CBT taught me a few different things to do in this situation. First, accept I don’t know what will happen in marriage with this guy. Second, go with the feeling and choice that has the evidence to back it up. Third, make the choice that aligns the most with my values. Fourth, if needed, do a pros and cons list. Fifth, acknowledge my intrusive thoughts and feelings but ultimately don’t let them make choices for me.
I loved seeing my loved ones in Rhode Island last weekend.
When you say the words “loved ones,” you usually don’t expect that to include staff at a psychiatric hospital. This time, it does. Last weekend there was a reunion for the OCD program I went to when I was 16. Why would I fly up to Rhode Island just for a one-day reunion? Lots of reasons. First off, this was the only way I could get my father to let me visit my home state this summer. Second, I had been wanting to visit with an old friend for quite some time and this would be a good chance. Lastly and most importantly, I love and support my old hospital that much.
Most people don’t get as close to staff as I did. But when you’re in a program everyday for 6 months, let alone during a highly formative period in your life, bonds tend to form. The truth is, so much of who I am today is because of the staff at that hospital. It was where I ended up after first reaching out for help, it was where I first got diagnosed with OCD, and finally, it was where I recieved adequate treatment. The “adequate treatment” was from the staff I’m talking about today. Those were the people I spent 6 months with (7 if you count my second visit), some of which spent almost everyday in my home.
They were different from the start. For the first time in my life, I had therapists who didn’t hand me coping skills, assuming I’ll never be “normal,” so I might as well just try to avoid any illogical anxiety (no matter how debilitating). They didn’t tell me to snap a rubber band on my wrist, or mentally yell “stop” whenever I started obsessing. For the first time in my 10 years of therapy, there was an attitude of, “lets tackle this problem so you can live the life you want.”
They taught me to face my fears head on. And they’re the reason I’m the strong, determined, adventurous, confident, carefree warrior person I am today. They’re the reason I believe I can get married someday. They’re the reason I believe I can have a successful life. They’re the reason I believe I could get a PhD if I wanted to. Heck, they’re the reason I went to college to begin with!
I was homeschooled because of my anxiety. Before the OCD program, I had no idea if I could handle university classes, let alone be around so many people. Through facing fears greater than most people can imagine, I realized I can do anything if I have enough will (and act despite insecurities or fear of what people think).
They’re the reason I don’t live in fear anymore: they told me I can chose not to listen to it.
In addition to all the tools they gave me to defeat my OCD, I think the most helpful aspect was the atmosphere of the program. There’s nothing like being in a room of people, children and teens, who are supporting eachother and lifting eachother up. Meanwhile, in front of each of them is their own huge battle to face. For the first time in most of our lives, we were in a room of people who understood us. (I feel like I’ve spent the rest of my life looking for that roon again.) And the word “can’t”? It’s completely unheard of. Either you’re taking your life back or you’re not, but there’s no “can’t” in anxiety. Fighting our fears wasn’t as hard when we were in that room, either. In fact, sometimes it was fun. I guess this is proof that a load weighs less when people are helping you carry it.
The staff instilled in us an attitude of resilience, then we instilled that into eachother. But even in our worst moments, it was never so dark that we couldn’t crack a smile.
The OCD program taught me all of that and more, and these lessons have stuck with me until today. In many ways, they made me into who I am. However, I wouldn’t say I’m a different person. I would say they got rid of the barriers keeping me from being the person I always wanted to be.
My gratitude for them is greater than I can express. I thank God for them, because it was God who brought me to this hospital at just the right time. And now I want to do all I can to pay it forward.
If I have anything to say to the public in this post, it’s a massive thank you to mental health professionals. Thank you to those of you who devote you lives to helping people who probably don’t like you, and most likely don’t want your help. I know it’s not easy to be the one to carry everyone else’s burdens (especially the burdens that come along with mental illness), but you do that with grace. Most people struggle to know what to say when other people are hurting, and would rather avoid the situation altogether. You went to school to get better at it. If you’re a mental health professional, a clinician, a counselor, or a therapist, that alone makes you awesome. We need more people like you in the world, and please never stop doing what you do!
You can see why I said it’s a gratitude greater than I can express. When I try to express it, it turns into a rambling jumble of encouragment phrases.
Visiting them is an amazing way to consolidate my recovery, which, in a way, stemmed from a relationship with these people. In no way do I believe it hinders my recovery, or that my immense admiration for them is unhealthy. In reality, going back reminds me of where I came from, and why I’m still fighting. Even years later and a thousand miles away. Also, it’s a way to thank the staff that I love.
