6 months ago I was completely lost, desperately searching the internet for something like this, a glimmer of hope in a time where everything around me was darkness. From the outside, everything in my life looked perfect. I was in grad school pursuing a job that I absolutely love, I had an amazing circle of friends and a supportive family, and I had just finished up my very first clinical which had given my life a whole new meaning. But underneath it all, I had so many scars that were just waiting to come to the surface.
For those of you who don't know what OCD feels like -remember that nightmare that felt so incredibly real that you woke up sweating and panicking and it took ages for you to realize that it was just a dream? Well, that's pretty close to what living with OCD feels like, except you never wake up and the nightmare never ends. It starts so innocently -being a bit overcautious with washing your hands, avoiding overcrowded places, keeping your place a little too neat, checking your lock a couple extra times just to make sure its locked (I mean a single girl can't be too careful, right) -until before you realize it, what you thought were quirks have become obsessions and your life has been reduced to a never ending ritual. Before you know it, your ever racing thoughts block out everything else in your life -you isolate yourself from the people you love, you start lying about what you were doing because you don't want anyone to judge you, you start to lose focus on the things that used to matter most to you, you start to have to make excuses for the physical signs of those countless rituals, and you lose your faith, your sanity, and worst of all yourself. I was completely and utterly terrified all of the time and it got to the point were just going to class seemed like an insurmountable task. I felt like everything that I was and everything that I had worked so hard for was slipping through my fingers -and there was nothing that I could do to stop it. And trust me, it's not something that you can just "snap out of" as some people in my life so eloquently put it. Not even the most self loathing of people would choose this living hell for themselves - OCD is a more powerful and controlling abuser than you could ever imagine.
Don't worry -I haven't forgotten about that hope part! Four months ago I made the hardest and smartest decision of my life: accepting the fact that I needed help. And boy was it hard: I didn't want the stigma, I didn't want to accept the fact that I couldn't do this on my own, I didn't even want to think about going on a medication (I'm the girl who won't even take Tylenol), and I didn't want to put a label to what I was going through. But as soon as I took that first step, I gained someone who was willing to stand and fight beside me every step of the way. She was able to help me understand what was happening in my body and provide and connect me with the resources that I needed. I won't lie to you -it's a long and difficult road to recovery. I went through hell my first two months of treatment, but one day you'll wake up and realize that you feel a little bit better than you did the day before. And eventually you'll find yourself being amazed at the experiences that are no longer too much for you to handle. It is an incredible journey of simple "firsts" that mean more than anyone else will ever be able to understand, because you know how it feels to have them all taken away.
If you're reading this and thinking that my story sounds like yours, know that you are not alone, none of this is your fault, you have the bravery and strength inside of you to make it through this, and YOU ARE WORTH FIGHTING FOR. And don't be afraid to open up about what you are going through to those closest to you. You certainly don't need to tell everyone if you aren't ready, but it helps more than you can imagine to have the family or friends that you chose to confide in by your side. And as for me, well, I'm coming out of the shadows. I have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder - and if I ever want to reach a place of self love and acceptance, then I need to own every aspect of myself. OCD is and will always be a part of who I am (I have the scars to prove it), but it is no longer the one with the power in this relationship. I am.