I wake up.
It’s 7 o’clock. How long did I sleep? I went to bed at 9, but I didn’t fall asleep until later. I think I probably fell asleep around 9:15. So, I slept around 9 hours and 45 minutes. Did I sleep long enough? Maybe I should go to bed earlier tomorrow so I fall asleep earlier. I need 10 hours every night, or I won’t have enough energy during the day. Will I have enough energy today?
I get up on the right side of the bed, which is a homograph for the right side of the bed, where my slippers are a foot away, because I need space to tap each foot on the floor twice. Then I take one step each foot, and put on my slippers. What if my slippers are dirty? Maybe I should buy a new pair. I’ve had these for 2 weeks, they’re probably really dirty. I could get athlete’s foot. No, no, they’re fine.
Is my pulse fast? I feel like my pulse is beating at an irregular speed. Is it too fast? Is something wrong with me today? Should I go see a doctor? What if I didn’t get enough sleep. I could sleep for an extra 15 minutes, but then I wouldn’ get up at the same time that I did yesterday. I’d have to change my entire time pattern, and I only allow myself to make routine changes on the first day of every month.
3 steps each foot. Blink. Blink.
There is a rack of neatly ironed shirts. Three red, three white and three blue, and in that order. Red, white and blue are my favorite colors. I take a white collar shirt and then I have to move all the hangers so that they have equal intervals between them and I use a ruler to do that. When I’m done, I put my ruler back in its place, aligned with the grid on the desk.
The area of the room is a grid drawn in pencil. It took me an entire weekend to do. But having a grid calms me so much. Now I know that every step is equal. It’s so much easier to align things that my routines have sped up. It’s 7:04. Usually my ruler placing is done by 7:05.
I walk to the drawer with my shirt. 2 steps each foot. Blink. Blink. I open the right closet door and take out a white towel and a pair of black pants. My pulse is beating fast. I really need to count my pulse, but it’s 7:05. I need to go to the shower, or my whole routine will get ruined.
5 steps each foot to the shower. I stand outside the curtain, my feet aligned with the tiles. Blink. Blink.
I put my clothes and towel in a pile on the counter, on the right side of the sink.
When I’m showered, dressed and ready for school, it is precisely 7:30. I’m downstairs sitting on the right side of the kitchen table.
“Joel, you okay?” mom asks.
Am I okay? I check my pulse. It’s gone back to normal. I’m okay.
“Yeah, I’m good,” I say. It’s 7:31. I align my cereal bowl, which takes a little longer because there aren’t any grid lines on the kitchen table. Should I be eating less? I think I’m eating enough breakfast. Am I getting the right nutrients every day? I need to count my calories. Am I eating enough?
“Joel, did you take your medicine?”
“Not until 7:35, mom.”
I eat 4 cheerios in every spoonful. There are 40 cheerios in my bowl, so it takes 10 spoonfuls to finish. Mom doesn’t count how many cheerios or spoonfuls she eats. That’s why I don’t like sitting across from her, it makes me scared to watch things not being counted or regulated. Sometimes when things are so out of order, I have panic attacks. It happened last week when I lost count of my steps. But I have to sit on the right side of the table, because right and right are homographs.
It’s 7:45. What if I don’t take my meds? No, I have to. I have to take my meds every day. What if my meds aren’t helping me? What if they’re actually making my OCD worse? But if I don’t take them, and I’m wrong, I might have a bad day.
I need to wash my hands. They’re dirty, I can feel it. I need to wash them now or they might infect my medicine.
“Your meds,” mom says, putting a container in front of me.
Deep breath. I count 6 breaths. I’m okay. I’m okay.