Short Story #15

Content warnings: depression, therapy, OCD

Please keep in mind that this is a piece of fiction, and is meant to portray a characters experience with a mental health disorder/learning disability.



Dear Diary, 

I’m going to do my best to use this stream-of-consciousness style to replicate my brain as much as possible. You already know the struggle. 

Yet again, today’s morning routine took way too long–no shocker there. I was still early to work, but not as early as I usually am, which torpedoes the timeline I’ve gotten used to. If I’m late for that, then I get behind on double-cleaning the bar, and then everything is ruined, and all I want is to dry erase the past hour into thin air. 

I am constantly extremely tired, but I picture it becoming harder. Like, if I don’t do all my tasks, I foresee my life’s growth obstructed by this expanding snowball of responsibilities. A life full of counting to ten when I enter a room or leaving the room and needing to touch the faucets 10 times each to make sure it’s off, in lieu of spontaneous ice cream dates or weekend trips to the Hamptons. 

After I finished my shift, I decided not to cancel my 5:30 (for the fourth time, at least it’s an even number) with my therapist. Here’s how that went: 

Therapist: “What does it accomplish for you when you do these rituals?” 

Me: “For as long as I can remember, everything I absorb into my mind falls into some kind of list or chart or linear structure. The ABCs, the months of the year, the colors of the rainbow–all of that reads like a run-on sentence, and it’s still stored that same way today. And it needs to stay that way because that’s how I learned to know it, and it can’t…just not be that.”

Therapist: “Do you feel like you compartmentalize? 

Me: “To compartmentalize seems both necessary and awful. Organized chaos is controlled, but at least it’s mine, whereas boxing clutter or a topic into different parts when I don’t know how I feel about it stresses me the f*** out, dude.” 

Therapist: “I’m not sure if I follow. You and I both know the basis of your obsessive compulsive tendencies is your need for control; however, I see you being controlled by it. Doesn’t that make it contradictory?” 

Me: “I know the urge to do these rituals is like a security blanket for my sanity. Almost like…the universe is promising me: ‘if I do this s***, nothing can touch me.’ I won’t get into a car accident, my boyfriend won’t cheat on me, my life will go great, and I’ll live happily ever after!” 

Therapist: “What happens to you if you don’t follow the list?”

Me: “I’d just feel…like I deserve all the bad things happening in my life.” F***, now I’m crying. Every lie that I’ve told to my priest during confession means I go to hell. I didn’t clean my bathroom more than once this week, so I think back to college when my depression was at its peak, and my mom had to clean my room because I couldn’t get out of bed. My a** couldn’t clean up, which made her overexert herself and become sick. And now I’m scared every day that her cancer will come back cuz her health ain’t 100%.” 

Therapist: “That’s a lot of weight to carry into your daily life. We have to look at things from another perspective. In reality, deep down, you know it’s not true and that all those things you said aren’t actually things you can control. For instance, I strap you to that chair, and you don’t do your even number of steps to the car, your mother is more than likely fine and enjoying her day today. And still loving you as much as ever, despite the guilt you lug around.”

Me: “In the back of my head, I know there are forces in this world stronger than my ticks/rituals/counting, whatnot…but it doesn’t mean they don’t help, right?” 

Therapist: “Do you have ways to calm yourself?” 

Me: “I mean, I know how to neutralize myself out of it when it all gets to be too much. When I have The Golden Girls playing in the background on rotation or the RENT soundtrack blasting in my ears on repeat, the world quiets down a little.” 

Therapist: “That’s great. Obviously we have a ways to go, but finding skills to fight the urge to do these rituals can only get easier from here. Realign yourself with things that make you happy, whether they’re books, music, TV, and make it a goal to focus on them. If you’re up for it, maybe even get yourself an emotional support animal. A being that does nothing but love you and be the friend that you need to be for yourself is an excellent source of happiness.“ 

We talked for almost an hour after that about shedding negativity. I liked the sound of that, though: Be my own friend. My therapist has the patience of a saint, lemme tell you. Am I cured yet? Absolutely not. But she has a point…I should look at the things that I CAN control and do more things that DON’T give me heart palpitations. 

I should get myself that puppy, name it Foof. Anyway, thanks for listening. 

P.S. — One line from RENT kept sticking out at me. “And save from devastation our brain.” from ‘Santa Fe’…comforting. Save my brain from all the suckiness.

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