A Glimpse of What it Feels Like

A Glimpse of What it Feels Like

by Rebecca Feinberg

“You have no idea what it feels like inside my brain,”
My child once said to me, as I was losing my patience and compassion
For what felt like the millionth time in his young life
That he asked me if I had washed my hands before touching something
 
And, he was right, as much as I tried, I (and others) could have had no idea what it feels like to live every single day
With the unrelenting obsessions swirling around in the brain and the subsequent compulsions that follow
To live each day with the level of anxiety that throws the body into such distress and drowns out all other thoughts 
 
And so I think about our society right now
And how it may serve us all to have a small glimpse into the lives of those people whose brains feel this way all the time
 
We wash our hands, over and over again
Told to perform this ritual for a certain length of time, in a certain prescribed manner
And we wonder if we washed enough (was it the whole 20 seconds?) and if we did it correctly (did we get under each fingernail?), or if we need to do it all over again
Our days now consumed with such obsessions and compulsions…
 
We clean, over and over again
Told to use special cleaning supplies and to be mindful of disinfecting each surface touched, each nook and cranny
And we wonder if the doorknob is really clean now and if the light switch was touched before or after we washed our hands, or if we need to do it all over again
Our days now consumed with such obsessions and compulsions…
 
We keep our distance, standing a prescribed number of feet away from people (and wonder if it was 6 feet or actually only 5 feet)
From not only strangers, but from loved ones
For fear of contamination and harm 
Secluding ourselves for safety, both ours and theirs—not able to leave the safety of our homes
 
We feel exhausted, mentally, from all the fears and anxiety spiraling in our minds
Trouble focusing on work, on pleasure, on much of anything right now
 
And, so I ask that when all of this is over, and we return to our “normal” lives and our lowered levels of anxiety, 
That we hold a place in our hearts to remember what it felt like in this moment of time
And that we have more patience and compassion for the people in this world, including my child, who are diagnosed with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and whose brains feel this way each day of their lives
 
Among us, approximately 1 in 100 adults (2-3 million) and at least 1 in 200 kids/teens (500,000) are living with OCD.

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After viewing my art and story, I want others to understand that we are not alone in this and…

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