I blink twice. I think I blink my right eye slightly harder than my left, so I blink my left eye by itself, which results in a demented wink that leaves me feeling unbalanced. I nervously pop a stick of gum in my mouth and split it in half with my tongue. Now I can chew half the gum with the right side of my jaw and half with the left side.
“Miss,” the secretary announces, “Dr. Byers can see you now.”
I enter a small, gray room I have been in many times before. Stepping inside I am greeted by colorful posters with annoying fonts that assure me I am special. The gaudy art cannot distract from the fact that the room is completely gray. On a gray chair near a gray desk sits my portly therapist, with graying hair but surprisingly white shoes.
White is my favorite color because it reminds me of soap. Gray reminds me of dirt under my fingernails, or the fine layer of dust that accumulates on my windowsill. The doctor looks me up and down, searching for any indication of improvement. I blink hard. She shakes her head.
“Have you thought of a name for it yet?” she asks, skipping any cordial salutations.
My sixth grade year is when I was diagnosed with obsessive compulsive disorder. I had had it for a while but didn’t know it was a well-known disorder. Now that I have a diagnosis, Dr. Byers forces me to personify it with the name of my choice.
“Yeah. I named it Lauren,” I inform her, neglecting to mention that it’s the name of a girl at school who I strongly dislike for being twice as pretty and exponentially more popular than me.
Dr. Byers points to a chart behind her with cartoons expressing various moods, and asks me to select which one describes me best today. I pick the one that looks tired because I am sick and tired of all the posters. This one is red.
I hate the color red. It reminds me of sticking my hands under scorching water and scrubbing them because they never feel clean enough, or purposely biting the left side of my lip to make it bleed because I accidentally bit the right side. This is the daily logic of my OCD. Crying while washing my hands for the eighth time is a regular part of my nightly routine.
The bottom right corner of the red poster is not taped down. This distracts me while I answer more boring questions about my mental state, but it doesn’t bother me. I don’t have that kind of OCD. I’m only concerned with things involving my body. I have checking and mental-contamination OCD. I wash my hands after touching anything dirty, but unless I remember every detail of washing them, I convince myself I didn’t do it, even if I know I did, and I force myself to do it again. But having OCD has its perks! Just kidding, unless you consider lying awake trying to resist the urge to brush your teeth for the third time that night a perk.
“What are you so afraid of?” my therapist asks. She asks this question every session, but I never know the answer.
“When I was a kid my mom let me watch a bunch of medical shows,” I start, “and I was always really scared of being strapped to a hospital bed all sick and stuff.” I don’t believe my answer either.
Every time Dr. Byers asks me what I’m afraid of, I get closer to admitting the real answer. I look around and feel pressure from the flashy laminated posters. In a burst of encouragement by the artwork that insists I tell the truth, I decide to finally do so.
“I guess I’m not really afraid of anything,” I say, and the truth is hard to admit. My life is being consumed by an obsession I don’t have a reason for. I shift in my seat because honesty is uncomfortable.
Dr. Byers doesn’t believe me, and prods me for a more meaningful answer, but I don’t have one. The rest of our session, she doesn’t hear what she feels she needs to, but I have said what I needed to say. We hasten our good-byes because the session has run longer than usual.
As I throw my backpack into my mom’s car and hurry to get out of the cold, it clicks for me that I give OCD so much power that I forget to question it. I put on my seat belt as we pull out of the parking lot. I shift the half piece of gum, now flavorless, from the right side of my mouth to the left, joining it with the other half, and chew defiantly on one side of my mouth. I look into the side mirror and wink at my reflection with my right eye.
As we get on the highway and head home, I make plans for how I’m finally going to conquer my fear of nothing. It’s time to unfriend Lauren.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.