracking realization. How long did I have it for? What is me and has always been me and what was the subtle creation of OCD before revealing itself with such intensity now? Who is who? And which is which?
Two and a half years have passed since my second diagnosis, I don’t remember much of the first year at least. It’s all very foggy. I do know though that I did my best, I committed to therapy, to traditional medicine and alternative ones, to exercise, meditation, reading, doing my cognitive exercises, changing diets, I did it all, and every time I mastered a tool I searched for another, not because the previous one didn’t work but because I wanted to be on top of my mental illness, I wanted to conquer it. Little did I know, there is no conquering, there is no winning and there is no end. There is me and it and we have to co-exist.
I have lost it. The thought rushes to my mind. I storm every room, looking for that thing. Knowing myself, I must have put it somewhere safe, I must have but fear takes over. I look into every cupboard, every drawer, every carton, every inch of every room, I look underneath the couches, in the fridge, I look everywhere that is logical and illogical. I call everyone close to me asking where I could have placed it, I miss appointments, dates, meetings, I roam the apartment completely covered in dirt, I wash my hands every two seconds, I find it, in the safest place possible. But I don’t calm down, fear is still there, I remember every little important thing I had, I have lost them all, I go looking for one thing after the other, and as I’m looking I find old pictures, gifts, letters, dead people’s papers, belongings, I find an entire history, of my own and of people who have left. I fear loosing it all, I sit in the middle of my now, upside down apartment, naked, covered in dirt, as I feared I would contaminate my clothes, crying, about my day that I stole from myself, about everything I have had to remember and about all the things I thought I had lost though they were always safe, and though I have found them all. Things that matters to no one, old footage on old tapes, of old days, not of any importance, that probably will never be used if at all seen even by me, tax papers, contracts, scripts and pieces of random papers that has the handwriting of a father that has left us, things of no importance to any one and others that are for just a few. Footage of a failed uprising, that forces me in the middle of random days, to stop everything I’m doing, and go through five years of it, looking for specific days fearing that I have lost everything I have documented on that very specific day, a day that is usually of no importance at all within the massiveness of such a long event. Many, many more important and trivial things that stops me from sleeping at night if I wasn’t sure they were safe. And at the end of it, I feel drained, and I think, there is no way I will be able to accomplish anything, if just like that, my days are taken away from me. I spend a few days afterwards, if not a week, thinking of all those things I kept on looking for and found, I think that I will definitely loose them again, the fear never leaves and my mind becomes foggy, and after the storm passes, a few weeks later, it happens again, “I’ve lost it,” and I start searching, I miss all my appointments, I lie in my apartment naked, covered in dirt crying, about all the things I could have lost though I know they must be safe. This is just a tiny fraction of what OCD is, it is not special, and it doesn’t make one an artist, it just sucks every inch of energy you’ve worked so hard to maintain, leaving you with only one pitiful desire: a hug with some assurance that everything will be ok.