“How does this work exactly?”, I asked.
“Start by telling me why your parents wanted you to seek therapy”, Dr. Gärtner proposed.
“It’s because of strange behavioral problems I’ve exhibited over the years…”, I started.
Ever since my return back home, I’ve been feeling a great discomfort; my head has been pounding, my heart violently heaving. Everything feels like it’s coming apart. Although that mainly has to do with being stuck around my parents, I was seriously worried about the direction my life will be taking once I’m back in Iowa. I’ve never felt so unsure about my next step before, and the stress that’s causing is huge I could feel the irritable side of me reemerging day after day. My parents thought I’d be happy to be home, but I’m definitely not acting like it and it’s bothering them. A couple of nights ago, I’ve started taking anxiety pills again, and even then, I couldn’t sleep. I paced around my bedroom and talked to myself, something my mom noticed last night, and for once, she didn’t let it go; she suggested I seek therapy.
My transition from childhood into adolescence wasn’t as smooth and easy as it was for other kids. Although I seemed to be growing up fairly fine, some behavioral problems proved otherwise; I’ve developed various severe psychological issues, mainly OCD which manifested itself as an obsession with cleanliness, symmetry and a tormenting attention to detail, as well as extreme social withdrawal. The fleeting and intrusive thoughts and my obsessive-compulsive disorder then converted into a severe fixation on my physical appearance; I briefly suffered from a dysmorphic disorder when I hit adolescence and would rarely leave the house. I’d stay locked inside my bedroom with the curtains fully closed since the darkness kept me from seeing my skin’s imperfections.
I would daydream to ward off boredom and that eventually prohibited me from living. At first, I was able to hide and control the angst, but it soon took over my life and that’s when my parents noticed the unusual change in my behavior and became very concerned. It was then that I finally became aware of how serious my psychological issue was, and decided to overcome it. The battle was hard, but luckily for me, just when I had given up, a feeling of hope suddenly filled me from the inside out one morning, bringing me back out into the real world shortly after. However, although dysmorphia was just a phase, OCD, for the most part, wasn’t. Until this very day, it still plagues my life. I’ve failed to notice that for a long time because my obsessions frequently changed and shifted from one obsession to another, interdicting me from acknowledging their presence. I’m still failing to see that those obsessions are serious matters that need to be dealt with. I’ve heard a lot about aversion therapy, but exposing myself to somebody in order to come face to face with my flaws makes me nervous. I’ve always believed that avoiding to share our insecurities made it less likely for people to notice them. We are our own worse enemies: We fixate our thoughts on one minor flaw and let our mind expand its seriousness, making it look like a major one.
Back then, my behavior wasn’t just obsessive, but also violent. When I was a kid and did something normal people would consider insensitive or cruel, like making fun of a disabled person or hitting someone, I always got the same negative reaction followed by the same question, “Have you got no empathy?” Of course, I didn’t have a clear answer to that, and that wasn’t because I knew I didn’t, but because I never stopped and questioned my behavior; I always acted on impulse and instinct, and I’ve often believed my actions were valid, at least in my view.
Clearly, I was and still am no stranger to mischief. Back in school, I’ve done all kinds of atrocious things. I recall how some days during recess, I’d sneak out of the school grounds and walk over to the parking lot where I’d key teachers’ cars; only the ones I deemed bad or unfair. Other times, I’ve sprinkled little drops of ink on their chairs right before class started. The satisfaction that brought me as I watched them sit down and then get up with stains on their bottoms was tremendous I couldn’t help but smirk and giggle. Since a lot of my friends either encouraged or participated in my delinquent behavior, I never saw or considered myself as being abnormal. Actually, many thought I was bad-ass and that boosted my ego and encouraged me to commit worse acts like twisting a boy’s arm, shooting fake guns at close range and putting pins in people’s sneakers whenever they took them off for gym class. I wanted to please them more, and so I kept on finding new and innovative ways to create nuisances and hurt in other people’s lives. I won’t say my actions weren’t grotesque or evil because they were, but for the most part, the pain I’ve inflicted came in naturally to me; I rarely moralized or demoralized the things I did, instead I just acted. That said, I can’t deny that my cruelty wasn’t recently premeditated because everything I’ve done in the past few months, whether it was to Tye, Heather or Paul, was a calculated act of revenge which they deserved nonetheless. However, I made sure to keep those stories to myself and avoided sharing too much.
After several hour-long sessions spent recounting my stories, Dr. Gärtner seemed distressed on my behalf as I told her some of my sad childhood experiences; like the time my father beat me. I could feel her truly rooting for me throughout the whole thing which I appreciated. During our last session together, she spoke more than I did, summing up her thoughts on everything I’ve told her. She suggested the possibility I could be suffering from an antisocial personality disorder, and although it didn’t take me a PhD to figure that out, we were still not entirely sure about which one it was. She avoided diagnosing me with any kind of specific mental disorder right upfront because she still had doubts.
“Even though we’ve spent a great deal of time together, Felix, I still can’t get a sense of who you truly are and what kind of disorder you’re suffering from”, was her conclusion.
Walking out of her office for the last time, I drew my own:
I think of myself as a perilously balanced individual; someone whose whole life is spent standing in the middle of a scale separating the right side from the wrong side. The scary part lies in the fact I’m highly unstable; I could easily tip to one side or to the other without knowing it, and that alone makes me exceptionally dangerous.