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I can open doors with my feet.
I developed this ability at the tender age of four after I was diagnosed with severe obsessive compulsive disorder. Since my diagnosis, my life has been a series of fluctuating dosage levels, revolving door compulsions, and mad dashes for the bathroom sink.
OCD takes many different forms, but few of them are what you see on Monk. Sure, many of us obsessive-compulsives have had the urge to take a bath in germicide or organize our wardrobe by color at one point or another, but obsessions can be about anything at all. Despite what the media may lead you to believe, OCD is not simply about cleanliness and organization. Simple routines like brushing one’s hair can become a two hour process. But over the past few years, I have realized that my disorder doesn'’t need to be an obstacle in my path to success.
That’s not to say that it hasn’t been a rough ride. After my initial diagnosis, I was prescribed medication and had few symptoms throughout elementary school. Occasionally, I would relapse, and then I would start flicking light switches on and off and on and off and on and off and on and off at a seizure-inducing pace. But eventually, the lights would stay off, and I’d walk away.
Then came middle school.
I don’t think anyone enjoys middle school. Most people have horror stories to tell about the time they were hit up for their lunch money or given a swirly in the toilet or some other such misery. But I can say with a certain amount of confidence that my middle school experience was probably worse than most.
I entered sixth grade at the age of ten, just as puberty set in at full force, changing my body chemistry in a way that caused my medication to stop working entirely. This was unfortunate, as middle school kids tolerate weirdness about as well as Glenn Beck “tolerates” Obama. I was given a number of nasty nicknames and I quickly carved out a comfy little niche for myself at the low end of the popularity scale. At the high end was Heaven (no, really, that was her name), a girl with white-blond hair and an orange, spray-on tan. At the opposite end was me, the girl who would, on occasion, make weird noises at the back of her throat and shake her head like a wet dog.
High school has been a vast improvement. My peers at Carver Center for Arts and Technology are understanding and supportive. My dosage levels are stable. I no longer possess some of the more noticeable tics (such as the “wet dog shake”), though I have since gained a particularly consistent tic that involves typing certain words multiple multiple multiple multiple multiple multiple multiple times. That’s the thing about OCD. It’s always there. Whenever you get rid of one obsession, a shiny new one takes its place. It’s like Netflix, except it’s not as cool.
In the summer before my senior year, I resolved to step outside my narrow comfort zone, and so I attended a Japanese language immersion camp in rural Minnesota for two weeks. During that time, I shared a bathroom with sixty other girls, took five-minute showers, slept in a bug infested cabin, and managed not to have a total OCD meltdown. From this experience, I realized that my OCD can’t dictate what I am capable of doing. I proved to myself that I’m perfectly able to have new experiences that will push me beyond my boundaries – I now feel confident that I can succeed in the new and unfamiliar environment of college.
These days, I’ve been opening doors with the appropriate appendage.