Category Archives: OCD

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Shauna Dinsart

Lips are moving. Mouths: opening and closing. Food being broken into digestible pieces.

Smack. Smack. Smack.

The noise gets louder. It can’t just be in my head. Someone is turning up the volume—someone is out to get me.

My steady heartbeat begins pounding; harder and faster as the noise becomes louder and louder. Sweat drips down my face and soaks my shirt. My breathing feels blocked. Are my lungs giving out? I try to fight it. It will be over soon.

This is the breaking point.

I have persisted beyond the abuse—the neglect. Somehow I have moved through those times without cracking, and now a subtle and repetitive noise is breaking me.

The straw that broke the camel’s back? Or the child with depleting anxiety, unable to persist any further?

Composed on the outside, I stand up and walk to my room. My bowl of cereal remains on the table untouched; soggy.

When I push open the door to my bedroom I collapse to the ground again. This is the only place I can lose myself. No one will ever know. The door is shut and the world left outside.

My skin breaks open easily, but there have become too many marks. I pull on my hair—entire handfuls, grasping with all of my might. My muscles are flexed as I force the pain.

Tears fall onto the floor below me.

I can still hear the sound. Smack. Smack Smack.

It’s not possible, I think. The sound is stuck in my ears, rattling inside my head. It won’t go away.

My head drops forward and I release my hair—it’s not working this time.

As hard as I can, I whip my head backwards. Smack: against the wall.

I see stars, but the sound remains.

I’m still there. I can’t escape myself.

My first debilitating panic attack happened when I was twelve years old.

Anxiety came to me disguised in self-hatred, so I fought it with self-destruction.

Anxiety came to me disguised in body dysmorphia, so I fought it with an eating disorder.

Anxiety came to me wearing many masks, so I fought it with many weapons.

The only problem was that the anxiety was inside of me and the weapons I was using were against me.

I fought myself most of my life, trying desperately to separate myself from the twelve-year-old girl stunted by her inner turmoil. There had to be a way to get rid of the pain. There had to be a way to drown out the memories.

There were entire years I wished that a bus would take me out—quick and painless.

At twenty-eight years old, I have found myself to be relatively stable: relative to the girl nestled inside abusive relationships; relative to the girl seeking revenge on herself; relative to the girl who woke up every morning crying, simply because she woke up another day.

I’ve been in and out of psychiatric care for almost half of my life now. I have been professionally diagnosed with Anxiety, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD), and Major Depression. Personally, from my studies of Psychology and experience living with myself for my entire life, I think all of these diagnoses blend together and the symptoms manifest similarly with each. I also believe that each diagnoses fuels the others—they feed off of each other like a pool of unwelcome parasites.

My mental health is not great today. I’m not sure it ever will be. I still cry more days than I don’t. I still suffer from insomnia, which is managed in part by medication. I still look down at my stomach and wish I could shave off a couple of inches. I still have nightmares almost every night, and flashbacks of the abuse. I still have panic attacks, regularly; but I’ve stopped harming myself entirely, and I’ll take that for now.

heron-island-washington-elopement-ryan-flynn-photography-shauna-michael-00019Shauna Dinsart is a twenty-something Corporate Manager turned Freelance Artist, currently living in Paris, France. She is a proud feminist and lover of all animals. When she isn’t writing or working on other creative projects, you can find her nose buried in a good novel or out enjoying an eclectic restaurant with her husband.

Shauna Dinsart can be found on Twitter.

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Savannah Tabor

The first time I can ever remember my OCD showing itself was fourth grade. My sister, only three years older, was showing me a rated R movie, and my mother walked in. As any typical mother would, she scolded us.
Something switched in me that day. I don’t really know what it is that just causes a seed of anxiety to appear, but whatever it was, it was planted. When she said that she forgave me, it didn’t sound right. So I said it again. And again. And again. For the next two months.
Since that day, I told my mother everything. I apologized constantly for things I didn’t even do.
A specific habit I remember was practicing my cello. I was supposed to practice 20 minutes everyday for the intermediate school orchestra, and if you did so, you got stickers on a chart. Every other kid got their parents to sign off on the paper without actually doing any work, but everyday, right after school, I set a timer and played. If I messed up a song, I had to start over until I got it perfectly. The stress of it all became too much. The truth was simple; I couldn’t fathom the idea of dedicating myself every single day. It got to be too much pressure. I began crying as I played. So eventually, after two years, I quit. I still regret that now; I was the best in my class. I can’t help but think of where I’d be musically now had it not been for my OCD.
We didn’t call it OCD then, though. We, like the majority of society, still thought that just meant being tidy. We called it my inability to let go.
Sixth grade brought my next wave, caused by being placed in advanced math. I skipped two grades. It was only natural my grades would struggle. I, however, had full mental breakdowns. It was fourth grade all over again, telling my mother about menial homework questions I couldn’t quite grasp over and over again. Looking back, however hard it was, I am so happy the solution wasn’t the same as that of the cello. I already lost one part of myself, and honestly, math is so important to me. I can comprehend it. The answer’s are easy, and it’s not up to me to craft them perfectly. I am so happy I didn’t lose that to my disorder.
My favorite memory associated with OCD is when my mother asked if getting me a hamster would solve the problem. An hour later, we went to PetSmart and picked up Ivy, a somewhat grumpy but sufficient chinese dwarf hamster. The OCD didn’t go away of course, but she was a pretty good hamster.
The third wave hit in ninth grade.
Originally, the third wave was pretty similar to the other’s. I identified my main problem as something I called intrusive thoughts, which I can best describe as having a twelve-year-old sitting in the backseat of your brain, kicking the back of your chair, and asking you if you took the wrong turn. You, as a conscious being, have no control over him. He often has the power to force me into believing I am truly thinking violent, awful things.
I began turning to a form of selfharm to help cope, pinching myself. If that didn’t get the job done, I’d move onto biting or hitting myself. It seemed harmless initially, since inflicting pain while trying to get a thought to seem right in my brain seemed to make it more impactful. Soon, however, the consequences made themselves visible. I remember going to school one day with scratches down my face, telling everyone I was attacked by a dog. Really, I had been stressed about a friend the night before.
See, I’ve suffered other mental illness, and nothing quite compares to that from OCD. Whereas panic attacks may feel worse in the moment, they are spaced out. OCD is a fulltime job. From the moment I wake up to the moment I go to bed, I have to distract my brain from thinking about everything else that has ever happened that maybe made me a worse person.
An average day has become, to a degree, manageable for me now. After brushing my teeth, I have to turn off the faucet 40 times, or 70 if that doesn’t feel right, or 110 if I really mess up, since I don’t want to waste water. From then, it continues until I go back to sleep.
It’s funny, because I know it’s all unnecessary. I know how much time I’m wasting in my head. I know how much easier everything would be if I could just let go.
My life isn’t as easy as it’s once been, however. People are coming and going. My anxiety is ruining friendships. I lost a lot of my family. I’ve lost so much I wasn’t ready to let go of.
So I hold my rituals in a tight grip, not ready to let go yet. They annoy me, but they aren’t going anywhere. I can lose everyone who loves me, but the door still will need to be closed. I hate my OCD, but it’s a part of me, and I’ve come to accept it.
So OCD is almost like an old friend at this point, but the type that you hate visiting. I know one day he could be gone completely, and while I know my life would ultimately be easier that way, it scares me. He’s been here forever, and I’ve just adapted to him. After all, at this point, all of his effects are just coping mechanisms to remind myself I’m doing the right thing.
I can’t let go yet. I know that. I’m not ready, and until the day I am, I’m surviving. I can get through each day, and sometimes, that’s all you need.

