Fear is universal; sometimes it’s helpful, and sometimes it can become all-encompassing. I may have felt an excess of fear since a young age, but once my OCD hit me at full force, fear became one of the only things I felt for quite a few years. It’s an emotion that can feel completely overwhelming and impossible to fight. But what I’ve learn over the years of battling this illness is that I truly am bigger than those fears.
We all feel it, we all battle it, and sometimes we need a little reminder that we can get back up, we can be our own superheros.
To honor this human strength, and everything that this community has done for me and others, I decided to design another shirt to fund raise on behalf of the International OCD Foundation. All profits from shirts sold will go to this incredible organization that works to lift up the OCD and mental health community, educate, and spread awareness, through amazing events and conferences.
If you have the time and the desire, I would love for you to take a look at my fundraising page at https://www.bonfire.com/i-am-stronger-than-my-fears/
Tomorrow is the start of OCD Awareness Week, and this year the International OCD Foundation is organizing a social media campaign called #FaceYourFear. It is a wonderful opportunity for us all to share our stories, support each other, and fight the stigmas surrounding OCD, Anxiety, and just fear in general. We are all more than our mental illnesses, and we are all bigger than our fears, even though it often may not feel that way.
Those of us living with OCD and Anxiety have to face our fears on a daily basis, in many ways that the general public may not see or understand. I want to encourage myself and our whole community to welcome others into a discussion on what our fears mean to us, and how we face them every single day. I think this exercise will not only help us educate others, but will be beneficial to us as well. For me at least, I feel that I have become so used to being scared, that I no longer always realize and all of my little feats throughout the day. So share even the smallest of things! Recognize your strength for getting out of bed, for skipping a hand wash, for getting out of the house!
And because it is OCD Awareness Week, I want to reshare the link to the shirts I designed to benefit the IOCDF and all of the hard work they do for our community. I designed these shirts specifically to remind myself that I am more than my OCD, and I am bigger than my fears.
I recently had the honor of speaking with Bobby Temps about Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, on his podcast, Mental – The Podcast to Destigmatise Mental Health. If you haven’t explored this podcast yet, it is absolutely amazing, and definitely worth a listen. Bobby and his team are creating a very crucial platform for the discussion of mental health, delving into the subjects that we all really need to talk about more. It was so wonderful getting to share some of my story with such an insightful person!
If you would like to take a listen to some of their episodes, follow this link: https://www.mentalpodcast.co.uk
If you would like to take a listen to my talk with Bobby, follow this link: https://www.stitcher.com/podcast/mental-the-podcast-to-destigmatise-mental-health/e/60256661
Note: If you struggle with Depression or OCD, this post may be triggering.
It’s 2019. This was the year I was supposed to graduate from veterinary school. This was supposed to be my year, my big year.
But it feels far from it. Instead of getting ready to make all of my dreams and hard work come true, I am a 25 year old sitting alone at home, afraid to move. Paralyzed by the weight on my chest that loss, anxiety, depression and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder have placed there.
My boyfriend left for vacation the day after Christmas. And instead of enjoying our last few hours together in those dwindling days of holiday magic before Christmas is truly over, we spent the day hunkering down, preparing for battle, stocking up my bunker. Yet the only battle that was coming my way was the one in my mind. The one that had me questioning whether I was going to survive the next week on my own.
The day he left I stood and watched my boyfriend prepare a stockpile of food, dishes, soap, toothpaste, everything I could need; planning paths to make sure I could get to the kitchen, the bathroom, the bed. He even measured out the cats’ meals into baggies in case while he was gone it got to the point that I couldn’t even manage that. And as I watched this, a sort of numbness washed over me. How has this become our normal?
It’s been a few days since he left, and I’m doing alright, actually better than I could have imagined. But still, I stand in my fully stocked kitchen in my brand new beautiful house that has everything I could possibly need… and all I see is a battlefield.
Yesterday I looked in the mirror, and what I saw absolutely terrified me, so much so that I began to panic. No matter how hard I tried, I could not see someone that I recognized. I tried to smile, and I don’t think I can describe the feeling of complete emptiness mixed with shock that ran through my body. That was not my smile, the one I’ve seen in pictures. I tried again and again, each time a little differently, each one feeling so wrong on my face. And as each one looked less and less familiar I began to frantically try to find some expression that I could recognize. But I couldn’t. They all just looked like masks. And I broke down. Because your smile is supposed to be muscle memory. But I forgot mine.
I walked out of the bathroom and looked at my bunker in the middle of my battlefield and I decided that I’m going to be brave, and I’m going to fight my way out of this. I think that terrifying moment of realization in the mirror was what I needed. Because I don’t want my partner to have to prepare me for battle whenever he leaves. And I don’t want my family to be terrified knowing I’m alone, afraid that their phone will ring because I couldn’t do it. I don’t want to spend my days in a bunker, hiding from life.
So it’s 2019, and sure, I was supposed to be getting a DVM at the end of my name, that was the dream, that was the plan. That’s not how it went. But I’m starting to think that that’s okay. Because I think it dawned on me today that for the first time in about a year, I am ready to fight again. I’m terrified, but I think I’m ready.
It’s 2019. And I’m ready to breathe again; breathe without feeling like my chest is struggling against some invisible weight, never able to draw in enough air.
It’s 2019. And I’m ready to find my smile again. To actually feel it on my whole face, through my whole body.
It’s 2019. And I’m ready to be a partner. To be a sister. A friend. A cousin. I am ready to exist.
