I am not very good at beer die.
Actually — I’ve never played it, maybe one day I will, but for now I’m sitting comfortably in some porch recliner, staring emptily into the mesh of a bluetooth speaker and the film of sticky Bud Light that coats the keg. A wasp lazily circles the black plastic Rubbermaid trash can. The heat is half as suffocating as the headache that aches against my brow bone, like it’s going to split through my frontal and spill into the congealed air, a party punch bowl of beer and wasps and pressure.
I’m sitting and watching my boyfriend play die with his roommates. I’ve been invited to join, but I won’t play today. I’ve sipped on a Pacifico, and I want to go home.
My headache isn’t from the beer or the music. It’s not from the food I haven’t had, nor the wasps. It’s not sinuses, not the dog allergy, and it’s not from my recluse because I know, it’s from the thoughts. The vestige of what OCD remains after the Zoloft has secured me to this seat. My boyfriend, his roommates — our friends — are the idols I kneel before, the Saints of some church I only yearn to attend. They aren’t freakish. They aren’t perverse like me. I can only watch the game of beer die — press my nose against the cloudy stained glass and look into the procession — and I can’t participate because I feel so, so sick.
I am imagining myself getting assaulted, getting bent over the hood of my car, getting thrown from the sidewalk into the dry grass. In the haze of my thoughts, it’s my friends that are trying to rape me. Sometimes, it’s me attacking them. Sometimes, it’s somehow both.
I want to puke. I want to slap myself across the cheek and leave a bruise, a purple reminder that I am perverted, evil, dangerous. I want to confess these thoughts, too, drop to my knees before the group and beg to be relieved of sin.
Instead I just watch them play.
Days later, I’m pressed up against the sweaty railing at some concert. My bangs are stuck to my forehead, and I’m stuck at the front of the crowd as AJJ’s Sean Bonnette croons into the microphone. The crowd is a bit rowdy. Sometimes, they emulate a mild mosh pit. People get tossed around, not me though. I stay up front. I love AJJ. I am having fun.
Between songs, when it’s quiet enough on stage for me to actually form thoughts, my stream of consciousness inches into the disturbing. I can see myself getting groped. I can see myself groping the others. Maybe I’ll flash the band. Maybe I’ll get roofied.
I blame the nausea on the fruity cocktail I had and wait for the set to continue. In the car ride home, I nervously pick at my cuticles to remind myself that I am my own hostage.
Intrusive thoughts are exactly what they say on the tin. They are thoughts that feel violating, that are unwanted and upsetting. These thoughts are, to some degree, a constant in the human experience. Everyone has had them. The variation lies in the frequency. I have Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder: they are a near-constant in the foreground of my mind without medication and therapy. Most of them are sexual.
I try to conceptualize my OCD as another being, as an alter-ego that shows me disturbing thoughts. On paper, I am supposed to tell you that I separate my intrusive thoughts from my thoughts, and that I know I don’t support these thoughts because I feel so repulsed by them. That is what they’ll tell you in therapy and they’re right. Self-hatred complicates things. I’ve always blamed this on my inherent rationality, my fundamental belief that there’s always an explanation. Seemingly, I am being tortured by my alter-ego as a punishment. This other self is the arbiter, the persecutor, and I, the victim. Maybe I see scenes that have me gagging into my palm because truly, deeply, I must be into them. I want to be a good person so bad. Unfortunately, there are no good people that stare into their dad’s eyes and think about him taking you there, on the kitchen floor. Intrusive thoughts make life needlessly upsetting, but I’m not hopeless.
Ironically — I’m deeply afraid of these thoughts, further convoluting my rationality or lack-thereof. I know that if I have physical negative reactions to my thoughts, that I can’t be aroused by them. I know that they are a symptom of illness, that I’m sick in the head or bad in the blood, that through exposure therapy I can make them go away. I know that I would never hurt somebody or assault them. I know that my friends would never violate me.
Every morning I roll over, shake the pill bottle on my end-table, dump one of the yellow tablets down the back of my throat, and imagine the thoughts falling out of my skull through my ears. I’ll still get them, but in a much more manageable manner. I get the thoughts like everyone else does — on occasion — and I don’t dwell or ruminate.
Medication and therapy changed my life. I am in control. I am not a hostage of an alter-ego, nor of a conceptual self. There is nothing to be punished for. I am myself. I imagine awful situations occasionally, but I am not awful because of them. They are just thoughts. I can get rid of them.
So — I’m still not going to play beer die, but only because it’s not fun. I could play it. I’m not stuck here in this chair. I could get up. I am choosing not to. I’d rather sip this cheap beer by myself.
Somewhere else, the bassline picks up. The crowd convulses, swells to the whiny vocals. Someone’s hand grazes my lower back, but I don’t even notice. They say sorry and we both scream along to the song:
“I am a knife.”