IMG_4503Savannah Tabor is a junior at Lehigh Valley Charter High School for the Arts, where she majors in literary arts. She has previously been published in children’s anthologies and recognized regionally by Scholastic Art and Writing Awards. She is passionate not only about literature, but astronomy, philanthropy, and, most of all, birds.

Savannah can be found on Twitter.

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Abby Rotstein

I can make planes fall from the sky! I can cause the earth to shake, cars to crash, and buildings to tumble violently to the ground. That’s what my OCD had me believe anyway, though I was never fully convinced. No one has superpowers. Still, I became extremely nervous when thoughts of destruction entered my head, so much so that I felt compelled to perform rituals. This is the power of OCD. You know that what you’re doing is irrational, but you have to do it anyway.

I’m fairly certain my symptoms appeared when I was 10, when the Whittier Narrows earthquake brought buildings and freeway overpasses tumbling down as well as killing several people. It was the first earthquake I’d experienced, and it made me fearful. With OCD you’re constantly seeking certainty, and earthquakes, with their ability to strike without warning, completely upended my notions of safety. For whatever reason, I tied the earth’s sudden eruptions to feeling badly about myself. I thought that I had done something wrong or that I would do bad things in the future, and that would be the cause of another earthquake. So I prayed repeatedly that another earthquake wouldn’t come. I imagined that future temblors would cause my home to collapse, and kill every member of my family.

The intrusive thoughts evolved over time, but they always circled around the same theme: If I didn’t ritualize, everyone I loved would die. At 10, I didn’t know this was OCD, but as I got older I began to piece things together. I knew that being haunted by my thoughts wasn’t healthy, but I was unable to talk about it. Instead, in my teens and early twenties, I found books and articles about other tormented minds and read these furtively. I distinctly remember glancing at the pages of Brain Lock in the bookstore before hurriedly putting it back on the shelf for fear of being caught.

I was lucky in that I believed I knew what was troubling me. Still, I just coped, refusing to speak to anyone about my scary mind. I was too ashamed, too frightened. For years I envisioned terrible things happening to my loved ones: wrecks, heart attacks, cancer – anything that led to death. I had stopped doing ritualized prayers and started imagining each bad thing happening to each member of my family. I believed that if I imagined these terrible things happening, they wouldn’t actually occur. Because life never turns out the way you imagine.

Fast forward to several years later when my OCD “came true.” A friend I’d known for years died in a car accident. Of course, no amount of rituals could’ve stopped it. But you can’t reason with OCD. And, statistically speaking, if you have thousands of thoughts over the course of a lifetime, there’s a small chance one of those thoughts will align with reality. But you can’t reason with OCD.
After the accident, I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t concentrate. I checked traffic reports every day to make sure my family was safe. I called my parents every night to make sure they were still alive. Finally, after all the stress and shock and trauma, my body simply said no. I wound up in the ER with the worst flu I’d ever had, and I was likely suffering from dehydration. That was my breaking point.

After tearfully telling my mom I couldn’t live with such extreme anxiety anymore, I finally got up the courage to see a psychiatrist. Ultimately, he told me the best thing I’d ever heard about dealing with my disorder. I explained my symptoms and told him I suspected OCD. He wrote some notes and asked me several questions. Finally, he put his pen down and said, “So you’ve been coping with this for more than 20 years?” I nodded, feeling a bit like he was chastising me. But he wasn’t. He was genuinely concerned. He looked at me and said, “I want you to do so much more than cope.”

My doctor is one of the reasons I’m able not only to survive, but to thrive.

Not every day is a perfect one, but I feel much freer now that I’m able to speak openly about my disorder. I no longer fear OCD, and I’m definitely not ashamed to say that I have it. I hope that more people know they don’t have to be scared or ashamed of their illness. No deserves to tolerate horror, and there doesn’t have to be a breaking point. It doesn’t have to get unbearable before you seek help. And I know that’s scary. If you’re not comfortable seeing a therapist, maybe you can find someone you trust and talk to them. Because I want you to do so much more than cope.

Abby-RI am an editor, writer, and speaker living in the Sacramento area. I’ve also been a teacher and a door-to-door salesperson. Somehow that was less frightening than living with OCD.

Abby can be found on Twitter

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Krista Pylkki

I didn’t know anyone.  Maybe that’s why it happened.  I had family history of it.  Maybe that’s what happened.  During October of my freshman year of college, symptoms of mental illness began.  It was scary and foreign to me.  I didn’t know what it was or what to do and suffered in silence for the next five months.

 Negative thoughts were yelling in my brain telling me things like “No one likes you.”  Soon after, I started getting horrible images of wanting to die.  I pictured sitting in my bathroom with a gun in my hand.  It was all in my head.  It was an intrusive thought that would not go away.  In the spring specific thoughts of suicide entered my mind.  I didn’t want to live anymore.

 My priest at college advised me to go to the counseling office on campus to get help for the first time.  The staff led me to the Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner at Student Health Services.  The appointment with her was on my 19th birthday. 

 At the appointment, the nurse asked question after question for 22 minutes then gave me my first mental illness diagnosis.  I had major depression.  It was 2:22 P.M.  She put me on antidepressants.  I called my parents because I had a serious mental illness and was on serious medication after suffering in silence for five months.  My parents knew nothing of this until then.  I had been faking it while home on winter and spring breaks.  The phone call last 45 minutes. 

 For the rest of the semester, my parents visited me each weekend, driving 2 ½ hours each way.  My symptoms were so severe that my counselor gave me two options:  Either go home to finish semester classes or have a parent stay near me at college.  I chose to go home.  

 There were ensuing stomachaches and dizziness from medication but the depression decreased.  My memory and concentration were affected.  I was taking a literature class that semester and was reading a book that I knew well from high school.  Comprehension was so bad that my mom had to read the book out loud to me paragraph-by-paragraph and even that was difficult.  Remembering the names of the two main characters of the novel completely escaped me.

