“OCD says”

It’s like a children’s game of “Simon says” except there’s no prize at the end, and it’s more like torture than fun.
This piece is designed to be read out loud, and quickly, and with a tone of withering desperation like you’re trying to cajole a toddler out of a tantrum, or into an entirely (inappropriate) latex romper suit. Enjoy.
TW: OCD compulsions and rituals.

OCD says put your leggings on like this. NO. No. For god’s sake, not like that. You were thinking something bad just then. You’ll have to do it again. Take them off. Put them back on again. But this time DON’T think of “the bad things”. Oh, the bad things? Would you like an example? YOU BECOMING GRAVELY ILL, YOUR FAMILY DYING HORRIFICALLY, BEING SICK, CATCHING RABIES, NEVER FINDING LOVE AGAIN, NEVER FINDING EMPLOYMENT AGAIN. I said DON’T think of them. For god’s sake. How hard is it? Take them off again. Put them back on again but this time, and really try this time, don’t think of the bad things. Okay one leg in well done, la la la la la think of the happy things. Next leg in. Oh shit your leg has got stuck. Take them off again and start again. How many times is that now? Four? We can’t finish on four. Best make it up to seven. That’s a safe number. Come on, off again on again off again on again. Happy thoughts, no bad thoughts remember? Almost there. Hold your breath. Okay done. Wait, but did you definitely only have good thoughts whilst you were putting them on? You weren’t metathinking of bad thoughts; you weren’t thinking about thinking about bad thoughts? Are you sure? Hmmm okay that was passable. But in case something does go wrong later in the day, we’ll know what to blame it on. Your shoddy incapability to get dressed EXACTLY AS I TELL YOU TO.

OCD says wash your hands. NO. No. Not with just warm water. Do you think that’s good enough? Think of all the germs you’ve just encouraged with that lovely warm water. It’s got to be hotter. Hotter. Turn the tap all the way. Is it steaming? Then it’s hot enough. I know, I know, it’s painfully hot. But I say so. So, continue please without complaining. Oh, you’re just using soap? Oh. Well. Do you really think that’s strong enough? Just soap? Find some detergent. Spray your hands with it. Spray your hands with it then run them under the hot water. Repeat. How many times? Seven. Obviously (you fucking idiot). How do you know that you’re really getting rid of all the germs though? Should we scrub them properly? I don’t know why I am asking you, you have no autonomy in this. Find a green scourer from the kitchen. NO. A brand new, clean one. Thank you. Back to the bathroom now. Spray, scrub, hot water. Spray, scrub, hot water. How will you know when you’ve really got the germs off? WHEN YOUR SKIN COMES OFF, OF COURSE. So, if you just keep scrubbing until the skin on your hands looks red raw. That’s it. Wait…hang on. Is hands just enough? What if there are germs on your wrists and forearms too? Better scrub those too. Go on then. Harder. HARDER. Do not stop until your skin feels like it’s been pan-seared. Done? HANG ON. Hang on. Under the nails too. Scrub there. Spray, scrub, hot water. Spray, scrub, hot water. Seven times, of course. Okay okay fine, run your hands under cold water for a bit to “make yourself feel better”. But just know, that if you get sick in the next few days, we’ll know exactly why, okay?

OCD says put your phone down like this. Your pinky finger on your left hand must be the last part of your body to touch it. But then your pinky finger on your left hand must be immediately touched by the side of your index finger on your right hand (the safest of the bad hand). And then your left pinky must by the first part of any hand to touch any surface after that. Go for the left leg. Just to be sure. Your right hand CANNOT, I repeat CANNOT, touch anything else other than what has already been specified. Why? BECAUSE THE RIGHT HAND SIDE IS DANGEROUS. We’ve been over this. BAD things will happen if your right hand touches things it shouldn’t. You remember the list of bad things, do we really need to go over them agai…OKAY HERE GOES – YOUR HOUSE WILL GO UP IN FLAMES, YOUR FRIENDS WILL DESERT YOU, YOU WILL DIE ALONE, YOU WILL NEVER FIND PEACE OR HAPPINESS AGAIN. Got the jist? Okay. So are you ready to put your phone down correctly this time? Remember, we’ve done this twice already. If you get it right third time, then excellent. If not, we’ll have to go all the way to seven again. Okay, hold your breath. Hang on! Remember not to think of the bad thoughts, or bad words, at the same time? Maybe sing loudly in your head a happy song that cannot in any way be construed to be upsetting or dangerous. A personal favourite of mine is Bob Marley’s “Everything’s Gonna Be Alright”, but it’s up to you. If you sing it loud enough in your head it will block out the bad thoughts. But remember, you can’t be aware that you’re singing this in your head to get rid of the bad thoughts, because that way, you’re still thinking in some way about the bad thoughts. Okay, are we all clear on the rules now? Deep breath, let’s go…

If you found that exhausting to read, welcome to OCD 🙂

hospital flowers

This poem was born out of my complete frustration with the way mental health issues are dealt with, by friends, family and professionals. Bizarrely, or maybe not, i really enjoyed coming out of hospital after my appendix burst – i received cards and well-wishes, and i was cared for and looked after. I felt like it was making up for the previous 7 years of my life where i had no sympathy at all for my severe issues with mental illness. It might be twisted, but it makes sense to me.

break my leg and bring me flowers
let me be hit by a train
or car
not for the want of death
just pain
or diagnosed with some strange malady
or whatever will provoke your sympathy

take me to hospital and bring me cards
let there be
wounds on my body
casts on my limbs
hurt in my eyes
and pain when i breathe
and you will know my suffering when you see my scars

where is the proof of my sickness?
no marks are left by ocd
depression causes no limp
anxiety no wounds that you may see
or may grace with all your empathy

ocd leaves no marks unless
you class the skin worn
from my hands and wrists
from scrubbing with green scourers
and anti-septics

or the crack in my jaw
from grinding my teeth 49 repetitions at a time

depression doesn’t give me a limp
other than that when i attempt to
pull my unmade self from unmade sheets
to stagger downstairs
to try to eat
and it certainly leaves no marks
other than those you’ll find on my legs
and my arms

anxiety causes no open wounds
unless you see me shaking
in a crowded room
eyes frantic
hands clammy
and searching for you

“you’re faking it”
“there’s nothing wrong with you”
“snap out of it”
would you say the same had i’d a
bump on my head?

are the only sicknesses worth your sympathy those that leave scars?
if so,
then break my legs
take me to hospital
bring me hospital flowers and hospital cards.

interlude / interruption

i watch teen romance
because i mourn the loss of an adolescence
i didn’t have
whilst i was busying trying to prove something
to somebody
i didn’t need
somebody who wasn’t good enough for me
even before i saw the contents of his laptop
is it possible to miss something you never had?
an idea of what might’ve been, but never quite was?
i miss awkwardly catching someone’s hand
and misplaced, mistimed kisses
hearts beating fast
first touches
drinking too much and making poor decisions
easy, naive heartache
clean breaks
with soft landings
not blood boiling, fists balled, skin crawling, retching fear.

there was a brief period at sixteen
an interlude
from mental illness
from the bird-cage where i was
hostage to compulsion
for too long

an interlude
where
for the blink of an eye
i was okay
i laughed, drank, flirted, played the sixteen year old
and as i climbed atop my pedestal
finally taking centre stage for the young protagonist i’d dreamt of whilst my brain had been wrapped in wires,
i fell
into your arms
and into the fire.

for a while i thought you’d saved me
oh knight in shining converse
but you’d done nothing more
than interrupt me
from saving myself

a 7 year interlude
of something i never deserved.