This year a documentary is being filmed on the hospital, so I also got interviewed by producers of the documentary. (There’s no guarentee footage of my interview will make it in the show, but when I have more information I’ll let you know.) That was a great experience. Not only was I saying the things I love to say about mental health, OCD, and exposure and response prevention, but I was saying those things on the grounds on which I learned them. I’ve done interviews before, but this one was unique in that way. It was also unique in that it’s for cable television.
The night after the reunion, I got to spend time with my lovely cousins at one of my favorite restaurants. It was a breath of fresh air to see the familiar faces on that side of the family. The next day, I met up with a friend from elementary school I hadn’t seen in probably 5 years. 5 years! Although it had been so long, the bond between us was still there. It was sentimental and just good. I don’t want to go into details, but seeing her was amazing.
Perhaps I went to Rhode Island focusing on the reunion, but every experience I had there was heartwarming. I feel like that’s not the best word to describe it, but when I got back that’s how I felt: warm. Warmed by seeing friends, family, and familiarity I haven’t seen in so long. Even the airport was comforting!
So, yes, it was worth it to fly up to Rhode Island for a weekend. When that weekend is full of people who build you up and lighten your load to carry in life, yes, it’s worth it.
Ps. Once again the only sunburn I got this summer was in Rhode Island, thanks to the reunion being held outside. Oh well, my skin picking tendencies like watching the skin peel off anyway. (I mean, EW GROSS! 😛 Half of you will like that comment, surely!)
Reading about eating disorders triggers me.
It doesn’t make much sense. I’ve never had an eating disorder. I’ve never had a disordered relationship with food. That is, unless you count the times I forget to eat because I’m busy being a perfectionist (i.e. OCD ritualizing) on whatever project I’m enthralled in, or times like last week when I couldn’t express my emotions and ate a whole box of chocolates instead.
I don’t know why eating disorders strike such a nerve in me. Reading about them-although I want to learn and I’m very interested in eating disorders-I always end up painfully, heartwrenchingly, akin-to-my-darkest-bouts-of-depression sad. Like mourning for a loss I didn’t have.
Maybe it’s because I see myself in them.
I recognize wanting to please my disorder so much I was killing myself while trying to help myself. I recognize turning my back on doctors and reason because what’s in my head is much more convincing.
Tonight I read an article by someone who has an eating disorder. And they are not participating in Eating Disorder Awareness Week.
The following is something I wrote during a really hard night this week. When I wrote it, I wasn’t planning on posting it. It didn’t even cross my mind to do so. However, today I read this to my therapist along with the “stream of consciousness” writing I also did that night. And she responded by saying,
“You’re a beautiful writer,
but there’s a lot of pain in that.”
Her compliment was what made me think about posting this. Because I’ve been wanting to tell you all how I’ve been feeling. And to be honest, I’ve been having a lot of bad days lately. The day that I wrote this, all of these bad days and sad, scary feelings all came out. I had to face it, and I am so glad I wrote it down in that moment. Although reading it makes me sad, I can use this as an outline for a plan. I don’t know about you guys, but I tend to forget the hardest feelings by the time I get to therapy. Not too helpful with feeling better. It’s like the feelings go dormant until something triggers this volcano that is my emotions to explode.
I’m sorry for the lack of videos. Even my dad said he missed them. Not posting a video for 5 weeks makes me sad, but mostly disappointed in myself because I know it’s my fault. I’m trying hard not to beat myself up, because I know that won’t help the depression. Plus, it’s mostly because school is so busy, but I could do it if I tried. OCD has been getting in the way.
And my “stream of consciousness” writing talks about how disappointed I am and how I’m not living for my values right now. I will not be posting that, however, because it’s way too dark and not written in proper grammar in the slightest.
Anyway, if you are easily triggered or having a bad day, probably don’t read on. Especially if you have harm or sexual obsessions. Unless you want an exposure, in which case go for it! Because this is me when I’m not accepting my thoughts. When I’m not exposing, but believe they could actually be true. These are obsessions when they cause depression more than anxiety. This is me on my worst days.
I feel this could be helpful to show that even in recovery I still obsess. I still ritualize. I still have OCD. It waxes and wanes, and right now it’s waxing. This is the worst of my thoughts on the worst of my bad days:
Humans can justify a whole myriad of horrible, disgusting actions. So, I’m not saying my intrusive thoughts can come true, but I am saying we can delude ourselves into thinking we feel a way that we naturally might not. And not in an OCD way, like “OCD says it’s true so it is”, but in a normal human way. We can lie to ourselves. Maybe better than we can lie to others. We can convince ourself to do anything, if we justify it with thinking it will be better off if we did this. WE would be better off if we did this. Humans justify murder, rape, adultery, with this line of thinking. It’s so easy. We see this happen in movies all the time, and you think “how could someone be so cruel?” But it happens in real life all the time. It’s not just art. It’s art imitating life.
