Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, or OCD, is not about being super neat or double checking if the oven is turned off. It's much more than that, and it can take over your life.
OCD became debilitating my freshman year of college, and I had no idea I was even suffering from it. My previous perception of OCD was someone who kept their apartment spotless and locked the door a couple of times before heading off to bed. I was misinformed and unable to comprehend what was happening to me as a result of it. Yes, there are those who suffer from OCD who fear germ contamination or obsessively want things to be in a specific order, appearing organized. However, OCD can mean a number of other things, such as excessive focus on religious or moral ideas, obsessive attention to superstitions, fear of losing control, fear of the loss of loved ones and their safety, as well as intrusive, unwanted sexual or violent thoughts. All these obsessions range into different aspects of life, but all can be extremely debilitating to the individual with OCD.
My freshman year of college was my rock bottom. The anxiety I experienced felt never-ending, and it tired me to the point of exhaustion. I was scared and depressed and avoided leaving my dorm whenever possible. Most of all, I felt like I would never be the person I was before OCD. I was a happy person, someone who was excited to start the new day with hopes and dreams. My mental illness took that spark out of me, and I felt like a stranger to even myself. I was scared that I would be like this for the rest of my life.
Thankfully, I got the help I needed through special behavioral counseling and learned that avoidance only strengthens the anxiety that OCD held against me. I had decided that enough was enough and that it was time to take action to help myself. It was one of the scariest things I have ever done, but facing my fears helped me get my life back. I took baby steps, and every day was a new challenge for me. At first, it was hard to face my fears and accept that the scary things I obsessed over were out of my control. But eventually, the anxiety decreased, and I wasn't really afraid anymore.
Even though I am in a much better place in my life than I was freshman year, OCD is something I will deal with for the rest of my life. I tend to have new fears once I get over another fear, and choosing to stop avoiding the fear is something that never gets easier—but once I do it, I am able to overcome it little by little.
Some days are better than others, but I'm myself again—and for that, I'm grateful.