 I found a therapist near home and started Dialectal Behavioral Therapy (DBT) with her twice a week.  She was very helpful during that summer away from school.  I recovered from major depression and returned to school in the fall. 

The fall semester went really well with great grades.  When spring semester started, however, images once more filled my head.  The main image was of me killing someone I knew.  That freaked me out.  I knew it wasn’t normal and I needed additional help.  That’s when I admitted myself to the hospital for the first time. 

I spent five days in the psych ward where the staff adjusted my medication and handed me some sheets about Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD).  Before then, I didn’t know much about it.  The little I knew about it were of people who washed their hands a lot.  That wasn’t me.  It turns out that I was living with OCD undiagnosed since the previous summer. 

During the second summer, a psychologist who specialized in OCD and Exposure therapy moved back to where I lived.  He was the perfect match for me and I continue to see him.  I trusted him 100% and started tackling my obsessions.  This kind of therapy was very difficult but helpful at the same time.  Results were seen quickly.

My junior year was going well until April of 2015 when I remembered something traumatic had happened to me earlier at age 16.  I was sexually abused by an older man of 24 years who knew me.  I had blocked the event out of my head until that moment.  Since I didn’t know what to do, I contacted my psychologist.

A couple weeks later, I heard voices telling me to kill someone I knew – a different person from before.  I was acting strangely and didn’t know what to do, so I emailed my psychologist that same night.

The next morning was a pleasant Friday in Northern Minnesota and my roommates and I were planning to do mini-golfing later in the evening to relieve stress before upcoming finals.  However, after my afternoon class I received a call at my apartment.  It was from my psychologist.  I knew he was calling me about my email the previous night.  We talked and he said to go to the hospital.  I was the only one in the apartment at that time so I went to my Resident Advisor (RA)’s room.  She wasn’t there as well, so her roommate notified her.

That same afternoon, I admitted myself to the hospital for the second time.  This time I was there for ten days trying other medication.  I left knowing that I had psychosis.  That summer, I was in an intensive outpatient program for three months. 

During the second summer and the fall, I had hallucinations and delusions.  One September morning I had thoughts that God had sent me to save the world.  I thought it was real.  My mom advised me to call my psychologist.  So, I did.  Later in the day, I admitted myself to the hospital a third time and was put on new medication that really helped. 

A month after I got out I saw a new psychiatrist who diagnosed me with Bipolar.  A few months later, I added Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) to my list of mental illnesses. 

Since my experience with mental illness, I have been outspoken about mental illness on social media.  Last year, I created a website for mental health advocacy.  Now it’s an online business with hopes of becoming a non-profit after college graduation.  It’s named “From Darkness into Light Resources,” and I’m its founder and CEO.

19400_10206073961400984_4533801174664367651_nKrista Pylkki is the Founder and CEO of From Darkness Into Light Resources, which is currently a mental health online business, with hopes to become a non-profit one day. She is also an online college student studying Theology and minors in Marketing and Organizational Behavior. Check out her website at  www.darknessintolightresources.com. You can follow her business online on Facebook and on Twitter: @mhsupport1.

Stigma Fighters: Aleah Estevez

I was six years old when I realized something was wrong with me.
There had been signs before then, of course, which I had dismissed as being part of my temperament. Even at four years old I remember feeling sad, anxious, and uncomfortable. Back then, my anxiety manifested itself in a less harmful way. I frequently had headaches and stomachaches—not to mention a strange and intense fear of leaving the house or becoming separated from my mom. But when I was six, my anxiety became violent. Every night (and, more rarely, during the day) I had trouble breathing, heart palpitations, and a sudden, inescapable feeling of dread. At first, I tried to seek help. I had no way to explain these attacks, so I told my family that I became “scared” during the night. My mom was compassionate, thinking I had nightmares, and let me sleep with her. But my dad and stepmom were not. My worst attacks happened when I stayed at their house. I would call out for help and try waking them, but they began locking their bedroom door. The next day I was berated for being so childish. In time, I learned to keep my mouth shut. Their complete disregard made me feel that I had to hide my suffering from everyone.
And I did. I hid my panic and anxiety for seven years.
At first I developed several obsessive, odd rituals that I thought might protect me from the attacks. If I knocked twenty-seven times on the refrigerator, for example, and then touched my nose, I would be safe from my anxiety for the rest of the day. It took me a long time to outgrow these superstitions. Eventually I realized that the method wasn’t working and changed tactics. I came up with my own set of coping skills, which ranged from savagely scribbling in and tearing up notebooks to picking off my own skin.
Everyone in my family knew I had anxiety. But they didn’t know its true scope and severity. I put extreme amounts of effort into concealing my panic from everyone. And it worked.
Until one day it didn’t.
The day after my thirteenth birthday party, I had an attack so awful that it could not be hidden. My heartbeat skyrocketed to 300 beats per minute; it was pounding so hard that the table was actually shaking. I had never seen anything like it before (or since) that day. I remember collapsing onto the couch, trembling, and being hooked up to oxygen. But I don’t remember how I got into the ambulance, or even who called 911.
I was kept overnight at the hospital for observation. All of the doctors found my case extremely frustrating, as none of them could place what was wrong. They ran several tests and gave me an EKG, all of which indicated that I was physically healthy. The doctors capitulated and discharged me with a recommendation that I see a cardiologist.
The cardiologist, too, said that I was in good health.
Getting the help I needed seemed hopeless. I felt stupid for revealing this point of vulnerability to people, especially when I had worked so hard to hide it. My family seemed happy to pretend the hospital visit had never happened, and so was I. I returned to keeping my anxiety a secret.
After that my attacks proved much more difficult to hide. They occurred with alarming frequency in broad daylight and even in social situations. The latter were especially agonizing because I had to put extra effort into appearing normal and continuing to talk as though nothing was bothering me. I felt very limited by my anxiety. It forced me to live in constant fear and dictated what I could and could not do.
My situation continued to worsen until one day I asked to be admitted to the local mental hospital.
I felt that I needed to be hospitalized or I would do something drastic. I wanted to be rid of my anxiety so badly that I considered suicide a viable option.
So, having turned fourteen just two weeks before, I was placed in MeadowWood Behavioral Health.
I quickly made friends with nearly everyone in the unit. They struggled with a wealth of problems, but the most prevalent issue among patients was anxiety. However, the doctor I was assigned to was not nearly as understanding as the patients were. She accused me of making things up and “living in a fantasy world.” This being said, I was given a hasty diagnosis of borderline schizophrenia.
By the time I was discharged from the hospital, she had settled on a more acceptable diagnosis: panic disorder. She made no effort to explain the disorder, though, and so I was left just as confused as before.
I was hospitalized once more that year. This time I went to Rosenblum, which served as a school and recovery program. I was encouraged me to talk openly and honestly about my feelings with both the other patients and the counselors. For me, Rosenblum was a life-changing experience, and a pivotal point in the journey of understanding my mental illness. I had a strong support system there. I even took a few “classes” on how to manage my anxiety. These sessions were held in the dark and led by an instructor I couldn’t see; he coached me on breathing exercises, muscle relaxation techniques, and cognitive behavioral therapy.
I was discharged from Rosenblum with a new acceptance of myself and a toolkit of good coping skills. I started high school shortly after my discharge and set about the slow process of raising my grades.
For me, “recovery” wasn’t just one event; it’s an ongoing process that I still work at today. My disorder constantly manifests as new fears and phobias, and I am always experiencing new symptoms. But I’m tentatively starting to hope for a good future, which I feel for the first time is within my reach.

