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Hi there! Shira here! Today we’re going to hear from Mara Wilson. 

You might know Mara from her work as a young actress. She played Matilda in the movie Matilda, which was hands-down my favorite movie as a little kid. For my 9th birthday my dad brought a projector home from work so my friends and I could watch Matilda on the wall in my living room. My favorite part was the montage after Miss Honey adopts Matilda. When I watched it with my parents, I always made them rewind that bit so I could watch it over and over. 

mara

What you might not know about Mara is that she is a fierce writer and advocate, and someone I deeply admire. I was thrilled when she agreed to answer some questions for the first official Faces of OCD profile. I asked her some questions about herself, what she values, and her experience with OCD. Here is what she had to say:

What are your values and your passions?

That's a good question. I would say I greatly value justice, humility, being of use to others, wonder, and sincerity. As for my passions, I'm a pretty passionate person in general! There's not much I'm not passionate about.

What and whom do you love?

My family, friends, and pets, for starters! As for what, I love learning, stories, making things, helping others, theater in all its forms, babies, tea, and cats. Dogs, too!

Kira, her parents' puppy

Kira, Mara's parents' puppy

cats

Theo and Milo, Mara's cats

marasister
Mara's sister Anna with her cat, Basil

What obstacles have you had to overcome with OCD?

I think the hardest part of having OCD was how isolating it is. I was always an extrovert, and I feared that no one would really like me if they knew about my compulsions or what went on inside my mind. I still feel like that sometimes! It also made me feel like a stranger in my own mind, afraid of what might happen there when I least expected it. So I had the worst of both worlds: I felt isolated from others, and from myself.

In what ways have you rebelled against your anxiety in the name of living the life you want to live?

I think one of the best things I've done is accepted my anxiety, or at least, accepted myself as an anxious person. I think there's a difference between fighting against it and facing it, and I'm trying to do the latter. I also try to remind myself that being an anxious person doesn't mean you aren't a strong person. Some of the strongest people I know also have anxiety. 

Mara’s story is a prime example of someone living with a mental illness without letting it define them. She was last year’s keynote speaker at the 26th Annual OCD Conference in my hometown of Austin. Even then, part of what moved me about her speech was how much I related to it. It was powerful to hear someone of her stature recount experiences so similar to my own. And not only did she talk about OCD, but she spoke to her life beyond her disorder. 

And that’s what I want #FacesOfOCD to be about. We are not alone in our struggles, and we can take comfort in knowing that others have been where we are. But we are also not defined by our struggles. We are not obsessions, we are not compulsions, we are not intrusive thoughts or body dysmorphia or checking rituals. What defines us is how we live our lives despite our struggles. What are your values and passions? What and whom do you love? In what ways do you plan on facing your anxiety in the name of living a life of value? Those are the questions I have for you this week. And if you’d like, I encourage you to submit your answers for the Faces of OCD blog series.

Until next time. Be safe and healthy. Take care of yourself physically, mentally, and emotionally.

6 Comments

  • Susan mcdowell spellman

    My ocd. Is from the second I wake up to the second I fall asleep I count! ?I’ve been doing this roughly 50 years! I count letters syllables & everything I c ! I’ve heard of all kinds of ocd but haven’t heard about the counting that I do ? I’m sure there’s others i would love to hear their stories. It drives me nuts I don’t even get one second of any minute without doing it ! It’s extremely hard to deal with I’ve tried many ways to stop but I can’t. There has to b someone out there that can help!! I’d love to hear from someone who can help me with this ??

    Reply
    • Jessica Price

      Hi Susan, I’m so sorry to hear of your struggles. Please contact us at info@iocdf.org so we can connect you with support.

      Reply
  • Robert Dean

    I ‘m so glad I stumbled across your blog today. For nearly 40 years I felt that I was alone in the world without even a clear understanding of what my emotional condition was. I struggled to keep my rituals hidden until they could no longer be controlled through shear will, and I gave up. I quit me job and dedicated myself to getting better. I became one of the early patients to under go treatment with Edna Foa and her team in Philadelphia. This was the early 8os.
    My entire life changed with this treatment, the CBT and response prevention approach. Most important was my relationship with my parents and siblings. The guilt and confusion they felt over my disordered behavior was finally explained to them and they were so relieved to know that they had not done this to me.
    They are both deceased now but our relationship was wonderful for the last years, and I will always be grateful for the chance to be honest about what I had experienced growing up.

    My struggles are never fully over. I have been back in in patient treatment 3 times since my initial breakthrough. Interestingly, I have been able to share my experiences with three different therapists who had never had an OCD patient, and I actually was able to show them how to treat me. So, they became facilitators and partners with me in my treatment. Now, when I feel as though my anxiety and compulsions are creeping back, I head them off with a week or two of self guided therapy. I no longer feel different or unfortunate. I feel extraordinarily blessed for my struggles, and that because of me, others have been able to be helped. If anyone reading this is needing encouragement or help. Don’t give up. You are not alone and there are terrific treatments and people who understand.

    Reply
    • Susan spellman

      Thanks so much for sharing with me! I’ve tried many meds & drs for this & nothing has helped 😩 I had a dr several years ago write letters trying to find a dr who could help me & I know there was one who was interested mayb by doing something like a brain stimulation thing or something like that but things came up so I wasn’t able to do it! I’m 65 now & just can’t take it anymore! I count in my head every second of the day & get no relief! It seems like if I had something snipped in my head it would go away!! At this point I’ll try anything!!! Again thanks for writing to me!!

      Reply
      • Jessica Price

        Hi Susan—I’m so sorry to hear about your struggles. Please contact us directly at info@iocdf.org to connect with a resource specialist who can help you.

        Reply
      • Carol

        Hi Susan,
        Just wondering if you have ever tried ERP. It’s hard and seems scary but if done with someone who specializes in ERP it can make all the difference in the world. I have had OCD since about the age of 3 am now 57. I had been hospitalized 37+ times. I really didn’t think I could go on the exhaustion is unbelievable. Once I started ERP my life started to become my own. I still struggle but my life is so much better that the fight is worth it. Hang in there. Definitely contact the IOCDF they are amazing.

        Reply

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