Post Prom Panic

Prom should be one of the best nights, one that is looked forward to and greatly anticipated with excitement. For me, it was anticipated, but with fear instead of excitement. My Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) was at it again, attacking yet another thing and taking away joy.

The original plan I ended up agreeing to (I’m still surprised I even agreed) was that I would get dressed up for prom, take pictures, go out to dinner, and then go home. Just that portion of prom brought a lot of stress, given that I had an AP test the following week. Naturally, my OCD was saying that every moment should be spent studying, and most definitely not dressing up and having fun.

Due to some slip ups with my OCD the week of prom, my mother decided that I was going to attend post prom. While it will be good in the long run, panic ensued as post prom brought on a whole new level of anxiety. I tried to bargain my way out of it, but to no avail.

To my OCD, going to post prom meant that I wouldn’t get as much sleep, further taking away from my time to study, which would cause me to fail the AP test. Since rationalization goes out the window when OCD kicks in, going to post prom meant guaranteed failure.

The day of prom arrived, and I still hadn’t managed to get out of post prom. Hoping that my compliance with the other aspects of prom would get me out of it, I attempted to not show the fact that I was struggling with them (probably not the greatest idea in hindsight). Dressing up means that you draw attention, which I try to avoid at all costs, especially when the attention is drawn to my looks (as opposed to achievements or intelligence). While I appreciate that people compliment when I dress up, it reminds me that people are looking at me, and to my OCD that means noticing all of my physical flaws that seem extremely obvious to me.

Naturally, pictures are rather distressing. To my OCD there is now photo evidence of my physical flaws that anyone can look at and see. The idea of taking pictures makes me want to curl up under a rock and never come out, but I pushed through the unnecessarily many pictures that were taken.

Dinner came next, and it seemed like everyone in the restaurant was looking at us when we came in since we were all in prom dresses, and I wanted to sink into the floor or disappear. The entire time I felt like everyone was looking at me, and judging ever move. My anxiety was so elevated that I had no desire to eat, but I knew that not eating wouldn’t help my quest to not go to post prom, so I forced the entire dish down.

Once I got home I was exhausted, and didn’t want to think about having to deal with all of the uncertainty of post prom. I attempted again to bargain my way out of it, which failed. Panic started setting in. Most upperclassmen would be there, and some people do drugs (who usually aren’t in the advanced classes), which meant that I could accidentally bump shoulders with them or touch something they touched and be contaminated by drugs. In addition, I learned that a lot of people get intimate on prom night, another absolutely terrifying thought. To my OCD, post prom would be full of ways to get contaminated and would overload my brain so that it forgot the information for the AP test.

Panic set in (which involved tears and some hyperventilating), and I was desperate for a way out of going, any way out of going. The solution my OCD found was physically harming myself to the point where I couldn’t go to post prom. The only issue is that I’m terrified of foreign objects going through my skin, which takes out knives and any easy way to do damage. In addition, the damage couldn’t prevent me from going to school, since school takes priority. The best I could come up with was using my nails to scratch my skin, with the intention to do just enough damage to get out of going.

However, I did not mentally prepare myself for how painful it was going to be. It takes a lot longer than I was expecting to scratch through skin, and it hurts a lot more since it isn’t instantaneous like accidentally cutting yourself. I also didn’t want to draw blood because then it could get contaminated since we have pets so it isn’t a sterile environment. Basically, it started burning to the point where I couldn’t take it anymore and I took the chance that it wouldn’t be enough and ran downstairs to find out from my mom (who is a nurse), what would make the burning stop. Unfortunately, the state of my arm was not enough to get me out of going to post prom.

I went to post prom with a burning arm, and despite not wearing anything to cover it since that would’ve been too painful, people didn’t seem to notice. It was still terrifying, and I felt ashamed walking in, that by going to post prom I was throwing away academics and would now be thought of as someone who doesn’t care about/work for their grades.

I managed to survive post prom and got my mom to get me after a few hours because I was drained. The AP test was extremely stressful, and I won’t figure out the result for a few months, which will either end in relief or panic. I can’t say that I’m glad I was forced to go to post prom, but it certainly pushed my boundaries and challenged my OCD, helping me on my journey towards a better mental health.