Childhood can be such a beautiful thing. I wish I enjoyed it a little more at the time. Honestly, I would NEVER want to go back to being a child, but the thing is, I wish I had that same ignorance. I actually remember not worrying about being ill and actually welcoming it so that I could stay home from school. There were countless times that I played sick (and the truth comes out), to stay home for fun or because I was tired of being teased by a giant, cruel girl in 7th grade. It is strange for me to look back now and think how I used to be. I’m not sure what changed.
I have one memory that goes back to the 2nd grade. It is the first recollection I have of an OCD tendency, besides the sensory sensitivity to chewing. I had, and still have, a terrible texture issue with paper, but only after my hands are damp, or if I’m writing with a pencil. It’s very strange and probably doesn’t make sense, but it definitely exists for me. I remember wearing my favorite red, Mickey Mouse sweatshirt that my mom eventually threw away because it got so tattered, every day to school. I liked wearing it because it was comfortable, but also because I could pull the sleeve over my right hand as I wrote on paper. I couldn’t stand the feeling of the paper moving beneath my hand as I write. I still can’t stand it! Funny though, I wasn’t afraid of illness back then.
It seems to have escalated when I went to college. I think going from a rather small high school to a large, university setting may have triggered it. In high school I was always afraid of “germs” and used hand sanitizer often, but the true terror and fight-or-flight responses I get now at even the mention of someone getting sick (I mean the physical act, not just a cold or something similar) didn’t come on until later. I hate this about myself and this is the main reason why I’ve sought some support from others through writing.
I met my boyfriend at the end of my senior year of high school. He was a junior in college and at first we only saw each other on the weekends. When I graduated and started my first semester of my undergraduate program, I moved to the same town that my boyfriend was living. Although we went to two different universities, it was still easy to see one another. Eventually, I moved in with him. We have been living together officially for nearly three years now, unofficially probably four 😉 shh… In total, we have been together nearly 5 years.
What I love and admire most about my boyfriend (I use this word because it’s most convenient for everyone to understand, but he’s more of a spouse, or long-term partner) is that he is always supportive of me. I do wish he wouldn’t object to me getting a tattoo, but I understand that it is taboo in his culture. I’ll win him over eventually 😉
A day I remember quite well was the day that I truly confessed my inner turmoils to my boyfriend. It’s funny, we had been dating almost 4 years at this time, but I still didn’t let him in on this secret. I felt ashamed and embarrassed and didn’t want him to think differently of me. He knew I was different anyway. Whenever we go out, I always force him to use hand sanitizer. I know he hates it when I “nag” about keeping the house clean too. It’s not just “oh, honey, pick up your socks please.” It’s more like, “I can’t stand the socks on the floor. The sight of them ruining my clean floor is stressing me out!” These are just some of the few quirks I’m sure he noticed.
It was a Friday, the day we usually went to an international student group to socialize and have dinner. Of course, someone at the meeting was recovering from the “stomach flu.” Immediately, the panic took over and that fight-or-flight response kicked in. I took my boyfriend into the next room and asked him if we could leave immediately. It was at that time that I saw him going for a piece of pumpkin roll, with his hands! I envisioned the worse, him eating that slice of pumpkin roll and ingesting whatever virus that was and then getting sick. I yelled at him to, “don’t eat with your hands!” It was my first breakdown. I couldn’t breath and I was crying uncontrollably. It felt like I could do nothing. I was helpless. My body and my brain were fighting against me. They were the enemy.
Needless to say, we left. We were regulars there, but we haven’t been back for quite some time and I think it’s for the better. I really didn’t have anything in common with most of them anyway. After that incident, in the car on the way home, I told him everything. I told him how I have “emetephobia” which is the fear of “vomit” and the act of “vomiting”. Honestly, I even have trouble saying or writing that word, so that was a big step for me! I didn’t think he could understand, but he was more than understanding. He genuinely listened and offered words of comfort. He was sincerely worried about me. I knew he would be there for me. He encouraged me to seek help. The very next day, I made an appointment with a psychologist, who then later referred me to a psychiatrist. This was, for me, the best move I could have ever made. I feel like I finally have some sense of control over myself, although I do still struggle with this daily, but there is “a light at the end of the tunnel,” to use that old cliche.
The point of all this is that I’m not sure how long it would have taken me, if ever, to seek professional help if it weren’t for him.
Have someone who you can trust, lean on, and confide in. It only takes one person to change a life. I love you Won.
Peace, love, and blessings,