If Only I’d Known

As they say, hindsight is 2020, which is referring to your vision, not what year it is. As in, your vision about what happened in the past is pretty good, now that you’ve had time to look at all the angles and analyze it.

Looking back over my OCD life, I now understand that it isn’t about being neat and orderly, like Monica on Friends, and it isn’t Monk straightening pictures on the wall or arranging the umbrellas just so in the umbrella stand on Monk.  It is why I was the only one of my girlfriends who didn’t jump drunk into the swimming pool, in the dark, with drunk guys.   They had no fear. They had no OCD.

This is how it works.

My brain – oh, to be cool, I should do that. I should jump in.

OCD – no, you might drown.

My brain – I look stupid standing up here while everyone else is down there, in the water, laughing and flirting.

OCD – no, you might drown. You’ve been drinking.

My brain – I am only 24. I should be more footloose and fancy free.

OCD – no, you might drown. I can show you what that looks like right now . . .

And so it goes.

OCD has kept me from a few things in life, mostly things that would have been a risk to take. OCD made me risk averse. It’s mostly physical risk stuff, like sailing, water skiing, bungee jumping, hot air ballooning, letting my then 8 year old daughter ride a horse.

I did fly to Venezuela and travel South America with a crazy woman who did not have OCD. Yes, it was uncomfortable as I rode those scary buses at night that could have fallen off the sides of those mountain roads. I didn’t sleep at all, but I did it.

I did go to Spain with a bunch of strangers to do two months of classes to wrap up my college degree in Spanish.  And no, I didn’t venture out much at night. It was my OCD. I might get kidnapped or followed or stabbed. I might get lost.

But you know what? One night, as my roommate and I were walking home from our night at the Disco (1977), a car full of men from the Disco followed us. My roommate was laughing and flirting. She was drunk and she also did not have OCD. When one of the guys got out of the car and came over and locked his hand around my roommate’s upper arm, maybe it was all in good fun. Maybe all he wanted was a kiss. He’d seen her at the disco. She was American and cute. Maybe all he wanted was the taste of American lips.

But in my OCD mind, he was going to pull her into the car with all the other guys and drive off. Then who knows what might have happened? I had it all flashing through my OCD brain.

So I did what I had to do. I dug my fingernails into the guy’s wrist until he let go of my roommate. Then I pulled her into the doorway of our apartment as I fumbled for the key to unlock the iron gate.

The car guys were still laughing as the guy with my fingernail marks on his wrist complained to his buddies and got back into the car.

Did I save her from getting raped? Or did I save her from having to give the guy her phone number? Either way, my OCD decided for me.

The word got out in my classes. The other students called me Señora Uñas after that. Mrs. Fingernails. I was young and single, but to them, I was an old married woman with sharp nails.

 Now I am an old lady. There were no meds back then for OCD.

I like to think that I fought my OCD and that I won.

Not all the time, but sometimes.

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