Saturday, January 28, 2017

Coming Clean

Hey guys! I hope that you are all doing well. Buckle up, this one is going to be a bit more serious than my other posts. What I'm going to be talking about today is not an easy thing to put out there but I've decided that now would be a good time to do so. So today we are going to talk about why I decided to finally seek therapy a few months ago.

I've always been really transparent about my struggle with anxiety and depression in the past. That has been a part of my life since my early teens so it's nothing new to me when it pops up. It turns out, however, that I was in denial for a long time about my Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Yup, it turns out I have OCD and while it was apparently pretty manageable earlier in my life, it has become more troublesome and has disrupted my life a lot in the past few years. Over the past year is when I really started to figure out that it is actually a big problem for me and that I was no longer living my life and I decided that I needed help.

So for those of you that don't know what OCD is I'll attempt to tell you a little about it in general. Then I'll give you an idea of what my specific version of this disorder is. OCD is a mental health disorder where you have obsessions and compulsions. The obsession is a thought that occurs over and over and that the person finds disturbing or distressing. The thought causes overwhelming fear, anxiety, dread and can be completely consuming. The compulsion is the action that you take to in order to combat the obsessive thought and to make the obsession and the anxiety go away. There are a lot of different categories of obsessions and compulsions which I won't get into but if you are interested in learning more about OCD you can read about it here.

I feel as though my OCD is always evolving and changing which I find really interesting. I think that everyone's case is also really unique which is why I'm choosing to really only focus on my own experience. So anyway, I guess I'll get to what you are all wondering which is what my obsessions and compulsions are. This isn't going to be a comprehensive list by any means but these are the ones that I experience most.

My most prominent obsessions right now deal with fear of harm. I am terrified of being a victim of home invasion or violent crime and I also have thoughts of my family and close friends becoming victims of violent crime (more on this later). My compulsion to deal with this is I check my locks. I check my locks over and over again. At the worst point I would walk from lock to lock in my house and back around checking each lock multiple times before I finally felt like the door was locked. Then doubt would creep in and I would think that I left something open or someone else left something unlocked and I would do it again. I would leave my house and I would check the lock at least once before I would drive away and would often drive a few blocks before having to check again. I would be at work and experience complete panic thinking I forgot to lock my door and I would have to leave (on a break) and check the locks. It's an awful feeling and took up a lot of time and caused a lot of fear and anxiety for me.

In addition to checking the locks, I had also begun to avoid places that I have decided are the most dangerous and where I feel like I would most likely be a victim of a violent crime. No malls, movie theaters, sporting events, concerts, comedy shows or large gatherings of any kind really. I also have a lot of anxiety if I am in one location for what I feel is too long. The longer I stay the more I feel like I am in danger. As you can imagine, your bubble gets a lot smaller when you are having these thoughts. I have never been agoraphobic but the list of places I would go definitely would get shorter and shorter as time went on.

Driving is a catalyst for some obsessions as well. I have to check my tires every single time I get in my car, every single time I get out of my car and once in a while I will have to pull over and check them if they don't feel right while I'm driving. There are two fears that go along with this: I will get stranded or I will cause an accident. Another driving related obsession that I have is I will think that I have hit someone or something with my car. This is an awful feeling and I will have to drive back to where I had that thought and make sure that nothing happened. Finally, if I have to use my headlights you can bet I'll be checking at least 3 times to make sure I turned them off.

I mentioned before that I also have thoughts of horrible things happening to my family. Sometimes the thoughts are so vivid and real that I will start checking the news to make sure nothing has happened to anyone. I will go from news source to news source from local to national and just keep refreshing until I can get in touch with them or I feel like I have checked enough. I will also go on a news hunt if I try to get in touch with someone and get no response. I will automatically assume the worst has happened to them and I will fall into a news hole until I finally hear from them or from someone that has heard from them.

