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  • Most people at my school look forward to lunchtime, but it's the scariest time of day for me.

  • Luckily, we manage to avoid the rush. My best friend, Sophie, and I sit at a small table near the edge of the food hall

  • I watch as more students flood in and start queuing up to get their lunch

  • Some of them are messing around, pushing each other and laughing

  • Even Jennifer, the most popular girl in school who actually hates me

  • is in the queue just giggling and flirting with all the boys

  • I've started bringing my lunch from home instead

  • "Ella?", Sophie breaks my train of thought [ Sophie] "I asked you how the maths paper went…"

  • That morning we were given a practice maths test. The pressure is on for our real exams which are taking place in a few months

  • [Ella] "Could have been better, I'm so behind."

  • "Ah, don't worry! There's still time to catch up. You're doing great being back here!"

  • Sophie tries to reassure me

  • She's right. I have been doing much better recently, this time last year I couldn't have made it into school at all

  • I notice Jennifer and her friends sit down at a table close to ours

  • I shift in my seat

  • Those girls make me feel so uncomfortable. They just think I'm a weirdo

  • They start talking loudly about the maths paper and we can't help but overhear

  • [Jennifer] "I should have done well! I was going totally crazy in there, seriously OCD, checking everything."

  • Jennifer's sharp voice rings in my ears, she's laughing. I feel frozen, stuck to my chair

  • Sophie's concerned eyes meet mine

  • [Ella] "It's okay!" I lie, speaking quietly so that only Sophie will hear

  • [Ella] "I just need to get out of here for a minute."

  • I hurry out of the hall. All of a sudden everything seems so overwhelming, there are too many people talking and eating

  • I silently pray that the bathroom is empty

  • Fortunately, there's no one else around. I stare at myself in the mirror, I'm trembling.

  • I have contamination OCD

  • Feelings from last year come rushing back. I'm terrified of getting ill

  • I wring my hands, they must be dirty already.

  • Mentally I start listing everything that I've touched throughout the morning, so many germs

  • I've probably also touched my hair, clothes, maybe even my face.

  • By now, I'm dirty all over - contaminated. I pull a paper towel from the dispenser, and discard it

  • Maybe somebody touched that one

  • I take another, and use it to turn on the tap

  • I start washing my hands, scrubbing quite hard

  • I feel sick which only scares me more, even though logically I know that nausea is a daily side effect of my medication

  • I try to breath. What am I doing? It's so frustrating

  • This all started when I was around 11 or 12

  • Nothing traumatic happened. The doctors eventually said that my OCD was triggered by puberty a chemical imbalance in my brain

  • At first it wasn't a big deal, people just thought I was odd. I liked things to be a certain way

  • I started showering before and after school, but I was still functioning fairly normally

  • Around my 14th birthday it started getting worse. I would spend hours washing myself

  • My mum caught me about to take bleach into the shower. That's when we went to the doctor

  • But I am better now, I'm coping.

  • I don't know why Jennifer's words are throwing me off like this

  • People say that kind of thing all the time - it's just a silly phrase

  • I spend a few more moments composing myself and finally turn off the tap

  • No paper towel. I better go and find Sophie, she's probably worried

  • I walk out of the bathroom and turn back towards the food hall

  • Suddenly, someone bumps into me, trying to grab me to avoid falling

  • Horror courses through me. A girl is touching me, pulling at my clothes

  • I scream and stumble backwards, recoiling

  • The girl falls to her knees. I stare open-mouthed, mortified

  • It's Jennifer

  • [Ella] "Oh my god, I'm so sorry", I stammer.

  • But, I'm already retreating back into the bathroom. I start desperately ripping off my jumper

  • Jennifer follows me, her face threatening. My jumper has fallen to the floor and I'm frantically washing my hands again

  • Jennifer stares at me as though I've completely lost my mind. Oh god, maybe I have

  • [Jennifer] "What the hell is wrong with you? I'm not diseased or anything you freak."

  • Her voice is hard and cruel. Tears are sliding down my face.

  • I want to explain that I can't help it. It's like a reflex for me to avoid human contact. But, I can't

  • [Ella] "I'm sorry", I sob again

  • I feel out of control. The exams, the school itself, it's all just too much

  • Repeatedly apologizing, I stumble past Jennifer and out of the bathroom

  • Sophie is there, she calls my name but I keep running

  • At some point I realize that my jumper is still on the bathroom floor, I don't care

  • I need to go home

Most people at my school look forward to lunchtime, but it's the scariest time of day for me.

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  • 49 3
    Tim Lam に公開 2021 年 01 月 14 日
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