It’s something I’ve heard quite often throughout my life, something many “anxious” or “emotional” individuals have learned to tune out. My initial reaction to this piece of advice has always been to argue, “I can’t help it. My brain is literally wired this way.” My more rational, enlightened self has a better response.
“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.”
If you’ve ever endured a tough period in your life — which, let’s face it, we all have — you probably understand the impact support has on a person or situation. The people in our lives, those who value and foster real human connections with others, can offer a sense of comfort and encouragement that helps diminish a mountain to a hill.
But sometimes, no matter how much someone cares for you, they lack the means to be there 24/7. Other times, it’s difficult just to admit you need help — and even more difficult to actually accept it.
That’s how Nicholas Emerson-Mazzone, co-founder of Supportful, a crowdsupporting platform, felt when his father was diagnosed with and later passed away from Stage 4 lymphoma.
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.
Last night, I stood in my small kitchen, back against the white wall, eyes squinting in the fluorescent lighting, hunched over and crying. I didn’t feel anything; but at the same time, I felt everything.
“You don’t know me,” I told my boyfriend, and I could see the pain on his face as he registered my words. “No one does. Not you. Not my family. Not my best friends. They don’t know what goes on in my mind. And if they did, they wouldn’t love me.”
He wrapped his arms around me, but I was numb. My body was limp, my mind elsewhere.
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.
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.”