In public, people often mask their emotions. They smile and say they are fine. They chat and then walk away.
Heather, Ellen and Tom do this.
And they always look to be the same. Steady ships sailing on the river of life.
The Heather I see at the grocery store is not the real Heather.
The real Heather’s boyfriend is becoming abusive. He hasn’t hit her yet, but he has jerked her arm so hard it hurt and shoved away from his car.
Heather fears she may be pregnant again. She can’t have this baby.
I would be a lousy mother, she thinks.
Heather cries and says, “I swore my first abortion would be my last one, but what else can I do?”
The Ellen I smile at during church is not the real Ellen.
The real Ellen is a cancer survivor. She lives every day fearing the disease will return.
Ellen’s husband has checked out. He comes home from work, eats dinner, and then falls asleep in his recliner watching reruns of NCIS.
The two of them exchange only four or five sentences a day.
Ellen cries and vows, “One day I’ll get the courage to leave him. I’ll find a man who understands my fear.”
The Tom I view standing on the sidewalk is not the real Tom.
The real Tom is seeing his psychiatrist later today to ask her to change his medications. He takes antidepressant and antianxiety pills, but they aren’t working.
Every morning, Tom’s first thought is to kill himself.
His job stinks and his wife has moved out. He lives in squalor. Trash litters the floors and furniture. The grass in his yard is eight inches tall but cutting the grass requires energy he does not have.
Tom cries and says, “Tomorrow I will clean the house and mow the grass. I’ll look for a better job. I’ll call my wife and ask her to meet me to talk.”
But when he wakes up the next morning, his first temptation is to kill himself.
Few people see the real Debbie. Everyone else sees my mask.
These few people know the intensity of my struggle with OCD.
An unstoppable, continuous loop of repetitive thoughts plays and replays inside my mind.
These thoughts push me to perform, organize, and count.
This morning, obeying my OCD urgings, I set out to wash both sides of every door inside the house.
My bed sat unmade and two piles of dirty clothes lay on the bathroom floor. My kitchen needed attention.
I cry and tell myself, “Only a stupid person washes doors when her housework and laundry are out of control. I am stupid.”
This sad thought drives me to the kitchen where I finish the last of the graham crackers.
My sister calls.
“How are you?” she asks.
“Awful,” I say.
“What are you doing?” she asks.
“I’m standing in the kitchen eating my 16th graham cracker.”
“Sixteen graham crackers will never be enough,” she says.
She is right.
Food, no matter how much of it I eat, cannot fix what is wrong with me.
Food is not the solution to my problem.
An abortion is not the solution to Heather’s problem.
Leaving her husband and finding a new mate is not the solution to Ellen’s problem.
Suicide is not the solution to Tom’s problem.
I am thankful my sister cares about me.
She and other family members and friends encourage me. They check often to see how I am doing.
I am stronger because they care.
Who cares about Heather, Ellen and Tom?