Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a mental illness I know all-too-well — one I was diagnosed with at the mere age of 6 years old. And while there are a million reasons why I wish I didn’t have to live with such a relentless demon, there are a few solid reasons why I’m actually glad I do — including the fact that it’s brought me closer to the people in my life, especially those who also battle OCD.
I met my friend Milly through Instagram’s OCD community and instantly knew we’d become good friends, despite the fact that she’s from New Zealand and I’m in the U.S. I admired her willingness to share her struggles, and she has unknowingly encouraged me to be more open and communicative with others.
I found it was inspiring how, despite her brain being wired against herself the way mine is, Milly moved overseas to Australia when she was only 17 to train at a full-time ballet school, then to the U.S. where she danced for three years. She’s now studying at Auckland University back in NZ, where she plans to earn her BA in psychology and criminology, her goal to become a clinical psychologist specializing in OCD.
Needless to say, she doesn’t let her disorder hold her back from living. However, that doesn’t mean she hasn’t struggled along the way.
I hear it often: “If I could just find someone to love, someone to love me back, I’d feel better. I’d be happy. Life would be great.”
But what if being in an amazing relationship, loving someone who shares those same feelings for you, only causes you pain?
This is life with Relationship-OCD (ROCD), a type of obsessive-compulsive disorder that attacks relationships (typically romantic, but not always). People with this disorder often doubt their love for their partner, and/or their partner’s love for them. This can take form in various ways, from worrying your partner is not “the one” to feeling like you’re cheating simply by finding another person attractive. Many question their sexuality, their loyalty, their values, their feelings, and even their character on a loop until they’re depressed or numb, unable to enjoy their relationship.
After being diagnosed with an anxiety disorder and depression at age 20, Samantha Ramos, now 25, earned her degree in Film and Television at SCAD, packed up her life, and moved to New York City. While she struggled with this comorbidity during major life changes, she also developed a better understanding of her mental health, allowing her to practice acceptance along with other healthy coping mechanisms. Check out her journey battling such conflicting issues.
What first made you believe something was wrong, or “off” with the way you were feeling?
I always felt like something was “off” with me since at least middle school. I would get what I thought at the time was just really nervous for the simplest things. My grades suffered a lot in school because my anxiety didn’t allow me ask questions or let teachers know when I didn’t understand things. I also missed so much school because of how depressed I was. I didn’t know it then, but I could barely get out of bed every morning, let alone deal with the challenges of high school.
It wasn’t until I got to art school and the assignments and workload became unbearable for me to deal with. I had my first panic attack in my dorm room; I couldn’t breathe or see straight. It was then that I knew something was more wrong with me than just normal stress.
My name is Adam. I am a 26-year-old writer and I live in central New Jersey. I live with four cats and my lovely girlfriend and, for the first time in years, I feel like I might have my shit together.
I’ve never been professionally diagnosed with anything, maybe because I’ve deliberately avoided professionals until very recently. I think I was probably a prime candidate for medication at an early age, but I made good grades and did well in sports, so nobody ever looked at me that hard. All I can say with certainty is that I’ve suffered from a high level of anxiety and sudden mood swings for as long as I can remember.
The mood swings were the first thing I noticed. Even as a child, I would become irritable, angry, and sad all at once, seemingly out of nowhere. The worst part about it was that I knew I had no reason to feel this way, but I felt it anyway. When I was experiencing these moments, I would often lash out at the people closest to me.
My mother is a wonderful person, but I remember especially being hurt by her regularly telling other adults, “Oh, don’t mind him. He’s just in one of his moods.” I hated feeling that way, and I hated it being written off like that because I knew something was going wrong inside me.
Nicolette Wescott, 22-year-old graduate student from Medford, New Jersey, has lived with anxiety-induced juvenile myoclonic epilepsy since she was 17-years-old. Read on to hear more about her journey with the illness, and be sure to check out her YouTube channel on epilepsy.
Explain one of your worst, most severe experiences with your illness.
I was so nervous for my first day of freshman year of high school that I didn’t eat or sleep for three days. I’m not sure what was making that anxious, but it was extreme torture.
The morning of my first day, everyone said I was out of it. But I remember absolutely nothing. I woke up in the hospital at 6 p.m. to several nurses around me. They told me that I had had a seizure in the middle of the hallway of Shawnee High School on the way to first period.
They kept me in the hospital for three days because that’s how long it took to fully regain my consciousness. I remember feeling confused and frustrated. The worst part was going back to school and everyone asking me if I was “the girl who had a seizure.”
Do you ever joke about being “bipolar” when you shift from excited to stressed in a short period of time? Do you refer to the weather in the same manner for its warmth one day, and chilly winds the next? Many of us are guilty of doing this, but it’s crucial we become more aware: bipolar disorder is a real illness, and it causes heavy turmoil for those affected – more so than a simple mood swing or a drop in temperature.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, 2.8 percent of U.S. adults have bipolar disorder, which is considered to be very common. I got the chance to speak with one of the people behind those statistics: Mike, a 26-year-old video editor who has been battling the disorder since he was 16 years old, later diagnosed when he was 20. His experiences shed some light on the complexity of this mental illness. Read on to hear his story.