OCD poem by Neil Hilborn | PeaceLove


Cool, I’m gonna do some poems for you, is
that all right, yeah? Dope. Cool, just thought I’d check. The first time I saw her
everything in my head went quiet. All the ticks all the constantly refreshing
images just disappeared. When you have obsessive compulsive disorder you don’t
really get quiet moments. Even in bed I’m thinking Did I lock the door? Yes. Did I wash
my hands? Yes. Did I lock the door? Yes. Did I wash my hands? Yes. And when I saw her the only
thing I could think about was the hair-pin curve of her lips or the eyelash
on her cheek the eyelash on her cheek the eyelash on her cheek. I knew I had to
talk to her. I asked her out six times in 30 seconds she said yes after the third one
but none of them felt right so I had to keep going. On our first date I spent
more time organizing my meal by color than I did eating or talking to her but
she loved it. She loved that I had to kiss her goodbye 16 times or 24 times if
it was Wednesday. She loved but it took us forever to walk home because there
are lots of cracks on our sidewalk. When we moved in together she said she felt
safe like no one would ever rob us because I definitely locked the door 18
times. I’d always watch her mouth when she talked when she talked when she
talked when she talked when she talked. When she said she loved me her mouth
would curl up at the edges. At night she’d lay in bed and watch me turn all
the lights off and on and off and on and off and on and off and on and off and on
and off and on and off. She closed her eyes and imagined the days and nights
were just passing in front of her. Some mornings I’d start kissing her goodbye
but she just leave because I was making her late for work. When I stopped at a
crack in the sidewalk she kept walking. When she said she loved me her mouth was
a straight line. She told me I was taking up too much of her time. Last week she
started sleeping at her mother’s place. She told me she shouldn’t let me get so
attached to her. This whole thing was a mistake but how can it be a mistake that
I don’t have to wash my hands after I touch her. Love is not a mistake. It’s
killing me that she could run away from this and I just can’t. I can’t go
out and find someone new because I always think of her. Usually when I
obsess over things I see germs sneaking into my skin. I see myself crushed by
an endless secession of cars and she was the first beautiful thing I ever got stuck
on. I want to wake up every morning do you think about the way she holds her
steering wheel how she turns shower knobs like she’s opening his safe
oh she blows out candles blows out candle blows out candles blows out
candles without candles without candles without candles blows out. Now I just
think about who else is kissing her. I can’t breathe because the only kisses
her once. He doesn’t care if it’s perfect. I want her back so bad. I leave
the door unlocked. I leave the lights on. Thank you, hi. So, hi. My name’s Neil
Hilborn. You might recognize that poem from the internet. [laughs] I think when Unworthy posted they titled it, “Bearded dude is funny, then sad.” Which incidentally is
also the title of my autobiography, so. [laughs] Just kidding, not funny, very sad though.
Alright so, so yeah that’s, that’s the most-watched poem on the internet. It has
like 75 million views across a couple of platforms which yeah it’s pretty dope. Um
which like weirdly I think makes me the most watched poet on the internet,
although that means that I have fewer views than any cat, so. [audience laughs] Just trying to
keep perspective, so. So in the video, so that video, a video of that poem first went
viral in 2013 and in the video I’m, I’m at a Poetry Festival in Madison,
Wisconsin and I think it’s gonna be the last time I ever performed that poem,
right I’d written it in 2010 and for years I’d been touring with it and
competing with it and practicing it and just performing it over and over and
over and I think, “All right, it’s it.” But I get to this part of the the festival and
I didn’t know what poems to do so I want to talk to Sam Cooke the executive
director of Button Poetry and I was like, “Hey dude like I don’t know what I’m
doing with my life.” And he was like, “Just go just go do OCD, right. I don’t have a
good video of it. Just go do it.” And I’m like, “Cool, last time.” So I get up there
and I just like rip into it, right. I give it everything I’ve got. Cause I’m like, “I’m
never doing his poem again” and it’s [laughs] always nice to be wrong. Anyway so just
like I just tear into it. I’m exhausted. I get offstage and we put the video up on
the internet and for a couple months like nothing happens, right. It gets like
5,000 views and I’m like cool, whatever. I’m gonna go and write some new poems
because that’s where my career’s going and then in August of that year,
somebody just happened to post it to Reddit at the right title with the
right time, you know. And then it hit the front page and news outlets saw it and I
was featured on like NPR and the BBC and just like in the video got like four
million views in a day and it was very overwhelming, but anyway. Um so
because of that exposure I got all this all these offers from like booking agents
and publishers and promoters and so suddenly I like had a career, right. For
the last like four years I’ve just been, I’ve just been doing this.
