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.
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! 😀
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! 😉
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. ♥
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 allshapes 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. 🙂
Ps. I intend to make a master post of all the OCD resources I mentioned for my YouTube subscribers because there are very few recovery oriented OCD YouTube channels out there.
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.