It has been 80 days of living in an obsessive-compulsive mind. It took 80 days for my mind to regain the power of articulation.

Then again, I’ve been living in an OC mind forever: when I re-re-re-re read passages from my 10th-grade textbooks, without food or sleep, till Mumma’s doctor gave me SOS medication. That time, at 18, when I cut colorful things out of all the Femina magazines I could get my hands on, to paste it in a diary I would never open again. I keep it in the mental health souvenir box with the piece of a mug I smashed during one of my initial PTSD episodes and the letter I sent mummy the first month she was sent to the asylum. The way I stalked alphabets in my mind –



– all my life.

So, technically I have always lived in an OC mind. But the OC episodes- even if they stayed for weeks- passed. And the passing was the part we decided to focus on. Then I went into isolation for Covid in February. These episodes became a phase, which then became Me. It stuck to me, or I got caught inside it, I don’t know. I kept reaching for my usual coping mechanisms for help, but my hands came back empty, like a dog trying to catch her tail- only making myself dizzy.

The surprise I felt at what was happening to me made it worse. I am good at being on my own. I am the star of not leaving my room. This should have been a vacation from caregiving; 14 days of turning into Buddha himself. Then why was my brain distraught!

It refused to read, find joy in lists, or write. When it tried, the word strings refused to make meaning or feelings. It picked at my scalp till it bled. It ran private investigations on social media to find the identities of anonymous artists, throughout the night. It cut split ends from my hair, one end at a time in the morning. And it doom scrolled on social media after. At all times, I tried to push images of wet hairballs from washrooms out of it. I still feel my body- my toes, the gut, my chest- go tense as I type this. This is where I am in the process of recovery.

Isolation broke my mind like one breaks their childhood piggy bank. Unidentifiable twigs, ticket snubs faded to paper, parking tickets and a few consolatory coins spilled out of it. Things that I had played a part in putting there, that nevertheless shocked me when they showed up.

I feel angry and disappointed every time my mind “makes up” a new issue. Yeah, you’re not going to be able to sleep more than 3 hours starting tonight. It takes only a whiff of such trouble to turn my mind from ‘nurturing caregiver’ into ‘Wicked Witch of the West.’

It took me 18 days to just see this as a problem worthy of seeking help. It takes a minimum of 3-4 weeks after that for OC medicines to work. I was in total disbelief. My therapist consoled me “The loss of agency can do this to minds. You are sleeping on a mattress in someone else’s room, away from your things, against your will.” And yet, I couldn’t cut my mind some slack or be considerate towards it. It took me 50 days just to say ‘obsessive compulsive’ out loud. More to admit that I am not an imposter with “convenient” OC without a D; a wannabe using the phrase like ketchup. “hahaha…I am so OCD about my matt placement.” 60 days for my eyes to tire out from the incessant scrutinizing and start requiring a chashma– a souvenir from the time my mind broke. OC graciously helped me buy my first pair of glasses; I didn’t even have to go to a shop. OC kicks ass at research.

But it doesn’t know joy, only periodic relief at the completion of tasks: figuring out who that person is or buying 2 chashmas instead of one or that skincare item you can’t stop thinking about. Or when I finally gave in to an obsessive activity – the scrolling, stalking, reading reviews, picking at the scalp and split ends – I was forcing myself to not engage in it.

Joy comes, only momentarily, after 4 weeks of medication and 2 weeks of doubling the dose. It takes 3 days for a human to reach the moon and 8 weeks for science to give me my mind back; for triggering imagery to stop sticking, and for the OC to go back to being anxiety-induced episodes. To make space, walk 2 steps away and see the OC mind from afar.

In 2 more weeks, hopefully, I will muster gratitude for the wonder that is modern medicine. In some more, I’ll forgive my mind for coping however it does. I am still nowhere close to the weekly + daily agenda maker of I videos and food stories. But I can report that in 80 days, hope returns. A hope that if I never become the P I was 80 days ago, I will still manage to become one I like.

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