Why I Love My (Old) OCD Clinic

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!)

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I’m Not Recovered. | & Eating Disorders

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.

Continue reading “I’m Not Recovered. | & Eating Disorders”

My Uncertainties on a Bad Day

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. 

I Am Walking 1 Million Steps 4 OCD :)

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Click here to see my video about why WE as a community walk for OCD awareness.

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. ♥

To support Team SHALOM ALEICHEM & the Int’l OCD Foundation, you can donate or share our page, which you can find here.

To find out more about the walk, go to iocdf.org/walk.

What is Shalom Aleichem? It’s my YouTube channel!

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.

To find out more about the International OCD Foundation, go to iocdf.org.

Thank you all for taking the time to read this and for caring about OCD awareness!

🙂 Kat