We know that a crisis like this can be an especially difficult time for someone with OCD or a related disorder. For that reason, we've decided to continue the #FacesOfOCD campaign begun by Shira on Twitter earlier this month. Learn more about Shira below, then post your own #FacesOfOCD post (and send one to us to be featured here — learn how below!) to show everyone that we're all in this together!
Hey guys! It’s Shira. I’m 18 and I’m a writer, or at least an aspiring one.
At my second Annual OCD conference, in San Francisco, I attended a session led by Dr. Lisa Coyne, founder of the OCDI Jr. This was a panel of teens who had been through treatment at the OCDI Jr., and it was moderated by Lisa. The three kids told stories from their time in “the unit,” laughed about ERPs gone wrong, and testified that residential treatment had been the right choice for them. This was the panel that inspired me to seek out residential treatment, a step I had been told I needed, but had been hesitant to take, for years.
That fall, I completed one round of intensive treatment at the OCDI Jr. I had been inspired by the words of those kids, and by Lisa, who had offered me her one-on-one insight that day after the panel had ended. But that first time, I couldn’t commit to residential. I was too scared, held back by deep rooted separation anxiety. I resolved the majority of my emetophobia (fear of throwing up) during this first round (something I’d never thought possible), but withheld information regarding recently developed obsessional themes for fear they weren’t actually OCD. It was when I left the OCDI Jr. for the first time that I “hit rock bottom.” Some people say that OCD is like a game of whack-a-mole. It was when my emetophobia settled down that OCD ran at me full force with relationship OCD and subsequent moral scrupulosity.
I had dropped out of school, isolated myself from all of my friends, and stopped practicing basic hygiene. I spent afternoons lying on the floor screaming, because the thoughts that I was a bad person were unbearable and I didn’t know how to get them to go away.
My parents knew I still needed residential treatment, but I didn’t believe them. I didn’t see that OCD was the issue, because it was telling me it wasn’t OCD. For all I knew, I was just an irreparably bad person. And those lies almost cost me everything.
We encourage you to post a #FacesOfOCD post on social. But there's also an opportunity to have your story shared on the Faces Of OCD blog! Here's how:
Every two weeks, we will publish a blog post written by an individual with OCD (or a related, OC-spectrum disorder.) Anyone can submit, and we are hoping to illustrate the diversity of populations that the disorder affects. As with #FacesOfOCD on Twitter, we will encourage all submissions to include photographs of you, a person with OCD, living your life. Here are your official guidelines:
- Write 200-500 words. We want to hear about your OCD struggles, but we also want to hear about who you are, outside of OCD.
- Do your best to answer the following questions: What are your values and your passions? What and whom do you love? What has OCD taken from you? In what ways have you pushed back against OCD in the name of living the life you want to live?
- We strongly encourage you to include two to 10 pictures of you, out in the world and living your life. Have a picture of yourself engaging in a values-oriented ERP? That gets bonus points. So do pictures with pets.
Send all submissions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Then I received a call from Lisa. She told me if I wanted my life back I needed to commit to residential. I plugged my ears and ran to the bathroom screaming. But I thought about it. And I took the biggest risk I’ve ever taken, to this day: I went. And it paid off.
And I am telling you all of this to explain to you why it hurts me when people make OCD jokes, and why I am committed to #FacesOfOCD. Stigma hurts me in the way it hurts anyone when their suffering is invalidated. OCD has caused me a lot of suffering. And I know that I am not alone in this. On the other hand, I know firsthand that things can get better. Since leaving the OCDI, I have gotten my GED, rebuilt my social life, and become the manager of a store. I have applied to — and gotten into — college. Next year I am going to study creative writing at Emerson College in Boston.
To return to my original point: the IOCDF introduced me to the resources that saved my life. And throughout my recovery, I have developed a passion for OCD advocacy. The goal of this project is to give faces and voices to a disorder that is so often invisible and silent. I define stigma as harmful misinformation. How do we remedy stigma? By educating. And how do we educate? By telling our own true stories.
I want to once again express my gratitude for the tremendous support I’ve received thus far. I hope that this blog will inspire some of you to take a leap, to show your faces and share your stories — and to be empowered in doing so. I also hope that through reading these stories to come, our community will continue to inspire and encourage each other to take steps towards recovery.
Until next time,