I’m sharing because I really want to help. This is going to get painful, and I may regret it if my identity is ever discovered (please no) but I suppose you’ve been warned. And Husband says that no one cares to try and find me, so I’m trying to put that fear aside I favor of honesty. Because exposing me would be violating and mean, right? I’m being open in the interest of helping others, so please, continue to be nice to me, dear readers. Thus far you’ve been nothing but kind. ❤ There’s nothing shameful about mental health care, but it is still stigmatized, and that’s my fear.
When I was 10, I spent a year believing I had stomach cancer and that I was going to die. I had little to no evidence in support of this belief other than the stomach aches (caused by constant worry over said impending demise, I’m sure), but I believed it with all my heart. I was not, I believed, going to live much longer. I was going to die. It was only a matter of when.
And I would pray to God that He just let me make it to the end of the month, just let me make it til Valentines Day, just let me make it to my birthday. I’d come up with new milestones. Please God, I would beg, just let me make it until then.
And then came the night my parents took me to my first concert, that of a Christian rock band called Casting Crowns. It was one of the many special things we did together, and it’s something I’ll never forget.
Driving home after the event, as I lied in the back seat in the dark, I felt happy. I felt so incredibly happy, so content and at peace that I remember telling God it was okay. I could die now. I was ready.
These words can’t do the feelings justice that I had as a child of 10.
Sixteen years later I struggle to tell the story. I didn’t even realize how messed up my mindset was until many years later, but no child should ever have to live with that constant, unfounded fear of death. No child should pray to the God that loves her after begging for months to stay alive and believe, “Thank you, God, for everything. I love you. It’s okay if I die now.”
And, the whole time, I was never sick! At least, not in the way I believed.
So why did I tell you one of my most difficult personal stories? It illustrates a point. I have always dealt (or not dealt, as the case may be) with crippling anxiety. I’ve lived with it, loved with it, laughed with it, and cried with it. It has been part of me, in some way or another, in mild to severe form, since I was 3 years old. I embraced that label when I knew of it, because it became an explanation for something I could not control and “normal” people couldn’t hope to understand. I have anxiety. It is part of me.
So is ADHD. Occasionally, depression’s had a day. But then I got another label, and I don’t know exactly why it bothered me to add those 3 letters to the list, but it did.
I finally saw a therapist, and I’ve been diagnosed with OCD.
It took me a little while to come to terms with that, because it was a label I never expected and certainly never wanted to add to the list of other labels that I’ve had.
I used to think that OCD was only manifest in a compulsion for ritualized order, a need for things to be grouped a certain way, hung straight, etc. You know, like in that Rhett and Link music video wherein they sing, “I gotta make things right, make it the way it’s supposed to be; it’s my OCD.” I suspected I had a tad due to things a psychologist told me as a child, and I suspected as much personally due to some numerical rituals to which I used to adhere–the last of which fizzled out a few years ago–but the rest of that? Order? Compulsive symmetry? So not for me.
What I didn’t know was that my inability to touch things that may have touched things, my childhood sitting awake at night, perched on a pillow in terror of bugs that I’d convinced myself were in my bed… and dozens of the other things I used to do were also manifestations of OCD even then. So many things I thought were part of generalized anxiety or just things that made me a weird kid… no. It was a sickness. It was a mental illness.
Because OCD is manifest in anything that you obsess over and go to great lengths to cope with or avoid. I want everyone reading to realize this, because maybe they’re like me. Maybe they don’t know what OCD really is. Maybe they have all these weird things they’ve been compelled to do to avoid germs or mess or bugs, but they just don’t know what’s wrong.
Presently, for me, ODC primarily manifests in my fear of infection or contamination. Hence I do a lot of avoiding, excessive washing, cleaning, bathing, etc. I’ve said it in the past; it’s hard to touch certain things that have touched other things.
And I still don’t know why anxiety never held the same connotations for me as it’s also a mental health issue, but it didn’t. For some reason, realizing that I suffer from OCD? That’s the thing—not anxiety or ADHD or that terrible bout of depression a few years ago—that finally made me feel like I was… well, broken. Mentally ill. Gah, I hate those words. I don’t want to use them. Checking all those boxes in that assessment was painful. It took just three more letters to make me feel substantially more messed up than I already was. Am. Whatever.
Like it says in the song Word Fail from the musical Dear Evan Hansen (which I’ve never seen), “I’d rather pretend I’m something better than these broken parts, pretend I’m something better than this mess that I am. Cause then I don’t have to look at it, and no one gets to look at it, no.” Don’t we all relate to these words sometimes? Well, this is how I relate to them. Sometimes I truly wish to pretend I’m something better than this mess that I am.
But after those first couple nights of wrestling with this “new” facet of myself, things got better. I’ve actually taken some comfort in the fact that I have OCD, because it explains that a lot of the things that I never understood before about the person that I am and have always been. It’s actually reassuring, because now when I’m obsessing over something (as opposed to more general worrying), I can tell myself, “No, this is OCD. This is not rational. You don’t have to avoid this. You can touch this.” And then I do it. Sometimes. When I’m brave enough. I’m gonna get there.
This therapist I’ve seen a few times over the past month is trying to get me to do CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy); it works supposedly by subjecting me to the things that I’m afraid of, starting with the mildest triggers and working my way up. She says that fear is primal and learned quickly to keep us alive, but it takes a lot more for us to learn that we are safe. For people with OCD, we need to learn that we are safe, hence increasing exposure to the things that scare us to prove they are not a threat.
I am trying to be brave, but the things she suggests sound so awful and unsanitary and unpleasant to me. So we will see. I’ve been trying a little of the CBT on my own at home, as I mentioned before. I’d tried it on and off on my own even before I realized I was doing it and long before I knew I had OCD. (But I had no idea what I was doing, so it looks like I was doing it wrong.)
I’m so scared to share this with you, but I’m thinking of the people who may read this and relate to it, who may have a problem but not know what’s wrong and blame themselves for something that they can’t control. I’m doing it because I have to be brave. I have to stand up and say that I have these letters, and I despise them, and they make me feel so small and broken, but I am owning them so you can own them too. Because we are not broken, and you are not alone. If I can explain what these letters are and what a life with them might look like then, if this looks like you, you know that you can get help. You can get help, random reader. There are millions of us out there, and You. Can. Get. Help.
I know I always joke that what I do on the blog can be summed up as fangirling about anime and over-sharing about my anxiety, but I think this may be my last personal post of this nature for a while. Sharing all of this has been so hard and honestly terrifying. But if you need help, random reader, get it. Know that I’ll be fighting this battle along with you. Never give up, and never let those letters define you. ❤
And if you need help getting started, I’m going to leave this link right here: