Break the Stigma: The Many Faces of OCD

“I remember wanting to go to sleep and never wake up. I felt as though my internal world and external world were two completely different places.”

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.

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My OCD and Me: The Demons that Coexistent

I felt nothing, mostly. And when I did feel, it wasn’t sadness. It was terror.

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.

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My OCD and Me: Why Being in a Relationship is Torturous

I saw my friends last Saturday night. My college group who I feel most at home with. You know the type: the people you can spend hours talking to about politics or your anxieties, the ones who acknowledge and appreciate the fact that you never show up empty-handed, the individuals who make you feel special for simply being you. Those kinda friends.

And it should’ve been great. It should’ve been comforting. It should’ve been exactly what I needed after months away from them, months I’ve spent trapped in routine and in my mind. And it was, I guess. I mean, the few hours I spent with them, I was able to plaster on a smile, laugh at the right times, crack some jokes. But the entire time, all I could do was evaluate my feelings. For my boyfriend, who sat next to me and caught my stray tear before anyone could notice. For my friends, who I couldn’t bring myself to look in the eyes during conversations. For myself, the gnawing hatred and shame that threatened sickness.

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