It’s 2019. This was supposed to be my year. So I am going to make it my year.
Hi all, I’ve designed a t-shirt for an OCD Awareness Fundraiser, and I will be sending all profits to IOCDF. The shirt is available in six different designs!
My name is Natalie, this is my blog. I am someone who has OCD. While I try not to let this illness define who I am, it does define my fight, and my fight defines who I will become. My illness is something I struggle to understand and something I am trying not to hide anymore, because I don’t want to hide myself anymore.
When I first started this blog it was my gut decision to make it anonymous and I never questioned that until recently. The purpose of this blog was primarily to give myself a voice while living with a mental illness that seems to take it away from me at every step. It was also to help me communicate with my family about something so very confusing and difficult to understand. And to maybe drown out some of the many harmful and pervading misrepresentations of OCD in our society. This blog is deeply personal and contains aspects of my life that have taken me a long time to accept about myself, so of course I would want to remain anonymous. However I recently asked myself why? Why do I hesitate to put my name on this, why do I hesitate to share this with friends while I am okay sharing it anonymously with strangers? And my answer to these made me begin to question my reasoning behind my anonymity. Was I hesitant to put my name on a bluntly difficult and honest blog about mental health, or was I hesitant to put my name to OCD – to a person who, like many others, struggles daily with their mental health. The latter possibility made me nervous, because if that is true, then I am hesitant to put my name to me. So I have decided to take a step out from behind this curtain I have created for myself, and try at least, to begin accepting who I am now.
Since I was diagnosed in 2016, I have only told those directly around me about my OCD. With old friends I remained vague, only sharing enough for them to know that I had been having a hard time, but not enough for them to ask any questions about this illness I knew little to nothing about. But with those friends I noticed a wall had gone up between us, and I had convinced myself that that wall was my OCD, when in fact it was me. It was me not accepting my new reality. It was me trying to hold on to the past; by being vague with my friends it gave me a window to be vague with myself, pretend for a little while that I was the old me. All that did was hold me back from moving forward with my recovery. And all this time I have felt divided, angry at myself for not being who I was and angry at myself for not being able to figure out who I am now. But as I have been slowly chipping away at that wall and sharing my new reality with more people, I have noticed that I feel a little less angry with myself.
Hiding behind that wall convinced me that I have something to be ashamed of, that I am something to be hidden. Perhaps it happened the other way around, I was ashamed therefore I hid. Either way, continuing to hide behind vague “I’m fine” answers has further ingrained these feelings of shame and isolation. I couldn’t accept myself, couldn’t accept that I was worth it, that I was still me, and that my emotions were valid. And I projected those feelings of rejection onto those around me. Our society as a whole is not very accepting or welcoming to the discussion of mental illness, making sufferers feel unacceptable and unwelcomed. But that doesn’t mean that we have to be unaccepting, or that our society should remain that way. I want to help change that. And the first step in doing so is to accept who I am; be proud of my fight instead of ashamed of my mental illness.
Humans are afraid of what they don’t understand, afraid of different. It’s a harmful trait, maybe inherent but certainly not permanent. I felt ashamed to have a mind that worked differently so I tried for a long time to separate myself from OCD, from the thing that made me different. In doing so I separated myself from everyone I cared about because I wouldn’t let them see the real me. But there was the answer to my question; I was hesitant to put my name to OCD, I was hesitant to put my name to me.
So I am fighting to be proud. I am fighting to put my name on my triumphs and my failures, and be proud of both. By putting my name on my blog I am fighting to put my name back on to me. In doing so I hope that some people who might be needing it will hear my voice and know that they have one too, and that it is valid; that they are not alone when they feel unwelcomed in the world or in their own minds.
Putting my name on this blog is one of the scariest things I could think of doing. That is why I am doing it.
“OCD has a mortality rate. It depends on the day and if she can battle it.” – My Sister
Suicide is not something we as a society like to talk about. But it’s crucial that we remove this stigma surrounding mental health and death. So, if at the very least, those of us who are dealing with it on a daily basis, and those that must support us through it, don’t have to do it by ourselves anymore. Feeling like you have to keep such a huge part of yourself hidden from the world, it makes you feel like you have something to be ashamed of.
But this is a huge part of who I am today, and if I can’t share it with those I am close to, then they can’t really know me. So here it is. I have, and probably always will have, suicidal thoughts. This is something that I am still coming to terms with, something that I have been ashamed of. It took me a long time to admit to myself that I could even think about thinking about giving up something that so many people who love me have worked so hard to provide me with. Life. And even writing this, I couldn’t write that “I am suicidal”, it’s not something that I can identify with. But I have come to realize that feeling this way does not mean that I am not grateful for the life I have been given. I am thankful for my family and my friends, and the opportunities I have been given in life. I try to remind myself every night to be thankful for these things. And even at my worst moments, I would never want to lose these people or this life. But that’s the thing that mental illness, and OCD, does to you. It convinces you that everything would be easier if you just gave up. And that may be true. But “easy” doesn’t make you who you are. It doesn’t help you grow. Working through the hard and scary is what has made me who I am. And it is what will make me into a person that I can be proud of again, no matter where I end up in life.
Until I can show and communicate who I am today, I will feel disconnected to at least some extent from those around me. Even those that I have known my entire life. I don’t want to isolate myself anymore. I am tired of feeling so alone when I’m surrounded by people.
You don’t have to be alone with this. Please don’t be alone with this. We need to make space in this world for people to talk.