Note: This is to raise awareness for Obsessive Compulsive Disorder: the fixation on unwanted thoughts and images, having to have coping mechanisms because you feel overwhelmed by them, how it is like being trapped in your mind, the need for approval and second guessing and doubting everything you do.
A servant girl called Cinderella was both working and weeping in the cellar of her stupid step- mothers’ house. She was distraught, lonely and extremely anxious.
She was counting repetitively the number of holes in her dress. It wasn’t a weird spontaneous idea, she always did it. Just like she always repeated her cleaning, sewing and appeasing her “family,” duties. When she did it, she felt like she could relax and be at ease. If she didn’t she would start shaking and her mind would go into overload with chanting what she needed to do, for example: “I need to clean, sew and talk to them. I need to clean, sew and talk to them. I need to clean, sew and talk to them…” and with her questioning, such as: “Will something bad happen if I don’t do this? It seems pointless, but I feel I should do it, so doing it is right, isn’t it? I can’t live without doing it, so it is the only solution to do it, isn’t it?”
You couldn’t really blame her. She used to have the idyllic life where she knew that she was adored by both of her parents and she could be a normal and happy little girl. Then, her mother died and her Dad remarried and her life turned into a nightmare. The abrupt change was too much for her and she found herself searching for something to hold on to. Was one reminder of normality too much to ask for?
Apparently it was, because her Dad then died, very mysteriously. One minute he was sipping the wine his new wife had made (which was red, while the others had white- except Cinderella, who was “too young,” according to her step- mother), and the next he clutched his heart and died.
Her jubilant step- mother (she seemed very happy to have inherited the fortune her late husband had, and although she protested to be surprised, her cackle of excitement was unconvincing) took no time before forcing Cinderella from the smallest room into the cellar.
If you think that the step- mother had reached her optimum cruelty, you will be surprised. She then made it her ambition (well, one of her ambitions, she had already achieved being rich, but she also wanted her daughters to be married to Prince Charming) to control Cinderella and mould her into the perfect servant.
She made Cinderella clean, and if there was the most minute speck of dust or dirt, she would be hit around the head with both of her hands and the feather duster, because she was as unworthy as dust if she couldn’t reach perfection at cleaning.
Likewise, if she didn’t speak formally and respectfully to her step- mother and her ugly sisters (who were always complicit and spiteful) she would get the same punishment because to be a perfect servant she had to respect her elders and betters.
Nothing she did was ever good enough for her step-mother (or her step- sisters, who complained that how she made their dresses wasn’t satisfactory) and so corrected and punished her until it was. This made Cinderella feels the need to please her and be as perfect as she could be.
Even though she knew her Obsessive Compulsive Disorder was unhealthy, Cinderella didn’t change it because it was something she could hold on to (the only consistency in her life) and it was the only thing that made her feel like she could please her step- mother, her step- sisters and herself (her own needs came at the very bottom of others and her own list). She felt very pleased and happy when she finished everything, although she felt ashamed because she knew that it wasn’t by choice that she did her chores, she felt forced to by her “family,” and by her need to be productive and to find order and control. But it was also because she felt like her being as perfect as she could be would protect those around her, as when she wasn’t her Mum and Dad had died but now that she was nobody had died since. If they did, it would her fault again because she was the one who should protect them.
One day, her rituals were interrupted by her ugly (they were hideous due to their shallow personalities) sisters’ loud rambling conversation- although her step- mother invested great effort to make them into fine ladies, they had not mastered it- about the ball that evening.
“That Prince Charming will fall in love with me and I will get to live in the palace and be pampered to my heart’s content,” Cassandra said. Cinderella thought that she was already pampered. How she would love to have somebody making her dresses and cleaning for her and to be able to relax.
“Yes, Prince Charming will fall when he sees you, he will fall down with a heart attack when he sees you acne,” Candice replied, laughing like a hysterical hyena.
“What about that dirt on your face?” Cassandra retorted.
“It’s a beauty mark,” Candice said defensively.
“Well, I will look beautiful in my lovely dress,” Cassandra said loftily.
“I won’t. Cinderella hasn’t done it in the right shade of blue. I must order her to sort it out. Then the Prince will notice me,” Candice said thoughtfully.
“We’ll see,” Cassandra said arrogantly.
“Yes, we will,” Candice said, also in an arrogant way.
While Cinderella was forced to remake Candices’ dress (it had been perfectly made, but she had obviously changed her mind about what she wanted. All this change, no wonder she avoided it, it just complicated things) and cover her beauty mark and Cassandras’ acne, as well as making their hair look glamorous, she was distracted.
It was exceptionally rare for her unwanted thoughts (flashes of images of people around her getting hurt, or words flashing in her head describing them getting hurt, and her having to try to stop thinking about it because she believed she would make it happen and it would be her fault, so she would count and list her duties to feel like she was protecting them, but it was a continuous cycle, and never went away for long) to be distracted by something other than counting, listing or doing her duties. But today it was.
