Spin, Pull

March 3, 2009
By Anonymous

I doubt people know when they meet me. I doubt people know when they get to know me. Perhaps
they may notice my slight flinch or grimace at the mention of suicide, commercials showing gray
people suffering from depression, or a careless, lighthearted comment of 'how OCD I am about
that.'However, my discomfort is barely noticeable. I have learned to cover it up easily with a
casual laugh and smile. But behind the smile that most people characterize me by, there lies a past
of depression, mental disorders and a sad, frowning, blank-eyed face. Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder
(OCD) is defined as an anxiety disorder in which people have thoughts, feelings, ideas, obsessions,
or behaviors that make them feel driven to complete compulsions. I was diagnosed with this disorder
at age six, after a year of compulsions and complaints to my parents about how I needed to
straighten that fork, needed to touch the door handle twice before opening it. 'Spurred by a
traumatic event,'as my doctor said, my OCD was due to a temporary imbalance of chemicals in my
brain, which caused me to think that if I did not straighten something, correct someone's grammar
or do any other ridiculous thing I felt compelled to do, people could get hurt. However, my OCD was
manageable and quickly disappeared at such a young age. I lived a normal seven years, only slightly
cringing at crooked pictures or uneven numbers. It was in middle school, packed with 'traumatic
events,'that my OCD made a comeback. The stress of catty girls, a new school, and harder classes
made me crazy. My mind went out of control. I would come to school two hours early, telling my mom
that I had to work on homework. Once there, I would run to each hallway, stopping at every single
locker, panicked as I turned each locker dial and pulled. Spin, pull. Spin, pull. If I didn't, the
locker was not safe, nor its contents nor its owner. Spin, pull. Spin, pull. Garner had 600
students, 600 lockers. If I didn't finish, I would stay after school. My friends laughed at my
insistence in spinning and pulling their locker dial after they closed it, and I laughed as well,
knowing how foolish it really was. When they walked away, however, I would stay back a second. Spin,
pull. Only my best friends knew there was something wrong. Everyone else just called me a
perfectionist. The word is partly accurate, but not only was I an orderer (one type of OCD), but I
was also a repeater and a hoarder. No one noticed my tapping, my small routines, or my secret
stashing of every little trinket, paper, or wrapper. I made sure they didn't. I wasn't normal,
but I never stopped trying to convince everyone I was. Middle School only continued to get harder
for me. I had always tried to remain optimistic about my disorder, but the summer before 8th grade I
became uncharacteristically lethargic and pessimistic. Something clicked that sent me spiraling
downward, and soon after, I was diagnosed with clinical depression. At age 13, I had two mental
disorders, but not even my parents knew I was struggling with them. Publicly, I just kept smiling,
pretending everything was fine. At night, however, in the privacy of my room, there was no smiling.
I would grab every scissor, pocketknife and razor in my house and line them up on my desk. Suicide
became my new obsession. Day and night, I thought of ways I could harm myself, but I never could
bring myself to take action. Instead, I scratched. When I felt depressed or my compulsions were
unrelenting, I would scratch at my bare wrists, my thighs or my arms. Everyone assumed I must own a
sharp-clawed animal or climb trees all the time. I was good at deceiving those people, at deceiving
myself. However, my deception and avoidance could only last so long. One night, while at my church
youth group, I started scratching absentmindedly underneath the bracelet that usually covered my
scratches. Suddenly, my friend grabbed my hand away, and I looked up at him as he finally realized
where my scratches had come from. The disappointment, shock and fear that flooded his face hit me
like a punch in the stomach. I quickly pulled my hand away from him and stuffed my arms in my
hoodie, refusing to look at him for the rest of the night. I hadn't ever thought that anyone would
care if I hurt myself. Why should they? It was my business and if it satisfied me, then I would keep
doing it. Nevertheless, seeing his face that night made me realize how out of control I had gotten.
I stopped scratching. I put all scissors, knives and razors in a box, on a shelf I would never be
able to reach. I asked my best friends for help and I was fortunate enough to be immediately
surrounded by my own personal, determined support system. I could not scratch; I could not clean,
hoard, or straighten. They were there to stop me if I tried. Although it was the hardest thing
I've ever done, it was the happiest I'd ever been. I was surrounded by people who loved me
enough to help me without criticizing me for my problems. We made getting rid of my OCD a game. If I
reached for a locker dial after a friend closed the locker, he would slap my hand down and play a
game of blocking with me before I gave up. I didn't realize that I was moving away from my
compulsions, and it was the only way that I could move away from them. I was no longer deceiving
myself, which allowed me to gain back my mind, my sanity and my control. Although my movement away
from my OCD and depression consumed my life at school and my private life at home, it was still my
secret. I had stopped deceiving myself but I couldn't stop myself from keeping my struggle from my
family. I tried to explain my OCD to them once, but it was like trying to describe the nuances of a
piece of poetry to someone who had never read the poem. They had always believed that mental
disorders were made up by people to get out of responsibilities, never legitimate mental problems.
It was not possible for someone to feel hopelessly depressed, not possible for someone to feel
irrevocably compelled to complete a task. Not their daughter. Since they could not understand the
problems I was going through, nor could they attempt to comprehend like my friends had; they just
ignored it. Lacking support from my family made my struggle harder, but I had to learn to live with
my disorder, and their avoidance could not prevent me from doing so. My life was not simple after I
'conquered the monster,'as my friends said. I had relapses when stress piled up too high. I
freaked out at people for playing with glowsticks, for ending a sentence with a preposition, for not
arranging CDs alphabetically. Hardly any of them understood why I did, and explaining to a new set
of people each time was hardly enjoyable, but I was progressively learning to cope with my quirks. I
knew what would trigger a relapse, and I did my best to avoid those situations. No matter how much I
wanted to, I refused to allow myself to correct anyone on their grammar, and I stopped rearranging
every little line of pencils or stack of papers. However, I also realized that to remain sane I
would have to adhere to some basic rules I had always had. I always sort things alphabetically, I
refuse to let people draw or write in my books, and at the end of the day, when I get my books from
my locker and shut it, I spin the dial and pull.

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This article has 2 comments.

jhuff said...
on Aug. 4 2009 at 7:43 pm
Incredible piece. I could not stop reading it. Students and their families need to have so many more conversations about mental illnesses. This could be one of them for so many.

hoora13 said...
on Aug. 3 2009 at 8:11 pm
This is the best article i have ever read

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