I have one of the top ten most debilitating disorders of all time.
Yep. You read that right. OfAllTime
Thanks, World Health Organization, for giving an ounce of credit to just how truly exhausting it is to live with OCD.
As media perpetuates stereotypes of mental illness that just aren’t accurate, I feel like I need to lay out some disclaimers.
Just as every person with autism isn’t like Rain Man, and every person with Schizophrenia isn’t like A Beautiful Mind, I feel an urgency to clarify.
I am diagnosed with anxiety, c-PTSD, major depressive disorder, and–most recently–OCD.
But my day isn’t made harder by having to count my steps or clean each surface in my home three times a day.
My OCD doesn’t look like washing my hands or flipping light switches.
But I am exhausted in ways I can barely describe in human words because it feels like my brain is fighting itself…always.
I’m so tired from just surviving.
From fighting what I KNOW are irrational thoughts,
From being convinced the worst will happen,
From feeling like I have to be with my
husband and kids constantly or they will most certainly die,
From knowing if I get a B on a grad school assignment, it is proof I’ll fail the entire program,
From convincing myself that something I did or didn’t do well enough today could absolutely ruin my children or somehow put them in danger,
From picturing every gorey detail of how my husband is definitely dead in a ditch somewhere if he is five minutes late or forgot to text me when he made it to work.
These ongoing intrusive thoughts are often intense and graphic.
They don’t stop even with meds, they just become more manageable. And finding meds that work can take MONTHS.
Actual whole months of feeling completely and utterly out of control of your body, thoughts, feelings, and emotions.
People like me are everywhere–there are over 2.6 million of us in the US alone–but many of us hide it well.
See, when you partner mental health diagnoses like severe anxiety with OCD it doesn’t LOOK like illness.
But I am not well, friends.
People see my color-coded calendars and organized, hand-labeled household and assume I have it all together.
“You’re always on time.”
“You turn everything in early.”
“Your house is always spotless.”
“How do you find time to take care of everyone else?”
It’s easy, friends.
In my mind, I don’t have an alternative option.
If it isn’t perfect, my brain starts telling me people will get hurt, lives will be lost, careers will be devastated, and the future for those I love will be demolished…
And it all comes back to me.
If I don’t say I love you literally every single time I think of it, what if it is the last time I have the opportunity?
If I don’t send someone a card to cheer them, what if they were contemplating hurting themselves and I should’ve saved them?
My mind is a constant reel of what-if’s.
I have to constantly check emails or respond to messages.
I save voicemails of people I love in case it’s the last time I’ll ever hear their voice.
And there are some seasons where I can barely make it from one day to the next.
Where basic hygiene or deciding what to make for dinner (AGAIN) feels like the absolute end of the world.
This is what living with OCD can look like.
I don’t have facial tics.
I don’t pick at my hair or my skin.
I’m not afraid of germs.
But my depression doesn’t keep me in bed for days or make it impossible for me to function either and yet it’s no less a part of my life,
Every. Single. Day.
So, friends, I’m begging you.
Please be gentle with those around you.
Everyone has something they are balancing that is hard.
Your hard might not look like mine, but it doesn’t make it any easier to carry.
Do your research.
Don’t believe mental health media.
Advocate for yourself and the wellness of those you love.
And check on your “put together” friends.
Because some of us are hoarding unimaginable feelings buried so deeply in closets behind everyone else’s needs that even recognizing we need support feels completely foreign.
So don’t ask what we need.
Because we won’t tell you.
Just be kind.
And show up.
And keep being there.
We need you.
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