Worst Case Scenario Kind of Girl
Around the time you realized something was very wrong you were still young enough to treat it like an unwanted houseguest. You’d just gotten old enough for that sort of self-realization—the kind that looks out of you and around you for the first time and says “oh”. The sensation is similar to knowing a monster has a fifty percent chance of being under your bed but you’re not about to take any of those chances in case that percentage doesn’t fall in your favor. OCD is the antithesis of risky business; it is what I imagine possession must feel like: the ritual sacrifice of crying yourself awake to the realization that there is something else in the room and no, it’s not just the russet shadow of the desk, the chair, the sharp, night’s edge of sleepy, dopey imagination. Or in this case, it’s your headspace instead of your room: it’s shared and not entirely your own, but there—see, still—there are the familiar paths you’re accustomed to, have schlepped by for so many years, will always take, because while they are not friendly, they’re known.
You’re a worst-case scenario kind of girl. This is the game you play with yourself. It goes by another name, too: masochism, made by the neurons forging the wrong pathways in your brain; a simple mistake of chemistry, with the red, guilty hands of genetics fingerprinting all over it. But they are all so familiar at this point, too worn-in to think about leaving, now, these neurons and their grooves. That old shoe with the hole as big as a fist—it holds fast, clutches back when you try and let go.
And so you repeat. You count. You decide that even numbers make you uncomfortable and that odds give you room to breathe. You set off fireflies in dark rooms for thirty minutes, more, for all the flickering you do to that stupid light switch that just won’t let you go despite the film of exhaustion under your eyelids. In ninth grade, you will wash your hands until they crack and bleed and resemble the landscape of Mars. Months later, it will be other things: thoughts that won’t turn off despite how you try to control the rabid thing that’s sometimes your mind and sometimes isn’t. There is a ghost inside my brain, you’ll say to no one. You will understand what it’s like to hate yourself and wish you were made of braver material. There will be better times, too, when it goes away—still a mystery, completely—but you’ve learned that too many questions can be dangerous. They can leave off scents, like blood blushed into the water by a child’s torn ankle, how the thing will sometimes catch and smell it, and just as sharks do, hunt its origin—you.
Eventually, there’s medication, which you’ll only be able to describe as flippant at best. It’s a science experiment, you’ll understand later when you’re twenty-three and getting on meds for the second time. You’ll have weaned yourself off from them months earlier and experienced your first real bout with apathy. It is a curious thing, not feeling anything. Later, you’ll know this to be a form of depression that lies so flat and heavy against you that it’s too hard to cry, too much of an effort, really. You will recognize the withdrawal symptoms of having stopped loving. There won’t be much of anything at all for a while. You’ll look at that person and you will the wave to come. It won’t though, until it’s too late already, and that person has already gone because you didn’t love them back enough or in the right way. This is the first of two instances in which your heart will break that summer. And then back on the meds, a different kind; you’ll keep falling asleep at lunchtime and wandering your apartment for days and discovering a different way to waste yourself: the deep cavity of sleep. And until there are more adjustments, more minuscule measurements and phone discussions and doctor’s bills, you will sometimes sleep whole days by. You’ll smell yourself on your skin and not mind as much as you thought you would. You will wake up in the dark and not know which it belongs to: morning or night or just that dreamy cave you’ve found in yourself.
OCD will start to bother you around the time you begin first grade. It will continue until now, as you sit, much older, up late on a weekday night and pick at the hangnail you’re considering slicing between the gums of two teeth—because it feels good, a pain-pleasure you’ve seen diagnosed and fully named in the backs of books and the internet’s index. And you’re better, you’re doing fine for the world’s standards, and you’ve gotten great at concealing—or at least, dimming down—your little oddities. The twist, the tug, the backsides of your bitten lips you’ve gnawed raw over papers, people, boys, the specific excruciation that comes with insomnia. You’re finally learning to live with the thing, make those careful duet steps of coexistence.
Mary B. Sellers is pursuing her MFA in fiction at Louisiana State University. Originally from Jackson, MS, she now lives in Baton Rouge with her dog, Daisy Buchanan. She tries to teach freshmen English Composition, but most of the time feels like a failed, stand-up comedian. She’s also the social media and blog editor over at New Delta Review. Important activities include: drinking wine and eating tacos on a regular basis. She has pieces published or forthcoming in Permafrost (Pushcart nomination, ’15), Maudlin House, Queen Mob’s Teahouse, and Literary Orphans. She wants to be a mermaid when she grows up.