Aleah lives in Delaware, where she spends most of her time volunteering, writing, and trying to educate about mental illness.

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Stigma Fighters: Paakhi Bhatnagar

Ever since I have made my way out the burning heaps of OCD that used to surround me, I have found myself in a constant state of fearing the relapse.
When I read my journal entries dating back to when I used to struggle with my OCD, I feel happy that I am not going though that right now, but at the same time I feel worried about relapsing into my old habits and having to start from scratch all over again.
As I have mentioned, OCD isn’t something that you can just lose or get rid of completely. It sits in your brain like a constant companion, but you can definitely learn how to control it and not let your OCD control you.
I have found, after a little bit of research, that relapsing – or perhaps fearing relapsing – is a pretty common thing.
You shouldn’t worry about dropping into your old habits, instead you should focus on becoming strong enough to overcome it every time.
Recently, I found myself on a verge of tears as I tried to fight my conscious. It was telling me not to study, to start studying tomorrow. To make tomorrow a new day, because I had already wasted half of that day (getting up late and whatnot), there was absolutely no point in doing anything productive now.
But that was just my OCD beckoning me.
You see, my OCD sort of flourishes on the state of stating new, starting with a clean slate, and starting good. “If you don’t wake up early and put every second of the new day into a productive use, then don’t work at all,” it says, “If you didn’t start good, then don’t start at all. Try tomorrow.”
But this attitude is very unhealthy.
How can someone put their efforts into making every single second of their day productive, and not lay back for at least half an hour to maybe catch up on their favorite TV show?
I know that I used to try to be life this. I had this goal in my head that needed to be accomplished and if I did not spend every waking hour working towards it, I used to just give it up for the day (waste a whole day) and tell myself that I would try again tomorrow.
I didn’t want to go back to my old ways.
So instead of giving in to the beckoning that day, I decided to take one hour rest from studying, because I knew I couldn’t get anywhere sitting on my table and staring my book while the two sides of my brain were dueling.
I watched an episode of Friends, listened to a little bit of music whole doing some painting and had a bag of popcorn.
I know that I am trying, and for that I am proud.
And with that, the voice of my OCD had faded away and I hadn’t even realized it.
I went back to studying after taking a one hour break (something I would have never done if I was still under the control my OCD) and I felt great. I felt normal, because this is what most people around me do. They take a break after a long work session and then go back to work again.
So guys, don’t fear the relapse. Do something about it!
You are stronger than you think you are and you have certainly accomplished more than what you think you have.

youth-for-changePaakhi Bhatnagar is a student from India and an avid reader of historical fiction. She is a passionate feminist and blogs about current politics and feminist issues. She is ardently pro-choice and possesses the uncanny ability of turning everything into a debate.

Paakhi can be found on her blog andTwitter. 

Stigma Fighters: Zach Liberatore

“My Struggle with OCD”

            Throughout the entirety of my life up until my sophomore year of high school, I considered myself to be a very outgoing and enjoyable person. I had plenty of peers and loved going out to either just relax and talk with friends or carouse and have a “memorable night”. I felt as if my outlook on life was always positive, rarely ever feeling gloomy or downhearted. My grades had always been exceptional and I worked tremendously hard with everything I did; which included sports and school. During my sophomore year of high school I was in the last class of my day and at the time we were watching a movie. Everyone was getting ready to depart, putting their books and pens away. I put my pen away and for the first time ever I had experienced that horrible, anxiety-filled feeling. I kept putting my hand into the compartment of my backpack where the pens were and endlessly rearranged them. I absolutely had to make sure the pens were lined up perfectly, not one pen even a millimeter in front of another. Even if the pens did happen to exactly align, I would have continued to fix their positioning because I never felt as if it was “right”. I had my eyes and hands locked into that section of my backpack for the next three hours after the bell rang. I had a practice around seven o’clock and that is the sole reason why I stopped; because I was essentially forced to.

            This rather small or insignificant incident ultimately led into six years of mental torture and instability. There is no way that I could possibly include every symptom of OCD I’ve experienced in this essay, but I will certainly attempt to highlight the most distressful ones. Once the OCD became relevant in my life, my academic grades began to drop at an exceptionally swift pace. I couldn’t take notes in some of my classes because of OCD, which became incredibly impactful. No matter what I had written down on my sheet of loose leaf paper, it was never good enough. It occasionally took me about forty-five minutes just to complete one handwritten word. The bottom of the letter had to lie perfectly against the blue line that guides your writing. If I identified any sort of edge instead of smooth lining I would promptly scribble out the word. There was no specific criterion or standard for the writing of the words, I just hated how they appeared no matter how they were written. Taking tests obviously became an issue because even if I knew exactly what to write for an essay, it would take me much longer because I would be erasing and scribbling out sentences, and words, the whole duration of the essay section. I never informed any of my teachers of the problems I was dealing with because I felt ashamed. Consequently, I would fail many tests because I couldn’t finish writing the essays.

            Reading started to become a monumental annoyance as well, which also directly and negatively impacted my academic performance. It would take hours just to read one page of a book or school textbook because I had to slowly scan every word of the text. I would say out loud every letter of the word then be able to define the word before I moved on to the next word. Clearly this was extremely stressful and time consuming. I reached a stage where I no longer took notes, read, completed homework, successfully finished tests, etc., because of my OCD.

            My life slowly became very number oriented and what I mean by this is exactly how it sounds. During a period of time the only numbers that sat well with me were five, seven, eight and nine; any other number bothered me to a high extent. I began to fail math tests and quizzes because my brain wouldn’t allow me to use certain numbers. The worst part was I knew all of the answers but if I were to write down the correct numbers, I would panic. I specifically liked those four numbers because I applied each one to members of my family: nine for my mom, eight for my dad, seven for my youngest brother and five for the two middle brothers. Anytime I would use any number besides these four, I would feel as if I was disrespecting my family and even firmly believe something drastic would happen to any of them. I began to frequently count the steps I took and would incessantly turn around and walk back to a certain destination because the number of steps I took wasn’t “right”. My liking for numbers became a little broader when I began to also use multiples of the four specific numbers; but even then it was still immensely torturous. For example, I would leave class and walk to meet up with a group of friends, intently counting the steps I took to reach them. I couldn’t engage in a conversation because my mind would be so consumed with anxiety because I knew I didn’t take the correct amounts of steps to reach them. I would walk back and forth up to twenty times occasionally whether it was at school, home, practice or anywhere in general.

