“I want to close the four, take my pen and make one little mark, and I would, too, if I believed that would be the end of it, but it won’t. I’ve been here before…It’s not a number. It’s a trap.”
What’s so powerful it could drag you into its lair with a little mark on a page a millimeter long? OCD, of course. As I’ve gotten older, my symptoms have gotten much less pronounced than they were when I was younger or when they were at their worst in my early thirties after my first child was born. My intrusive thoughts convinced me something horrible was going to happen to her if I didn’t check the door over, and over, and over again. For hours each night this went on. Though those days are years past, those of us who’ve lived with this disorder understand its power to show up in big and small ways. It did exactly that the other day.
It seemed harmless enough. I’d written the number four, looked down, and there it was, something I might not have noticed on any other day, a four where the right angle didn’t quite touch the line of the four. Who cares? Right? Well, no one should, and that’s the point. But this is no ordinary four. Oh, no! That little tease is a gateway to misery. It may as well be whispering, “Let me in.” I want to close the four, take my pen and make one little mark, and I would, too, if I believed that would be the end of it, but it won’t. I’ve been here before. This morning it will be that four, later that evening, I’ll be checking a door that I already know is locked, or I’ll be halfway out of my neighborhood before turning back around to check my garage door even though I know good and well it’s closed.
It’s not a number.
It’s a trap.
I close the notebook and allow myself to acknowledge the discomfort, experience it. I remember a day when this would have felt impossibly hard, and I would have been sure something horrible would have occurred to someone I love if I walked away without closing the four.
I’ve come a very long way to make it to this point where I can walk away…
…and keep walking.
You can get there, too.
Don’t lose hope.