I can vaguely remember a time when “it” wasn’t there. The “it”, which for twenty-two years, I didn’t know actually had a name. Somewhere around age seven or eight it set in. (“Did it follow a strep infection?” I would be asked decades later by a doctor, but I couldn’t remember by then with certainty.) Slowly, but very definitely, my mind began to work against me. It was confusing and became terrifying.
My first unwanted impulse was to constantly clear my throat, much to the annoyance of my family and those around me. Settling down to sleep at night was overwhelming — “Mom! She’s doing it again! She won’t stop,” cried my younger sister who had the misfortune of sharing a bedroom with me. I would fight the compulsion each night sometimes for an hour. The next compulsion which presented itself was the urge to roll my eyes up and back. Some people asked what I was doing, but I couldn’t explain that not doing so filled me with incredible anxiety. I would repeat the action so many times in a day that my eyes began to ache tremendously. I hated this; but it was as if a demon in my head was telling me notto do so would result in a greater discomfort.
Listen to Julie’s story here
“Is the muscle not tight enough and that’s what’s happening?” my mother asked anxiously. I didn’t know how to tell her that I did this eye-rolling willingly, yet at the same time against my will. When I heard Mother mention to Dad that perhaps they should take me to a doctor, I got nervous and was careful never to perform the action when my parents were in the room. One by one my strange compulsions came, usually for an average of about three weeks at a time, and each self-aggravating compulsion only left upon the arrival of a new one. I never got a break in between. As suddenly as one visited me, it would leave but only when something equally or more vexing took its place.
Another urge which overtook me was to momentarily shake my head. It was as if I was tossing my hair back — except that I had short hair. I did this so many times in a day that eventually my head ached with each twitch. Still, ignoring the urge left me thinking of nothing else but repeating the action! And thus the endless cycle of responding to the relentless demands which my own mind placed upon me was well established by my ninth birthday.