The Rules

by Megan O’Rourke (age 16, Mount Merrion, Dublin)

You have the right to choose your own friends and join or set up groups, as long as it isn’t harmful to others. Photograph: Getty Images

You have the right to choose your own friends and join or set up groups, as long as it isn’t harmful to others. Photograph: Getty Images

 

I want you to imagine a person who lives in a world where chance can be controlled. A world where strange, illogical rules govern everything – but most importantly keep them safe. If they follow them, they no longer need to fear anything from stomach bugs and house fires to the dark thoughts that hide within the fissures of the brain.

For you, this world might seem too much; these rules pure insanity. The lunacy of trying to control the inevitable? But they can see the advantage of it. The control; the reliability. They compare it to our world. To the chaos of where we stand.

The problem lies in when their heads trip them up.

A wish for order is an understandable thing; but this world of rules and controlled chance is imagined. Fake. Impossible. And yet completely probable inside their heads: why can’t they make it real? Why can’t they keep themselves safe?

It’s the doubt for some. Fear that gets the others.

But either way, that’s when it begins.

Part of them knows, of course, that these rules can’t possibly work outside their own heads.

But you see, a stronger part disagrees.

And part of them knows that people are perfectly safe without these rules.

But again, a stronger part disagrees.

And a part of them suddenly knows that these rules are unsustainable. That they’re ripping them apart at the seams. That the panic, and the fear and the sleepless nights and the giving-up and the panic and the fear – they know this endless cycle cannot continue.

But a stronger, more determined, terrified part disagrees.

The washers, the hoarders, the checkers, the counters, the sinners, the doubters.

Entitled by their rules.

But people never see the reasons.

Maybe it’s the fear of being murdered or killing. Of getting a fatal disease, or not having something when it’s desperately needed. The fear of leaving a door unlocked, or displeasing a god and having them and everyone they love be punished by what may look like chance but is everything but it. Taking their darkest thoughts and making them more real than anything they will ever see with their own two eyes.

How can someone explain that turning on and off a light will save them from all that to someone who is still caught up on organising highlighters?

How could you possibly understand the isolation of their heads? And while every head has a universe crammed inside, theirs is full of bloated, black holes that are silencing a thousand suns one, by one, by one.

And they will grow, and grow, and grow until they take up their whole mind – till there is only these fears and urges and this panic, that is not them!

And yet, if your head is where you find yourself, where you know who you truly are, then who are they, but a house fire, a dead child, and a failed Leaving Cert?

Certainty not a smiling girl, sheepishly laughing about her “OCD”, her “OCD” that is just a game of making a rainbow out of biros.

Can you comprehend the self-loathing that they feel? As they follow those strict, illogical, unforgiving, soul-destroying rules through every single second they draw breath.

As the war between logic and fear battles away inside their heads. A fight to feel safe over a need to stay sane.

Because in the end they know the light switch won’t save them, but if it can trick their mind into normality, even for only a moment, that is almost enough.

Because the alternative, the alternative is feeling fear hit them like a freight train while Pandora’s Box is upended inside their head.

So, can’t you understand why we have to follow the rules instead?

Article 15

You have the right to choose your own friends and join or set up groups, as long as it isn’t harmful to others

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