Since I have come to college I have been truly enlightened by my Humanities classes, which helped me with my disease and the obsessions/thoughts that I constantly have to fight against daily. Most of what I talk about is still true in my mind but I can separate myself from these awful thoughts and actually concentrate. That is why I label myself as recovered. I have noticed that most obsessions nowadays are based on socially modern ideas: consumerism, “time is money,” etc. Each of these played into my obsessions and compulsions, making them worse. I am not the only one who has obsessions that I shall call “hyper-consumerism.”

For example, we all know hoarders, either personally or through watching the show on TLC, which I find cruel to watch.  In the height of my obsessive-compulsive disorder and other sicknesses, I sought to consume as much as I could. I constantly felt the modern ideal to not “waste my time” and so I tried to control time as much as I could. Much of it attributed to my eating disorder—I became obsessed with the time it took me to finish a meal, how much time I spent between meals, and what time each meal took place. It got so overwhelming I eventually countered that I could only “fit in” one meal a day because more would be too time-consuming and overwhelming to prepare. During these meals I also needed to be doing or accomplishing something as I saw it at the time—whether it was watching a TV Show I had missed or making notes. I don’t know why but sometimes I still feel the notion that I have to be doing something productive while I eat. I would dread times where at family meals we did not talk—I often forced my family to do discussion topics just so I could feel like we were getting something done. I also became obsessed with material things—mostly things that I thought would make me happy: toys, Uglydolls, Hello Kitty things. My mind was so convinced that I needed these things that I would often need to steal money so I could buy them. I will confess: I have stolen from friends, family, neighbors, and am so ashamed now that I cannot bear to know what hatred this may bring.

I did,  however,  justify my actions by also obsessively producing things—baking or doing extra homework. In terms of the work, I felt like I was gaining more knowledge by doing more work when in reality my mind was so deteriorated that I really gained nothing. I constantly look back and loathe those years that I wasted in my disease. Don’t get me wrong, I still have my disease but I am stronger than it is now. I want to help others who struggle with similar issues and try with every piece of artwork  to brighten the day of someone who is suffering.

Elisabeth Zernik’s personal essay won second prize in 2014 in the Second Annual School of Visual Arts Writing Program Contest.