            Not only did the arrangement of certain items bother me, but also how I felt and touched them. For example, I would accidentally touch the wall and almost immediately feel the urge to touch it a couple more times. That couple more times would turn to seven, then fourteen, then seventy-seven, then seven hundred and next thing I know I would spend hours next to a wall merely touching it. I would have to force myself to leave a classroom once the bell rung or else I would’ve been in there for hours, repeatedly touching my desk. Even if I was able to leave, I would remember that I did not touch the desk or chair in that room enough times, so therefore I would go back later in the day to finish the ritual.

            The way I spoke and how I pronounced words became another uncontrollable issue. I started to totally avoid hanging out with people because I couldn’t even speak without repeating a word over and over. Just like everything else, I may have realistically been able to properly pronounce a word, yet it still didn’t feel “right”. I would be speaking to my mom and she’d indicate that I was recurrently repeating a certain word. Sometimes I would find the will and strength to halt it while having a conversation no matter how bothersome it was, but then I would eventually remember the word and end up repeating it over and over later in the day.

            The event that triggered my loss for hope took place during the winter of my junior year of high school. The OCD was becoming more and more troublesome and it was exhibited through my grades, behavior, confidence, etc. I decided to walk into the woods behind my grandfather’s house on a snowy day in an attempt to be alone and clear my mind. I had no idea that this would turn into one of the most traumatizing nights of my life. I walked maybe a couple miles deep into the forest, which left an unfathomable amount of footsteps in the snow. When I had decided I wanted to go back home, there was this voice that kept telling me I had to walk backwards, placing my feet into the footsteps exactly how they were placed when I walked into the forest. I couldn’t even walk back three footsteps because I didn’t think they were placed perfectly in accordance to where they were originally placed. I was in that forest for about five hours, unmanageably crying and seriously contemplating suicide. I finally built up the courage to frantically run home and ignore the steps, but it ended up bothering me for the next five days. The footsteps were gone after sometime so I would go back and make new ones then proceed to walk backwards in them, trying to perfectly place the feet. This was probably the most traumatic and emotionally devastating event but there have been plenty more. Not too long after that, I couldn’t leave a shower because I didn’t like the way I washed my hair, brushed my teeth, walked out, touched the soap, etc. There were days where I was forced to go to school and would wait for my mom to leave so I could go back to my house and repeat everything I had done in the shower, missing several days of school because of it.

            During that same winter of my junior year I had lost all stability and control; I was on the verge of killing myself. My mom and dad took me to Erie Community Medical Center where I stayed for two weeks, missing plenty of school work and football practices. It was a crazy experience yet it changed my life because I was able to meet and relate with other patients stricken with mental illness. I was diagnosed with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder here, then prescribed medication and assigned a psychologist once I had left. Although the hospital staff and my new psychologist were able to teach me ways to cope with the disease, the symptoms certainly did not just disappear.

            Throughout my senior year of high school and the summer following it, I had experienced new forms of the OCD and in no way, shape or form were they pleasant. I began chewing tobacco towards the beginning of high school and noticed it relieved some OCD related stress. As I did it my senior year senior, it became another outlet for the OCD instead. I would move to the tobacco from side to side in my lip up to a hundred times. If I wasn’t satisfied with how many times I had done it after I took it out, I would throw another in and continue the process. I went through a full tin within an hour because I would take a pinch out and put another in due to the OCD pressuring me to do it. Driving became another burden and it sucked because I loved driving; plus I had to do it in order to get to school, practice, etc. I would get the urge to drive on both sides of the road but going in one direction. There have been plenty of times where I’ve crossed over into the other lane as another car was approaching. This may have been one of the most dangerous symptoms I’ve dealt with and I could easily say I’ve almost been into several car accidents because of this compulsion. I would constantly see cracks or bumps in the road and would be devastated if I didn’t drive over them initially. It would take hours to get to school or a friend’s house because I would turn around every couple minutes just to make sure I didn’t drive past a crack or bump in the road. I began to detect cracks and bumps on the sidewalks as I drove and decided to drive onto to them in order to run over the bumps and cracks. I have been pulled over for doing so and had to explain to the police officer my mental illness. It eventually became a near illimitable process involving my parents and the judicial system.

            I had experienced a segment of time where I did not like the way I touched items or myself, but it unfortunately reached the point where I would accidentally touch another person or animal and would keep repeating it. I would have to be stealthy about it, but I was caught on numerous occasions repetitively touching someone. I would spend hours petting my dog, not because I had fun doing it but because I didn’t like the way I was petting her. I started to focus in on symmetry: what I mean by this is everything I did, touched, threw, etc., with my right hand or arm, I had to do with my left hand or arm. If I was walking down the hallway and brushed my right shoulder against the wall or a locker, I would have no choice but to turn around and do it with the left. When I ate food with a fork in my right hand, I would force myself to make the same exact meal and then eat it with the fork in my left hand. Sometimes I would give someone a handshake and would try to deceitfully do it again but with the opposite hand.

            All of the stress and torture I experienced throughout high school unfortunately contributed to a lot of negative outcomes. After my experience with OCD, my grades in school progressively dropped until the end of high school. I stopped giving a full effort in the classroom and began to lose connection with my teachers. It took me a long time to complete my college applications because I would have to keep doing them over and over. Because my grades became poor and it took me so long to finish the applications, I wasn’t left with too many prominent colleges to choose from. Luckily I was accepted into Duquesne University and decided to enroll there; but after the first week I had come back home because I knew I couldn’t last any more than week there with the OCD. Sports have always played a pivotal role throughout my life and I had the talent to compete at the collegiate football level. During my senior year I skipped a full day of camp because of OCD related issues and ended up not even starting the first three games of the season. Because of the stress I dealt with on a daily basis due to the OCD, I became a frequent pot smoker. My life eventually became revolved around weed and I lost motivation to get faster and stronger for football purposes. Although I did have a fairly decent season my senior year, I was only left to choose from a couple division three schools to play football at. After all of the physical and mental pain the OCD had caused in my life, I decided that I wasn’t in the appropriate shape to play college football. Everything bad that was occurring in my life was virtually tied to the disease.

