Explaining My OCD to My Mother: A Three-Sided Conversation

Mom, you do not have OCD because you like clean sideboard.
You are neat and I congratulate you
but you do not have OCD until your head is filled with a montage of shattering plates,
bursting lightbulbs,
smashing vases,
every single time you carry a dish to the dinner table.

Mom, everyone has told you that I'm overreacting
or that it's not so bad to have a daughter who wants to keep things clean
but, Mom, that's not what I want.
I want to lock the door sixteen times
and pace for precisely forty-five minutes twice a day
I want to keep my routine of walking back and forth from the closet to the bathroom,
one article of clothing at a time,
until I can dress myself,
and God help us both if you disrupt that routine.

Mom, my OCD is a shapeshifter.
One day, it's a flea on the nose of a wolf,
the next day, it's the wolf.
Mom says it's okay to be afraid.
I'm not afraid. Maybe that's the problem.
Mom says, "I thought the problem was you don't like leaving doors unlocked."
Understatement of the century.
Because you, Mom, have not experienced fear until you see, vivid as a movie, your family being raped and beaten and murdered by a man who crept in through the unlocked door, then open your eyes to see that it hasn't happened

So I check the door sixteen times and then I check it again,
and then I check it another fifteen times because it has to be sixteen
I don't know why.
Maybe it's because I'm sixteen years old.
Maybe it's because fifteen is a bad number.
I was fifteen when I tried to kill myself over not pacing and leaving the door unlocked and it still didn't work
because I just woke up again
and I hadn't paced
and the door was still unlocked
and all I had was a headache and I was stuck wearing long sleeves for two months.

Mom says that "happy is a decision."
She read that somewhere.
But happy is as empty as I feel after forty-five minutes of pacing.
Happy is givng an empty bowl to a starving man.
I don't want happy.

And the world is trying to drag me into itself, Mom,
like it's our wedding night and we're in some kind of demented marriage bed.
But they don't want me to lock doors
and they don't want me to pace my floor
and they don't want me to go back and forth and back and forth and back and forth and back and forth and back and forth and back and forth and back and forth from the closet to the bathroom just to get dressed in the morning.

I've learned to turn my lonely into busy, Mom,
When I've done all my homework, I pace,
and when I've paced too much, I lock the doors
and if it's still not time to go to bed, I change clothes
because that will take me thirty minutes at least
and by then maybe I can crawl into bed and fall asleep quickly and escape to a world
where there are no locks and keys.

And that's why I don't want to get out of bed in the mornings, Mom,
because I'm not neat and I'm not afraid of germs like I'm supposed to be,
I just want the damn doors locked
but you're insistent we leave them open.

You tell me I need professional help, but can a therapist padlock my body
so I don't have to lock the doors?
Can a therapist glue me together
so I'm not afraid of shattering like a plate on its way to the table?
Can a therapist tell me where to go
so I don't have to walk back and forth?

Mom asks if I'm afraid of dying, if that's all this is,
but, Mom, that could not be further from the truth.
I am afraid to live in a world where plates can break and doors can unhinge and everybody screams,
but when a girl rips apart from the middle,
no one sees.

This poem is about: 
My family
Our world


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