Living With OCD: Mental Health Awareness Month

I have been fighting in this war with my mind since my youth. 

Oftentimes, I hear people say “I’m so OCD about that,” but they do not realize that obsessive compulsive disorder is more than being a “neat freak.” I check off almost every box for the stereotypical symptoms of OCD. 

The OCD part of my anxiety has been present in my life from a young age. There are home videos of me at the ripe age of four unwrapping Christmas presents, lining them up and throwing away each scrap of wrapping paper after each present was opened. I always saw myself as being organized and just labeled it as a personality trait or a personal preference.

What I did not realize was that other seven-year olds’ brains were not telling them that if they did not do a certain thing then something bad would happen, but my seven-year-old brain was telling me just that. I thought I was paranoid, and I thought this was normal. None of it was normal.

I have been biting the skin off the sides of my fingers since middle school. My anxiety does not care that this is bad for me, and I often cannot control the fact that I do this. It’s become a subconscious habit of mine — one that I’ve tried to break using countless methods, but I have never found a way to stop myself. 

In eighth grade, my grades started slipping, which was entirely out of character for me. At the time, I was a two-year strong honor roll student and this was devastating for me. I found it difficult to raise my hand in class or to ask for help, and I would panic during exams. This had slowly been lurking in and creeping up on me for years, but little did I know it would wind up taking me from a straight A student down to a C+ student. I nearly failed my English class, which was an absurdity to myself and everyone around me, considering English had always been my strongest subject. I wasn’t doing poorly in school because I was lazy or  wasn’t capable of making good marks — but because I was a ball of anxiety rolling from one class to the next, living every moment in my head instead of in the real world. 

I’ve always considered myself to be a “bad test taker” when in reality, I just have severe anxiety during exams no matter how hard I studied. I cried and had a meltdown during my ninth grade biology regents exam simply because there were 80 questions and an hour and a half to get through them all. I feared I wouldn’t finish in time. In the end, I completed the exam in time, passed it and was placed in honors earth science the following year. 

In high school, I began to come out of my shell a bit more. I had been making friends, doing musicals and getting invited to all sorts of events. Looking back on it, I might’ve peaked during my senior year. I left behind friends that were not treating me right and grew closer to the ones who truly cared and had my best interest in mind. 

Now that I am in college, I find that I have crawled back into my shell. Although I participate in several clubs on campus, keep in touch with loved ones from home and have made some true friends, I still feel that I am missing something. My anxiety has crept back in on me again, and I now find it hard to speak up for myself. I feel as though I’m in eighth grade all over again. 

Since being in college, I have become more content with doing everyday things entirely alone, but it gets lonely and I get in my head. I start to freak out over things that I should not be concerned about, such as my grades. My parents have never been the type to put unnecessary amounts of pressure on me. They always tell me to try my best, and they are always proud of me, but I put myself under so much unnecessary pressure.

Today, I find myself having similar issues. I have figured out how to live with anxiety, but I am still at constant war with my mind and with my thoughts.

Now, I meet with a therapist via my computer screen every Wednesday morning. It’s been a long journey to find a therapist that meshes well with me. I’ve had a couple of therapists in recent years that were absolute perfect matches for me, but they either wound up leaving the practice or stopped taking my insurance. I’m still on the bumpy road to finding a good, long lasting fit for a therapist. It’s taken its toll on me, because I want to relieve my anxiety so desperately. 

My parents have always done what’s best for me, especially when it comes to my mental health. I see a therapist and a psychiatrist to help me find better ways to cope than picking my skin. It is therapeutic for me to write my feelings down, and during this month of awareness, I feel it is important to share my experiences. 

I look at how far I’ve come, and it sets in that there was a time when I didn’t know how to explain my anxiety in the right words. It’s still something I struggle with, but I’ve grown since then. There are countless ways to try and manage anxiety, such as meditation, therapy, medicine, yoga and so much more. I’ve tried several things to make my everyday life easier, and I’m still figuring it all out.