Sometimes it’s easy. You’re getting through the day: no ruminating, no rituals, you’re in the moment, no worries or doubts and you are, genuinely, on top of the world. Sometimes it’s not so easy. Sometimes you get sucked in. Sometimes it catches you when you’re driving or chopping up vegetables or doing something that shouldn’t feel automatic but is and suddenly you’re washing your hands or signing a Cross or repeating “It’s not true, it’s not true, it’s not true” over and over and over again until your hands are raw and your arm is sore and your voice is hoarse and you can’t stop because if you stop, fuck man, if you stop, what the fuck’s going to happen, you don’t know but you sure as hell don’t want to find out. You do it until you realize you’re doing it and your therapist’s words appear in your mind like the they’re the First fucking Commandment, “Fight it”. But you’re not fighting it. Not really. The truth is, you’re fighting yourself. Your own survival instinct. If anything you’re accepting it. Leaning into it. Hugging the dragon, seeing it rear its ugly fucking head, closing your eyes and just letting the fire wash over you and burn you and burn you and burn you until you open your eyes and realize: there was no dragon, really.
Or, if you don’t know what CBT is yet, until the fear goes away, until you take your sword and cut that dragon’s fucking head off. Lo and behold though, what you don’t realize is that it’s a hydra and next time you fight it, it has two heads because your brains established that pathway, that habit, that…bullshit, really. Sorry about the fantasy metaphors.
They call it anxiety but it’s not. Not really. If anxiety is being in the same room as a tiger, then your trigger is the tiger coming at you, and swiping and snarling and you can’t believe it, that this is happening, that you let yourself get suckered in, get triggered, that you get triggered at all and it’s hard it’s so hard but it shouldn’t be, what’s it like for normal people what’s it like what’s it like what’s it like and you’re sorry you’re sorry that your mom and your dad had to put up with this and that you can’t be your best self for everyone all the time you wish you could but you can’t, you just can’t because sometimes it gets you, it gets you and you become this, this burden to everyone. This burden with burdens.
I never wonder why two-thirds of us experience an episode of major depression at least once.
I think the biggest disappointment of my life was set in a psychiatrist’s office, on a leather couch. I’ve never had that, like, bed thing, I feel like it would be pretty weird to lay down in one of those while you talk? What do you even talk to? The ceiling? Doesn’t sound very…connective? So I’m sitting on this couch with my Dad next to me and I’m looking at my psychiatrist and my first psychologist and I’m listening to them and grinning. This…thing in my head hasn’t gotten that bad yet to be honest. Is that because I used to do my compulsions, or is the reason it’s so bad now because I used to do them? That’s a question I struggle with a lot. I think we all do.
In any case, I’m looking at him and grinning and I ask, what do we do? Is it like a surgery thing or a medicine thing? And he replies, it’s a medicine thing. And I ask him, oh, how long do I have to be on it? And there’s a pause. And I’m still grinning like an idiot ‘cause we finally know what’s wrong, right, we’re in an age where when we know what’s wrong we fix it and bam, that’s it. It’s done. Science, bitch. And they look at me, and it’s not a look I’m used to. Can I even describe it? It’s like guilt. A guilty messenger. Not scared. Just…sad. Is it pity?
What? I ask them. It’s going to be a while, my Dad tells me.
How long? Long.
Forever? I don’t know.
I’m fourteen and I have an incurable disease of the mind. Worse things have happened in the constant shitfest that is planet Earth. But not to me. Not yet.
It’s like a crossed wire they tell me. What the fuck is a crossed wire? Just fucking, you know, uncross it. Anger, sadness and disappointment only pass through my heart like shades of their true selves. Because the truth is I know. I already know. When we first thought it was OCD, I looked it up, because of course I did. We live in an age where when we know what’s wrong with us we can find out at the click of a button. Science…bitch? I knew but, I mean, you don’t really believe it until someone in a white coat tells you, right? Who knows? Maybe they made some miracle drug yesterday that uncrosses the wire. Who the fuck knows. Turns out I learned something else that day. The Internet? Usually pretty up to date.
But fuck, I’ve lived with it for four years, knowingly. Who knows how long I lived with it before that? I’m still around. I went through my first major depressive episode, not too long ago. Maybe I’m still in it. But I’m still around. Because I find or realize something every day. Find or realize something about life that, for some reason, wants me to stay in the ring. A book. A movie. A song. A friend. A thought. Something that keeps me fighting. Today, it’s because I realized I’m stronger than my OCD. Smarter, too. At best, we’re evenly matched. After all, the only input it gets from the outside world comes through me.
Plus, I always fucking beat it. I beat it every time I don’t do a ritual. I beat it every time I have a good day. And I beat it every day I don’t take a knife and end myself. Fuck man, I’m on a 6,798-day win streak. Fuck you, OCD, I take it one day – one game – at a time. And every time that fear rises in me I know exactly what to do.
Lean into it. Hug it. Open your eyes.