Texas summers are famous for the scorching heat, notorious for suffocating and dragging the life right out of you. Last June wasn't dry- it was a barren wasteland. There was no sign of life, nor any trace of flowing water. Just the thick heat, relentless and coming in waves off of the asphalt. I was growing brittle and dry by the day, skin turned tanned and sticky from the sunshine and even my smallest pair of denim shorts were falling right off of my hips. My hair had grown far out and had begun to reach the bottom of my rib cage, a feature newly highlighted by my frequent waves of panic and loss of body fat. Although it was turning blonde, it remained knotted and stringy, capturing the stench of my illness in every clump that washed down the shower drain, no shampoo bubbles to join it. The OCD was positively tyrannical, conspiring with the stifling heat to keep me living as a ghost, disappearing inch by inch every day.
There's no way to map out where the rituals began and it was impossible to keep up with the rapid spread. OCD has been described by clinicians as an infection that consumes everything in it's path- an idea that my health anxiety strongly dislikes. Long before I started doing any overt compulsions, I obsessed and ruminated for months, and would often be unpredictably swept up into riptides of panic and heartbreak. I could be found tearful and tucked away in closet floors or quietly waking my mom in the night when the fear became overwhelming. The compulsive behaviors became apparent with hand-washing, causing my hands to bleed each night after a hot shower, and what eventually became my trademark- avoiding foods which felt unsafe or contaminated. The illness didn't stop there; it was greedy to pry every last comfort and strength from my shaking clenched fists. Just when I was certain that it had gone too far, it came for more. It began leaking into every aspect of my life, staining every moment with distress. Rituals that my family noticed started to characterize me, and I became deeply isolated. By the time my friend flew in from North Carolina to visit, I had grown weary by the missed nutrients and the long nights of battles lost to rituals that kept me awake and frantic well into the early morning. He quickly became