It’s been months since I’ve written about my OCD. Often, painting a picture through words helps me cope. But I thought that if I picked up my pen this time, all I’d see — all anyone would see — was darkness.
Depression. It’s a common term that many use to describe sadness. To express the tears streaming down their face at night, or the crippling stress from piling bills, or the gutting heartache from a devastating breakup.
So, really, I wasn’t sure I even had it. Because, well, I didn’t feel that. I felt nothing, mostly. And when I did feel, it wasn’t sadness. It was terror. Fear — not of death, but of living. I couldn’t imagine waking up just one more day.
Don’t get me wrong: I wanted to wake up. I wanted to jump out of bed like I used to, excited to take the train to work and grab lunch with coworkers, to buy books at my favorite store and stay up too late drinking coffee at midnight while editing my novel, my boyfriend on the couch next to me. But I was petrified of doing so. Because life just…didn’t make me happy anymore. Or maybe it did, but only on unreasonable terms that weren’t being met. And that realization isn’t easy to accept.
I didn’t know how to talk to people. To my family. To my friends. I couldn’t even look my boyfriend in the eye without breaking down. And that only made it worse, of course, to see the desperation on his face and to know that I’d caused it. How selfish was I to burden him? He’d spent his days commuting to the city and working in the office, and there I was stressing him out as soon as he’d get home at eight o’clock in the evening. He had his own issues — real ones. All I had were superficial notions within me, crying wolf, disguised as detriment to my life.
I knew something was wrong with me, something different from what I was used to, yet still a close relative: Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD), which is comorbid with OCD.
Call it what you want; label it as you must. But when you’re dealing with thought after thought, obsession after obsession, fear after fear, it doesn’t seem to matter what the source is. That’d be like standing in a storm and staring up at the sky, trying to analyze which cloud each drop was falling from.
They all merged as one, and the point was, if I didn’t seek shelter soon, I would drown.
I could no longer find the desire to leave my bed. I stopped answering texts. Ditched plans with my friends. Avoided family members. Refused to let my boyfriend touch me. Quit writing for months. But the real issue was with my appearance.
BDD basically makes you feel ashamed of how you look, as if it’s the only thing that matters in life. It makes you view others as more worthy for simply not having the perceived flaw that you have.
So, when I developed a rash that covered my upper body like a constellation, I believed I was disgusting and imperfect and undeserving.
It was all that I saw, even when I didn’t actually see it. I’d wear clothing to hide it, but I still knew it was there. And just that was enough to drive me into the deep end called depression.
I know what you’re probably thinking: depressed over a rash? Trust me, I questioned my own sanity, too. But it wasn’t something I could simply turn off.
I’ve been feeling sick for a while now. Years, even. But of course, my condition was brushed under the rug because I have anxiety, which often causes doctors to glaze over and ignore all the symptoms you list after. (But that’s another story for another day.) I was drained. My bones ached. I’d lost 10 pounds. I had recurring fevers, and now this rash. I just wanted someone to take me seriously, to listen to my concerns.
So, when one of my dermatologists prematurely told me I might have Lupus (which I ended up not having), I was freaked, of course, but also a bit…relieved. Just to think that maybe there was an actual concrete reason for all of this, and that I could fix it or at least have an explanation that warrants empathy. As terrible as it sounds, I almost wished to be sick, because I felt exhausted every single day and needed to know it wasn’t self-inflicted.
I thought, “Wow, that would really suck…but you know what? I’d get through it.”
But a rash that made me hide under turtlenecks and caked-on makeup? That was a different story.
And I know how superficial that sounds, which is why I shut everyone out. How could I explain to friends or family that I was depressed because of the way that I looked, not even how I felt? It didn’t make any sense to me, so it surely wouldn’t to them. Yes, this is a mental disorder that I have no control over. But I didn’t want to risk being seen, yet again, as someone who “needs a real problem.”
I spent most days at home staring in the mirror and fixating on these flaws. I spent hours on Google. I avoided certain foods and clothing materials and soaps, and even the gym. I watched dermatology videos and looked at pictures for comparison. I went to several doctors. I got a skin biopsy. I cancelled social outings. I put my entire life on hold because of a stupid fucking rash.
There’s a reason so many people who struggle with mental health don’t open up, or lose the will to live: because often, it doesn’t make any fucking sense. It just is. You can’t put it into words, or find an explanation through a blood test, or even get support without hearing, “You’re stronger than this.” It feels like it’s all on you, because, at the end of the day, it is. And that’s a heavy responsibility, especially when you can barely get out of bed. When your heart is racing before you even open your eyes, and your stomach is sick from the night before, and your head is the host of a raging storm.
I guess what I’m trying to say is, dealing with mental health disorders, especially multiple at once, is complicated, to put it lightly. It’s like trying to reason with a brick wall that’s blocking your path.
But I’ve learned that you can either let it stop you from moving forward, questioning why it’s there and why you can’t see through it while the person next to you can; or you can knock it down and face the turmoil head-on.
Only you know how hard you’re fighting. Only you feel the sharp knife of each breath. But only you can tell your story — one that others desperately need to read. So, don’t let yours end. There are so many pages left to paint. And there are so many more colors than black and white.