It wasn’t until she reached her early twenties that she realized that she could look back in time and pinpoint specific moments in her life that were no doubt symptoms of her illness. These seemingly innocent and perceived meaningless childhood “quirks” as her parents often referred to them as, were actually smaller pieces of a bigger puzzle. A puzzle that was fragmented and confusing and that she would probably spend the rest of her life desperately trying to piece back together with very little success.
She remembered all of those afternoons walking home from school and carefully stepping over the cracks in the sidewalk instead of letting her feet touching them, for fear that something terrible might happen if she did, then having to repeat the process all over again if her feet slipped just once and accidentally touched. Only on rare occasions could she muster enough willpower to ignore a mishap such as this and continue on her way home counting and carefully stepping as if the tragedy had never happened in the first place.
Sometimes even then, after gaining the courage on these rare occasions to ignore her clumsiness and continue on her way, the guilt would begin to eat away at her so she would give in and start all the way back at the beginning.She’d count the numbers in her head as she lifted her feet up in the air to step over the cracks. 1, 2, 1,2,1,2. Each sidewalk square and each step onto it had to be precise. Count to two miss the crack, foot meets pavement, repeat; on and on that way until she’d reach her destination.
Even earlier memories consisted of the days sitting up in her car seat as a toddler, talking excitedly and counting the road kill alongside the road. Or then there was the time when she and mommy were in the car and it went off the road into a ditch and they had to sit and wait for daddy to come to the rescue. The turn signal clicked as they waited. She looked out the window and into the mirrors and saw tons of little green eyes staring back at her. Of course it was only her imagination, vivid for her age, but nonetheless a strange imagination at that, peculiar and different from other children her age. Interestingly enough this memory would stick with her for the rest of her life but never really hold much meaning other than the fact that her mind liked to run wild and she frightened easily.
This uneasiness would always remain and would only begin to worsen with age, her imagination would always be more peculiar, and darker than others. This awkward child whose mind was always racing would unfortunately only grow to be an even more awkward and anxious adult. Things spiraled out of control when she reached the age of nine. The sidewalk stepping would not start for another year or so, but before that there was the big fight that her parents got into one night that resulted in them deciding that they would be getting a divorce. That is when she started hearing voices. They spoke to her in a menacing way, always nagging her and causing her to feel guilty, but it was always trivial things that they would ask of her. “Don’t leave that magazine on the floor or something bad will happen to so and so.” Or “Dry your hands with the towel three times in a row or the devil will possess you.”
For some reason she had a constant fear of things like exorcism or the devil, and hell itself. This numbing fear most likely stemmed from catching a glimpse of an episode from one of her mother’s favorite soap operas on the television one afternoon. The character on the television screen, Marlana, lay in bed thrashing around violently having been possessed by Satan. It was a silly thing to associate with her obsessive compulsive tendencies and fears and the strange new voices she was hearing, especially since later on in life she would not be the least bit religious or even believe in heaven or hell for that matter. But for some reason, just like the other strange things she remembered, this one fear stuck with her throughout adulthood and became one of the reasons she never watched classic movies like The Exorcist. To her, it was just too freaky.
The voices like many things in her life eventually disappeared. They seemed to be gone once she hit puberty, but then would pop in and out on rare occasions to say hello or nag a little more before finally disappearing from her life once and for all. Perhaps they were nothing more than a way to cope with feeling guilty for her parents getting divorced and worrying that, if she didn’t do everything just so, something bad would happen to a loved one. After all, hadn’t it been her own mother who had asked if she thought she and the girl’s father should get divorced? The girl had said yes. As much as she loved her parents and adored her father (she was always a daddy’s girl), he and her mother just fought way too much and she was sick of having to bury herself in piles of stuffed animals to drown out all of the yelling.
Years later, here she was at the age of 26 with all of this baggage and more. Having never truly witnessed a loving relationship or lived in a stable environment, she struggled with her own sexual identity and in being able to function normally when it came to maintaining a healthy relationship once the foundation had been built. It seemed that the foundation for each relationship, no matter which individual she had shacked up with for the time being always seemed to be based off of some type of dysfunction or abuse. Perhaps it was because it’s all she grew up knowing and its all she could afford to give in return to others, clearly lacking the stability and ability to trust that is needed to have and hold onto a relationship.
