Statistics has been the biggest confidence boost of the year. I got a 90, making it the first math class I’ve gotten an A since probably the 2nd grade!
This kind of takes me back to my first semester in college. Coming from homeschooling through high school, and only recently getting over the anxiety I dealt with since childhood, I was barely ready to jump back into public academia. A huge reason I home schooled was my anxiety! I was so unsure of myself, I had no idea how this was going to work – or even if it would work.
I came out of my first semester with a 4.0 GPA.
It was an utter shock. I had no idea I could be good at school! My last years in public school were absorbed in Bs, Cs, Ds, and the feeling of failure. It turns out, I am good at school! Public school just failed me!
The moment I received those four “As” in my first semester, I felt like I could do anything. Going forward, I had a whole new sense of who I was and what I was capable of. I started believing I could do anything if I worked hard enough. I even thought about becoming a naturopathic doctor for a little while! Five years ago, I would have never considered becoming a doctor or applying to an Ivy League school. Yet, in February, I will be applying to an Ivy League school.
It may be “just” an Associate’s Degree, but it’s taken a lot for me to get here today. It’s taken a lot of sweat and tears to get this 2 year degree. (That’s taken 3 years to finish, but that doesn’t matter!) It’s taken a lot to become who I am today. And I cherish those three years that have shaped me greatly. I’ve had so many new experiences and learned so much more than what’s taught in class. And I am so, so happy even to feel like I’ve reached a milestone in my college career. It felt like it would last forever! This reward has reminded me there is an end goal! And it’s good, and it comes with a neat case.
I didn’t think I would cry during the graduation. I wasn’t even particularly excited. I was kind of embarrassed to get this much attention. But when I walked into that auditorium I felt such a sense of pride. Then, when the commencement speaker started to talk about fear, I almost started crying! (Here’s my synopsis: Fear is a roadblock, don’t listen to fear, persist through fear, you’re here because you were afraid but you came to college anyway,” awwwwwwww!).
I’m so excited for what the experience of getting a Bachelor’s degree will bring me. Also, the experience of returning to the work force during my nine months between colleges. And who knows, maybe I’ll get to experience getting a post-graduate degree too!
If you can’t decipher that, I’m returning to college in the Fall at a new school (to be decided) and taking the next semester off. I’ll be working and hopefully volunteering during that time. And yes, I’m hoping to get back into making videos!
Ps. Between public middle school and college, obviously I did get better grades while home schooled. Now, I will always insist home school is real school, but my parent’s did write my report cards. I had no way to know how I’d do in the real world (where I wasn’t in control of every curriculum), especially ~post-secondary education~.
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! 😉
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.
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.
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.