As you can imagine being consumed by these thoughts is incredibly disturbing and exhausting. Right around my birthday last year things had gotten so bad I could no longer really deny it and I decided to get help. This is where the good news comes in. I was able to find a great therapist who respects my wishes to not be on medication and has helped me and encouraged me so much. I still have the obsessive thoughts but I have been able to get my checking under control. I've gone to the mall a few times and while it is stressful and anxiety inducing I still went. I have a long way to go but I'm confident that I'll be able to regain my life and most importantly my happiness.

I know this is a really long post but I do really want to make this point. I used every excuse in the book to avoid therapy for a really long time. It's expensive, I've gone before and they were awful, they are going to push pills on me, no one is going to "get me." I didn't realize that the reason therapy has never been beneficial for me was because I hadn't found the right therapist for me. Now that I have I can honestly say that therapy has completely changed my life and it was 100% the best gift I've ever given myself (I literally found my therapist on my birthday last year). If you need help please seriously consider finding someone that you can speak to. I know it can be easy to cover up your emotions, to shove everything down and pretend everything is ok. I did it for a really long time. I suspect most of you didn't really have any idea this was going on. I was able to pretend and put on a mask… and I was miserable doing it. Now for the first time in a long time I feel hopeful and excited about what is to come. So please, if you need help please go get it. You deserve it.

I'm going to finish up by saying that it is really really hard to put all of this personal, private information out there for everyone to read and judge. I never thought I would be writing this post… that I would have the strength to put this all out there. I didn't write this post for sympathy or attention. Anyone that knows me knows that the last thing I want is attention. My sole purpose for writing this post is to do my part to help erase the stigma associated with mental illness. There is NOTHING to be ashamed of. Mental health awareness is a passion of mine because it has been a part of my life for over 20 years and if this post can help even one person then it was worth it.

There is so much more that I could write but I don't know what else you would want to know. I am happy to answer any questions you may have. You can leave them in the comments below. If I get a lot of questions I will definitely write a follow up post answering them. If I just get a few I'll answer them in the comments.

Thank you all so much for always being so kind and supportive to me. There are no words to express how much I appreciate you <3


Ingrid said...

Love you, Sarah! <3

Thank you for sharing this part of yourself. I have no doubt that many people will stumble upon this post, and find comfort. I'm so happy that the therapist has been a good fit, and that you are seeing results! I'm excited for you to continue forward, too! You are amazing.

vegan peace said...

I agree with Ingrid. People will find this post and feel less alone, hopeful and inspired to search for the right therapist. You're so brave to open yourself up like this!!

Vegan In The VI said...

Stamp Out Stigma is the motto of the company I work for and OCD is nothing to be ashamed of. I can see where living so near Ground Zero in such a populated area could bring on much anxiety, agoraphobia and depression. It is great that you found a good therapist and can feel better without meds. Wonder if this will result in new restaurant reviews on the site;-)

Sarah said...

Thank you Ingrid! <3 I really hope that this will help people!

Sarah said...

Thank you so much <3 I'm really glad I put this post up. It needs to be out there.

Sarah said...

Aww I love that motto! I'm definitely not ashamed of my OCD, it's just hard to put your really private information out there. My therapist is amazing, every day I feel really lucky that everything worked out this way.

My goal is to push myself to go into the city this spring once it gets warmer to start exposing myself to the places I have avoided for a long time. My intention was to go in for lunch then come home. I'll be looking for restaurant suggestions for me to review! :)

Vegan In The VI said...

You gotta get to By Chloe,, you have a better chance of getting there than I do.

Sarah said...

By Chloe is definitely on the list. There is also a restaurant called Franchia which is the sister restaurant of Hangawi that I really want to try! Here is the link:

Beverlee said...

Wow. I'm just now reading this post and just, wow. You are really brave and I cannot think of anyone that would judge - only revere how gutsy you are. I can't imagine how crippling and paralyzing those fears must be. I'm glad the tools your therapist has given you are helping you. Every day you are succeeding in taming those demons! I'm doubly proud of you for going out and selling your jewelry! You are amazing :)

Sarah said...

Thank you so much Beverlee <3 It's really hard to deal with the thoughts but slowly I'm making progress and it's something I'm really proud of!