For pretty much my entire adult life, I remember living in fear. And my greatest, sharpest, most all encompassing fear was of myself. I was afraid of touching the world. Both literally, figuratively, and any and all ways in between.
It started out that I was afraid of making a mistake. That one was simple enough. I could protect the world from that. I was vigilant. Hyper vigilant. And I overthought and underacted and berated myself mercilessly for any perceived misstep I could find.
Then it grew. And I became afraid of my words. I was afraid of my words touching the world and damaging it in ways unfathomable. I wasn’t really worried about my current words because I had silenced those in the name of protecting the innocents. So I started worrying about past words. I started to think of everything I had ever said to anyone that could end up causing harm.
Then, when I had cleansed my conscience of any of those errors, I decided that there must be more. And so I started making up things that I maybe possibly could have said that could maybe possibly have hurt someone. And then I atoned for those.
And I started feeling I was going mad.
Then it moved on to germs. That’s where OCD gets many of us. But I never fully fell into the germ stereotype of OCD. I was terrified of touching people, or having anyone touch me, or having anyone touch anything of mine. I still get a bit antsy at times when people enter my house. But I wasn’t worried about getting contaminated. I was worried about contaminating the world. So while many people with OCD will sit around protecting themselves from perceived germs, I would spend hours researching symptoms in an attempt to protect anyone around me from any affliction I could have possibly contracted.
And then, never content, the OCD moved on, and I started to be afraid of my thoughts. Intrusive thoughts suck. It’s almost impossible to describe how terrifying it is to be terrified of your own thoughts, some of which you can control but many of which you can’t. Afraid that my thoughts would get out there into the world and tarnish it and ruin it and destroy it.
And it’s hard to figure out where to go from there because once you are afraid of your thoughts, the OCD pretty much has you cornered. You can get lost in it (which I did for quite some time,) or you can fight back.
I thank God every day that I was able to fight back and I was able to find adequate help in that fight. That I had people on my side. That I didn’t do it alone.
I would like to say that all of this is a thing of the past, but my weekly therapist bills and the prescription bottle in my cabinet will tell you that this is very much not the case.
But I am happy to say that it’s under control. It’s manageable. It very rarely any more consumes me.
But sometimes a worry will make its way in past my defenses. And it will try to nestle. And I’m slowly starting to see that once one nestles, it’s never alone. There are always more with it. And it’s really scary to know how quickly one little thought can open the flood gates and all of these years of anxieties and fears will come pouring out and threaten to consume me.
But I’m stronger now. I understand my enemy better. And I understand myself better.
Yes, in many ways I am still afraid to touch the world. But the small little part of me that is hope holds strong. It may be weak, but it’s defiant and persistent, and it says that I will not be silenced.
And my writing is that proof. It’s proof to myself that I can go out into the world and I can touch the world. I can allow myself to be seen and known and the world won’t crumble around me.
That’s what writing is most to me. It’s proof that I can exist.