Meet IOCDF Advocate Katy Marciniak! Katy shares the reasons why she became an IOCDF Advocate below. Learn more about our advocate program.
Katy is currently a stay-at-home Mom, who previously worked as a speech and language pathologist. Katy's OCD onset around the age of 12, but she did not receive a diagnosis until over a decade later. After finally receiving the appropriate treatment, she began to share her story via her blog Navigating Uncertainty. She has also been a guest on mental health podcasts, and shared her experiences through the IOCDF newsletter, blog, and conference. She is passionate about normalizing mental health and increasing awareness about OCD.
There are days I’m driving in the car, and briefly see the faces of my four year old and one year old in the rear view mirror contently sitting in their car seats. One of them often looking out the window in awe as they watch things go by. Their big eyes, looking out at the world outside as it speeds by. My heart often feels like it could burst just watching them in those simple moments. Some days those moments unexpectedly bring up a lot of emotion in me. For some reason I often find myself thinking back on my mental health journey, and how far I’ve come, to now have these two beautiful little souls in my life.
Like so many of us, my OCD brought plenty of mental anguish for years, and at times still does play a role in my life. When I was a child, Harm OCD showed up out of nowhere. I didn’t understand what was happening to me, and I didn’t know who to turn to for help. I was beyond convinced I was the only one in the world experiencing this, and for years of my life I went to battle with my OCD and the horrible intrusive thoughts it threw at me—not knowing I had a mental illness, much less how to effectively treat it. My OCD has made its presence known in various ways over the years. No matter what content it latched onto though, I often found myself caught up in the brutally awful OCD cycle which kept me from truly experiencing what life had to offer. While I’ve been able to accomplish a lot in my life, my OCD made things incredibly difficult and I wasn’t truly present for so many moments. There are no words for the way it feels when OCD has you in its grips, especially when you don’t know you have OCD. It is terrifying.
That “no words for” terrifying feeling is why I choose to advocate for OCD. I still can remember that feeling inside me of how that felt. That fearful feeling like your brain just broke, and wishing so badly that you could go back to the moment before it happened. That feeling of not knowing who to turn to. That shame and questioning of who you are as a person, even though you know you want nothing to do with the thoughts in your head. The watching moments of your life go by while you feel so incredibly disconnected from them, knowing you’ll never get them back because of the unwanted intrusive thoughts distracting you. I choose to advocate so others don’t have to experience those things, or at least for far less time than so many of us with OCD have. Advocacy is something I’m passionate about because no one should feel alone in the grips of their OCD, not knowing they even have OCD. The more we can talk plainly about this disorder, the easier it will be for people to recognize their experience as a mental health disorder, and to then reach out for help.
My mental health journey has felt long and arduous at times. It has had incredible highs and some pretty dark lows. It took me years to seek help, partially because I was so convinced I was the only one with a brain like this, but mostly because I was too scared to ask for help. It then took me years to find the right therapist, but when I did find the right therapist, one that specialized in Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP), it changed my life. It gave me my life back and so much more. When I started to strip out the OCD, I started to see more clearly what I wanted in life, and I started to see so much of what I had been missing.
It’s hard to say what helped me most in my journey, but I think it was probably persistence, even after stumbling multiple times, and choosing to be vulnerable and trust the therapist that was trying to help me. Therapy has changed my life, but it hasn’t been easy and I will never pretend it was or is. Therapy had some unexpected roadblocks for me and I think that’s important when you’re on any mental health journey, to not just assume it’s going to all get better right away. Sometimes the path changes course at times, but one of the things I’m most proud of in life is the work I’ve done in therapy. So when I see my two beautiful children in the rear-view mirror and think back on my mental health journey, there is a feeling inside that is hard to describe. It’s a sense of pride and joy that I quite honestly had never felt before therapy. I’m not sure without receiving the right support for my OCD if I would have chosen to become a mother. Finding the right support helped me realize what I value in life and supported me in being brave enough to go after those things. Something that has always amazed me about the therapy experience is that I often find my biggest joys now come in the simplest of moments, not the big ones. It’s the moments where I see my kid stare out the car window that I can now show up for, and just allow myself to sit with that joy, no matter what my OCD is throwing at me.
Not knowing you have OCD is hard. Knowing you have OCD is hard. ERP therapy is hard. It is all challenging, but on the other side of that hard work there is so much beauty and joy. Kind of like that “no words for” terrifying feeling you had before knowing you have OCD, there is this “no words for” beautiful, amazing feeling when you accomplish something in life despite your OCD. I hope that through my advocacy I can help more OCD sufferers find the latter. All OCD sufferers deserve that.