I’ve fought my battles with mental health for years. I never really stepped back to take a look at what was going on because I never thought about having a mental health disorder, no matter how I felt, because it wasn’t something that people spoke about openly. I knew the symptoms for a flu, I knew the symptoms for bronchitis, I knew some of the things to look for to detect cancer, but I never knew the symptoms of a mental health disorder. I didn’t know what depression was, I didn’t know what anxiety was, I didn’t know what schizophrenia was, I didn’t know the honest symptoms of any mental illness. I knew the stereotypes surrounding them, and one specific stereotype would cause my mental illness to go untreated for years because I never sought after help.

When people spoke about Obsessive Compulsive Disorder they always associated it with having things organized. I specifically remember a girl in middle school who had dividers in her binders and someone made a comment about how organized it was. She responded with “yeah, I’m so OCD, I have to make sure my stuff isn’t a mess or I’l flip”. This one sentenced summarized what I believed Obsessive Compulsive Disorder was for years, so I didn’t know that at this time I was indeed struggling with OCD.

I have to chew my food three times on each side of my mouth, I have to take three sips of my drink, I have to say a specific prayer and list all of my family members in it saying exactly what I want to keep them safe from, I have to touch things a certain way, I have to repeat words and behaviors, I have to step over the cracks in the sidewalk and position my feet a certain way. These are just some of the symptoms I experience everyday and that I have experienced for a few years.

I had to conduct my own research because I knew my symptoms were specific. I knew it went beyond the General Anxiety Disorder that I was initially diagnosed with. I eventually sought after help for the specific symptoms that I was enduring. I was diagnosed with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and I started receiving treatment about a month ago. I was still afraid to speak about it because I didn’t have to take multiple showers a day and I didn’t have to make sure everything was symmetrical, so I didn’t think anyone would understand the symptoms I was experiencing because they didn’t associate them with OCD.

I wanted to speak about it though, and I wanted to educate people on the complexity of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. I did this by making my informative speech in Public Speaking class about Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. I then realized that as someone who advocates for the freedom to speak openly about mental health struggles without judgment, I needed to be open about mine. I wrote a Facebook post detailing the fact I’ve struggled for a while and talking about the fact that I was currently receiving treatment. A weight was lifted off of my shoulders because I no longer cared about what others thought of the fact I struggle with OCD and I knew that I could be helping someone else.

I still wonder what it must be like to no not have to calculate every bite and sip you take. I still wonder what it must be like to go to sleep at night and not have to say a prayer that lasts 20 minutes, otherwise you believe something bad might happen. I still wonder what it must be like to walk on a sidewalk or cracked pavement and not having to worrying about stepping over each crack strategically. I still wonder what it must be like to only use one pump of soap when washing your hands. I still wonder what it feels like to not have terrifying, morally repulsive thoughts go through your mind all day. I’m working on it though, and I’m going to improve if I try. One day I may be able to know what these things are like. I have to keep fighting for it.

I am a high school/early college student who will not succumb to the stereotypes and hardships that come with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.