Alice Sainsbury is an Australian writer and development producer who has been living in London for the past five years. This year, she brought her second one-woman cabaret, Sometimes I Adult, to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. She was diagnosed with OCD, separation and social anxiety and body dysmorphia, when she was fourteen by her first (and still favourite) therapist, Chris. These days, she manages her condition with a combination of exercise, meditation, and talking therapy. She also finds reading, writing, and watching a good box set help her relieve stress and lower her anxiety.
SOMETIMES I ADULT
My OCD can be a fickle little bastard, he can never decide what he’s worried about the most.
Sometimes I call him my “bad man”, (yes, his imaginary personification is an old man – no time to go into the analysis of that now) a name I came up with when I first heard and obeyed his commands, at age four. I was diagnosed at fourteen.
A big gap (mind the grammar pun). A gap that was home to many variations of my OCD and my bad man’s obsessions.
Just like now, when I was a child, my focus jumped from topic to topic. It started with death. Fearing it. Trying to understand it. Trying to prevent it. It moved quickly to illness. Then germs, where illnesses lived. Or so I understood.Then food. Specifically eating. How little I could eat, how closely I could monitor my shape. How precisely I could control my body.
In my twenties it was money…until thinking on my finances, and how low they continuously were, became entirely too depressing even for my anxiety disorder to mull over every day.
As I get older, I find myself becoming more and more preoccupied with time. How I spend it and where it goes. I can spend hours rearranging my iCal calendar, it’s how I “wind down” at the end of the day. That is, if you consider an endless tormenting cycle of moving, and calculating, and fretting, and filling in boxes as “winding down”.
Like so much of my OCD, this fixation with time management is not exclusively negative.
In fact, sometimes I think (I fear?) that OCD may be the most together, most adult, part of me. Sometimes I wonder if my OCD is the only thing about my personality that is keeping me in line. What would I be without my “bad man”?
This was the question I set out to explore in my latest one-woman cabaret, Sometimes I Adult, which debuted at this year’s Edinburgh Fringe. But during the development of this show, the query proved too nebulous for me to grasp.
Instead I found myself going back to “basics”, and exploring the relentless pattern of:
As a writer, I felt like I had failed.
My show didn’t match my brief, it didn’t even match the description on my flyer.
But, over the season, I was approached again and again by audience members who the piece resonated with. Gradually I found myself less wrapped up in the minutia of my personal struggle and instead empowered by my ability to inspire others to discuss their own struggles.
And this discovery was kind of wonderful.
Having a relationship with OCD is a kind of nebulous thing in itself. It’s not a fever. It doesn’t reach a certain point and break and die.
I’ve lived with OCD for so long I genuinely don’t how much of me is OCD and how much of my OCD is me. I don’t know if there will ever be a time where I will turn around, realise that OCD is behind me and be able to advise those still suffering.
I think will always be reporting from right here, inside the belly of the beast. The Fringe helped me understand that this is just as important.
Even in the mess (gross), even in the uncertainty (shudder), we can help each other. Just in the simple act of sharing.
You can find Alice on Twitter: @sainsburyalice