Elevator to the Twenty-Fourth

Ding

The elevator stops with a pleasant chime. I look down at my feet; they’re in two little shoes with pink bows.

There’s a whole world behind the doors that pull apart. In fact, there are two. One is filled to the brim with the laughter of kids and their mischief. I’m a good girl, I have always been, so I’ll keep to myself. In the other world I see home, and that one is brimming with my screams, because there are bad thoughts inside my head, and I am only as evil as they are, no matter how gentle the distraction of my mother’s perfume is. It is quiet at home, and I feel loved and cared for. But I am broken, and I deserve the unnaturally sinister sneers of little girls, as they look my way and whisper and laugh, and laugh and laugh, until I can bear it no longer, and I crumble and fall apart, and open my eyes back in that same box.

I look down at my feet again. This time, they’re in sneakers. My shoes are a little worn and tattered, but I’m bigger, and more grounded. The chime leads me to a dark place lit by tiny yellow lights and a carousel. Not unpleasant, but oddly comforting. It looked like a carnival, but it’s behind an invisible barrier beyond the doors. I muster up my courage, and cross over, and it’s bustling and warm, and the air carries the scent of candied apples in it. I hear my friends in the carousel, so I join. I spin along, savoring the carelessness, and laugh along with my friends, and there’s a world out there, and a life to be lived, but I can’t be bothered. I’m enjoying my time enough to spoil me rotten. But then, a call pulls me out; that I can’t go on like this. It’s a too-pleasant dream, and awareness draws your dreams to their end. There are struggles to overcome, and strength to be gained, and a life to be lived.

So this time, I find my way back on my own two feet, in the tattered sneakers that have become more worn. The elevator chimes, and behind the doors is the ocean, the very dark depths of it. I don’t find it threatening because I am ignorant. So I pass through the invisible barrier at the doors, first with my fingertips, then my hands, then my whole body.

It is not terrible at first. I suppose that I am still a little skewed, maybe not quite right. But it won’t get so bad. So I let the water consume me, bit by bit, grab hold of my fragile mind, and crush me inside out. It is deep, and I am suffocating and there’s no air in my lungs, and my voice can’t push anything out. I can’t say it because I’m drowning.

A hand pulls me back into the box this time, and I’m soaking and shivering and worn. My feet are bare, because I didn’t think I would escape, but that gentle perfume I can recognize. The elevator leads me back to the ocean sometimes, but I stand and resist when it happens, because I’m not falling again.

At least, I’m trying to.

The chime takes me to an all-white wall, and puts me in black kitten-heels. I trace my palms on that wall and walk along its side. I find a gap; the wall is a maze.

In the white maze I stumble and fall, and get lost more times that I can count. Others find their ways out easily, I think, and I have to remind myself that it is not always how it appears. But I can’t help it, and it eats me up, that comparison, and that desperate feeling of falling behind. I’m losing, and only pretending that I’m not, and I am clueless about the way out, or what sits at the very end. I’m dreading the next fall, or the next loss, and sometimes it’s not too bad because it really isn’t a race.

But today my eyes stung and my tears filled them all the way up, then they overflowed and burned down my cheeks. I can’t find the strength to fight them, but I think I’ve found something else. I’ve found the stairs, and I’ll kick these shoes off and run up and stumble and fall. There’s a purpose to be found, and a life to be lived, and I will soon learn not to fear any of it.


 

It’s ya girl’s birthday, and I cried out of existential dread, but had to write a little something here to celebrate (?) or to actually remind you guys to wish me a happy one. I hope someone takes the time to express what they’ve interpreted from all of this šŸ™‚

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The world is ending, but I can save my family if I wash my hands another timeĀ 

I have been a sufferer of obsessive-compulsiveĀ disorder for years. So far, theĀ internet has done a Ā fairly good job explaining that OCD is a serious mental disorder, not a set of organized pencils nor a neat closet, so let us not get into that. In basic terms, a person with OCD suffers from reoccurring thoughts (obsessions) that lead to behaviors (compulsions) that are done and repeated in order to remove the obsessions or reduce their intensity. Both can take numerous forms, but this is my story.
It started at the beginning of 2011, during a rough time for my family. A wash or two of hands, obsessively setting things in place before doing anything that requires dedication and focus, and repeating every other thing a few times over didn’t sound like a massive problem. The fact that the other side of my family is subtly paranoid about seemingly meaningless things made it all somehow alright, expected, that a bit of me will beĀ off, not quite right, but only insignificantly so.

Let me first mention that I am Muslim, and Islam is a religion that values cleanliness. Before performing prayer, a simple act of washing is to be performed. But what if that simple task became never-ending hysteria of water wasting? It is completely against Islamic virtue to waste, be it water or not. I’ve always been aware of that, but back then it did not seem like an obsession that I was doubting that water had reached every nanometer of my hands. It was only me noticing things, maybe a little to intricately. It is all right to be a bit wasteful, I thought. I deserved the punishment of being wasteful since I had noticed things no one else did.

A few months later, being physically restrained from sinks became a necessity. Long had passed before I made anything clear by asking for help. During that period, the disorder advanced into a complex series of washing and washing again, counting, avoiding spots on the ground that I stepped on unwashed, fighting the urge to wash once more and then submittingĀ to it. Ā I was aware that it was irrational but still was ignorant, then, to the nature of the problem: that it is an illness.

But I still remember the exact moment that forced me to ask for help. The triggers, which are too dreadful that I am still unable to mention them, had started a few days before.

“I am tired.”

And I truly was, from something as simple as a two-minute act of ablutionĀ to take an hour five times a day, from never feeling stable, from spending hours upon hours putting things in place.

But my acting through the prior months was convincing, apparently, because the person who helped me had not even suspected that whatever was happening was happening.

During psychotherapy, it became clearer that I wasn’t cursed with a superhuman ability to notice. To me, it was liberating to know that something I’d struggled against while dismissing was a disorder; something that could be diagnosed and treated, something that happens to others as well.

Reading about the symptoms shocked me. I learned that the obsessions, excruciatingly violent and “taboo” thoughts had accompanied me (on-and-off) since I was young, perhaps six or seven years old, an entire ten years before the compulsions appeared. That the thoughts could not have been my responsibility, and that other people too frantically count on their cracking fingers to ignore the threats of their brains of divine punishment, paved the way to recovery. As for the religious aspect, I just kept in mind that religion is not meant to make life difficult and that divine punishment will not befall people for merely stepping on a particular, unclean tile.

Finally, the disorder still looms and lingers. I am now aware that my brain is playing tricks, as I occasionally was then. But now, I can defy all of my compulsions.

On a good day.