My life looks very different, it’s not how anyone would imagine the life of a twenty-something year old would look. Most of my time is spent inside, sitting in one spot. I don’t go to the mall with friends, I don’t go out to the movies, friends don’t come over, I don’t even go to work anymore. I’m not staying home because I don’t like going out, or because I’m lazy, or because I’m a loner. I miss all of those things that I used to do. But even when I finally get myself out of the house to do those things, I don’t enjoy them anymore. I’m terrified. Every time I go out, every time someone else comes into my home, it feels as if I am bargaining a piece of my future away. I can go to the mall, but if I do there is a chance that this will be the end; something will happen to destroy my future, take away the last remnants of happiness that I hold on to. A friend can come over, but only at the risk of losing my future. Every time that I want to break my daily routine, my mind is weighing the risks against a few moments of fun. Is an hour at the coffee shop with a friend worth the risk of possibly losing everything? Do I deserve to make such a huge decision? Because in my mind, I am not only bargaining my future happiness for a few moments of fun, but I am also bargaining his, and yours, and theirs. One misstep, and I could tear this world apart; I could lose everything again. So who am I to decide that a few moments of fun are worth the risk, when if I just stay home, everyone stays safe.
Because my brain processes fear differently now, when someone asks me if they can come over, they are not simply asking me for my time, or asking me if I would like to see them, they are asking me to risk my life. That is the threat level that I constantly feel in my mind, that is the amount of fear that I feel when someone stops by the house, or when I’m out trying to have a good time. I feel that I am in life-threatening danger. I don’t sit calmly and have a nice chat with my friends in the living room, even if that’s the way that it appears. What they can’t see is that my eyes are tracking everything that their hands and feet touch, making sure that I can fix everything once they leave. What they can’t see is that I’m only half listening to what they say as the other half of my mind is screaming, asking me how I could have made such a reckless decision, to risk mine and their lives by having them over. What they can’t see is the amount of crippling distress I feel in the moments before I open that door, making sure that I am not putting their lives in danger. What they can’t see are the tears, and the paralyzing fear that washes over me once I’ve finally shut the door behind them, as I try to pick up the pieces of my shattered life. As I try to painstakingly backtrack and clean and make my home feel safe again from this invisible danger that never even stepped into my home. And because it’s invisible, because it’s unpredictable even to me, the effects of that change in routine keep popping up unexpectedly. The aftermath of a few hours of fun can last days, like a ripple effect of fear.
That’s the deal I have to make. Have fun, be “free” for a few hours, but bargain away a piece of my future, risk everything. That’s the deal, that’s the fear.
This is how OCD maintains power and control over you. It finds your greatest fear, and uses it as a bargaining tool against you. By doing so it makes you feel as if it is your choice, it is within your power to risk the futures of those around you. I want to do something as simple and harmless as go out to dinner with my boyfriend, and OCD says “Okay, I will allow you to do that, but if you do, you have to know that you are deciding to risk everything. You are bargaining his future.” Convincing me that by making the choice to go out, I am saying that I value an hour of fun more than his life. By bargaining in such a way, OCD convinces me that I alone have the power to take away his happiness, to destroy our future.
These are the things my mind is weighing with every simple decision I make. Could this be the end? Could this decision be the one that ends everything? That’s the risk my mind takes with every step. That’s the deal.