I think maybe animals are better off than humans. Instincts seem to work so much better than complex thought. An animal with the instinct to be monogamous does not cheat on it’s mate. It does not cause pain to it’s partner. It takes care of it. There aren’t deadbeat dads in animals not programmed to be that way.
We are programmed to be monogamous, and to love, and to want to be loved, and to love ourselves. Yet, somehow, some [censored] how, we can convince ourselves otherwise. We justify murder in the name of love. We are the most dangerous animals out there and it’s not because of our instincts, it’s because of our intelligence. We know nothing and act like we know everything, and mess up everything in the process.
A song can make us feel that we’re in love with someone. A change in how we think can make us feel in love. I could very easily feel just as delusional. I have before. I’ve justified obvious sins, by saying “it is better off, God would want this,” when it is obvious from the Bible that he doesn’t. I didn’t murder anyone, but I got myself hurt, and I disobeyed God. And by that logic I could do it again.
I could do it again.
If I look at a picture of someone and feel a postive feeling I could most definitely fall in love with them, or delude myself into thinking I’m in love with them. I could make bad decisions in the name of this delusion. Humans.
Having OCD is like being trapped in a box.
It starts out as a box with plenty of room to move around, OCD is only asking you to avoid a few minor things.
You think, “Okay, it’s alright that I’m avoiding this OCD fear, I have all of these things I’m not afraid of to replace it!” Slowly but surely, OCD asks you to avoid more and more things. And the more you do what OCD says, the smaller your box becomes. Before you can even realize it, your box is tiny and cramped. You can hardly move without OCD asking you to avoid more fears and thoughts.
That’s how avoidance works in OCD. It never stops at the first thing, the OCD always grows.
On the other hand, when we tell OCD we’re not going to avoid or do compulsions, our box grows. At first, it hurts because we’re not used to stretching and pushing this heavy box that’s kept us stuck in the same position for so long. Even though it’s hard, slowly but surely we can do the things we love again. And that’s what makes it worth it.
We want your box to be big enough to hold the whole world again, so you can do the things you love and be happy.
When we first start facing our fears, they usually do get worse for a little while. But if we can stick that first while out, it makes a world of difference in our recovery! Get past that first stretch, and you can get through anything!
If the first stretch turns out to be too hard, we might need a little boost. This is where medication and supplements come in handy. When starting therapy for OCD, doctors often immediately put the patients on medications. This is because they know the patients are already in pain and that that first stretch may be a lot for them. The medication dulls the anxiety to the point that patients can start doing exposures (growing their box) and make it through the heightened anxiety.
I hope you feel better soon and have the strength to fight your OCD. In the meantime, know that I’ve had severe OCD fears around thing I loved to do. And now I can do those things as much as I want, with no anxiety. I could only do that by feeling that OCD fear and doing what I want anyway. Praying for you. But I know you got this!
Ps. This was originally written to a friend in a Facebook support group. But a lot of people liked it, so I edited it a bit and published it here. I made this analogy a while ago, but haven’t shared it too much yet (I thought I needed an OCD analogy, because all the good OCD professionals have one!). 😉
Special thanks to Zoltan for getting me to type this out! And everyone who encouraged me to post it. And Laura for being the best co-moderator ever! 😀
Pps. Check out my channel for an overview of what I did at the Annual OCD Conference. I’ll have 1-3 videos about it coming out in the next month or so. 🙂 Stay tuned and subscribe to see them right when they come out!
Right now I’m laying in the front yard on my bean bag chair, watching my dog’s heavy breathing in front of me. His toys are scattered across the grass, making it look like I have a two-year-old brother rather than a nine-year-old dog. Popped balls, dormant Frisbee’s, and exploded stuffed animals atop the grass, but Gator isn’t interested. He just lays there, resting silently.
I am honestly amazed by the beauty of nature. However, I am even more amazed that I don’t enjoy it like I used to.
I walk through this front yard every day. Although, it’s usually on the same path. From the car to the doorway. I touch very little grass and any grass I do touch is through the bottom of my shoe.
