I was half-way through junior year in high-school when I finally decided I wanted to go to therapy. Since 8th grade I faced a lot of ups and downs. I was diagnosed with depression, anxiety, and OCD.
I had already tried a few medicines, some of them made me fall asleep in class. I felt no different with any of them. I stopped the antidepressants and went to therapy. My mom went with me the first few times because I was too anxious to go alone. She would sit in the waiting room and I would go back with my therapist. I used to feel like a pain to my therapist. I felt like nothing I was upset about was significant and that I was over-dramatic and weak. This wasn’t my therapists fault, it was me being hard on myself. I hated telling others how I felt because it made me feel guilty. I knew there was someone going through something worse somewhere else.
The first time I had to go alone I was overwhelmed with anxiety, it was all I could think about all day. I had to drive to this place alone. I hated driving.
My therapist gave me exercises to help me when I felt anxious. Some were as simple as washing your hands with cold water. Some were changing the way you looked at things, so think of the worst thing that could happen. It made me realize that the worst thing that could happen in most situations was silly and wouldn’t have an effect on my life. A big one for me was noticing my surroundings. I would take in my five senses, what I feel, what I hear, what I smell, what I see, and what I taste. It’s supposed to bring you back to the now, and it usually did. She knew I always thought poorly of myself so she asked me to start writing things down when I felt like I was being annoying or whatever it was. I was to write it down and explain why I felt that way. It made me realize that I was being silly, I was human, not annoying. I just overthought every single thing I said.
I have always had this desire to be perfect. By perfect I mean always organized: my room, my car, and my desk. I need to always be on time, go to the gym, and eat healthy. If my room wasn’t clean I would feel super stressed. I still do, I still am hard on myself. But I thrive on a certain amount of stress. I enjoy cleaning, that’s part of my OCD. It’s a stress reliever. I still feel like I need to be good enough, mostly for my family. I don’t know why, maybe because I’m the youngest. I’m also a huge introvert so I always felt like I couldn’t make friends because I wasn’t good enough. That’s false. I grew up being the youngest by quite a few years. I knew how to socialize with older people better than people my age. I’m still that way. I used limit myself in school, but once you got me out of school I was this goof ball. I can still make improvements and not be so hard on myself, but it’s a process. I will never be perfect but I can always improve myself. I can’t be hard on myself when I fail, I’m human, sometimes we fail.
I remember going to get my parking pass from school with my mom and the lady who handed them out could sometimes be rude. I was so anxious, then I thought, “What’s the worst that could happen?” Nothing significant. I also took in my surroundings. I realized that I shouldn’t let the possibility of one person being rude ruin my beach trip with my mom. So that was that.
I used to sit in my bathroom and cry. I did that a lot. I would cry over something as little as an argument with my dad. I would hyperventilate and feel hopeless and alone. The last time I did that was January of this year. That doesn’t mean I haven’t cried, I have still have days where I can’t seem to stop crying. I still feel hopeless sometimes, but I have an amazing support system and more importantly I have practices that help calm me down.
Now, it wasn’t easy to get rid of these anxious habits and thoughts. I’ve been going to therapy for close to two years. Yesterday we decided to cut back on my appointments and hopefully stop them. Two years ago I used to cry at nearly every appointment. Just a month ago I told her about how my dad died in the hospital and received CPR. He’s okay now, but I just told her about it casually. I didn’t feel anxious or cry when I told her, but if this happened a year or two ago, I’d probably be self-destructing. I used to tell her about all these things that would bother me, upset me, and what caused me stress. With my recent appointments I found it hard to find something to tell her. It’s not like my life isn’t eventful, it’s that I don’t see it in a negative way. I see it as life, it is what it is, and things happen.
But this doesn’t mean I don’t self-destruct. Hangry me self-destructs. I do get in moods. I do get anxious nearly everyday. I get in funks and I want to cry sometimes. My OCD always lingers, some habits I still carry and I don’t even notice it. Sometimes, during an extra stressful day my OCD will flare up and I can’t get comfortable with anything. But that’s me. I appreciate the fact that I have OCD and anxiety. It allows me to relate to people. Some days I feel so dirty, and most days I hate touching visibly dirty things, but I am able to look past it and do what I need to do. My OCD is not extreme, but it was a disturbance in my life. It used to disrupt my sleep. I used to go to bed at 9 and still be awake at 11 because I had to keep preforming my rituals.
I also have insomnia. That can have a big affect on our moods during the day, but we have to find a way to push through or work with it.
In my opinion, my biggest accomplishment was when I went to Firefly. A crowd swarmed around us for Lil Wayne. They all came suddenly, and my anxiety was so bad I wanted to cry. But I didn’t cry and we kept our spot because we already waited 5 hours and we had to wait 7 more to see Eminem, and that might’ve been my only opportunity to see Eminem preform and especially being that close to the stage. I wasn’t going to let other people ruin that for me, so when the music started I just had fun.
My point of this post isn’t to rub it in about how fortunate I am to have made progress and to have found such an amazing therapist, but my goal is to inspire others to get help, too. I am on an antidepressant and I am in therapy. I am not ashamed whatsoever. I made big improvements and I now live a mostly positive and happy life. No one should ever be ashamed of getting help. I got help and it changed my life.
Getting help may seem so terrifying, a lot of people seem to think that the therapist doesn’t care to hear our problems, but then why would they be in the field that they are? If they didn’t want to make a difference in your life than they wouldn’t be a therapist. Psychologists have an understanding of mental illness that most of us don’t. They understand the effects mental illnesses can have on our life but they also understand ways to break our unhealthy habits. Having a mental illness is not our fault. We are human, we are not perfect because we’re not meant to be perfect. If we were, what would our purpose in life be? How would we teach our kids that these challenges in life are what make us stronger and more passionate.
I know none of my friends knew I had OCD, I often felt judged when my anxiety started peeking through and I would get upset over anything, I once spent lunch crying in the bathroom. Mental illnesses can suck. But we don’t have to do this alone.
If you or someone else is struggling, please, get help. It’s nothing to be ashamed of, it’s actually brave. There are some things we can’t fight alone, and mental illness is something we shouldn’t have to fight alone. Not everyone in the world wants to see you fail.
We have so much potential beyond our mental illnesses.
Mental illness is more common than we think. I’m actually surprised when I meet someone who doesn’t have anxiety.
If you need help finding a place for you or someone you know, feel free to email me.
You are not alone.