Trigger Warning: Among other topics this post discusses suicide.
Five is the first time I clearly recall the obsessive thought and the driving compulsion. I was in Kindergarten. The room had two rows of shelves facing each other forming a corridor in the middle of the room. The layout was similar to that of a capital I. I was walking to the back and she was walking to the front. She slipped and fell. I didn’t think much of it.
A few moments later I heard the teacher call my name. She had said I pushed her. Had I pushed her? I was shocked – why would I have pushed her? I don’t think we even touched.
The school day continued its course, but I couldn’t escape the thought. “What if I did push her?” Could I have pushed her and not known it? The question became all-consuming. The evening came on and yet I was wracked by anxiety and guilt.
And then the compulsion – I’d confess. I hadn’t done it, but I’d confess just to make this awful feeling go away. The next day I went into school with my father and told the teacher I’d done it. The teacher took away my recess for the day and my anxiety and guilt evaporated. Better to take the punishment I didn’t deserve than deal with the internal thought monster.
Sometimes I wonder if that was a fluke. Was that just a one-off occurrence? Certainly things would get much worse as I got older.
There was a key event in my childhood. Was it 1993? I would have been nine. My Papa was my hero. He had fought in the Korean War, worked as a Teamster, and was a John Wayne-esque man. He brought laughter and presents. Then he was dead from a bullet to the head, from his own gun.
Maybe then was when things started? Certainly things became worse…but no, I remember before he died. He offered me a nickel for each rock I picked up from our back yard. Awesome. I was a hard worker, I was going to be rich! I collected a lot of rocks but I never asked for a single nickel. Why? The thought – “What if I don’t give him an accurate count? What if I tell him I moved more rocks than I really did?” Better to be poor than take what wasn’t rightfully mine.
ADD and OCD played partners in crime with me. My poor memory and easy distractibility made it difficult for me to keep track while the anxious thoughts refused me the grace to estimate.
Still, this was small fries compared to what would come.