As a child I spend a lot of time outside. I played in the sandbox, in the mud, on my bike, in the pool. When it snowed I couldn’t wait to jump in it. As soon as the first snowflake fell I wanted to be out there. I wanted to run and play and I didn’t care if I fell down or my hands went numb from the cold. I protested snow pants and the bags over my socks my mom insisted on.
Nowadays, when it snows I just want the plows to come so I can go shopping. You know, what I find fun now.
I look out the window and admire the snow. It looks beautiful, peaceful. But I don’t enjoy my time outside in it. I think about playing in it, but “it’s too cold”. When I must walk in it, I complain about my frozen ears and focus on shielding my electronics.
It’s easy to chalk this change up to growing up. I am an adult now, it’s normal to spend less time outside. My one qualm with this theory is my dad.
My dad spent much of his childhood outside. Him and his 5 brothers spent their summers at the local pool and he grew up to be a diver for his university. There are plenty of home videos of them playing outside in the snow. But when he grew up, he kept swimming and he kept playing.
When I was old enough, he taught me how to play outside. He played soccer up until a few years ago. He was the assistant coach on my own soccer team. And when I grew out of it, he had the dog.
My dad still spends most of his days in nature. He still seems to find beauty in it.
When I go outside and look at the trees, I find it beautiful, but I don’t have that sense of wonder that I used to. Even looking out at the mountains of the Carolinas, I don’t feel overwhelmed with their beauty. I don’t feel moved.
I worry I say it’s beautiful because I have to. It’s expected of me to. When I was a child or even a younger teenager, I would be moved by the smallest piece of nature. Now I’m thinking about other things. “I have to edit a video, I’m late for my appointment, I have to get dinner, blah blah blah…”
My mind has been influenced by this fast paced society. Society constantly tells us to go and do, never to stop and listen.
Then they market new technology like it is the answer to our problem. Saying if we buy the latest iPhone, we’ll be able to do better, and therefore, be better.
But it only makes us more stressed out. It takes us farther away from stopping and listening.
I wonder if my attachment to my phone is part of the reason I stopped enjoying the outdoors. The older I got, the more I was interested in new gadgets and less interested in being outside. Why would I go outside when I have an infinite amount of entertainment at my fingertips?
Once I got an iPhone, my connection to the internet became literally constant. There were very few times when I had no way to get online for an extended period of time.
Actually, there were four times.
The only times I’ve been without the internet were when I was inpatient in the mental hospital.
My second time inpatient was after I got an iPhone. Now, when I tell you my connection to the internet was constant, you better believe I took advantage of it. My iPhone was the best distraction from my severe OCD. I had obsessions from the moment I woke up until the moment I fell asleep, so the phone was always by my side. In the weeks leading up to the inpatient stay, I spent my days only laying in bed and playing on my phone. Although it was my easiest distraction, I still had obsessions and compulsions while using it. It was also used to compulsively research my newest theological “discoveries.” I would read from the most obscure webpages and believe it was the absolute truth, because that means OCD can accuse me of being a sinner for believing the “wrong” thing.
(Just a note, don’t believe everything you read on the internet. Especially if OCD says it’s true.)
I was like a zombie. I was making no progress with my life or my recovery, if you could even call it that.
My last time inpatient, I was definitely in recovery. However, it was hard for me to keep up with therapy. Things in my life were very hectic and different. I had just graduated high school and was preparing to go away for a week without my parents. It would have been the first time I had been away from them for a week by choice, rather than necessity. However, I was going through a bad OCD spike that made me incredibly depressed. I wouldn’t focus on therapy and I stopped doing frequent exposures. I got out of my recovery mindset and started giving into compulsions and depressive thoughts. The internet was my distraction once again.
Without that distraction while inpatient, I was able to focus on myself. I was able to make a new recovery plan. I started from scratch and built up from where I left off. Instead of just idly letting things go downhill, I took action.
This obviously wasn’t only because I didn’t have my phone. But without it, I was able to look at my surroundings. I saw the trees and grass and appreciated it more than the hard, cold tile of the mental hospital. I looked at my life objectively, out of the lens of life’s pressures, and was able to start anew. Most teenagers groan of the idea of no internet, but in all honesty, being away from society for a little while is refreshing. Focusing on yourself and not worrying about what anyone else thinks of you is what makes your time spent inpatient so productive.
Without life’s distractions, you can find methods to get your life back to where you want it to be.
While sitting outside on the grass, I realized that maybe in order to get my life to where I want it to be, I need to take a break from the internet. It might be a little reminder of what’s important in life.
I can spend more time outside and have more quality time with the Earth. I can go on adventures and get my amazement for God’s creation back. Yes, me and the Earth are going to be best friends after this vacation.
