I used to kiss five posters of JTT (Jonathon Taylor Thomas) every night before flicking the light switch on and off ten times, blinking 20 times at the clock before praying, wiggling my toes, toe-by-toe, until each one had its turn, and then finally closing my eyes and dreaming about him.
After waking up, I said good morning to the posters, jiggled the door handle for five seconds with each hand, brushed my hair with 20 strokes on the left, right and back sides, drank 10 gulps of water, and went to my grade school that sat next to a busy street. Limousines flew by several times a day and I convinced myself that JTT sat inside. As I saw each limo approach, I ran to the fence and waved in hopes he would see me, stop, scoop me and kiss back. To call it an obsession would be an acute understatement. To call it love, would be a fact.
These little customs and fantasies led me to write my first letter to Oprah:
I live on Maui and love Jonathon Taylor Thomas. He is my favorite actor and when I saw him in Man of the House, I realized he was the funniest actor out there. I know he likes fishing and so do I. I am his biggest fan and would be honored to meet him one day. The next time he is on your show, maybe I can be in the audience? Thank you. I learn a lot from you.
Unfortunately, I never heard back from Oprah regarding my attendance to her show and in retrospect I’m content because I hated fishing.
When I decided to relinquish my door of the posters, I proceeded with my nightly habits without the kissies: flicking the light switch on and off ten times, blinking 20 times at the clock before praying, wiggling my toes, toe-by-toe, until each one had its turn, and finally closing my eyes. In my head, if I did this wrong my body would croak and I would not live to see the next morning.
If I actually woke up, I forced myself to read the text on street signs on my way to school without an error before passing them, or else the car would crash. My hangers had to be perfectly spaced, I avoided man-made cracks, I only ate things in increments of five (five goldfish, or tenâ€¦If someone gave me nine, I broke one in half in order to fulfill 10 pieces) and during soccer games, I touched the ball with each part of both feet as I dribbled.
I treated my body like an equal opportunist. If my left hand touched a booger, my right hand had to touch it too. If my left foot stepped in dog doo, my right foot also had to step in it. I lived in a messy situation, but as a fifth grader I did not recognize the abnormality of it all. I simply thought that mundane routines dictated every person’s lifespan.
One afternoon while watching Oprah during my after school routine, which also included cheating on my homework (my life depended on cheating and so did my grades), I witnessed something miraculous. Mark Summers, host of the insanely messy shows Double Dare and What Would You Do, sat as a guest discussing what he called his “battle with obsessive compulsive disorder.” I watched, with my jaw to the floor (well, near the floor I wouldn’t [double] DARE touch a floor with my mouth), as he straightened his hangers, stood in front of a billboard explaining his flawless reading dilemma, combed his rugs, flicked on and off light switches, washed his hands repeatedly, walked in and out of doors with precise footing, and ate his food in like increments.
My heart pounded relentlessly and tears drenched my cheeks as I discovered that I suffered from a disease. I felt embarrassed, ashamed and bewildered. Oprah’s soothing advice to Marc —and me–filled me with hope, “You can get through this. You know this is a disease and we are here to support you,” the crowd cheered for him, and me.
After the redness dissipated from my eyes and face, I gathered the courage to tell my mom. “Mom,” I said with grave concern.
“Yes, Danielle?” she replied calmly as she did daily when I approached her with grave concern.
“I think I have obsessive compulsive disorder.”
“No you don’t,” she disproved with a sweet chuckle.
My shame overpowered my willingness to share specific examples, so I shuffled off and began the healing process. It took bravery, a lot of candy and another letter to Oprah to shift the belief that my life didn’t depend on repetitive blinking.
Hi again. I’m a big Jonathon Taylor Thomas fan, I wrote you before about it but it’s ok if you don’t remember. Now I’m writing because I watched Mark Somers talk about his OCD problem. I’m in fifth grade and I have those problems. I want to thank you for having a show about this because I didn’t know what I was doing was wrong. Now I do and can help myself. Thank you for all that you do.
Falling asleep without the routines seemed too scary, so I started with my daytime actions- I let myself out of my bedroom with one turn of the knob and stopped brushing my hair. Surprisingly (or maybe not), my attempt to break my habit didn’t cause me to tumble down the stairs to my death, and very slowly, and 90% surely, I recovered from the turmoil of this debilitating sickness. Granted it still REALLY bothered me if the teacher missed a line of chalk when erasing the chalkboard and I still, to this day, eat in fives. But all in all, I lead a life without fear of germs and repetition (Jone’s Cafe, exempt). And now, I just wear dainty hats instead of combing.
My sister always wanted to write a book titled, “Oprah is Over at 4 P.M.: A Guide on What to do Next” â€¦Well, it’s 2011 and Oprah is officially over and I know there is a grandiose amount of people who don’t know what to do; like Little Danielle’s struggling with OCD. She never granted me the opportunity to meet JTT, Marc Summers, or later Adam Sandler. She never invited me to be in the audience for Oprah’s Favorite Things or Oprah’s Oscar Special. However, I learned how to write a great letter and conquered OCD at a rare age.
Thank you repeatedly, Oprah (in increments of five). Go fifth and multiply.