Meet Caroline: Her Ambition Prevails Over Hidden Obstacles

Photo by Celeste Kelly
Photo by Celeste Kelly

I’m Caroline McCarry.  I’m a daughter and a friend; a sister and a cousin; a baker and a writer; a cheerleader and a person who has suffered from OCD and depression for the majority of my life.  I don’t let my mental illness define me, I don’t use it as an excuse, and I know that I’m lucky to have a supportive network of family and friends.  I’m okay now, but I wasn’t always.

This is the best way I know how to describe my struggle with OCD.  This is a glimpse of #myinvisiblefight.

I’m almost ninety percent sure that I texted Kyle that I would meet him at the dining hall. Eighty. Eighty percent sure. I probably shouldn’t check. Why should I check, I know that I texted him, so I don’t need to check. But what if I’m not sure? What if I accidentally forgot to send it, or what if I sent it to someone else? I have to check.

“Hey meet at the nest at 5?”

Okay, now I’m one hundred percent sure I sent the right thing. Nest at five. Nest. Right, right, left; right, left, left; right, right, left; left, right, right. nestnestnestnestnestnest. Kyle. Right, right, left; right, left, left; right, right, left; left, right left. kylekylekylekylekyle. Okay, now I know that I sent it, and I will meet him at five. Five. Right, right, left, right, left, left; right, left, left, left, right, left. fivefive. The sink looks dirty. I bet there’s dirt underneath the faucet. I probably shouldn’t look. If I look, then I’ll know for sure that it’s there, and I won’t want to drink from it. But now I think that it’s there already, so if I don’t look, then I’ll be wondering whether or not it’s dirty. I can’t look. I have to.

There’s mold growing on our sink. Mold. M is special. It gets five lines, and everything else gets three. Right, right, middle, middle, left; right, left, left; right, right, left; right, left, left. moldmoldmoldmoldmold. Moldy dirty sickening mold. Mold will make me sick. Mold will make Becky sick. Mold is bad. I have to clean the mold. I can use this toothbrush, because I want to open a new one anyways, because this one has been near the dirty moldy sink. I have to scrub the mold. Mold. Right, right, middle, middle, left; right, left, left; right, right, left; right, left, left. moldmoldmoldmoldmold. The mold is black. I think that black mold is bad. Is black mold worse than green mold? It smells bad.

At least, I think it smells bad. Maybe it just looks so gross that it makes me think it smells bad. What if some of this nasty dirty moldy mold got in my mouth? It probably got in my mouth. Maybe it got in my mouth when I was brushing my teeth. Or maybe it’s shooting up spores in self-defense while I’m scrubbing it. Some of it is coming off, but not all. It’s all going down the drain. I’m killing the moldy nasty dirty mold that’s full of germs. Full of illness and dirty germs. I can make the mold go away, if I scrub hard enough. It’s coming out from under the faucet. That’s good. I like when I can kill the mold. I can’t see anymore of it. It must be gone. I have to go throw this toothbrush in the kitchen trash so that the dirty nasty germy mold won’t be in our room anymore.
I have to hold the toothbrush far away. What if those spores are still jumping around? I don’t like it. What if other people have cleaned their moldy sinks and then they touched the doorknob with their moldy hands and then the mold bred on the doorknob and now I have the dirty nasty moldy mold on my fingers and what if I touch my mouth? I shouldn’t touch my mouth. But what if I did? I can’t. I shouldn’t.Don’ttouchyourmouthdon’ttouchyourmouthdon’ttouchyourmouth.
I have to wash my hands, but I don’t want to wash them in my sink because then the dirty mold will be back in our room. I’ll use the kitchen sink, and I know there’s some antibacterial soap there. Soap. Right, right, left; right, left, left; left, left, right; left, right, right. Soapsoapsoapsoapsoap.


