Have you ever waited for someone who excused themselves for the restroom? Probably have, but the experiences have been varied. For some the wait was short and hardly noticed, for others it was a tad bit annoying, while for others yet, it prompted the question “What took you so long?” Right? Sadly for my friends and family, the last question was always guaranteed whenever I excused myself, even if it wasn’t voiced.
Before I attempt to answer it, however, allow me to give you guys a rundown on my ethical background since it’s closely related to what follows. I’m Muslim and I pray five times a day. Before I pray I’m obligated to do a five-minute washing ritual to cleanse myself. For the average Muslim, it takes approximately two minutes to wash and 10-15 minutes to pray one prayer. For me, well, those minutes stretched into hours. Yes, you read it right. Hours.
Want to venture a guess on the condition? If you’re thinking anxiety disorder, you nailed it. I have OCD. Been diagnosed and just recently received treatment. But that’s a story for later. First, the journey.
I believe I had OCD from a very young age, but for a variety of reasons my young mind was able to suppress the compulsions I experienced. When I entered high school (or near about that time), the gears started to pick up pace and the OCD kicked in full force. The trigger could’ve been anything. What ended up happening was that I would disappear behind the bathroom doors for prolonged periods of time, come out soaked and disappear into my room for “prayer.” My family couldn’t fathom what was up with me. I was yelled at, questioned and dismissed with frustration when I had no answer to give. How could I? I was unsure of what was happening myself. And coming from a South-East Asian background, I knew my parents wouldn’t understand. They had never been exposed to these symptoms before.
To them I “looked” fine. So practically, there was nothing wrong with me. My time-consuming habits were intentional. I was just pretending to be religious. Suffice it to say, I spent my days alone in my room, crying. I didn’t know a way out. I would suffer the effects of the disorder and suffer the misunderstanding that stemmed from it. I didn’t block the bathroom on purpose. There were no spiritual gains I was making in those hours I spent in my room. Yet, I didn’t tell anyone. How could anyone believe that in those few moments in the bathroom when I would be about to begin my required washing ritual, an unknown force would grab hold of my mind and render my limbs immovable to my wishes? How absurd does that sound? Even though I haven’t been diagnosed with it, looking back I think I did develop a form of depression associated with the disorder. In my mind, I pictured myself immersed in black miry water with no light in sight. I felt I was moving in circles, with no idea as how to leave the place. Imagine doing that for real. And imagine doing it for so long, you almost forgot how long you had been in there.