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John’s Story of Coming to Terms with OCD During the Holidays

Artwork by John

It’s November thirtieth in the year two-thousand and eight. My family just got back from church. It’s the first week of advent and the priest was adorned in some sort of a purple fabric. He gave a boring and almost incomprehensible homily on the power of giving. I’m staring blankly out the sliding backdoor window of my family’s one story home. My hot breath is creating condensation on the glass and there is a thin layer of frost coating the leaves that are sprinkled about the lawn. I’m tired. Well, maybe tired isn’t the right word. My mind is moving at a million miles a minute and yet my body is static. I must look like one of those creepy child mannequins. My Dad creeps up and asks me what’s wrong? Why am I acting so weird? I tell him I’m feeling melancholy. I don’t even think I know what that word means. I know Mom and Dad will be taking out all the Christmas decorations soon and this creates a sense of horror within me. Buried within the numerous seasonal baubles rests a vintage doll cheaply made with a purple synthetic polymer. To the naked eye this doll would be seen as completely unremarkable. Not to me. The doll is a representation of the character the Purple Pie Man from the children’s show Strawberry Shortcake. He is about eight inches tall and its arms are bent at the elbows, outstretched as if it’s about to grasp at something. At the top of his head lies a chef’s hat that plumes into the air. The doll has a hunch at the intersection between his neck and back that makes him look like he is trying to sneak around or hide. All these terrifyingly distinctive features pale in comparison to the one that really paralyses me, the dark cavity in the middle of his face. You see he was supposed to come with a plastic mustache that is carefully inserted inside this entrance, but it must have been lost, so it is now empty. This small naked hole frightens me and makes my heart pump blood through my preadolescent veins. My Dad continues to pester me about my mood. Hejust wants to know why I seem so preoccupied? What could I possibly be “melancholy” about? I tell him I don’t know and continue to look out the window. I’ve seemed to have developed a couple strange avoidance behaviors around the color purple. I can’t watch characters on television who wear purple costumes without significant distress and every time I even think about purple I have to “unthink” it or else something devastating will happen to my parents. Which I can recognize makes no sense. Unthinking, as I call it, involves running through three Hail Mary’s in my head in quick succession. It’s stupid but I’ve started to use this private ritual in other situations too. For example, on the way home from church, in the car, I had the startling idea to reach in the front seat and steer my family’s sedan into oncoming traffic. I don’t even think I can reach over the seat to make this happen, but I can picture it. I see my littlehand grasping the wheel and the ensuing flames and blood. So I do my prayers, and it is absurd, but this seems to pacify my thoughts for the time being. I don’t mind church, sometimes I even like it. It’s just a place we go every Sunday before the football games. The name of the church is Our Lady of Sorrows. Most of the year I enjoy it. It is a punctuation mark at the end of the week. Lately however, my mind has turned sour. All the things that once excited me about it have changed. The music is discordant and the slightly wine stained teeth of the parishioners disgust me. I feel sinful thinking this way. Everything transfigures when the seasons change and that doll comes in the picture. Except instead of turning a beautiful bright white it switches to the color of a bitter bruise. This filter covers everything up and makes it impossible to move. This isn’t the first time this all encompassing feeling has infected me and it won’t be the last, but it seems each time it loses its sting. The purple of the doll will fade and the thoughts will change, but I now have an almost ecclesiastic duty to keep an eye on myself. This isn’t a cross to bear, it’s more like an advent candle I have to keep lit.

Want to share your own story and hear from other young people struggling with their mental health? Check out our “Our Stories” on the site!

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