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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Break the Stigma: Living (and Loving) with Relationship-OCD

What if being in an amazing relationship, loving someone who shares those same feelings for you, only causes you pain?

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.

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Not Everyone Will Understand You, and That’s Okay

I think, for many people, the hardest part of living, much like writing, is the criticism that comes with it.

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.

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What It’s Like to Be Brutally Self-Aware

Why did I share that? Do I just want validation? If so, from who? And why?

I open my eyes to the sunlight. It’s already 8 a.m. I slept through two alarms.

Am I lazy? People are already at work, and I’m still in bed.

I open my phone and load Instagram. Scroll through photos. Check for messages. Re-watch the story I posted last night.

Why did I share that? Do I just want validation? If so, from who? And why?

My heart races. Stomach clenches. Like I’m guilty of a heinous crime.

Am I not already content with the people in my life? Do I really need someone else to care about me? To accept me?

I sit up. Wipe the sweat off my forehead. Open my messages, wanting to confide in someone who understands.

Am I looking for sympathy? Is that a guy I’m about to text? What does that say about me? Do I enjoy their attention?

Thoughts pelt me from every direction. My head pounds.

I want to cry.
I want to sleep.
I want to escape.

Who even am I?

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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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What My Fear of Flying Taught Me

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.

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