I was twelve years old when it first began. It started out small; making sure all the doors were locked, checking the windows in my room four times each night, not walking down the odd aisles at the market. It was a control to the overwhelming anxiety attacks taking place multiple times a day because nothing felt right. My Obsessive Compulsive Disorder ran my entire life and it changed me into a person that is so difficult to offer to you guys so vulnerably.
If I could write my entire relationship with my OCD this story could be endless. Much of it I don’t remember because it became second nature. I lived this way every second of every day and it all seemed so normal after time, but there are the milestones that happened within my illness that could make even the strongest person fall apart. I didn’t sleep in my own bed for two years because I couldn’t stop doing rituals in my bedroom. My thought process: if I wasn’t in the room, I wouldn’t have to do them. I hadn’t had cereal or milk in almost 3 years; that started when my brother was in an awful skateboarding accident and didn’t walk for almost two years. In my mind, I could have saved him if I hadn’t done what I did that morning. I did things or I didn’t do things based on my OCD. My mom kept my childhood home beautifully decorated and it had tons of throw rugs in most of the rooms. I became obsessed with making sure all the carpet fibers on the corners of the throw rugs looked like they were going in the same direction. Each corner of each rug had it’s own set of numbers that indicated the amount of times I would have to run my right foot over each corner. From there the throw rugs turned into every carpet that was in my home. I had rug burns all over my right foot that never healed and would bleed constantly because I had to run my foot over every carpet every day in the number order assigned and to the amount of times assigned to each different carpet. And then all of a sudden, I was a senior in high school who had to get up at 3:30 am every morning just to make it to school on time. I gave myself two hours to do my rituals plus one extra hour just incase I made a mistake and had to start over-which I almost always started over. On a good night it would take me three hours to get ready for bed; brushing my teeth in a certain way and making sure my toothbrush hit it’s holder a certain amount of times before I could put it down, washing my face a certain way with the same towel that I washed every single day. I overflowed the toilet constantly with the amount of flushing I had to do at night, and of course there were the carpets. I could not walk from my bathroom to my room without making sure every carpet fiber from the bathroom door to my bedroom door were all going the same way, and that hallway was my longest hell. Eventually, everything fell victim to my OCD. From how many times I closed a door (4) to pairing my blinks in two’s so that I knew I blinked an even amount of times a day, and if that weren’t tiring enough, it was trying so hard to keep it hidden that truly changed me. I became withdrawn and angry around everyone because I felt so unable to describe what was happening to me. The only thing I knew to be true was that I hurt with a pain so loud that I did anything to keep it quiet.
I cried every day and I still had no idea I was sad. My OCD used to quiet the anxiety that rang deep within me, but eventually I couldn’t keep it hidden and I couldn’t keep it quiet. I could barely leave my house anymore. My rituals were supposed to save me, they were supposed to save every one I ever cared about and without my rituals I couldn’t save the world.
I’ve been asked before what moment it was when I knew that I needed help. It was the lowest moment of the darkest period in my life and it’s a moment that won’t be understood, but that’s okay. I became a hoarder over the years living with my OCD. I hoarded water bottles and shampoo bottles, basically anything plastic. I had them lined within my room and in my shower. One day, my dad decided to clean the bathrooms and threw out every empty bottle in my shower. I went in there a few hours later unaware that he had thrown out my drug of choice, my OCD. Once I saw they were missing I went into hysterics. I fell to the ground and cried so loudly that you could swear someone was dying; and that is exactly what was happening, I felt like I was dying. It was me who was slowly killing herself one ritual at a time. Before I knew it I was outside in the trash cans hysterically trying to find my shampoo bottles. I was having a full blown anxiety attack and not even the shame of my disorder could keep it hidden. I took all of the bottles out of the trash and spent hours in the bathroom trying to put them back in the very spot I had left them. I couldn’t talk, I couldn’t breathe, and I couldn’t believe who I had become. When I came out of the bathroom my mom looked at me with such a pain in her eyes that I could swear her heart had broken. It was looking at my mom in that moment that I knew how shattered I had become and how hard to love I had become. I wasn’t the same anymore and I had crumbled underneath the weight that was my OCD.
I underwent cognitive behavioral therapy a few weeks later and I’m still in it to this very day. No, I don’t go see someone every week because that isn’t what this type of therapy is; cognitive therapy is an active thought every day that I have to tell myself: I don’t want to live that way anymore, do not do those rituals. And at this moment, not listening to my Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is the hardest thing that I have to get through each and every day.
I have never told anyone about my OCD. However, I did make the mistake once of telling someone who didn’t love me; my illness was made fun of and it was joked about to an endless amount. A person’s suffering is not something to laugh about and I hope that with my story it can be better understood on how hard it is for someone with such a disorder to be so vulnerable. I never talked about it because I was so ashamed of who I was with my OCD. I wasn’t strong enough to live with the fact that people might be aware of my darkest demons...and to be honest, I was never able to understand the one’s who make their illnesses and their path to recovery so known. I’ve suffered so silently over the years that the thought of courage is completely fleeting; but that’s what makes courage so beautiful, once you find it you fight so hard to keep it. The Orange Bead Collective fights for courage and honors the stories that break free from the chains that anxiety disorders and depression create. I hope that together we can help shatter the quiet and lonely hell that depression and anxiety is confined to. My story is a letter to the ones who didn’t know. I hope now that people can understand me a little bit better because I truly believe that knowing someone’s struggle helps you see them in a brighter light. I hope they know that I’m trying. I try everyday to be better than who I was yesterday, to bravely tell myself that I am so much more than my OCD, and that I have worked so hard for the smile that I put on each morning. I hope that everyone who struggles with a mental disorder has the support that I was so scared to reach for. The stigma of mental disorders is so damning that is creates such a dark place for the ones suffering. It took everything in me to pen this article, but writing these words has brought me to a new belief: screw the stigma. It won’t define us and if this story inspires just one outreach, then it was worth it. I’m so honored to write for an organization so purely dedicated to showing love to the ones who feel lost. And if anyone is silently hurting, please remember that you aren’t broken, that you are so much more than your darkest struggle and that the only way out is through. You can do this.
xoxo and all of my love,