This prompt was “write about something you see every day.” Lately it’s just been stuff in and around my place, so no excitement there. Then I thought about routines, and the comfort of routine, especially for someone with anxiety. That got me into OCD. I don’t have OCD, I haven’t really studied it, and I don’t really know anyone with very extreme OCD, so my portrayal here is likely flawed or stereotypical. It’s written in first person not because it’s autobiographical but because that seemed to be the way to write it.


by Amber Marshall

I have a routine. It keeps me sane. It keeps me safe.

I see quotes about how monotony will destroy you. They have no idea. No idea how hard it is to fear change so much. To live in a world where flexibility is everything. Everyone who succeeds is flexible. Everyone who survives, who evolves, is flexible.

I envy them.

Every morning, I wake up, I turn my light on. Stare at it awhile. Turn it off. Turn it on. You can imagine how long it took me to get ready, back when I had a job, back before I was able to prove I can’t hold a job so the government will send me a little check, enough to keep me alive.

Use the toilet. Wash hands, twice. Wash face three times. Squeeze every pore until my face is swollen and red. Have to get all the gunk out. All the evil. Swab my face with rubbing alcohol to kill everything.

Shower. Lather, rinse, repeat three times. Soap all up, rinse, soap up again.

You get the idea.

One thing goes wrong, the floss snaps, I drop the soap, and I go into meltdown mode.

My therapist doesn’t get it. She acts like she does, she tells me she studied all this, not just in books but actual people, but just by the questions she asks I know she doesn’t get it. Why can’t I see that every little thing isn’t the end of the world? Why can’t I realize that the world won’t fall apart if I knock on the door frame three times instead of five times? She tells me to skip one routine, or one repetition, every day. Wean myself off.

She doesn’t feel the dread in the pit of my stomach, the nausea that can only be relieved by completing all the steps. I know I’m nuts, okay? I wish I could stop feeling this way, but I’m like Cassandra, preaching the destruction of Troy, wishing she could turn the visions off and pretend ignorance.

There’s a bug in my programming, it puts me into loops. I can’t fix it. It’s like running a faulty diagnostic to diagnose itself. I’m like an android with the protocols messed up. The vacuuming robot that butts against the wall, backs up, butts against it again, until the batteries run down.


~ by Amber on May 25, 2012.

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