If you had told me this time last year that I would be in a PhD program with a great advisor, in a new fantastic city thousands a miles away from my parents, in great relationships with my family and friends, and living almost every day relatively anxiety free… I wouldn’t have believed you.
I wouldn’t have laughed. I wouldn’t have shook my head. I would just have completely disregarded you and gone back into my world of misery, fear, pain, loneliness, distrust, and lovelessness.
At this point last year… I was just diagnosed with severe OCD. My therapist who I had been seeing for about a month had explained it to me. Told me that I wasn’t evil. Told me that I wasn’t a bad person. And told me that these thoughts were not me, but OCD. And that through therapy, CBT, ERP, and medication that I would find my life again.
But how could I find my life again, when I realized I had actually been living this way since I was 8 years old (at least)? Who was I? How did we not know that I really wasn’t a monster who could hide behind the label of OCD?
It was like a Chinese Finger trap (this is actually a common way to describe OCD). I was trapped and the more and more I tried to pull away from the OCD and the horrible thoughts and compulsions the more I was stuck. The more I couldn’t move. The more I was captured and imprisoned in my own mind.
My thoughts were even if this was OCD… even if I wasn’t evil… who would allow these fears to manifest themselves in their brain? How did these thoughts ever even get there? Obviously I was a horrible individual. I didn’t deserve to live. I didn’t trust myself.
I felt that it was my duty to protect the world. It was a core belief. I should have moved that stick off the sidewalk. What if someone trips over it and hurts themselves? What if they trip over it and run into a wall and knock themselves unconscious? It would be all my fault they were hurt. I should have moved the stick. I should have warn that other person that there was litter on the ground. What if their shoe touched it? And then they tied their shoe? And then got whatever was on the litter on their hand and then got sick from it? It was all my fault they were sick. It was all my fault they were inconvenienced.
My life was inconveniencing everyone. I didn’t deserve to live. I never acted on any of my suicidal thoughts… but they were there. It was only my faith in God that he would pull me through this that kept me alive. But still even the OCD tried to take that faith away from me.
I didn’t deserve to be God’s child. Not that anyone did (it was only through God’s grace and sending his Son to take our place in death that we are given forgiveness)… but me in particular. I deserved to go to hell. I wasn’t worthy of God’s forgiveness and love. Even if he could possibly forgive me… wouldn’t I be taking away some of His time in which He could be worrying about His other children? Time in which He could be doing amazing things in their lives? – These were thoughts the OCD plagued me with. I should have never been created. I should have just been completely wiped out from existence.
I honestly don’t know how I got out of bed everyday. I had started taking medication at this point… it takes Prozac 8 weeks to kick in… but everyday was full of elaborate rituals (I probably spent 4-8 hours doing compulsions… whether it be showering, washing my hands, cleaning, or calling my parents for the nth time to ask for reassurance). I was terrified of all bathrooms, including my own. I shared it with my roommate. What if I accidentally didn’t clean something up and left the bathroom contaminated and my roommate got sick? What if I didn’t wash my hands enough… so someone got some germ that I somehow was carrying? Bathrooms, showers, and sinks were the scariest places in the world. Yes they were the place you went to go get clean… but you were dirty first.
I was even terrified of going to the kitchen b/c I was terrified of accidentally contaminating my roommate’s food! At this point I had stopped eating regularly. I could eventually convince myself to eat at home some days… but not without a ton of reassurance from my parents and roommate. But I could not eat anything out in public. What if someone was allergic to something I was eating and I get it somewhere and they touched it? They would then have an allergic reaction and be inconvenienced. Even though I am 99% better today.. I still can’t go anywhere near peanut butter… People who are allergic to peanut butter can die from it. I don’t want to be the cause of accidentally getting peanut butter somewhere and someone dying from it.
I usually went straight to school for my classes and went straight back home afterwards. The whole entire time I would be freaking out about something. I wouldn’t be able to concentrate in class. But I had to go to class… otherwise I might fail… and failure was just as bad as contamination in my OCD world. Maybe that is why I never ended up acting on any of my suicidal thoughts… I was too terrified of failing life. I thought perhaps I could still somehow redeem myself. Even though my parents tried to drag me home several times so that they could take care of me, I refused to let them… I couldn’t fail school… it is what I had dedicated my whole life too.
