I always knew I was different. I was a sensitive child. Some of my first memories consist of coming home from school and thinking about my day and all of the
things I had done badly, incorrectly, or the ways in which I had failed to be the daughter my parents would love. As a result, every day without fail I would get a huge knot in my stomach that wouldn’t go away. The only way I figured out to make it stop was to accost my father as he came in the door from work and to blurt out to him all the things I had done during the day that were wrong, and then to
ask for his forgiveness. I was 5. The pattern lasted for years.
I remember being a pre-teen. My mind was full of thoughts, most of which I was sure would damn me to hell. I prayed. I repeated my prayer each night, in the same order, the same number of times. My prayer saved me. My prayer protected my
family from imminent harm.
My mother got sick. She went to the hospital and I was a mess. All I could think of was to write down all the things that happened each day and to recite them back to my mother when I was allowed to talk to her in the evenings. I remember with clarity writing “my brother threw a dirty sock at me.” I knew my lists were trivial and that my mother didn’t know what to do with my confessions but the pattern continued.
I didn’t like my parents. My father was a strict disciplinarian. Each second of my life was controlled. I was a puppet in my parent’s puppet show. I longed for control and eventually found it by cutting. By my teen years the battle in my head was raging on. I could not voice the things in my head for fear of rejection or condemnation, so to make my mental pain subside I would find razor blades or
anything sharp and would cut to make the pain physical. Physical pain was much more feasible to me.
I was a troubled teen. I was living in my head. I started counting things. I started not stepping on cracks. I thought these were just “things people did” but soon my behaviors progressed.
I met my first boyfriend and he was the personification of everything that was not my father, everything that I wanted to get away from. I loved him for accepting me as I was. My parents did not know about my boyfriend. All of a sudden I found myself having the thought that my boyfriend
was “good” and my Dad was “bad.” By thinking so, I tried to keep the two separate. I could not bear the thought that the good would touch the bad because if that happened the good would become contaminated. I would come home from
dates with my boyfriend and before I knew it I was washing my hands every time I touched something my Dad had touched. I lived in daily fear of cross-
contamination. I started wiping things down. I started touching things a certain way, I started flicking light switches seven times. Seven became my number.