Some of my first memories, grainy and fuzzy as they might be, are normal people's memories until I reach the age of four. Then they revolve around having obsessive compulsive disorder. In fact, it may be why I remember so far back. The biggest most devastating intrusive thought I can recall was when I was six or so. My sister had told me that when you swallow your saliva it turns to blood as it goes down your throat. Now, granted her biology knowledge was haphazard at best, she was only eight. Kids say the darnedest things.....Now, most people would have thought that was gross but would go on and forget about it or continue playing. Not me. Never me.
For me this created an inability to swallow my own saliva. Every time I tried I could see it in my head turning to blood. So much so, that I was convinced that I actually could taste blood. I would spit constantly. I got in trouble for going around like a baseball player that dips and spitting everywhere. It was the first time I had to hide a compulsion. I started pretending to suck on the collar of my shirt so I could spit into it. My sleeves as well. I knew this was gross and going to make my shirt wet but the horrid thought of swallowing my own saliva became torture. I didn't want to taste the imaginary blood anymore. As I did it the more, the worse the obsession got. I started having a choking sensation every time I tried to swallow. Eating became a battle. I was so hungry but the thought of swallowing the food had become foreign to me. It seemed like a pure hell. If saliva turned to blood what would a bite of hamburger turn into? My parents started to see things abut me that scared them. I wasn't wanting to eat much. I was spitting. I was afraid to swallow anything and I would cry. I had started washing my hands to the point of them bleeding. I would slap myself in the head to make "my brain" stop yelling at me. I started touching things repeatedly. They weren't sure what was wrong but they could no longer pretend everything was normal with me. They took me to a doctor who said I had OCD but it might go away on it's own. It was the eighties and OCD wasn't commonly treated in children that young.
Thankfully, after a long talk with my parents I was told that spit does not turn into blood and I was able with constant reassurance, to eat and drink without freaking out. This was the time I was at most vulnerable with the intrusive thoughts. I didn't know what they were or that it wasn't like that for everyone else. That is also the time I became obsessed with music. I loved all of it. From classical to country and everything in between. I would lay on the floor with my head up against the speakers, imagining a really talented miniature people on a tiny stage inside the speaker. Oh how I wished I was a singer in the speaker.It became my first sense of silence. It took me away from my brain and what it was telling me. In the song I can feel what the singer feels. I can be someone else for a few minutes and I learned if I turn it up loud enough I can drown my obsessions out....
It's hard to describe the hell that living with this mental illness is like. The constant chatter of your intrusive thoughts playing like background noise. Sometimes yelling. Sometimes just talking, but always about bad things to come, bad things it says you will do, negative thoughts and feelings. It's much like having a defunct fortune teller in your head blathering bad predictions that never come to fruition because she is a terrible fortune teller. A gypsy fortune teller that is "seeing" your future through a pink plastic bouncy ball held together on the table with duct tape and using poker cards instead of tarot cards. Hell, she isn't even a gypsy. She's from Brooklyn. She doesn't even tell fortunes. She flunked out of beauty school and picked this as a side job until her internet college classes are finished for the semester. Yeah, it's like having that in your head but she never sleeps. She never rests. Never ceases. It's like sharing you brain with someone else but that someone else is you. A you that you hate. A you that you despise. A you that makes damn sure to torture you daily. And music, glorious music can give me peace. It can put the "fortune teller" away for as long as I hit the play button. Here I feel normal. Here I can feel safe from unwanted images. I am free for the first time of my life. So do I love music? It saves me. On a bad day when I want to stick my fingers in my ears and scream until it stops, I can put on headphones and turn it up. The lyrics sooth my fragile, sunburned, and exhausted soul like a warm balm. It soothes me. It takes me away and I am flying. It makes me smile again. It allows me, a terrible dancer, finally get the chance to dance. I can sing and forget that I have this issue, because when I sing I can be a character that the song is describing. I can be the heartbroken lover. I can be the angry cheated on spouse. I can be the outcast wanting love. I can be anyone else rather than the girl who looks so perfectly normal and yet is so completely not. I can feel less broken. I can be quiet. My brain is quiet. It's too occupied and Oh my God, is that amazing! So for me music isn't just a distraction or something to pass the time. It is my saving grace. My brain doctor. My medication. It is my salve. My bodyguard. My hero. My secret weapon.
On bad days I can sing. On bad days I can dance. On bad days I don't have to be sad or lonely or scared, I simply just have to turn the music up until my mind is a whisper not a roar. I just have to turn the volume dial and drown it out. Ahhhhhhh peace finally.