I can recall the events leading up to that night so vividly, which says a lot because I can hardly remember what I had eaten for dinner last night. It was early February of 2006; the school week before mid-winter break had concluded. Yes, selective high schools in the Bay Area dedicated a whole week off to leisurely skiing with family in Tahoe. Marin County, being one of the wealthiest in the country, was definitely no exception to this. I’m from Novato, the farthest northern city in Marin, labeled the “poorest” by the general consensus. My idea of a fun filled getaway carving in and out of freshly fallen powdered snow, lounging around a fire listening to ambient music came in the form of a small zip lock dime bag. Inside the dime bag was the most crystal-dusted marijuana I had ever seen, and even to this day. On the back of the bag was a skull pattern on a black backdrop; something that I realize now was a sign that eerily foreshadowed how the night was about to play out. My friend Joey had bought this stuff off a guy we nicknamed Crabgrass. The week prior, Crabgrass sold us weed that did absolutely nothing to our young blossoming minds. Rightfully annoyed by this, we argued for either a refund or replacement. There was hardly any trust established between the slimy kid dealer and us, and so what we were getting could have possibly been laced; a nefarious joke played on two naïve boys looking to get high the first night of vacation.
Joey and I got to our friend Ryan’s house around 9:00pm, after spending the day waiting in pure anticipation to smoke weed, roll around on the ground laughing at trivial videos online, and munch on Chips Ahoy cookies. The converted attic to a bedroom loft that we stayed in for the night had this unforgettably pungent perfume smell, and there was no clear definition of were the walls ended and the ceiling began. We cracked open a skylight window that opened up like the gullwing doors of a Mercedes-Benz and blew thick heavy clouds of smoke out into the night sky. I found myself doubled over in a coughing fit that lasted what seemed like an hour. The ensuing moments thereafter are hard for me to call to mind, because the minute I leaned upright to collect myself, the normalcy of my reality had walked out of the front door. Where the hell was I? It was hard to tell because my senses had suddenly been uncomfortably heightened: the room felt stretched, voices distant, light and color more vibrant, body heaviness, time was distorted. My perception of reality had changed for the very first time and it absolutely terrified me into a state of panic. Was I going to be stuck like this forever? This thought perpetuated the fear, which in turn perpetuated my high. I looked over at Joey and Ryan, which acknowledged for the first time in what seemed like decades in my head that I wasn’t actually alone. They were having an exceptionally good time laughing and pointing at me. I wasn’t aware that I had been frantically pacing the room back and forth and had, at one point, taken my shirt off. I sat next to Joey and tried to have a conversation with him as a feeble attempt to diffuse the anxiety causing my mind to race. This only made things worse. Trying to have a conversation with Joey was like if I had sat myself down in front of a television screen and started talking to it. I was the spectator and Joey was the actor on set. My surrounding environment felt artificial/surreal, and the harder I tried to focus in on Joey, the more my mind would play tricks on me. Did he appear to look more two dimensional or high-definition? I couldn’t tell you. I will say, I was mortified by this strange phenomenon; enough so to obsess about it for months thereafter; the inception of my first obsession and the overall beginning to my pure O OCD. I wrapped myself up in a large white goose down comforter and curled up into the fetal position on the floor. My eyes drooped shut in both exhaustion from the anxiety and the lasting effects of the weed. Lulled by the circus of colors swirling around in my head, I let go of all consciousness.
Fast forward five years later and I’m working at Whole Foods Market in Novato. I was a grocery clerk for 5 years and in my head for 4. Homosexual OCD consumed my life. At every waking turn in the store there was a guy, any guy, no matter how attractive or unattractive he would appear; I would check. I would check to see if I was attracted to this guy. And then when my OCD brain didn’t get a concrete answer from this checking analysis, I would check again mentally in my head. This was a cyclical process that drove me nuts, like anything pure O related. I was a good worker, a meticulous worker to be exact. My boss adored my work ethic. I faced product from 2:00pm to 10:30pm. Facing is a term we use that means pulling the grocery item forward to give off the appearance that the shelf is full (no holes). At the sight of my perfect chip wall (see photo),
the customers that shopped in my aisle would be reluctant to pull anything from the shelf. Most of the time, they’d stand there timidly, look over at me with apologetic eyes, strip a bag of chips off the rack and scurry out of the aisle. I was jealous. People could come and go as they pleased without a thought. My thoughts kept me shackled within the confines of the metaphorical aisle inside my own head. Later on, something happened to me that got me off of the HOCD merry-go-round. I ended up getting into a relationship. But not before I started having obsessive thoughts around eye contact. Which is a foreshadowing to what I’m dealing with on a daily basis in this present moment in time.
My OCD was gone for two miraculous years while dating this amazing woman. During that long period of time, I had wondered whether or not I had finally conquered it. The funny thing about OCD is that, when you’re in remission, you always tend to forget how you ever really got yourself into a thought loop to begin with. Let us never forget that life is full of uncertainty, even when you think you’re so certain about something, or someone for that matter. As you could have guest, my relationship ended unexpectedly a few months ago, which has been very difficult to deal with. It was on a particular evening about a month after, where I had encountered a transient intrusive HOCD thought. Although it was brief, the thought immediately brought me back into what I had been experiencing two years prior: Eye Contact Hyperawareness. What eye does a person typically look at when talking to another person? My OCD brain had to know the “right answer”. Additionally, my OCD was bothered by the fact that it is physically impossible to look at two eyes at once; which is a truth that many of us don’t realize. And the reason for this is because most of us aren’t aware of what eye we’re looking at; we just look. Left eye, right eye, bridge of nose, nose, mouth, your eyes aren’t exactly honed in on one specific spot. You’re moving your eyes all around without being consciously aware of it. You’re looking with your ears by listening, and you’re thinking about the response you will give once there’s a pause in the conversation. For me now, I have forgotten how to look naturally. The thought of the awareness of the awareness of eye contact has removed me from a vast majority of the conversations I have with people (including my family). I am obsessed from the fear (and not the fear of eye contact); the fear that this obsession will last forever. This is a common fear amongst Somatic OCD sufferers. I have been ruminating about this obsession in such excess that it has plagued me in my own dreams. Have you ever said a word over and over and over again to the point where the word starts to sound funny? Well, the same has happened in this case. I have thought about human eyes to the point where two eyes have started to appear abnormal. Why weren’t we born with one eye? Why couldn’t we all just be like Leela from the show Futurama? My OCD trigger is ubiquitous, making it impossible to avoid. Which is why I have no choice but to live each day with tremendous anxiety. When will this hyperawareness end? When will I stop checking to see if the sensation will be there come this time or that? Everyday I wake up and wish I could go back in time. Back to that wonderful Europe trip we had last summer. Back into remission. But I can’t go back. I can only move forward. And that is something that I have started to accept. Acceptance of forever will be my ticket out of here.