photo courtesy Cappellmeister

You wouldn’t know it just by looking at me, but I like the third one from the top.
Sometimes when I’m feeling particularly brave, I try to settle for the second.

But rarely the first; that’s just crazy.

I’ve broken a lot of dishes this way.


My mom’s voice cracks when she tells me about the day she decided to quit her job to stay home and help me

how helpless she felt as she watched me succumb to obsessions she couldn’t hear and

compulsions she couldn’t see.


I don’t remember it that way.

I was too busy counting.


I tell my therapist I have certain words I hate to hear

words I cannot force my lips to say.

She tells me to stand up and when I do the couch makes a noise like it’s sighing

like it knows what’s coming and feels sorry for me

She grabs my shoulders, pulls me in so close I can smell her shampoo and see the faint lines of her eyebrow pencil.

“Die!” she yells at me and I cringe under the waves of nausea while my knees threaten to buckle under the weight of fear

“Die!Die!Die!Die!” she keeps yelling and at first I want to run but after a while her voice melts into a puddle of meaningless sounds and I spend the rest of the session silently saying my name until it no longer belongs to me, until it disappears and becomes something bigger and better and less afraid.


I tell her about touching my fridge and pantry

(three times each)

if I so much as glance in their direction.

She asks how much time I think it takes away from my LIFE and I tell her I cannot count that high.

“What would happen if you just walked away?”

She sounds like an amateur and my hands grip one of the couch pillows in agitation.

“Bad things,” I reply, in a tone that suggests her degree indicates she should already know this.

“You are not that powerful,” she tells me.

“You     are          not       that        special.”

She spaces the words out and waits for my neurotransmitters to take heed while I count to three in my head.


Five minutes ago.

I was supposed to leave five minutes ago and now I’ll be late and I’m getting pretty tired of being late.

I walk by the fridge and pantry.



I walk away.

I come back.

I walk away.

I come back.

You are not that powerful.

You are not that powerful.

You are not that powerful.

And suddenly I’m running and I’m nauseous and I’m gagging

and I’m doubting and I’m crying and I’m tired

and as I make it out the front door

I cover my head and close my eyes

and wait for the sky to fall.



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Category : ocd

5 Replies to “The Third One From the Top”

  1. Thanks for sharing this. I have severe OCD. It has debilitated me to where I could not work for a while in my 20’s and was on disability. I could not leave the house without checking every outlet 4 times, every appliance 4 times. I would finally leave and then convince myself I had left the hairdryer plugged in and go back home. I got fired from jobs and barely left my moms house for over a year. I have had this for 20+ years. For years I spoke in conversations and could count the other person’s syllables and my response would have to be the number of syllables so the entire conversation was a number divisible by 4. I still fall into that speech when I get really anxious or stressed. I still have major OCD about germs and how things are ordered and how my fiestaware plates have to be put away and how things have to be done a certain way or else i get awful panic attacks. add to that having two kids on the spectrum and major stress. thanks for your honesty- Courtney

  2. Thank you for sharing this, I can only begin to grasp what it’s like. I’ve got it more mildly – I can tell myself to stop (or at least make myself come back later when it’s more convenient). But I can’t tell you how often I catch myself doing something like realphabetizing the spices or lining up the cans in the pantry and then realizing it’s been 20 minutes and dinner is starting to burn.

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