Dear pre-OCD Kelsey,
If I’m going to be exact about the person to whom I am writing this letter, you are the pre-OCD Kelsey, born on April 27, 1994 and died on May 22, 2014. I remember that day pretty well. You just came home from school two days before that and you are planning on spending the summer at home before going abroad to India and Scotland for a year to “find yourself.” But instead you’re going to have your first obsessive thought at around 1 in the afternoon.
At first you will try to laugh your way out of such an absurd thought, but nonetheless you move into a different room, hoping the thoughts won’t follow you. But they do and an hour later you will literally try to run away from the obsessions. You will strap on your running shoes and brave the 90 degrees and 100 percent humidity of the Florida summer. This will be the first lesson that your mental illness gives you — it’s not some problem that you can put on hold for a day or travel to a different country to escape from. It is a part of you now, hiding behind your eyes, weighing down your shoulders and pulling your back muscles taut until they ache each minute.
You will spend the rest of your summer in the same daily routine: rising in the morning with a racing mind, a pounding heart, and a nauseous stomach. You will attempt to eat breakfast but after you’re done the anxiety will carry it through you and you will run to the bathroom to excrete it. You will exist between two worlds — the real one and the one in your mind, which constantly pulls you back, preventing you from fully living your life. At least a few hours a day will be spent in front of the computer on Google trying to quell these thoughts. Eventually you will figure it out: you have obsessive-compulsive disorder.
This is consolation for about an hour, until you start to doubt yourself again. “You don’t have OCD. You’re just using that as an excuse” will ring through your head every day. Your life, your personality, your joy, your kind disposition, your friendships, your ability to feel will be destroyed. You will spend weeks taunted by horrifying sexual thoughts of being attracted to family members, of being a pedophile. Then, in a split second, in the backseat of a car in Vermont, you will become terrified of your mind.
On August 3, 2014, 11 days before you were supposed to leave for India, you will have your first violent thought: that you want to hurt your sister, your confidant and best friend. Moments later you will fall victim to your mind, tormented by thoughts of harming the people you love the most, your family. But you will not want to do this despite what your thoughts say. Your thoughts do not take away from the fact that you are a kind and gentle person.
You will spend a week in Vermont with your family. A state which had once been your favorite will soon become the place where you lived through the worst week of your life. You will awake to a new obsession each morning around 4 a.m. On Monday you will ask, “Am I bipolar?” You will take a test online and it will tell you no — but you are not convinced. On Tuesday you will ask, “Am I a psychopath?” Again, you will take an online quiz that reassures you that you in fact are not a psychopath. On Wednesday you will wake up convinced that you are schizophrenic and that you are losing your mind. You will text your best friend, Sarah, telling her that you think you are going crazy and that you will have to spend the rest of life in an institution because you might lose your last bit of sanity and hurt someone.
You will experience all of these thoughts and more as you make the long drive back home to Florida. Your briefest moment of clarity will come when you call the program in India, explaining that “something came up” and you will not be able to make it. You will feel numb after this call, not because you are sad but because you aren’t. You feel nothing. You will feel hollow, incapable of feeling sadness that your lifelong dream of traveling to India has been taken from you.
As you get out of the car in your driveway, you will only feel the desire to disappear from the face of this earth. You will set the backpack meant for India in the garage and you will collapse onto your bed, wishing with all your heart that you could morph into your bed, leaving no trace of your existence. You will wish that a car had hit you, that your mother wasn’t into naturopathy and there were actual drugs in the medicine cabinet that you could consume, that you were not afraid of guns so you could pick one up. But most of all, you will wish that you could remember what it was like to feel human because you are tired, so tired, of living this way.