By the time I reach middle school, I realize that my concern about failing fourth grade was an exaggeration, but I wonder if I’m prone to exaggeration. I’m so worried about germs that I wash my hands countless times, locking myself in the bathroom to keep anyone from stopping me. I wash my hands until they bleed. I hate how my skin looks, but I can’t stop washing. I can’t sleep. I’m continually distracted. It feels like I’m having a constant panic attack.
At fourteen, I start to consider my options if I run out of hope completely. One day, I go on a hike with my parents: a family event I see as a parental ploy to get me to share my thoughts and feelings. Instead of talking to my parents, I have suicidal ideations. I worry about the emotional pain my suicide will cause people who love me, so I consider options that involve making my death look like an accident. As part of a religious obsession, I worry that, if I commit suicide, Satan will claim me as one of his followers. My anxiety about the consequences of suicide deters me from making a suicide attempt, but I’m terrified by the prospect of living an anxious life.
I can’t bring myself to completely reveal my thoughts to my parents, but I tell them enough that they make me an appointment with a psychiatrist. The appointment seems like a twisted game show. I assume a psychiatrist will ask me questions, and I’m afraid if I answer incorrectly, I’ll exit the stage never knowing what the correct answers are, huddled inside a suffering that can’t be labeled and treated. It’s hard to imagine walking away a winner.