It’s been a few weeks since I started this post and I am just now finishing it. I’m still unsure of the rules I will implement for this internet vacation, but I would like it to happen sometime this summer. And if you all are interested, I will blog about it.
Hope you liked my ramblings today. Let me know if you relate to anything I wrote in this post! I know it went a little bit everywhere.
Ps. I’m feeling a lot better since I started this post. I feel like my life is getting back to where I want it without the vacation. Although the vacation would still be nice.
I am doing a bit of a vacation with internet access, but I will talk about that in a vlog! 😉
Last night, possibly for the first time, I wanted to look at a picture and check my feelings as a compulsion. The urge was so strong, but I resisted. It is possible to resist compulsions. It’s incredibly hard, but possible.
It feels like you’re putting a lot on the line, but in reality you’re not. I think the logical side of you knows that. And in five minutes, or fifteen minutes, or an hour, when your anxiety has gone and you’ve forgotten what started it in the first place, you will see that it’s true.
In the moment, anxiety makes us feel like our thoughts are a threat. Like they must come true, because we thought them. However, that is only the result of our faulty brains. Making up meanings for thoughts that have no meaning.
In reality, thoughts are just thoughts. Everyone has them and they are harmless, to everyone.
My therapist and I have been working on exposing myself to the root of my fear. That I might be attracted to someone taboo. This means, instead of writing out my intrusive thoughts objectively, I write out the meaning I (falsely) apply to them.
I think that may be why this urge to ritualize was so strong.
But I’ve heard stories of people who have this compulsion. One minute of checking turns to two, then five, then ten. One photo brings feelings that are too conflicting, so add another, and another. Then it’s more than just the person you started with, it’s anyone who meets the qualifications set by OCD.
But that is true of all compulsions, isn’t it?
I wasn’t going to jump down that rabbit hole. I know where it ends.
That’s why when I get a new compulsion I try my absolute hardest to resist. No matter how strong the urge is. One compulsion always turns into two. And like drug tolerance, we become tolerant to the compulsion. So we have to do more and increasingly intrusive rituals.
When you look at it that way, it’s much easier to not ritualize in the first place.
Don’t look at rituals as momentary relief, look at them as giving OCD the foothold it needs to control you. That’s all it really is.
It is terrifying to resist compulsions, especially for the first time. However, it is necessary to recover from OCD.
Fight the bully, don’t feed the bully.
I like to think of OCD as the alien from Doctor Who that lives in electronics. If you don’t watch Doctor Who, you will have no idea what I’m talking about, but bare with me. If you do watch Doctor Who, I haven’t seen this episode in a while so I might be a bit off on the lore. Bare with me. Disclaimers aside, the alien feeds off of human’s faces because that is the “essence” of their being, so to speak. So the alien comes to Earth and goes into television screens, using satellite connections to be in many screens at once.
When a person is sitting on their couches watching television with their families, the alien appears on the screen in the form of a woman. It screams, “FEED ME! FEEEEEED ME!” As it sucks the face off of the people on the other side of the screen.
I remember watching the episode and thinking the alien was so gluttonous and disgusting. It will do anything to eat the most faces it can.
Then I realized, OCD is the same way. OCD comes into our lives shouting, “feeeeed me!” It starts off small, but grows larger and larger as we give it what it wants. It feeds off of our compulsions. And in doing that, our essence disappears. We become the person OCD wants us to be, rather than who we want to be. We become faceless.
To stop this, we must starve OCD. We will feel it’s whining and the result of it’s hunger pains. However, in doing this, it will shrink. And we can be ourselves again.
Fight the bully, don’t feed the bully.
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is an illness that effects 2-3% of the US population. 50% of those OCD cases are severe.
So what is keeping people from getting proper treatment?
OCD is classified as one of the top ten most disabling illnesses by the World Health Organization, in terms of lost earnings and diminished quality of life. Despite this, it takes on average 14-17 years from diagnosis for a sufferer to receive effective treatment.
I’ve seen first hand how OCD sneaks into a person’s life. It creates havoc. It sneaks into everything you love, bit by bit. Before you know it you’re not you anymore. You’re OCD.
After battling OCD at the age of 16 I gained a passion for raising awareness of mental illness. Once I learned there is a treatment for this terrible disorder, I knew I wanted to give other sufferers the same information. In 2014 I created a YouTube channel dedicated to raising awareness of mental illness. Mostly focusing on OCD.