I just tour around the country and I have feelings loudly at strangers and I
like sell books it’s like my whole job and so to get here I definitely got
really lucky, right? I couldn’t control that. I don’t know who posted it. I don’t
know what happened. But to say I just say I just got lucky,
I think ignores the the five years of work that and the thousands of
hours of practice that went into that poem, right? Like the, you know, yeah to be
a professional artist, you have to have luck on your side, but I think what I was
doing being out on the road and making no money and sleeping on floors and not
eating enough and writing every day I think I was I think I was out there
creating my own luck. So, I got one more poem. There’s a little story that goes
before it. Um so I was diagnosed with OCD when I was 11 and when I was about 22, I
started having these really intense mood swings and I really had no clue what was
going on so I’m when I talk to my old psychiatrist and she was like, “Yeah dude.”
She said, “Yeah dude.” I love her. She was like, “Yeah dude, like you, you have bipolar
disorder. Like your dad’s got it. Your brothers got it. You’re bipolar. And I was
like oh no. Cause like the only narrative I had for bipolar disorder is the sort of
crazy artist archetype, right? Somebody who’s way way up and they’re super
productive and then they’re way down and they kill themselves. So I was really
sure I was gonna be dead in six months and that didn’t happen. Like there’s so
many there’s so many ways to be neuro- atypical. Like, when I’m way up or way down, I
often hallucinate. Most of the time it was pretty cool actually it’s like pretty excellent, um,
don’t you drugs, anyway, but, [laughs] sorry. You know most of the time it’s pretty great. Some days
it’s really the worst, like some mornings I wake up and like all the walls are
covered in spiders and the sun’s outside my window and it’s screaming at me and
they’re like bird skeletons crawling in under my door and they want me to want
to kill me and after I was diagnosed there were years where like I’d have
days on end where be freaking out so about I couldn’t get
out of bed when I go to work or write a poem and I spent that whole time just
beating myself up. You know it’s like you don’t, you don’t care about your friends
or your family or your art. You’re worthless. And the first day that I decided that I was
gonna forgive myself for all this stuff I couldn’t control and then I was gonna
love myself no matter what was going on in my head. Like it didn’t get better
because nothing’s magically gonna make your brain better, but it got, it got so
much easier to be who I was every day. It took so much less energy to just exist.
So, that’s kind of this last poems about. It’s also full of dumb jokes because I’m
me and I can’t help myself but, um, seriously if you get anything from, from
this poem and this set and this whole, this whole day and like my life in the
world, please I just want you to forgive yourself. Love yourself. This is this my
last poem. It’s called, “The future.” The worst thing about being naked and then
being hit by a car is that road rash is a problem for skin. Why was I naked, in
the middle of the road at noon? I’m glad you asked,
imaginary other half of this conversation. I have no idea. Some
characteristics of bipolar disorder can include dissociation, hallucinations and
fugue states, so sometimes I wake up in places I didn’t go to sleep. So there I am
nude, laid out on the hood of a car like a slutty chicken and I’m screaming about
the government conspiracy to take away my feet. Not my real feet just my brain
feet and I’m about six inches away from the concrete when I realize in slow
motion, like the exact opposite of a rhinoceros attack, this is not how I
imagined my life would turn out. When I was little, I broke both my ankles
jumping off a roof because I was sure a cape would enable me to fly. My parents
attributed this to my strong imagination. Last year my therapist called it a delusion.
I failed to see the difference. Also, I really can fly and see the future and
make stupid people leave coffee shops with my mind, 43 percent of the time.
Sometimes, I see people as colors. The point is, here’s the list of things
in my brain it told me to do: join a cult, start a cult, become a cabinet-maker, kill
myself, so in essence become a cabinet- maker, break into and then paint other
people’s houses, have sex with literally everyone who reminds me of my mother,
fight animals that are much fightier than me, like bears,
so in essence kill myself. I think I think a lot about killing myself, not
like a point on a map but rather like a glowing exit sign of the show. It’s never
been quite bad enough to make me want to leave. See when I’m up I don’t kill
myself because oh my god there is so much left to do,
and when I’m down I don’t kill myself because then the sadness would be over,
and the sadness is my old paint under the new. The sadness is the house fire or
the broken shoulder. I’d still be me without it but it’d be so boring. Keep
telling me seeing things that aren’t technically there is called disturbed
cognitive functioning. I call it having a superpower. Once I pulled over on the
freeway and jumped out of my old red Jeep because I saw it burst into flames
20 seconds before it actually burst into flames. I knew my girlfriend and I
would be together cause she turned bright pink the first
time she saw me. I know tomorrow’s gonna come cause I’ve seen it. Sunrise is going
to come. All you have to do is wake up. The future has been at war but it’s
coming home so soon. The future is the map and the treasure. The future
looks like a child in a cape. The future is just like gravity. Everyone is slowly
drifting toward everyone else. We will all be part of each other one day. The
future is a blue sky and a full tank of gas. I saw the future. I did, and in it I
was alive. Thanks so much. Y’all are wonderful. My name’s Neil Hilborn, thank you.

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