Obsessed with Obsession by Vanessa Salemi

Editor Acacia Blackwell, Editor's Choice, January 21st, 2019

"The stove needs to be checked thirty more times or your mother will artlessly burst into flames."


Personal Essay by Vanessa Salemi

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Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. It’s a blooming curiosity, a deadly flower that plants itself in the back of your head, continuously flourishing and overfilling the room and as it grows bigger, the roots stem directly into your veins and you feel it raging through your body. It is the puppeteer. Words often began to vomit out of your mouth because a voice—which sounds an awful lot like your own—tells you to say everything that is on your mind. No matter who you hurt. Because the consequences of ignoring your compulsions are worse than you blurting out that you hate your sister’s hair or your friend’s outfit is unpleasant to the eye. Nothing can truly be as hostile as living in your own head, with no control over the chorus of impulsivity that spews from your lips. And when the paranoia starts to set in and the edge of reality blurs, you have to make sure to ask your friend to repeat what she had just said…again and again…because you didn’t hear it the first time. Or the second time. Or the third. It has always been imperative that you can validate a conversation, word for word, because that means it actually happened. OCD is a gun and you are the loaded bullet. It is impossible to stray from the shot being taken and you land where it wants to you to land, the consequences-too often-be damned. Yet you still feel it’s unjust. The lack of recognition or understanding people give you, when you have been tasked with saving their lives every single day. But you are just Hancock when you strive to be Wonder Woman. You breathe into compulsions to save those you love, but end up hurting yourself with the strenuous actions of your flourishing civil war. The stove needs to be checked thirty more times, or your mother will artlessly burst into flames. Your hands need to be washed until they are covered in a glove of scabs and rashes, or your sister will catch the disease that is you. Flick your bedroom light on and off four more times or the light in your dad’s eye will be the last thing you see when he crashes his car coming home from work. Did you re-read that word over again? I think you should. At least until the word you’re reading blurs from behind your eyelids and you can no longer see or feel the true meaning behind it. Until your brain no longer believes that seeing the word “hell” or “death” will result in both hell and death. Make sure you count your footsteps around the house and if you stop on an odd number, back up. If you stop on the number six, back up. If you have any bad thoughts at all, back up, back up, BACK UP.


Your heart will begin to bounce along the edge of your ribs, like an animal wheezing and rattling in a cramped cage. Waiting for the inevitable slaughter. Panic has come to attack and it is a much bigger beast now that it’s got you surrounded. It is the feeling of a limb being ripped from your conscious body, yet nobody can see it happening. It is shredding through your body, internally, to hide from the rest of the world what catastrophe is concocting in your chest. Depersonalize your personality so that you are no longer one with yourself and remember that your brain is fighting a battle royal, while your body is the arena. The response is fight or flight but your boxing gloves don’t fit and you are deathly afraid of airplanes. And reassurance only works for so long. Your mom can tell you you’re fine, your dad can tell you he’s proud, but your brain knows which string to nip so you dance the same dance you’ve been doing since you were ten years old.


“Have you ever tried just not doing it?” Well, have you ever tried not breathing? To me, it is the exact same thing. My thoughts and my impulses are connected through one integral organ in my head and it cannot be removed with a scalpel. It cannot be shrunk like some cancers nor felt with my trembling hands. Hands that would like nothing more than to pop open the skull and rip out the growing disease by the roots—my veins be damned. The thoughts that shelve themselves in the shadowy parts of “normal” brains do not exist in my own. Mine await the spotlight, making themselves a known presence on the stage. They accept an award they have no right to win. Their speeches consist of nothing but lies, convincing their host that compulsions will relieve the concern and unease. I’m at the mercy of the larvae that induced in my head, giving me a constant, zapping reminder. A reminder that I am but a causality in this war.

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Header image courtesy of Erik Jones. To view his Artist Feature, go here.

Vanessa Salemi is a graduate of York University with a major in Professional Writing. She lives in Canada, where she enjoys reading and writing about various thing that interest her. She runs her own website called The Butterfly Bones (thebutterflybones.com) where she posts writing, blogs and ideas to share with the world. She loves true crime and romance, even though those two things rarely go together, and enjoys stuffing her face into books.


Acacia Blackwell

Acacia is a writer from Portland, OR, which suits her because sunshine gives her anxiety. She is currently completing an MFA, despite being recently told by Tom Spanbauer that to become a better writer, she needs to "unlearn all that grad school stuff." She listened, and it seems to be working. Acacia is working on a collection of personal essays that she really doesn't want to admit might be a memoir, and a memoir that she really doesn't want to admit might be a novel.