"One of my most prevalent compulsions is tracing words into my hands with my thumb"
“One of my most prevalent compulsions is tracing words into my hands with my thumb” Photo by Celeste Kelly

I heard once that you’re supposed to sing the ABC song twice when you wash your hands, but I don’t think that that is long enough. You need to make sure that you kill all of the germs. Germs. Right, right, left; right, left, left; right, right, left; right, middle, middle, left, left; left, right, left. Germsgerms. There was that one time in Family and Consumer Science class when we had to put on special lotion to see where we didn’t wash our hands enough, and the back of my hands were bright purple. Ever since then, I make sure to wash my hands really well. I have to make sure that they feel clean. Sometimes, once I wash the soap off, they still don’t feel clean, and I have to wash them again. Wash each finger individually. Pinkie, ring, middle, pointer, thumb, thumb, pointer, middle, ring, pinkie. And again. Rinse them carefully, letting all the dirty nasty moldy suds disappear down the drain.

What if all the drains are connected? What if all of the moldy nasty dirty mold that I washed down the drain comes out of my shower head? What if I’ve been bathing in moldy water all year? If there’s mold in the shower, and the shower is so enclosed, then I’m breathing in mold every time I take a shower. If I breathe in mold, it will get in my lungs and make me sick. If I’m sick I won’t go to class, and then I’ll fail. I’m going to fail and get kicked out of school for failing. This is why people don’t like me, they know I’m a failure. I have no friends because they know that I’m afraid and a loser and weak. I can’t go to class when I’m sick. I have to clean the mold so that I can stay in college.
I was right. The shower is moldy. I need to douse the walls with antibacterial spray. It smells bad. What if the cleaning spray suffocates me and makes me asphyxiate? Becky would come home and find me passed out on the ground. How would she take me to the hospital? She doesn’t have a car. I should open a window. There, that’s better. Fresh air. Now the shower. There is a pool of mold in the corner. Nasty dirty germy mold that will make me sick. I have to clean it, but I don’t want to touch it. It’s making me feel sick.
I’ll start with the walls. I have to scrub the walls. If I use the highest water pressure, the shower head sprays the mold away if I douse it with cleaning spray. There. Now it is all going down the drain. Even the pool of mold in the corner.
My hands are shaking. I don’t remember my hands shaking. My head is spinning and I feel dizzy. Is my heart supposed to beat this fast? Am I dying? This doesn’t feel normal. I’m all by myself and I don’t feel normal. I should lie down, but now I feel nauseous. Maybe I’ll just sit up in bed. But my clothes are dirty nasty moldy bad. I take them off. I put my moldy jeans and my moldy socks and my cirty t-shirt in my laundry hamper. I can’t put the hamper in my closet because then the dirty clothes might get mold on my clean clothes. I can’t keep the hamper in my room because then the mold spores will be in the air and I’ll breathe them in and that will be bad. I put the hamper in the bathroom and close the door.

Now I can sit in my bed.
I press my left index finger against the side of the bridge of my nose, pressing the fingernail into the flesh. The pain makes the nausea go away. I begin to trace words into my right hand to calm myself. I’m ok. OK. Right, right, left; right, left, left. Okokokokokokokokokok. Over and over again. Okokokokokokokokokok.
I can hear Becky coming down the hall; her footsteps are distinctive. Becky’s coming home so now if I die someone will be here with me and it will be ok because she’ll know that I’m here. The door is opening and there she is, smiling, until she sees me.
“Becky,” I say, “I don’t feel good.” She sits on the bed and pushes my hair back from my eyes. Right, right, left; right, left, left. Okokokokokokokokokok.

 I can see concern in her eyes.Caroline

“Did you take your Lexapro today?” she asks, kindly.
No, no I did not take it and I did not take it yesterday or the day before. I have not taken my Lexapro. I am relieved. I need to take my Lexapro now. Becky anticipates my actions, and hands it to me.

Little white pills, so small. Take the Lexapro and it will all be ok.

Caroline bioEditor’s Note: Caroline recently graduated college with a degree in English. She’s an inspiration to all who suffer from invisible struggles and her success is a testament to just how much can be accomplished. Thanks for sharing your story!

Follow us