OCD and Exams
Not my exams, of course. I hadn’t taken any exams for like ten years. My sister’s.
So I’ve written about the ‘O’ Levels before, which I wasn’t able to do when I was sixteen. I still had a lot of residual unresolved pain regarding them, but it was now my sister’s turn and to be honest, I was really glad I was there to be able to help my sister when I couldn’t do them myself.
At this point you’re probably not going to be surprised to hear that my Mum did absolutely everything in her power to try to fuck things up for my sister. She harangued her daily about what she did and didn’t do. She grilled her relentlessly about Literature (her own subject) She told her she was lazy and that she should study harder.
Oh Gods that lazy thing. It took us years of therapy to get past it. Everyone was lazy. You were no good unless you were working your fingers to the bone every hour, minute and second. We felt guilty for sleeping or resting because we felt we should be up Being Productive. I understand that this is something that plagues many other people as well but it was seriously very bad in my family.
Exam stress was hitting my sister hard. Meimei needed help and obviously I was the one to provide it. You know how it goes by now – no parents, no family support, just one mentally ill brother to do everything. In between cooking meals and doing the groceries and the laundry and God knows what else I was there to help her study, to console her when her pre-test results (yeah here in Asia there are pre-tests before the actual test!) weren’t good, to help her on the subjects that I could help her with. I was no good at Chinese or Maths, but there was plenty else I could do, and I did it unstintingly.
However, all that stress got to me. The OCD erupted again. I worried about whether I was gay (I was not, I’m still not…it’s actually a fairly common variant known as HOCD) about whether it was wrong to not believe in God (I never worried about that before) about whether or not thinking Taki in Soul Calibur was hot (she is) meant that I had sexual desire for my mother. I’m not making these up by the way.
I went back to see Dr Tan and after a few rounds of different medications, the OCD did simmer down somewhat. I saw Dewi again and I can still remember the landmark session in which she said “Kain, don’t think about the pathology of anything, just go home and sleep.” I did exactly that and boy, was that a relief! Well I mean it was a relief in the few days that I had before my Mum started up again and the schoolwork piled on.
The ‘O’ Levels did indeed end after a while and I’m pleased to report that Meimei did very well. In fact I think she did better than anyone I knew, and I knew a lot of people. It was in its own way a breakthrough for me too. I was still in my “I hate Singapore and I hate qualifications and I hate school” phase but somehow when I saw her smiling face and heard her voice that all slipped away.
I was so happy for her! All this time later and I’m still happy for her. Because we made it. We fucking made it despite all that pathology and mental illness and stupid unhelpful teachers and witch of a mother. She succeeded where I had failed (actually no I didn’t) but I didn’t fucking care because she did it. We did it.
After that she had her choice of going on to different kinds of further education. She wasn’t sure what might be the best for me so who did she ask? Me of course.
As you can probably tell from this chapter at this point I was in complete fatherhood mode. My parents didn’t know jack shit about the education system (they were still stuck in the Singapore of the past) so I took it upon myself to help out my sister once more. I introduced her to all my friends who were studying different things in different subjects.
Did she prefer this? How about the people here? What do you see yourself doing in the next few years? I asked her all the questions that people never asked me and after a while she made a decision. She would be going on to Polytechnic (which is a kind of vocational college) and then from then on to university.
Predictably enough my Mum raged at her for that. Go to Pre-U and be a REAL student, not some kind of biscuit maker! Yup, biscuits again. Boy did she hate my father and his kin.
Eventually as stress levels dropped the OCD went away. I was so happy that I didn’t stop to consider when or where it had come from. I could play games and read books again without relentlessly worrying about everything! And so I did, for a while I was happy.