            After leaving Duquesne I had no choice but to attend Erie Community College for the fall semester. I was ashamed of my failures and all the opportunities I had missed out on so I completely avoided all of my friends for that semester. I continued to smoke pot to relieve the symptoms and that eventually transcended into hard drugs. I was once prescribed Klonopin for anxiety and was able to find it again during this time along with Xanax. I felt as if these drugs and marijuana were the only relievers for the OCD. Considering ECC isn’t the most difficult school, I was able to do somewhat well even though I skipped countless classes because I always preferred to get high by myself instead. Although the drugs served as instant gratification for the disease, they only made things worse in the long run. The OCD was becoming more and more powerful and it was forcing me to do things I never discuss with anyone. My life was visibly spiraling out of control so I checked into a rehabilitation center, which also focused on mental health treatment.

            I spent about two months at this place and it redirected the course of my life. I was able to refrain from taking drugs and I was also able to meet people who helped me cope with the OCD. I am incredibly thankful for the experience because it saved my life. Although my life has taken a positive route since then, I still deal with OCD on a daily basis and I’m terribly afraid that I’ll have to for the rest of my life. Nowadays the symptoms are totally different than what they once were, but they cause the same amount of pain.

            A lot of the symptoms today revolve around emotionally or physically hurting humans or animals and doing anything that would offend God. It is especially difficult to drive once again because I seriously believe I run over an animal on every road I drive on. If I drive over the slightest bump or run over a noticeable piece of paper, I’ll still genuinely believe it was an animal. I’ll tell a friend or my girlfriend that I’ll be over at his or her house in approximately ten minutes, but it instead turns into a couple hours because I have to keep turning my car around to make sure there aren’t any suffering animals I ran over. I was at my grandparents’ house last night and my grandmother mentioned that anytime their neighbor makes a fire, a foul smell goes along with it. My mind immediately travels to the thought that the people could possibly be burning live animals. Anytime I feel as if I run over an animal or think there is a suffering animal somewhere, I write in the notes app on my iphone all of the information regarding it. It’ll take me up to fifteen minutes just to write a note because I need to be as specific as possible if I want to remember where the animal is so I could eventually check if it’s okay. I could pet my dog and not injure it whatsoever but firmly believe that I did. I’ll lay next to her for hours, apologizing and asking if she’s okay.

            Although I knew it was completely irrational, I started to become weary of hurting insects. I work for my father over the summers and partake in a lot of landscaping. Anytime I mulch or cut lawns, I will see a worm or an ant I put mulch over or run over with a lawn mower, and if I do not take the time to help these insects I could bother me for weeks. After I mulch a certain area, I will literally dig it all back out in order to find the insect I put it over. I missed one of the biggest concerts of last summer because while walking to my car I stepped on an ant. I nursed and took care of the ant for hours straight instead of attending the concert.

            I always keep in mind whether I’m offending God after almost anything I say. I went to see the Conjuring 2 with my girlfriend and at some point during the film I told her I doubt any of the supernatural occurrences that take place in the movie actually happen in reality. I quickly realized saying supernatural occurrences and possessions don’t happen is technically not believing in God; considering if God exists then the Devil exists. I could’ve just said it once but I ended up telling my girlfriend, “These happenings do occur”, up to ten times. I felt as if she didn’t hear me or didn’t acknowledge what I said the others times, therefore leading me to keep repeating it in order to get on “better terms” with God. With OCD you typically have some disturbing images or events that occur in your head. I can say that I have had thousands of them and I know I don’t deliberately think of them. But when these frightening images appear in my head, I realize they’re wrong and immediately become distraught and baffled. I’ve had thoughts of people dying and I will not move on with my day until I “rethink” them. It’ll take me hours to just sit down and attempt to rethink the images or events so that no one is hurt or injured in the vision. This happens at least a couple times a week.

            OCD is usually misconstrued as an adjective in which people use to describe their neat and clean tendencies. I’m sure there are plenty of people who deal with the same symptoms as I do and take great offense to how often the term “OCD” is tossed around. I’m not going to lie and say this has been a cake walk battling the OCD, but I also do not do this often: telling people my story or symptoms. I did not write this to expect sympathy; I wrote it to reach out to the thousands of children and adults who unfortunately must battle the same disease on a daily basis. I wrote this in order to help these intrepid and lionhearted people understand that they are not alone, that they are not freaks. People need to start speaking up as I just did in writing this essay so the world becomes better educated on the disease and will hopefully begin to show a little more empathy for it. This disease has tormented my life the past six years: ruining friendships, opening the door for drugs and causing too much emotional torture and anguish. I will continue fighting this mental battle because I know I’m strong enough and I know I have the support of family, friends and God; I will not let it commandeer my life. In conclusion, I’d like to reach out to the millions of people who struggle with OCD around the globe. This battle is one of the most distressful and hurtful experiences you’ll deal with in your lifetime. It will bring you to your knees, begging God or another higher power to take away the pain. You will debate with yourself whether or not you would like to continue living or not. In these times of discomfort and agony, consider this: defeating this plague will only make you stronger. God chooses his strongest soldiers to fight the biggest battles. Never give up because the world needs you and your perseverance. One day you’ll have full and utter control of the disease and will be able to help others who are just beginning the horrible journey. The people who are skeptical of our struggles and the disease itself are just blind to the capabilities and power of the human brain. Reach out and speak up about your disease because it will only help. Be strong and whether you believe in God or not, know there is some sort of higher power that has your back through it all.

unnamedZach Liberatore
20 years old
Buffalo, NY

Zach can be found on Facebook and Twitter

youth-for-change

Stigma Fighters: Paakhi Bhatnagar

Often I have found that many people around me do not fully grasp the concept of a mental illness. The term mental illness, to them, is like an alien game. Something that they do not much about, but think that they do.
Having a mental illness isn’t a scream for attention. A person’s mental health or condition does not tell you about their capabilities, what they’ve gone through, what they are going through and how strong they are.
And I am honestly sick of reading or hearing about mental illnesses being romanticized. Since when is it romantic to wake up every day and wishing only to go back to bed? To be among a beautiful crowd but too afraid to speak to anyone because you’re afraid you’ll only make digressive comments? To have compulsive behaviors that invade your daily routine?
I would like to blame this mindset imbedded in a lot of people for the reason why mental illnesses are constantly being treated like a joke.
I remember once, around a few months back, when I had found myself stranded in between a conversation about mental health.
After getting too deep into the conversation I had accidently blurted out about my troubled with OCD (I do not really share that fact that I suffer from OCD, which something that I want to change but I don’t think I am ready to, yet).
None out of the four of my friends asked me how of felt to deal with it, if I was okay, or one of those general questions that a person with a physical illness usually gets asked.
Instead one of the girls blatantly rolled her eyes and said, “Do you even know what OCD is?”
Her condescending tone fired me up and I replied with an honest yes, after all I was and I am dealing with it.
She then went on to say, “You couldn’t possibly have OCD. Are you just doing this because you want your life to be like one of those emotional Tumblr posts?”
I didn’t say anything then, I was fourteen and I was ashamed of my mental illness and I was still a bit outraged by the way I had been spoken to. I simply walked away from the conversation.
But if something like this happens again, I know my reaction will be different. I am not ashamed of what I am going through. Because what I am dealing with is real and it is definitely not a joke that you make snarky remarks about.
Don’t let people treat your mental illness as joke. What you are going through is real and you deserve just as much respect as anyone else.
Once my English teacher, while teaching us a lesson that had a few lines about suicidal thoughts, told us about how she felt like slapping people who think about killing themselves.
And while I do agree that suicide is never a solution to anything, I didn’t like the way she approached the topic.
People sometimes face depression, hormones start raging like a seemingly endless thunderstorm only being aggravated by external factors.
People don’t understand how much damage their words can do to a person who is already struggling (who all aren’t struggling?).
How can you say, with such vigor, about something that you do not understand? About something that people who are going through it, don’t understand themselves.

