“You’re quite the puzzle,” my doctor said as I sat quietly on the exam table in her office. She scanned my extensive lab results, which I’d stapled together according to date. I swallowed hard, my throat burning, knowing I would leave yet another specialist with no answers. “Everything looks normal to me. Nothing is wrong.”
Last week, I boarded a plane to Charleston for a bachelorette weekend. I’d been dreading the flight for months. Airplanes are not on my short list of comfort zones, so I try to avoid them at all costs.
Why can’t we just drive? I thought to myself, fancying the idea of a 12-hour car ride over a one-hour plane trip. But I had no choice. Either I went on the airplane, or I didn’t go at all.
So, without allowing myself to overthink, I made a promise to myself: I’d feel the fear of flying and do it anyway.
It seemed simple enough. And maybe it would be for most people. But I’m not most people, and I’m a bit more tormented by fear and obsessive thinking than the average person.
This is something I’ve wanted to write for a while now, but I didn’t know how. If you know me — which you do, more than most people — then you know that I’m rarely at a loss for words. But I guess that isn’t the issue here. The truth is, I have too much to say, so much that I’m afraid I won’t get it out the right way, or do you guys justice.
Just as there’s nothing like your childhood or high school friends, there’s also nothing like your college friends. It’s a different relationship with a different dynamic. You might not know everything about my life before college, but you know who I am now. You know the real me, not the girl molded by teenage standards, but the one who decided to be herself. I finally feel like I belong, and that’s because of you.
I’ve always lived my life in shades of gray, leaning neither toward black nor white. Life is too complicated to subject yourself to a one-track way of thinking.
But this isn’t always easy. From a very young age, I’ve felt a tremendous amount of pain for simply being human. And I always thought that I was wrong. I always thought that, somehow, I was actually a bad person for feeling things so deeply.
People told me I wanted attention. That I craved sympathy. That I needed to be everyone’s best friend. That I was nosy and dramatic. Soon, these became things I told myself, too.
Many people assume they know what obsessive-compulsive disorder is: Making your bed a certain way every morning. Always being early to class or work. Organizing your toiletries so they’re color-coded in the bathroom closet.
But society doesn’t understand the things they cannot see – the things that people with OCD feel, the obsessive thoughts we cycle over, the guilt and shame we sleep with.
It started when I was in preschool, after a particularly traumatic experience with a boy who was three years older than me. He locked my bedroom door, tugged me into my own closet, and pulled my pants down.
He threatened me not to tell my parents what he made me do, and what he did to me. From that point forward, I felt I needed to tell them everything – every thought I had, even the crazy fleeting ones, the judgmental ones, the panicked ones.
“I just had a thought of putting a knife in your back,” I cried to my mom one evening. I was six.
What does your health mean to you? Maybe it’s your body allowing you to be active so you can travel the world. It might be looking thin in your trendy clothes or having toned legs and a flat stomach. Perhaps it’s waking up without a sniffle or body aches, getting enough sleep for work, or having the energy to go bar hopping with friends. For my brother, it means getting the chance to propose to his girlfriend of over eight years, despite his medical bills and recovery time. The ability to eat a sustainable diet without weighing protein and avoiding potassium like it’s poison, trying not to lose over 35 pounds in the process. The opportunity to walk the beach without getting winded on family vacations, to drink more than one beer without nearly collapsing. All of these things were normal for him just months ago, before he found out he was in kidney failure from IgA nephropathy, an autoimmune disease that attacks the kidneys. Now, they’re privileges that he can barely recall.
These past few weeks have been tough. Scratch that. My entire life has been tough. But whose isn’t?
In July, I went to a concert to see Panic! At The Disco and Weezer, and after eating and drinking all night, I didn’t feel too well. My stomach was in so much pain that as soon as I got home, I collapsed onto the floor in the hallway upstairs, sprawled out on my laundry I was supposed to put away earlier. I couldn’t move without a dizzy spell and felt like I was somehow months pregnant from the bloating in my stomach. Suddenly, my heart dropped.
I hate throwing up more than most things in this world. It’s remained one of my phobias since the first grade, right before I was diagnosed with obsessive-compulsive disorder. Now, 15 years later, I still cringe at the thought.
So when I felt that intense nausea and pain while lying on my floor, I panicked. I really, truly panicked. I ran up and down the stairs, pacing and crying and pulling at my hair, yelling at my parents that I felt sick, gagging over the toilet, dry-heaving for fifteen minutes before finally throwing up my entire night in the bathroom sink downstairs.
That was all it took to send me into a downward spiral.
I woke up the other morning feeling extra self-conscious. I skipped the gym all week because I was so focused on my academics and felt sick. I slept too late and had plans to go out, so there was another gym session out of the window. Of course, I could’ve made time if I really wanted to; but I was so looking forward to adventuring and spending some time in the sun that I decided not to–again.
Now, I usually make certain I go to the gym at least four to five days a week. So naturally, I was feeling guilty and gross for skipping yet again. Not only that, but every time I opened my Instagram, I saw another skinny girl with a perfectly flat stomach and toned everything, a girl who I couldn’t help but be jealous of–which I hate admitting to.
I struggle in this area–comparing myself to others. Whether it’s about my physical appearance, like my hair, body, skin, whatever, or about my personality, intellect, interests, I always, always, always compare myself. It’s such a terrible habit to fall in to, but a common one at that.
Here are 6 reasons to stop comparing yourself to others:
I harbor guilt. Lots of it. In fact, that’s basically all I feel 24/7. Having OCD makes it even worse; I dwell on my mistakes (ones that most people wouldn’t even consider mistakes in the first place) and obsess over them until my stomach is in knots. I wake up every morning with painful cramps from the shame and anxiety. It is not a good feeling.
I am sure I’m not the only one with an over-active conscious. We all mess up, say words we don’t mean, start petty arguments, allow our feelings to take control. Why? Because we are human. We feel. We love. We hurt.