My Disorders Don't Define Me, They Made Me

My Disorders Don't Define Me, They Made Me

You are more than a medical diagnosis.

Since I was little I can remember getting that tightening feeling in my chest and could instantly feel my heart race faster and faster when my parents wouldn't pick up the phone right away or when I couldn't find my mom in the grocery store in less than a minute or if something was out of place in my house I would stare at it and let myself get nauseous until it was fixed. Car rides became excruciating because of all the possibilities for accidents or poor weather conditions and news updates sent horrific images into my mind, family trips in crowded areas were unbearable at the thought of losing my parents and never being able to be reunited, and messes at school made me cringe.

I didn't know what any of this meant or what it could be until I got older. I didn't know as a young girl what anxiety or OCD meant or how they affected me. Why it bothered me so much when my crayons weren't in color order or why I would lose my breath and start to shake and cry when my parents would't be home by the exact time they had told me. The kids in my class would stare at me when I kept messing up my notes so I would have to smash up the paper and re start over and over and over until my handwriting was perfect and every important fact or term was color-coordinated.

My parents would laugh at me when my morning routine would get thrown off and I would break down in hysterics because I am so incredibly regimented. My mind is an itinerary and cannot function out of order, my body will shut down. You don't grow up knowing you have a disorder and you almost don't want to know. There is a hidden stigma associated with each psychological disorder. When most people I've encountered hear "anxiety" or "OCD" they tilt their heads in an odd way and start to analyze me from head to toe. "But you always look so happy and put together?" is a common question my friends would ask. But very few would see me start to tear or hear my heart thud when I would look at my agenda. If I saw more than a few assignments scribbled I would suddenly start to picture the rest of my entire educational career and life. I would start to question every single aspect of my life and worry about events and situations that could never possibly happen or wouldn't be occurring for years. "How many friends will I still have in a few years?" "The world is falling apart how am I going to fix it?" "Who is going to win the election, how will the U.S. change, what if there's another war?" "I'm scared to die. What happens when you die? Will I feel pain?" A simple task at hand could make my brain explode into a journey of unsolved problems and issues that would tear my mind apart and make me drive myself insane. The heart palpitations would kick in and the paralyzing fear of the most absurd unrealistic scenarios could make me ball my eyes out.

I'm thankful to have such supportive family and friends who have helped me learn how to cope with my anxiety and OCD whenever I really start to lose myself. I've learned to take a step back and ask myself if what I am losing my breath over is realistic enough to be so entirely scared of. How to calm my heart palpitations and not cry over having a lot on my plate, but instead making lists and crossing off each task one at time. How not to assume the worst and have a panic attack about dropping out of college and changing my major because I did poorly on one single exam. How to avoid making myself lose sleep over what the world is going to be like in 10 years and how that might affect my decision to get married or have kids. Most importantly, I have learned how to take a step back from life sometimes and focus on little things that make me happy so I can replace the panic and fear and anxiety with a positive activity that I enjoy and can see the good things within. Painting canvases, writing for the Odyssey, working out, going to the beach and just listening to the waves all can take me to an alternate reality where anxiety can't take a hold of me, but I can take a hold of myself. In the grand scheme of life I like to believe that each one of us has a purpose here on Earth and that each battle we face or obstacle placed in our life is a part of that purpose. So I do not let my disorders define me and let them engulf me in their negativity, but I learned how to let them mold me into a better human being who can slowly learn to enjoy life and not worry about the next hour of the next day of the next year of the next lifetime. No, I do not let my disorders define me because there is more to life than days spent panicking or hours of re-organizing and re-writing 3 or 4 times over. There is a life full of opportunities and success for each and every one of us that we cannot let a disorder hold us back from all of the greatness we've yet to experience. So go out there and show the world what a girl with anxiety and slight OCD can do, because she's pretty awesome if you ask me.

A verse that has helped me through it all:

Matthew 6:34

"Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own."

Cover Image Credit: Katie Crawford Photo Series

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5 Perks Of Having A Long-Distance Best Friend

The best kind of long-distance relationship.

Sometimes, people get annoyed when girls refer to multiple people as their "best friend," but they don't understand. We have different types of best friends. There's the going out together best friend, the see each other everyday best friend and the constant, low maintenance best friend.

While I'm lucky enough to have two out of the three at the same school as me, my "low maintenance" best friend goes to college six hours from Baton Rouge.

This type of friend is special because no matter how long you go without talking or seeing each other, you're always insanely close. Even though I miss her daily, having a long-distance best friend has its perks. Here are just a few of them...

1. Getting to see each other is a special event.

Sometimes when you see someone all the time, you take that person and their friendship for granted. When you don't get to see one of your favorite people very often, the times when you're together are truly appreciated.

2. You always have someone to give unbiased advice.

This person knows you best, but they probably don't know the people you're telling them about, so they can give you better advice than anyone else.

3. You always have someone to text and FaceTime.

While there may be hundreds of miles between you, they're also just a phone call away. You know they'll always be there for you even when they can't physically be there.

4. You can plan fun trips to visit each other.

When you can visit each other, you get to meet the people you've heard so much about and experience all the places they love. You get to have your own college experience and, sometimes, theirs, too.

5. You know they will always be a part of your life.

If you can survive going to school in different states, you've both proven that your friendship will last forever. You both care enough to make time for the other in the midst of exams, social events, and homework.

The long-distance best friend is a forever friend. While I wish I could see mine more, I wouldn't trade her for anything.

Cover Image Credit: Just For Laughs-Chicago

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Poetry On Odyssey: Some Days

A poem that reminds you that you're not alone.


Some days,

You dread the sound of your alarm. You snooze and snooze and snooze and snooze.

When you finally pull yourself out of bed, pressed time forces you to throw on stained sweats

you find yourself chugging a cup of coffee.

You sit on the couch and contemplate calling out of work

You caught the stomach bug,

Or perhaps the flu,

Maybe you broke your collar bone

Or need a new phone

The endless list of excuses repeats through your head as you sit on the couch, wishing you were still in bed.

It takes every ounce

Every breath

Every fiber of your being to pull yourself off the couch

And into the car

And into the building where you work

Some days,

This is just how it goes

You are not alone.

Some days,

You awake to the beautiful sound of birds

Chirping outside your window

The sun sneaks its way into your room

A smile creeps across your face as you realize you are awake to see a new day

You make a good breakfast

You read a few pages of your favorite book

You get your mind ready for the things it will accomplish today

Before you know it you've worked an entire day

Your job is done

As you pull into your driveway,

you take a few breaths

Feeling grateful for another meaningful day.

Some days,

This is how it goes

You are not alone.

Every day is a gamble,

Every day is a gift

The key to getting more good days

Is believing that everyday is one.

You are not alone, this is just how it goes.

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