youth-for-change1Paakhi Bhatnagar is a student from India and an avid reader of historical fiction. She is a passionate feminist and blogs about current politics and feminist issues. She is ardently pro-choice and possesses the uncanny ability of turning everything into a debate.

Paakhi can be found on her blog andTwitter. 

Stigma Fighters: Zach Liberatore

Hello my name is Zach Liberatore and I am a victim of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. I was clinically diagnosed with it and prescribed medication during the end of 2012 when I checked into the psychiatric ward at ECMC. This disease dragged me to the brink of insanity and I had reached the point where I no longer wanted to live. I seriously contemplated suicide because I could never get away from the tormenting the thoughts and the compulsions that came along with them. Most of the opportunities I have blown throughout these recent years were due to my inability to control and fight the disease. I began to ingest drugs and alcohol thinking it would alleviate the symptoms; it turns out they only made things worse in the long run. I’ve ruined close friendships because I was no longer able to hangout with people without being consumed by these thoughts and compulsions. I’ve cried up to roughly one thousand times because I’d feel so alone and dejected. The world’s lack of understanding for our diseases is sickening because it truly does deteriorate our well-being and suicides often occur because of it. It’s time for us to start sharing our experiences and battles with mental illness in order to give society a better understanding of the cruelty and torture that comes along with mental disorders.

I have experienced thousands of different symptoms regarding the disease, consequently making it incredibly difficult for me to list every single one. But I can inform you of some of my most traumatic and disturbing experiences and symptoms. One incident I typically resort to telling occurred during the winter of 2012, the event which triggered the idea to enter a psychiatric ward. After being completely worn down from the thoughts and urges throughout a week during this winter, I decided to take a stroll into the woods behind my grandfather’s house. I felt as if it’d bring satisfaction and would maybe relieve the overwhelming distress. It had been snowing all week so I dressed up appropriately and set foot into the woods. Looking back I believe I travelled up to two miles into the woods without looking back. After being in there for a significant amount of time I decided it was time to return home. Along the way into the woods I had obviously made plenty of footsteps in the snow; this instantly triggered an obsessive thought. Even though it’s utterly irrational, my mind keep reiterating to walk backwards to my house and place my feet into every footstep previously made or I couldn’t leave. It sounds crazy but this essentially summarizes my life with OCD. I couldn’t even make it past the first few steps because I never felt satisfied with how my feet placed into the initial footsteps. I could’ve miraculously placed my foot perfectly but I still wouldn’t be content. I spent up to four hours in those woods, crying and considering the pain that would be go away if I were to kill myself.

This incident was only one of many experiences that triggered a loss for hope. I received exceptional grades throughout my life and was always motivated to do well in the academic field. When the OCD came upon me, my grades and motivation level progressively decreased. A lot of my symptoms were number oriented and I began to only rely on four numbers: 9 (which was for my mother), 7 (which was for my youngest brother, 5 (which was for my other two brothers between the youngest and me) and 8 (which was for my father). Anytime I used a number that was not 9, 7, 5 or 8, I would feel as if I was disrespecting my family and that even something tragic would happen to one of them. Even though I knew the correct answers for math tests, I would fail the tests because I wouldn’t be able to use any number besides those four. Writing and reading became huge issues which both directly impacted my grades. I could no longer take notes in class because it would take me up to an hour to write one letter. There wasn’t a specific way the letter had to be written, I was just never content with how I had written it. I would fail tests in every other subject because I wouldn’t be able to complete the essays and short answer questions. Whenever I was assigned a reading assignment I could not finish one line on a page because for every word, I had to say each letter out loud in my head then proceed to tell myself the definition of the word. This may not even seem so horrible but the thoughts would then transition into believing I didn’t say the letter the right way in my head, or I was pausing while telling myself the definitions.

I’ve nearly been into numerous car accidents due to OCD affecting how I drive. Everything I did, not just driving, had to be symmetric no matter what. I would touch something with my right hand and then proceed to touch it with my left. I’d shake someone’s hand then make up a lame excuse to shake their hand with my opposite hand. There are far more examples but I want to primarily focus on the driving. When driving down a certain road, the idea of symmetry would suddenly pop up in my mind. Therefore, my mind would tell me to drive across the double yellow line into the other lane. I would have to do it as soon as I was told which clearly would be an issue with incoming vehicles approaching. Anytime I saw a bum or crack in the road, or even the sidewalk, I would get the urge to run it over. If I had failed to do so, I would quickly turn my car around to do it. I noticed bumps or cracks on sidewalks and would sometimes drive onto the sidewalks just to run them over. It would take me hours just to go to a friend’s house or even school.

One of my most recent symptoms has been revolved around hurting or torturing animals and even insects. I know it’s irrational to believe that insects have complex brains and should be treated as humans or animals, but it doesn’t matter because my brain tells me this is how it is. I do landscaping for my father during summers which includes mulching and mowing lawns. Very often I would put mulch over an ant or a worm and would get tremendously distraught. Sometimes I would finish mulching a certain bed of soil then frantically dig through it in order to find the ant or worm I put it over. Rocks are commonly present in or on beds of soil which became another significant problem. Even though it’d be totally evident that it’s just a rock, I would firmly believe that I had just put soil over an animal and it was suffering. Mowing lawns was the same deal; I’d run over a bottle, piece of clothing, rock, etc., and my mind would tell me that I had just run over an animal. After finishing a lawn, I’d navigate the whole lawn to see if there was a suffering animal. The same issue occurs while I’m driving, so I am constantly turning around on every road I drive on just to see if I had indeed run over an animal.