However, I just have a few blogs. The International OCD Foundation works tirelessly to help people with OCD. They spread only the best information, guide people to the proper treatment, and help people know they’re not alone. I wish I knew about them when I was really struggling! That’s why I have created my own fundraising page for the International OCD Foundation, so you and I can help them in their amazing efforts!
Last year I went to the OCD Walk in Boston with Team Bradley Hospital. I went to their intensive outpatient program for OCD and love them dearly! It’s the therapy they taught me, exposure and response prevention, that changed my life from constant OCD to mine again. Since last year’s walk I have moved down south and am now closer to Atlanta.
My dad and I will be walking as “Team Shalom Aleichem” in the International OCD Foundation’s annual 5k walk. If any of my viewers, readers, and friends are going to this walk, feel free to join our team! If you can’t make it, please consider donating to the International OCD Foundation through our fundraiser. If neither is possible, please share my page or the cause!
Remember, sufferers of mental illness aren’t victims, they’re survivors. ♥
My team is called Shalom Aleichem because I wanted to represent my YouTube viewers who are also passionate about raising awareness of OCD and related disorders.
Thank you all for taking the time to read this and for caring about OCD awareness!
As someone who has OCD, I recognize the importance of classifying OCD symptoms. It makes it easier to educate professionals (and advocates), and makes it easier to find people who have the same OCD sub-type you do.
HOWEVER, the form of OCD I identify with the most doesn’t have a name.
I have sexual obsessions.
But they’re not about the same sex, they’re not about children, and they’re not about animals. I have obsessions about therapist figures in my life.
Usually middle-aged, male therapist figures.
So, completely opposite from the sexual obsession acronyms we’re used to.
THEREFORE, today I introduce to you a brand new OCD sub-type, Therapist OCD (TOCD)!
Ah. I finally feel like I belong in the OCD world. I’m going to call the IOCDF right now to initiate this.
YOU can qualify to have TOCD too, if you have any of the following:
- Obsessions about your mental health professional
- Obsessions about your doctor
- Obsessions about other doctors and other mental health professionals
What if you have one of these things and not the other? What if you have harm thoughts with sexual obsessions? What if it’s one or the other? What if you have thoughts about a therapist-like figure in your life who is not licensed?
You lose. Go back to OCD limbo.
If you’re taking this seriously, you’re missing the point.
When I say OCD comes in all shapes and sizes, I mean OCD really does come in all shapes and sizes. OCD is different for everyone.
Sometimes we don’t fit exactly into one OCD sub-type. And that’s okay. That doesn’t mean you have any less OCD than anybody else.
Some OCD symptoms fit into multiple sub-types. For instance, my sexual obsessions also leak into my religious obsessions because I fear if I act on a thought, I’ll go to hell.
This doesn’t mean I need to go off and make Sexual Scrupulosity. OCD is sneaky. It will sneak into any area of your life, even ones that have never been mentioned to any therapist before. (I put it that way because even if there’s no literature on it, there’s a good chance that someone has had that symptom).
To explain OCD symptoms, I like to give the example of windows. People who have OCD commonly have obsessions about germs, order, and harm. And people who have OCD commonly have compulsions involving hand washing, straightening, and avoiding knives. However, people who have OCD can have symptoms about anything! Including seemingly harmless things like plates, chairs, and windows!
You may be thinking, “How could someone be afraid of a window?!”
But OCD is a master of fear. It can get you to fear anything. I am convinced of this.
My OCD symptoms around therapists and professional figures may be uncommon, but it doesn’t make it any less OCD.
OCD is comprised of two things. Obsessions and compulsions. If you have those two things (and it significantly effects your life), you have OCD. Regardless of the theme, sub-type, or lack thereof.
In that way, OCD is the same for everyone. Same formula, different variables.
Formula: O + C = D
If “O” represents obsessions and “C” represents compulsions,
“O” plus “C” always equals “D”.
So it doesn’t matter if you plug in dirt, harm, or symmetry for O. It doesn’t matter if you plug in hand washing, straightening, or avoiding knives for C. It always equals D.
Ugh, algebra. I have a headache.
But do you see what I’m saying? You don’t have to fit in to an OCD sub-type to have OCD. Even the most severe cases of OCD may not fit into a sub-type. Anyone who tells you otherwise either does not understand OCD or is incredibly superficial.
Don’t feel left out if you have an uncommon obsession like I do. It’s my guess that most people who have had OCD for a long time has also recognized an obsession that doesn’t really fit anywhere.
If you have an obsession or compulsion that you can’t place into a sub-type, please comment it below! I know people who have struggled with this with be grateful to see it. 🙂 At least, I know I will be!