If only she could go to the ball. But she would never be allowed. If only she would meet the prince and the fine ladies and feel like she belonged. But would she go even if she was allowed?
No, what about her anxiety for new experiences? Even if she did go, would it be fair to make the prince think she was an ordinary lady, when in fact she was a servant and completely overwhelmed with her routines and all the other parts of her craziness?
When she had finished with helping her step- sisters, they left for the ball with the step- mother who laughed at Cinderella and mocked her for not being able to go. Cinderella then fell down with sadness.
“Is it too much to be released from this hell for just one evening? Oh, how I wish I could go to the ball,” she moaned passionately.
“Do you?” asked an unknown entity in a warm and considerate tone.
“Who said that?” Cinderella asked, standing up and looking around. Her anxiety was not to be laughed at because it affected her so much and caused her to be paranoid (right now she was hoping that she had not offended the person who was speaking, even though she didn’t think she had said anything offensive).
“It is I,” said the mysterious person, and with a POP they appeared. Cinderella gasped. She was looking at a floating fairy who was beautiful, curvy and old but who was perfect to Cinderella because she was reminded of her glamorous Mum and the fact that she was carrying a wand filled Cinderella with excitement.
“Excuse me but who are you?” Cinderella asked timidly.
“I am the Fairy Godmother,” she replied, looking astonished at the question.
“Charming! I work all day helping damsels in distress and where is my praise? What do I need to do to get some recognition? Is it too much to want to meet the queen and become a Dame?” asked the Fairy Godmother.
“Oh, I am truly sorry to offend you, Ms Godmother,” Cinderella replied meekly, feeling like she needed to make it up to her and please her, so she curtsied.
“Yes, well, let’s get the show on the road. Did you say you wanted to go to a ball?” the Fairy Godmother asked.
“Yes, but I don’t know if I sh-,” Cinderella started anxiously.
“Your wish is my command,” the Fairy Godmother said grandly, waving her wand majestically.
Everything changed so abruptly. One second Cinderella was looking exhausted and poor in her rags, and the next she was looking like the most beautiful woman in the world. Her hair was up in a sophisticated knot which made her blonde hair look so glamorous, and her dress was a wonderful periwinkle blue that made her look truly stunning. She looked like a princess.
“Look at you,” the Fairy Godmother said, producing a mirror. Cinderella looked in the mirror and for a second she looked surprised and flattered, and then she started shrieking.
“No, I look so different. I’m not beautiful. No, I can’t handle this,” she said feverishly before hyperventilating.
“Oh, give me strength. Why do I have to work with a sad weirdo’?” the Fairy Godmother said sighing. But she waved her wand and Prince Charming appeared.
“Hello mother. To what do I owe the pleasure?” he asked politely.
“Look at her?” the Fairy Godmother replied, pointing at Cinderella.
“Yes, she is beautiful. Inside and out. But she’s also too young to die. Do something,” the Fairy Godmother replied urgently.
Then, the charming and gracious prince walked over to Cinderella, gave her a breath taking kiss and she stopped hyperventilating. She felt her heart soar and she felt soothed.
“Thank you,” she said, out of breath.
“You’re welcome,” he replied.
“Where are my thanks? Why do I have to work with such divas?” the Fairy Godmother said impatiently, but they didn’t hear her because they were in their own bubble. Before she vanished with a POP she summoned a chariot with stunning stallion horses. The perfect way to travel.
Prince Charming took Cinderella’s’ hand and helped her into the carriage before getting into it himself. They stared into each other’s eyes, enchanted, throughout the whole journey whilst the horses soldiered on without direction. Cinderella wasn’t anxious at all, she felt like she was effortlessly relaxing and although it was very weird, she knew not to question such a special thing.
When they arrived at the colossal golden palace, Cinderella and Prince Charming entered proudly holding each other’s’ hand. They may have only just met, but they felt that spark and they felt tethered to each other. So much so that they danced all night long, completely ignoring the envious looks in their direction and the ugly step-sisters desperate attempt to break them up.
At midnight, when the bells started chiming, Prince Charming and Cinderella stopped dancing and had the most romantic kiss, true loves kiss, and Prince Charming said: “You will be my queen.”
Cinderella replied: “What about my family?” she asked in a curious way, not in an anxious way because she had found something to hold on to.
“All I care about is you,” Prince Charming replied.
He was right. The next day he paid for a lawyer to put a restraining order on Cinderella’s’ “family,” and she moved into the palace the very next day. He didn’t look at anybody else but her. Cinderella loved her new life. It was a dream come true not to be servant to others or to herself, to be pampered and it was a miracle to have found love.
That night Prince Charming said: “Thank you mother.”
Cinderella replied: “Thank you Ms Godmother.”
After they heard a twinkly sound, like the swish of a wand, they lived happily ever after.