“I have been struggling with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder for as long as I can remember but at the time I didn’t know it was OCD. I thought my constant checking, sensory aversions, and catastrophic thinking was normal and I just labeled myself as a worrier.
As I got older, my worries escalated and my list of things I had to check grew longer and longer. After hurting my lower back in the gym I lost my outlet to relieve stress. This happened during a very trying time as I was waiting to hear back from grad school and I quit my job. During this period of time I was dealing with extreme uncertainty, something my OCD does not like. I was constantly anxious and my checking symptoms reached the point where it was interfering with my everyday life.
Also during this time I had started experiencing intrusive thoughts which is something I’ve never had to deal with before. What I quickly learned was that our brains are so powerful they can trick us into believing just about everything. One of my favorite quotes is, ‘Don’t always believe what you think’. OCD latches on to things in our lives that are important to us which is one of the reasons it is so difficult to deal with. The content of intrusive thoughts is often hard to understand because it is usually disturbing and the opposite of what we want. For example, I struggled for a while with the thought of being involved in a hit and run. Anytime I would drive my heart rate would increase and I would become extremely anxious. If I hit a bump of any kind I would immediately have a panic attack, while I was driving. I was convinced any bump I hit was a person. Around this time is when I realized my issues were bigger than what I could handle alone. This is when I reached out for help and started my search to find a therapist.
The process of finding medical help and a therapist was extremely long and difficult. My first step was visiting my primary care doctor and getting started with medication to chemically balance out what was going on in my brain. I started meeting with the social worker weekly and we used CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) to get started. After a few months of meeting with that therapist we decided it was time for me to find a psychologist who I could meet with for hour weekly sessions. My first experience was terrible. I found the therapist to be unprofessional and insensitive. I left the session crying and not wanting to have to go through that again. It is extremely difficult opening up to a stranger and telling them some of the most vulnerable experiences you’ve had in your life. At this point in my search I felt defeated and overwhelmed. I felt as if I would never find someone that would provide me with the help I needed.
About a month later, I started my search again to find a therapist. I went through another before I finally found my current one. She is wonderful and works at the OCD and Anxiety Center of Pittsburgh. After months of searching and not getting the help I need I finally found the perfect fit.
OCD has actually played a role in strengthening my family relationships because it changed my outlook. I am so much more appreciative of the people I have in my life. I no longer take them for granted and I am grateful for the relationships I have. When I first started having issues a couple people close to me told me not to see a therapist or take medication. I knew I needed help and I told them if they weren’t willing to support me that was fine, but I was going to do what I needed in order to feel like myself again and enjoy my life.
During this time my OCD has evolved and I now experience what’s called harm OCD. This is extremely difficult to deal with as I am faced with uncomfortable and disturbing intrusive thoughts. These are thoughts which illicit intense anxiety and interfere with my everyday life. Reaching out for help was one of the hardest things I have done, but I am so glad I did. My OCD is too hard to deal with alone so it is important for me to utilize my support system. I am lucky enough to have a great relationship with my therapist, along with supportive friends and family.
Not everyone has supported me but this journey has allowed me to see who truly cares. My boyfriend has been one of my biggest supporters through my entire journey and has done everything he can to learn more about OCD and what he can do to help me. He is patient and even though he doesn’t understand my intrusive thoughts he doesn’t judge me. Instead, he makes every effort to make me feel supported and loved.
I have really turned to yoga and mindfulness as ways to help control my anxiety. My intrusive thoughts cause me to have intense anxiety so I try to practice yoga or mindfulness everyday to help relieve that. I go to yoga in different studios or I watch vlogger Cat Meffan on YouTube and do yoga in my room. As for mindfulness I journal everyday, use aromatherapy, and practice self care. Things like face masks, going for walks, and just grounding into the here and now are a few things I find really reduce my stress and anxiety.
Overall, my mental health journey has taught me to appreciate the good in everything. My battle with OCD and anxiety has been a total rollercoaster but I make sure to highlight and celebrate the positives. Even small steps in the right direction are still progress, so it is important to keep pushing forward. My relationships have become stronger and I appreciate everything and everyone I have in my life. For that, I am thankful for this experience with mental illness.
I really want people to believe mental illness is nothing to be ashamed of. You should not feel weak for reaching out for help because that is sometimes one of the hardest parts of dealing with your illness. It is important to find the things that work for you (yoga, exercise, journaling, etc.) and stick to them. Mental illness recovery is a journey full of ups and downs; it is SO important to remember even small steps are still progress. Keep fighting. ”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Cydnie Bauer. You can follow her on Instagram here. Submit your own story here and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories.
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