Have a nice day everyone and do your exposures! 😛
By the way, this post is coincidentally timed to be on #WeirdThoughtsThursday. Weird Thoughts Thursday is a hashtag I started for us to share our weird or scary thoughts. They can be intrusive thoughts or just random! If you have a Twitter, join us every Thursday to reduce the stigma around weird thoughts. My twitter is @thekatway. If you don’t have a Twitter, feel free to start a #WeirdThoughtsThursday on your favorite social media site.
Since starting Weird Thoughts Thursday, I’ve gotten messages saying it’s helped OCD sufferers take power away from their intrusive thoughts. This was it’s mission to begin with and why I’ve continued doing it every week (except when I forgot)! Being able to laugh at OCD has been a big part of my recovery and I want to extend that to you all too.
If you know people with OCD, whether you have it or not, initiate a Weird Thoughts Thursday with them. You’d be surprised at how amazed a sufferer can be when they find out they’re not alone.
So, I was thinking about International Women’s Day and I decided to journal about it, since I have been journaling the past few nights. I was going to make a list of all the women who inspire me. Then, suddenly, I drew a blank.
I could think of all the men who inspire me, Jesus, Ghandi, Dr. Ben Carson… And, ironically, men who do not inspire me. But I could not think of a woman who does.
That baffles me. How could I, a strong woman myself, not have any strong women I look up to?
It really shows me how much inspirational women are missing from pop culture. All I hear about are celebrities (and criminal activity by those celebrities). I don’t hear about enough women who are good role models to young women like me-and younger young women, who need them more than I do.
So I set myself a challenge and did some digging. I decided to write a list of 10 women who inspire me. It took me over an hour, but I’ve now found them.
1) The Biblical Ladies– Ones who did great things for the Most High God and His Kingdom. I specifically wrote Esther, Ruth, Mary, and Mary Magdelene.
2) Malala Yousefzai. If you do not know who Malala is, you may be living under a rock. You might want to get out of it. Malala is a girl who, at 16 years old, got shot by the Taliban for promoting the idea that girls should go to school. As a woman who went to school, I know how important this is. Malala is a modest woman who stays true to her religion while condemning the acts of those who use her religion wrongly. I find myself doing the same thing. I think she’s younger than me, but I hope I can make an impact as big as Malala has.
3) Mayim Bialik. Mayim is an actress, but that’s not why she’s on this list. She’s on the list because she’s an actress, neuroscientist and Orthodox Jew. She gracefully applies the Jewish rules of Tzniut (modesty) to her life, while in the competitive world of acting. She also has some book smarts, considering she has a PhD in neuroscience. (Ps. “Some” is an understatement).
4) All the lady mental health YouTubers– On YouTube there are many courageous women who advocate for mental health. Young and old, we come together to help this world understand mental illness. Those of us who speak our stories inspire me most of all, as telling your story of a mental health challenge opens you up for a world of hurt. However, and I think my mental health YouTube friends will agree, it’s not usually as bad as we think it will be. And we get to help others in the process.
I specifically wrote down Kati Morton, LikeKristen, and LetsTalkTics. Go check them out!
5) Beckah Shea. Beckah Shea is a singer who I can describe best as a complete blessing. She overcame mental illness and now sings (and raps!) her heart out for Jesus. I got to meet Beckah and see her perform. Even while very pregnant, she was full of energy. She is walking in the Spirit, I have no doubt about that. Her personality left a handprint on my heart, I will not forget her anytime soon!
Definitely check her out if you like Christian music!
6) Katherine from my Messianic Synagogue. If you didn’t know, I’ve been going to a Messianic Jewish synagogue every Saturday (the Sabbath). Messianic means they believe that Jesus is the Messiah. There is no fellowship quite like it. It is an amazing feeling to worship the same way Jesus worshipped. Anyway, there is a woman at the synagogue who is very touched by my story and my headscarf. I haven’t told her, but I’m very touched by her story too. I admire her faith, her knowledge, and her love for Jesus and other people. She also has a PhD in pastoral counseling, so we bond over our shared interest in psychology. I hope to become more like her someday, because she has the fruits of the Spirit in her.
7) Shawna Houson. Shawna is a Youtuber I have watched for ages. She inspires me in my filmmaking, faith, mental health, and just over-all being a good person. She’s funny, but more than that, she’s real. She recently uploaded a video about how depression effects her life. If you watch Shawna (also known as Nanalew), definitely send her some love. (Yes, YouTubers do read comments!)