I lost friends that semester. Only one friend knew I had OCD at this point and it was because she had told me the year before she had OCD and I was able to tell her. Even though I had told my one friend with OCD about my OCD…she had the same issues I had if not worse. I had someone to turn too… to be with… but since we were struggling with the same things… were were still both just as alone… but to everyone else … I was just a ghost of the girl they use to know. My professors looked at me in disappointment. They didn’t even try to get me to answer questions anymore in class. My friends… they tried to talk to me… but I couldn’t let them in. I was scared of what they would think. Long distance friends called me… but I refused to answer… eventually they got tired of their calls going to voice mail and stopped trying. The only things my friends at school noticed about me was my angry red and chapped hands that were often bleeding from all the washing I was doing.
It was the first week of October though that things started to turn around for me. One of my very best friends in my program who was basically like my big brother… forced me to talk to him. He saw me fading away… and his brotherly love could no longer take it anymore. He took me out to dinner… sat me down… and tried to get me to tell him what was wrong. He kept asking probing questions and I kept trying to avoid answering them.
Eventually though my defense walls fell down. The next thing I knew I was telling him everything. Everything that was wrong with me… How I knew there was something wrong with my since I was 8… how I was terrified of living… how I was terrified of dying… how I was terrified of not protecting the world good enough… how I was terrified that I could no longer continue on.
I had been in therapy for a month at this point… but there was absolutely nothing more therapeutic than talking to my friend. It was like a weight was taken off my shoulders. He sat and listened. He took in everything that I said. He actually understood… he struggled with his own mental conditions… he could relate.
I was no longer alone.
That was the key. This friend… he could relate in all the right ways but also was at a distance that he wasn’t alone in the same way I was.
He showed me friendship, trust, and love. He pushed me forward.
After I told him… I then felt better about talking to my other really close friends about it. The more people I let into my secret.. the more of me I was becoming again. Suddenly the ghost of the girl that I was was coming back into visibility. I wasn’t in color yet… but I think I went from ghostly to black and white.
I was able to create an amazing support system around me. My friends who were long distance called me and checked on me, after I talked to them about my OCD. They were constantly there supporting me. And my close friends at school were there to calm me down in the mist of a panic attack… telling me it was ok. That I would be ok. That they were there for me. That they loved me. It would all be ok… I wasn’t alone… I had them…
That is how I was finally able to begin shutting the OCD out. By not being alone. I know prior to this I wasn’t alone. I had God. I had my family. But sometimes you need the closeness of your very best friends.. to help you realize the love that God has for you and your family.
It was through them that I was actually able to turn back to God. Even though none of them were particularly Christians. I was able to conceptualize love, trust, and companionship because of the way that I felt it on Earth. That is how I was finally able to turn back to God to start being protected again by Him and allowing Him to love me.
My brain was my prison… so I had to escape. And it was my friends who helped me do it. I probably could have eventually dug myself out of my prison alone… but the more people you have to help you to dig… the easier and quicker it is.
Thinking back to these dark days… I never ever could imagine being where I am today. Getting great new experiences, experiencing love, becoming closer to my family, friends, and most importantly God.
That is why I started this blog… so that others wouldn’t feel alone. You are not alone… no matter what you are going through… I am here. God is here. Your friends are here.
OCD is not your friend. It is just a stupid chemical imbalance that makes your brain get stuck on repeat of your worst fears (it is very closely related to Tourette’s syndrome… but instead of stuck on physical actions you are stuck on thoughts). Those compulsions you do to make you feel better? They may make you feel better for a few seconds… but in the end they are extremely detrimental to you… they just reaffirm the thoughts… which are not you. They are your worst fears. But they are not you. You can escape them.
You are a beautiful person. Created by a God who loves you. You are not alone. He is here. I am here. You are not alone.
If I can go from practically bed ridden to thriving in a relatively OCD free world in a year… so can you. Do not let your OCD and fears win. You will win. You just have to keep going and know you are not alone. In the end Love always wins… you are love, your friends are love, your family is love, and God is love. Don’t ever underestimate the people that are in your life… God put them there for a reason… and that reason was to draw you closer to Him.