I blink, are my eyes deceiving me? Is this some kind of dream…nightmare?!
What the actual hell?! I never wake up at 7.32.
I always, always without fail, open my eyes at 7.29am. I don’t even have an alarm, it just…happens. I wake at 7.29 and get out of bed at 7.30. Every. Single. Day.
Why? What is different about today? The panic starts as a tight knot in my stomach, slowly expanding until my whole body is consumed in terror. I am literally shaking. I am trying to figure out where exactly I went wrong, and what impact it will have on today.
You might think this is an adverse reaction to waking up a few minutes late, but for me every single second of every single day is planned out. It has to be. My routine goes exactly the same every day. I wont bore you with all the exact details (you know, 7.44am drink coffee, 7.58am brush teeth…), then you will really start to think I’m crazy! But if anything, and I mean anything, goes wrong, bad things happen.
Wow, I sound insane, even to myself.
My mum always said I was an odd little boy, always organising everything obsessively, from toys to games and everything had to be ‘in it’s place’. For that reason, I never had many friends. You can imagine that, can’t you? People don’t like to be controlled and I can’t bear to just ‘go with the flow’, be ‘whimsical’. In fact, the thought of letting things just ‘run their course’ fills me with an unnatural, sweaty, paralysing fear.
Yes, before you ask, I have been through numerous therapy sessions and seen many, many doctors. They all jump to the same conclusion, I have OCD. I go along with it in the hospital, desperate to get away from these people in this weird place, back to my routine. I take the medication with a smile on my face, promising to work on my Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. But it’s more than that, I know it is. Bad things really do happen if I don’t stick to my routine, and not just to me!
I started to take things a bit more seriously, when I reached the age of 8. Before then, I just liked to be in control and organised. Then I noticed, if I didn’t do things at the same time every day, in the same way, everything would fall apart. I would start to feel uneasy, panicky, the whole day would be ruined.
Mum finally cracked and got me looked at when I was 11. The doctor convinced me everything was in my head, that I just needed to change my thought patterns and it would all be ok. I took his advice to heart, sure that if I tried my best, I could start being ‘normal’, like all the other kids in my class. They didn’t seemed to be plagued with any of the issues I had, I longed to be carefree and fun like them.
The next morning, I woke up at 7.29am, but instead of getting out of bed, I squeezed my eyes shut, willing them to go back to sleep, that all would be fine. My breaths got shallow and ragged, my heart pounding so hard I was certain it was going to burst out of my chest, my legs twitching, itching to get up. I resisted, determined to win. I lay there for the longest 2 minutes of my life. I opened one eye, fearful of what would greet me, but everything appeared normal.
Calming down, I went downstairs, proud of my huge achievement. I expected praise from my mother, but it turns out she hadn’t noticed the time difference to my normal arrival at breakfast. I guess 2 minutes is not a long time for other people. The day continued as normal, I started to relax, really relax. I was over the moon with myself, and happy that I could finally be like everyone else.
Until I got home that evening. I walked in to my mother crying, a grim atmosphere encased the room. My stomach fell to the floor, I had no idea what was wrong, but I knew it was my fault. I cursed myself for not trusting my instincts, for forcing myself to listen to someone who knew absolutely nothing about me, about my curse. As I wrapped my arms around my mother, I discovered the truth. My father had been killed in a car accident, hit by a drunk truck driver.
My whole world fell apart at that moment.
The number 29 came to haunt my whole life after that. Mum has never recovered, she is still a shell of her former self, unable to function like a normal person. And me? 10 years later, here I am, being tormented by the same thing. Waking up late. This is the first time I have done that since that fateful day. Don’t get me wrong, I have caused all sorts of other illnesses, accidents, problems…but nothing like the first one. They have all be the result of me forgetting to flick the light switch 29 times, or being unsure that I locked the front door right. I have never, ever allowed anything so tragic happen again.
This is bad. This is really, really bad.
I’m wringing my hands in terror. I don’t know what this means for me, my family, everyone I know….
What do I do first?! I can’t exactly try and rectify the problem, it’s far too late for that. In fact, it’s already 7.42am. Oh god, it’s all gone to hell now, what shall I do?! Should I ring my family? Run outside and warn everyone to be careful…
Then my eyes set on the television remote. I don’t know why, but for some reason I just know that it holds the key. It has the answer to what I have done. My stiff hand stretches to pick it up, before I even know what I’m doing. I stare at the black box in my hand, too frightened to press anything, knowing whatever I see will torture me, but also knowing that I have bought whatever it is on myself. I must have got careless somewhere, I’ve obviously let myself get too tired.
I deserve this punishment, I need to know who I have hurt this time, so with one last tremble, I hit the on button and the news flashes up before my eyes…”