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For years, young Sophie Smith struggled with a mental condition that was both exhausting and isolating. Now, she’s reaching out to others who have suffered like her.

My typical night routine consists of walking upstairs, making sure I start with my left foot and end with my right foot. After brushing my teeth, I make sure the faucet and the lights are completely off, the shower door is all the way shut, and the bathroom door is all the way open. If I look at my towel twice, I'll have to look again, because only odd numbers work. I walk into my room, make sure my closets are shut, my bedroom door is open at a 90 degree angle, check outside my skylights for any possible falling objects, and climb into bed. After a few moments of panic that I didn't check enough times behind the door and the faucet is probably still on, I drift off into a lovely sleep, only to wake up a few hours later and repeat everything, but in reverse.

I don’t know out when my OCD actually began. When I entered elementary school, my teachers beginning to question my “odd” behaviors and falsely assume Tourette’s Syndrome and autism were the culprits. My peers called me "weird" and "strange," and stared at me constantly. I remember the horrible headaches I would get from my eye movements and the intense fear that would take over my brain every day.

My OCD is not your classic ‘hair perfectly combed, outfit perfectly assembled, hands washed every 10 minutes, carries wipes and hand sanitizer everywhere’ case. I have OCD, but my room is an absolute disaster. I have OCD, but one of my posters fell off my wall and is sitting in the corner currently, collecting cobwebs. I have OCD, but the items on my desk are never straightened, and my clothes are never folded in their drawers.

When I was finally diagnosed, it was a huge relief. I understood why others thought I was so weird. If I had known earlier I would have suffered so much less. If someone had at least talked to me, told me I wasn’t alone, I would have felt so much better. Now I want to tell my story to anyone who will listen and help others feel more comfortable speaking up. Mental illness is a valid struggle and something no one should ever have to be ashamed of.


With a Perspective, I’m Sophie Smith.

Sophie Smith is 16 and attends the San Domenico School in San Anselmo.