8) Female veterans, police officers, and firefighters etc. The females who save the lives of dainty girls like me every day. Doing what most of us do not have the courage to do. I know I don’t. If I was on a battlefield, I’d be gone before the first gunshot. So I pray the Most High blesses those women and keep them safe, because they are very special women and we need them.
I’d also like to mention, I’m inspired by women who do those jobs in head scarves. Proving to the world you can be in a head scarf and be strong and independent.
9) Women I met at the OCD clinic. When entering the OCD clinic, I don’t think I realized I would meet such beautiful people. The young kids & teens I met there are the strongest people I know. They fight a battle in their minds that you couldn’t even dream of without having OCD yourself. And in that program, they were winning. The young women I met there are the strongest women I know. They’ve been to Hell and back, but they’re still standing! I love those girls like crazy and think of them everyday! Which reminds me of a quote:
Sufferers of mental illness aren’t victims, they’re survivors.
If you’re suffering from mental illness, keep your head up, you’re a survivor. 🙂
10) Women relatives– Memere, Grandma, Aunt Kathy, and Aunt Celine.
And the biggest inspiration and woman I love the most in my life, my mom! Mom, you are an amazing and strong woman. You went through hardships in life, but it hasn’t knocked you down. You support me and love me through my worst and best times. You love me unconditionally. You teach me what Jesus’ love is like, although I could not fathom all of it. Even though you deal with your own challenges, you still take care of me every day. You put others before yourself and that is admirable. I love you!
2015 was different for me in many big ways. I moved 1,000 away from my hometown, my YouTube channel flourished, I’ve found a hobby I’ve actually stuck with (YouTube), I got my first new therapist in two and a half years, and I beat OCD like I never could before. However, the most beneficial difference for me is the mental health community I have found online.
In the beginning of 2015 I went to a reunion for my OCD program. Seeing kids I hadn’t seen in years doing things they couldn’t do two years ago inspired me. Hearing them talk about their recovery gave me hope. Hope I’m not the only one out there in this stage of recovery from my OCD. I had longed for friendship for so long, but hadn’t found it.
The day I left the OCD IOP program (the first time), I cried. Not because I was worried about my OCD getting worse or acclimating to life without daily support, but because I was worried I wouldn’t make friends.
I had never met people who understood me before that program. People who understood the intense anxiety I felt. People who understood how terrifying and intrusive OCD is. I met a lot of teens there and we all bonded over our struggles. We talked about recovery in it’s earliest stages, which is what made it so beneficial to see them talk about it two years later with obvious improvements.
An aspect of recovery that psychologists often seem to neglect is the peer support. In the program, we’d be with kids like us every day. To be honest, watching them grow is more motivating than any amount of CBT worksheets. Some kids could work with a therapist for ages on one subject, but it wasn’t until another kid explained it that they understood. There is a trust between two people with the same illness, a trust that could never be replicated between a patient and a therapist.
After the program, that trust was ripped away from us. They didn’t have a support group for patients, which is a vital error on their part. Perhaps having peer support would stop many teens from going back.
It was also hospital policy that patients weren’t allowed to have each others’ contact information. However, at the reunion we were no longer patients, so I didn’t mind giving away my number. 😉 Texting my friends from the program helped me have some of the support I desperately wanted, but conversations were few and far between and it felt odd to bring up recovery.
That’s when I started getting messages on my channel from people who also wanted support. Some of them had been in a program like mine and felt lonely without their peers. E-mailing these people helped me as much as it helped them. We quickly became each other’s support systems.
Then came OCD Week. Around that week I was introduced to the Twitter OCD community, which is actually quite huge. You’d think 140 characters would inhibit how much support you can give, but that’s proven wrong when you meet the kind OCD bloggers, speakers, and activists who use Twitter as a means of spreading awareness and hope.
Having them is what changed my 2015 from the previous years after my OCD diagnosis. If you need a pick-me-up, motivation to do exposures, or just have a lighthearted OCD musing you’d like to share, they’re always there for you. They’re the most understanding and recovery oriented people I have met in regards to OCD. Especially on the internet where false information runs rampant, we need resources that support recovery from mental illness. These blogs, twitters and my friends in the YouTube mental health community do so.
Last year I made my first recovery vlog where I talked about wanting to make friends, but having trouble because of my social anxiety. Once again, mental health advocacy has opened up opportunities I never could have had before. The opportunity to know somebody who understands.
Thank you to all that has been a friend to me this past year, I hope I’m a good friend to you too. 🙂
Pps. This is a collaborative art project the other patients and I made at the reunion. I’m so proud of how far we’ve come, including the OCD program itself.