Liquid of Life

Water. Five letters, one word. Necessary for every living thing, and yet it terrifies me. I’ve been avoiding drinking water for a little over ten years, undoubtedly doing some sort of damage to my body. My Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) has been in control of my water intake for most of my life, and my body is struggling to function without the necessary liquid of life.

One day in gym class, when I was in Kindergarten, started my struggle with water. I had to go to the bathroom but, being the shy and easily intimidated child I was, I was scared to ask the teacher. My bladder and I were in a standoff for most of the class, but eventually my bladder won. I stood frozen, panicked, unsure what to do, but knowing that the scary gym teacher was going to find out.

When the gym teacher found out, I was sent to the nurses office to get new clothes. I was crying and beyond embarrassed by what happened, and I just wanted to go home and pretend that none of my classmates noticed what happened. Instead, I was sent back to class in clothes that didn’t fit.

I used my backpack as a shield and hid under a desk for the rest of the day, and not even my teacher (whom I loved) could get me to come out. On the bus ride home I sat curled up in a ball, using my backpack to block the site of my school-issues clothes. Once home I was filled with immense relief to finally be done with the disaster of a day.

Naturally, I was terrified of a similar incident happening, and my OCD helped me come up with the solution of going to the bathroom every time before the class would leave to go to a different part of the school. The pattern went on into first grade, and I was going to the bathroom around 7 times at school. In addition, I would use the bathroom every time before leaving the house, sometimes multiple times in a row to make sure that I wouldn’t need to go while out in public.

With all of the hand washing, my hands were raw, to the point where they would bleed during the colder months. My mom would try to put lotion on my hands, but they were so raw that it would burn and I’d start crying. After my first grade teacher told my mom that I might have a bladder infection, I was sent to the doctor to see if everything was physically okay.

Passing the physical exam, my behavior was passed off as some weird stage in my development (such as some kids having separation anxiety, which many grow out of), and my mom worked with me to lower the number of times I went to the bathroom. Since the behavior is a compulsion of my OCD, my response was to not drink as much water.

My number of trips to the bathroom during the school day was reduced to only once, and everything seemed to be fine. Little did anyone know that I was avoiding water, and that my behavior would continue for many years.

As I got older, school became extremely important, and my fear shifted and split. I became afraid of missing class, thinking that I would miss something important and fail the test. In addition, I became afraid of being seen going into/out of the bathroom. Even though it is something that everyone has to do, I was afraid of the natural disgust of bodily functions to be associated with me.

Throughout middle school, I had awful headaches on a daily basis, but I pushed through due to my fear of missing school. My water intake was brought up as a cause, but my OCD blamed my headaches on sugar after watching a video in health class that related sugar to an addictive drug. My OCD told me that the headaches (from lack of water) and stomach pain (from anxiety) was from not eating pure enough food, which started my eating issues that are still affecting me today.

Flash forward to today. I still struggle with water intake, and before going into the partial hospitalization program I’m currently in, I would frequently not drink any water all day. I have frequent dizzy spells when standing up to the point where I’m unable to see. Due to their frequency, I’ve learned how to walk while being incredibly dizzy and to make sure I’m near something to grab onto whenever I stand up.

Although I am currently medically stable, my physical health has been affected by my food and water issues. I have passed out twice from a mix of lack of water and food. As much as my OCD tries to deny it, there are real consequences of not properly nourishing your body. At the moment, I have alarms set hourly for me to drink 3 ounces of water. While I’m only getting around 20 ounces daily, it feels overwhelming for me and I struggle with it on a daily basis.

Water is essential to life, whether I like it or not. I cannot continue to avoid something so important and vital. My ten years of avoiding water will have consequences, and it is up to me to fix the issue before permanent damage is done. While it will be hard, I will push through and drink the liquid of life.