Hi! I’m Ellie*, and I eat French fries with a fork.
You may think that’s a little strange. Not many people do that, and those of us who do are usually faced with some kind of comment about the weird behavior. Many times, it’s easy to play off - I grew up doing it, I say, which can then launch a discussion about my outlandish family and get us off the topic, or I say I didn’t have time to wash my hands before sitting down.
I don’t say that when I was little, I couldn’t touch food without washing my hands. If someone else passed me a French fry, I’d bite the part they hadn’t touched and then find someplace to hide the rest. My lap was my usual go-to, since it was easy to slide the fry over into my pocket. If they had big fingers and touched a lot, it’d be disappointing because I’d only get to eat a little. But even my love for fries couldn’t make me actually accept one from someone unless I saw them wash their hands.
It’s a little thing to most people, but growing up with OCD meant that it wasn’t little to me. Something so small could turn into a whole thought process that could keep me up at night.
And so, I eat French fries with a fork.
These fries I’m trying today are a sign of me being brave. I’ve never had beer battered fries before, and trying new foods is as hard for me as it is for a toddler. Just the thought of trying a little bit can make me incredibly anxious, even if it’s something most people have had a thousand times. I try to ration it, and I have all sorts of solutions for upset stomachs of different kinds just in case. I’ve even got some stuff in my purse, just in case one of my valiant efforts goes wrong.
I tried pizza at fourteen, mac and cheese at eighteen, and I’ve always eaten French fries with a fork.
It’s not quite a compulsion, but it came from one, many years ago when I was a little girl trying to learn the difference between obsessive thoughts and normal ones as I mastered the ABCs. I never had to eat French fries a certain number of times or anything, but on vacation, I had to have my routine: plain pasta for dinner one night, French fries the next, because that was all I’d eat for dinner. At home, it was just pasta, but on vacation, I branched out.
I still eat French fries with a fork.
I’m in my 20s now, successful according to the benchmarks of American culture. I’ve got a job, I live on my own, and I can pick apart the thoughts that come through my head with relative ease after so many years of practice. It’s still a messy process, but I’ve gotten to the point where most days, I can toss away the obsessive thoughts I don’t want and choose others to harp on for hours. I like to choose my stories, and whisk myself away to a world of my own imagination.
And yes, if you go out to dinner with me at a place with not many vegetarian entrees, I’ll still eat French fries with a fork.
But there’s so much more to see and learn - just like any person living with a mental health condition, my story goes far beyond the things you can see, whether they’re big or little. I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to share my story with you, and I hope the next time you see someone doing something a little bit strange, you’ll think of their story too.
“No Shame On U is thrilled to introduce Ellie as the Lead Contributor for our new blog.
Ellie, a writer new to the Chicago area, was
diagnosed with OCD at age 3. She hopes to educate others about her
condition and end the stigma against mental illness.