Like I’ve previously stated, these are only a couple of symptoms out of the thousands that I have dealt with for the past six years. OCD is usually misconstrued as an adjective in which people use to describe their neat and clean tendencies. I’m sure there are plenty of people who deal with the same symptoms as I do and take great offense to how often the term “OCD” is tossed around. I’m not going to lie and say this has been a cake walk battling the OCD, but I also do not do this often: telling people my story or symptoms. I did not write this to expect sympathy; I wrote it to reach out to the thousands of children and adults who unfortunately must battle the same disease on a daily basis. I wrote this in order to help these intrepid and lionhearted people understand that they are not alone, that they are not freaks. People need to start speaking up as I just did in writing this essay so the world becomes better educated on the disease and will hopefully begin to show a little more empathy for it. This disease has tormented my life the past six years: ruining friendships, opening the door for drugs and causing too much emotional torture and anguish. I will continue fighting this mental battle because I know I’m strong enough and I know I have the support of family, friends and God; I will not let it commandeer my life. In conclusion, I’d like to reach out to the millions of people who struggle with OCD around the globe. This battle is one of the most distressful and hurtful experiences you’ll deal with in your lifetime. It will bring you to your knees, begging God or another higher power to take away the pain. You will debate with yourself whether or not you would like to continue living or not. In these times of discomfort and agony, consider this: defeating this plague will only make you stronger. God chooses his strongest soldiers to fight the biggest battles. Never give up because the world needs you and your perseverance. One day you’ll have full and utter control of the disease and will be able to help others who are just beginning the horrible journey. The people who are skeptical of our struggles and the disease itself are just blind to the capabilities and power of the human brain. Reach out and speak up about your disease because it will only help. Be strong and whether you believe in God or not, know there is some sort of higher power that has your back through it all.

Zach Liberatore
20 years old
Buffalo, NY

Zach can be found on Facebook and Twitter

Stigma Fighters: Chris Farber

My Secret Is Out: I Have OCD!

When I was young, a neighbor accused me of creating mischief on her property. She called the police. By the time they arrived, I was about five miles away. They tracked me down and brought me home. She filed charges, and we went to court. She lost. But next she threatened to kill me.

On that day, I did not leave my house. We shut all the windows and pulled down the shades. There was some fear she would really try to shoot me. The next day I moved in with my grandparents who lived about ten miles away. I stayed there for a while. My friends came to visit me there. It was summer, and we were off from school. I was twelve or thirteen and going through puberty at the time. I was a popular kid, but the whole experience changed me forever.

Not long after this encounter, I developed an irrational fear that I would cause bad things to happen to people. If I didn’t perform certain rituals, repeat certain movements or activities, there would be consequences. My family or friends would be hurt and suffer an unimaginable fate.

I washed my hands so much that my skin became chapped and bled.

The pressure was enormous. It became so difficult to sleep that to this day I am not sure I slept much during my high school years. I remember lying on my bed and counting the small holes in the ceiling tiles in my room. Every one of them. Every night. The counting took about two hours.

I believe I was successful hiding this behavior because I was so socially adept.  I became the president of my high school class. I had lots of friends and several girlfriends over a ten-year stretch. I did withdraw from something I loved and was good at – basketball. I am still not sure why, but I think my sickness had something to do with it.

College was like high school. I was popular and was rush chair and president of my fraternity. I kept my secret hidden within me and made it through each day.

Finally, one day I just couldn’t stand it anymore. I was exhausted and went to the library in my town. I looked up mental illness in Encyclopedia Britannica. I went many times. (Indeed, there is irony here, since this where my OCD helped me: I was obsessed with finding out what I had). I started taking out books and research on something called “obsessive compulsive disorder.”

Sometime in the early eighties, I self-diagnosed myself with this disorder. Ok, so I knew what I had, but it would take me another five years or so to get to a doctor who could help me.

I got married and kept my secret but still couldn’t sleep. I knew I needed a doctor. Finally, one day I broke down and told my wife, and we found a doctor to help me. I went through lots of therapy, and I learned some behavioral techniques. I next started on medication. I had some good results and I finally began to sleep. I was thirty years old.

♦◊♦

My hours of therapy took me on a journey through my past. It ended with the incident with our neighbor who had threatened to kill me. This episode happened while I was maturing as a young man. My doctor said that this was likely the event that triggered my OCD.  I still don’t even know her name, my neighbor, but I now know that I was accused of a crime by a woman who had her own mental problems. Years later I learned she was arrested for indecent exposure.

Now at the age of fifty-five, I can look back on a long and successful career. I have lived a good life. We have three great kids who are building their lives as well. We are trying to figure out what to do now that retirement is not far off.

But I still have a regret: I spent about twenty years of my life tormented and self-tortured by a demon so strong that I hid it from everyone around me. I so feared how others would treat me if they knew my problem that I buried it down further into the depths of my soul.

As these were my formative years, I wonder who I would have become had I faced my OCD earlier and received the help I desperately needed as a teen. I am sure I would be different. Not sleeping much for a couple of decades has to have a lasting effect.

♦◊♦

The point is that if you feel you are suffering from OCD, anxiety or depression or any other mental problem, please reach out for help. I believe that my doctor saved my life. There are many support groups, doctors, and promising medicines today. I understand how some of these disorders lead to bad endings and vices for many who are stricken with them.

But I now tell my story to anyone who has an interest.

It feels like a form of revenge for me.

I am getting back at the OCD; this is therapeutic.

In 2016, the world is more accepting and helpful. While there is still more work to be done, I am hopeful there will be a day where people open up to others with their problems. I pray for a society that accepts and rallies around those who feel the pain of mental disorder. This is the first step to the much-needed exposure of these conditions. The second step is to begin working on the cure for all of them.

My best,

Chris

8aa995c488d5f682a07f9cd768ae2c9fA Dad, Writer and Chief Marketing Officer I am known for being passionate, energetic, and networked. I have a proven track record of building high performing marketing and sales teams. I am described as a visionary thinker noted for boiling down complex strategies into executable goals.

On the personal side I love to write about my life experiences at home and work as well. I miss my beautiful and wonderful sister Karen Farber Swanson who I helped fight caner for a year before she passed on 4/30/2009, still feels like yesterday to us.

After a 30 year career I chronicle my job choices with the hope of teaching and influencing others. Particularly those just starting out on their journey.

Chris can be found on The Good Men Project. 

Stigma Fighters and The Good Men Project have partnered in joint call for mental health submissions. Read this post over at GMP here. 

SF

Stigma Fighters is an organization that is dedicated to raising awareness for the millions of people who are seemingly “regular” or “normal” but who are actually hiding the big secret: that they are living with mental illness and fighting hard to survive.

The more people who share their stories, the more light is shone on these invisible illnesses, and the more the stigma of living with mental illness is reduced.

For Stigma Fighters’ Founder Sarah Fader’s recent profile in The Washington Post that discusses how more and more people are “coming out” with their mental illness, see here.

GMP

The Good Men Project is the only international conversation about the changing roles of men in the 21st century.