So as a result, she ended relationship after relationship, finding that she was too ill equipped to even comprehend what it meant to love another, let alone show it. It didn’t matter who she was dating, she drove each significant other crazy with her lunacy, until they eventually could not take anymore. Always double checking to see if the doors were locked properly or making sure that the stove was turned off, an heaven forbid that the brute across the hall look at her girlfriend in the wrong way. Eventually the women and earlier on, even the men would just become another ex to add to her long list of exes.
She tried to get help a couple of times. She even went to therapy and anger management after being arrested during a domestic dispute with one of the ex’s on that very long list. However somehow at the end of the day she would always still find some sort of way to sabotage the relationship and become that green eyed monster she so feared. She was always left wondering at the end of the day if she would ever be “normal” or be able to find and maintain a “healthy relationship.” One where Prozac and Lamictl didn’t have to call the shots. She wanted to be able to feel on her own, without having to take pills every damn day. She decided to stop taking them altogether. To hell with the damn things, what good did they do anyways?
“I cast out you corrupt evil. I cast out your blasphemy” He was standing over top of her looking down with a puzzled expression on his face. Was she in a bed? What the hell? She peered down to see that she was not only laying in a bed but was also wearing an old night gown that she did not remember ever owning, yet its appearance seemed strangely familiar. “Lord have mercy on us. Christ have mercy on us.” The chanting of prayer began again. “Lord have mercy on us, Christ have mercy on us.” A bald priest and a few of her ex lovers stood over her repeating the incantation.
She could feel the heat rising from her body. She felt like she were on fire. The priest moved closer to her, sweat trickling down his face profusely. She tried willing herself to speak despite the million questions, numbers, observations, and precise details buzzing in her head. She moved her lips but no sound came out. Her ex turned to the priest and murmured something in his ear. She tried her best to catch what she was saying. “The witness said that she was standing in the street with her pill bottles and that before he could get to her she downed the damn things and was out cold.”
So much sweat, so much heat, the thoughts in her head were growing louder, too loud, they were shouting, they became familiar. Bottles? Pills? Downed? No. That was impossible. She had stopped taking her medication days ago. Or at least she thought it was days ago. Lately the days seemed to bleed together more and more and she really wasn’t even sure what day of the week it was now, or even what month. Shaking her anxious thoughts aside for a moment she managed to look up and to her disgust immediately noticed that the sweaty priest was still standing over her chanting nonsense. There beside her lay two empty pill bottles precisely labeled. Precisely precise. Prozac 1,2,1,2,1,2, and Lamictl, 3,4,3,4,3,4.
How could that be? She looked back up at the sweaty man, the heat was rising. She meant to ask what the hell was going on but stopped just as she was about to form her question. It was then that she noticed her reflection in a mirror. Her eyes were black as coal and her body was pale as can be, and that night gown, oh god that awful hideous night gown. It suddenly dawned on her where she had seen it before. Her thoughts flashed back to a television set, to the woman thrashing around in bed on the screen. It was the same nightgown that Marlana had worn as they tried desperately to perform an exorcism.
The heat was rising, and now she could feel herself sweating profusely, flames engulfed the bed as the priest let out a maniacal laugh, and it was then that her voice finally let her speak. That voice, her voice… it was that same menacing voice that she used to hear growing up. It was speaking to her just as it used to when she was a young girl. This wasn’t just a dream or some stupid scene in a soap opera, she was now living the scene in the soap opera. Having been possessed, she was now trapped in her own deepest fear with no way to escape.
She hadn’t stopped taking her pills. She had taken too many. There it was again, that laugh of the priest, the rising heat, causing her to focus again on what exactly it was she was seeing. Hell was real, and the voices were real, and Satan herself were real, and she was there, staring at herself back through the glass of the mirror, thrashing to and fro, the stinging of holy water now boiling on her skin. All she could do was stare back at her reflection in terror, knowing there was no way to escape. She began to count the drops of sweat falling from her face. 1,2,1,2,1,2,1,2.