We were close. She was often an enemy, but also a friend. A second half of me. She was like a shadow. Always there. Reminding me, niggling at me, constantly telling me to focus.
We fought. A lot. But it wasn’t her fault. She was just looking out for me. It often felt like she could read my mind, like there was a little window fastened to my forehead, which only she could see in to. She knew exactly what I was thinking and sometimes I’d get angry about that. I didn’t want her knowing everything. I didn’t want her seeing all those thoughts. But she didn’t laugh like others would have. She embraced them. Told me it was OK to think like that. Helped me through it.
I didn’t always listen to her. Sometimes I argued and refused to do what she told me to. She’d shout at me, hold me down, scream down my ears until I could hear nothing else, but the shrill rings of her voice.
Sometimes, if I was stubborn enough, she’d stopped talking to me altogether. But it would only ever last a few hours. And then she’d be back again, arms wrapped tightly around me, telling me she’d forgiven me. That she’d make everything OK. That all the worries inside my head were real and good and easily controllable. All I had to do was follow her instructions.
Counting to four usually helped. It was something she taught me a while ago, something I could use to handle the bad days.
“Close the front door and push against it really hard, that way you know it’s locked,” she’d say. “Now, count to four as you do it. You’ll know for certain if it’s locked then.”
I’d generally do it. No questions asked. I felt embarrassed the first time, looked over my shoulder to check that no one was watching. It must have looked odd, pushing the door like that, like maybe I was trying to break in, or that I was just plain mad? But there was logic to her words, and as I counted and pushed, I could feel it. It was like a sudden weight had been lifted, like everything that was pushing down on me had disappeared. Even she went quiet afterwards.
We used the counting trick a lot. There were others too. The gritting of the teeth. That was another of her suggestions. When the counting wasn’t enough. It was like a physical reminder that I had done something. So when I thought back, I could relax. I would know it was all OK.
We had to make sure things were done the same way too. It was frustrating and everything that was simple became complicated; and I hated for her it. But I needed her too. She was wise. I couldn’t deny her of that. She knew how to help me. She knew how to make the pain go away and if I didn’t make it go away, on the bad days, it would just get worse and she knew this. And she would scream louder.
I still feel embarrassed sometimes when I’m acting out my rituals. I usually try to cover them up, pretend I’m doing something else. I’ve become quite the actor. It’s harder when people are around. I feel like they’re watching. Judging me. But if they heard the things I did, if they saw the things I did, if they felt the things I did, they’d do it too.
I’m not crazy. I know it’s illogical. I know that I’ve locked my car, or turned the oven off, but what if I haven’t? I know that I have washed my hands after touching the raw chicken I was preparing for dinner, but what if I haven’t? I know that by placing my hairbrush in the exact same position after I used it, won’t mean that something bad won’t happen, but then, it’s not been proven otherwise.
She looks out for me. And for a few hours, sometimes minutes, seconds, she gives me peace. But I know she is the one who gives me hell too. She is my other self, a part of me that I can’t disconnect.
She is my anxiety.