Underneath the mask

Welcome to the new roaring 20’s, the decade where I imagined I would be out at festivals, around friends, family gatherings and in all making memories. The start of this decade for me has been roaring, and has given my memories, but ones that feel like a lion holding my down, roaring so loudly in my face that I forget how to breathe.

The misconception about Obsessive Compulsive Disorder can sometimes leave me feeling preposterous and as if I’m overreacting. My Obsessive Compulsive Disorder started off when I was a child, little things that nobody really picked up on and brushed away as just childhood habitats. Unfortunately, the case couldn’t have escalated more. My day to day life can feel swallowed by my OCD, I feel like that’s the only thing about me, it consumes so much time. Excessive hand washing, to the point where I scream out in pain but have to carry on as I know the intrusive thoughts will be worse. Not being satisfied unless I’ve cleaned my teeth in an order of three’s, bleaching my skin until it bleeds just so I can feel safe. Feel relaxed. The chemical burns have scared my body and having a drawer in my bedroom dedicated to bleach, anti-bacterial sprays and wipes like a shrine to them. Not being able to even touch my bed until I have bleached every surface in my room, bleached myself then washed my hands 87 times. Am I saying bleach too much? That’s how my head feels, the thing constantly on my mind like a love affair.

We all know what we’re meant to do in this global pandemic, wash your hands, stay indoors, wear gloves, clean everything. It’s constantly on the TV, on social media, on news channels, magazines, newspapers and any other place you could imagine, the government constantly drilling into us; wash your hands, wash your hands, wash your hands. You could say I was built for this pandemic, always washing and bleaching things anyway. But after never being able to escape the instruction, my OCD took over and became stronger than I even thought possible. The monster I’ve been learning to fight, suddenly multiplying with a vengeance. Everybody around me was panic buying soap, and I went to get my multiple bottles of soap like I normally would, it faced me… Gone. The bare minimum left. I grabbed what I could, 4, and was stopped by a middle-age woman shouting at me, for being selfish, for stock piling, that I didn’t need that many. I didn’t need that many, she was right, I needed more.

Suddenly my OCD didn’t feel valid. The sleepless nights turned into sleepless weeks, torturing myself that I’d exaggerated things in my head, there was no OCD at all and everyone did the same things I did. Everybody had these thoughts. New compulsions started arising, I became restless until I turned the light switches on and off three times, cleaning the door handles several times a day and even then not being able to touch them with my bare hands. Entering my bedroom, having to open and close the door three times, again not using my hands. Elbows are more usual than we think. The thoughts got darker, I tried to stop doing these new orders, they’d never affected me before and like a tsunami they were taking over my whole body. One night, I didn’t do them. I got into bed. I could feel my heart beating as if it was ready to burst through my chest, scratching at my hands and knowing they were bleeding. I couldn’t take it. It made me throw up. When I do manage to get back to bed and, if I’m lucky, fall asleep, the night terrors take that away from me. The thoughts and the nightmares include horrific things, convincing me people I love will leave, either through choice or illness or an attack. Telling me that I should never leave the house, sexual assault is on the rise, it’ll happen to me and it’ll be my fault because I didn’t want to bleach my legs for one night. What if I ran out of soap? Someone I know will die and it’ll be my fault? I’ll get ill, right?

Unfortunately, for now at least, I need to accept that this is my life. I need to accept that these new compulsions are here whether I like it or not, and that I have no reason to be embarrassed of them or to try and stop them right now when the world around me is so full of the unknown, I keep seeing everybody talking about how we need to use this time to be productive, take up a new skill. No. Just getting out of bed and having a cup of tea is enough, battling with your head every second is hard enough without feeling remorse because you’re “not using this time effectively”. Taking a breath is using time effectively. That being said, I’m trying to make sure this quarantine isn’t completely doom and gloom. When times feel to heavy, blasting music so you can sing as loud as possible, screaming as loud as you can until you’re breathless from that and the dancing, catching your breath back and smiling, it’s a sign that you’re still living. Putting some trashy reality TV show on or your favourite series so you can laugh. I know when everybody speaks about mental health they say having someone to talk to is so important, and I never used to believe them, until a couple of months ago. I’m lucky to have the most supportive friends, one of which after meeting me decided to read up on OCD to try and help me feel more comfortable and so she could understand when I was struggling. My parents and grandmother are also incredible, not pressuring me into trying harder at things that I can’t face, not complaining

about the excessive amounts of clean products and soap we go through, helping to me laugh about my OCD; because sometimes if you don’t laugh, you’ll cry and might never stop. I’m struggling to see the light at the end of the tunnel, I find myself lusting over my old compulsions and routines as they felt so much easier, so much lighter. And even though the world feels like its ending, there will be better days... and I’ll be so proud that I continued recovering to enjoy the days that are waiting.


By Hannah Possart