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By Teika Marija Smits

The obsession changes. Sometimes it’s clear what it’s about. Like safety. No one wants their house broken into. Checking that doors are locked is a reasonable response to that fear. But how much checking is too much? Twice, thrice in a row? Fifteen times, twenty? And how can a door unlock itself in a fraction of a second? It’s not my eyes I can’t trust, it’s my brain. It’s as though it’s erased the memory of the other five times that I’ve already checked the door.

Sometimes the obsession is more unfocussed, centering around feelings of grief, regret, shame or guilt. When I was a teenager, my father died of a pulmonary embolism. Like many children and young adults who experience the death of a parent, I believed that his death was somehow my fault. After all, it was I who controlled the world around me. Why hadn’t I been able to avert his death? There is no obvious compulsion in this circumstance. But there was an order of words – a complicated series of justifications and rationalizations that I could run through which would lessen the pain. But how much of this kind of rumination is too much? What happens if you lose minutes, hours, days to thoughts on loop? During certain periods of my life, I saw my future as all rumination. And what if – and this is the real killer – that regret, or shame or guilt is in some way justified?

I have had to accept that, prone as I am to OCD, it will always be there, hovering around the edges of my mind, ready to strike, particularly when I’m stressed or run down. But even contentedness tempts it to come a-calling. I must always be watchful; its shadowy promises of control are always alluring.

First published in Hard Times Happen, edited by Dr Charley Barnes (Black Pear Press)

Teika Marija Smits Bellamy is a fairytalesmith, editor, doodler, mother-of-two and... wild woman. Her debut poetry pamphlet, Russian Doll, is now out with Indigo Dreams Publishing.

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