I often find myself awake at night with my eyes full of tears, asking God, “Why? Why do I have to lie here in panic, why do I have to spend every waking second of my days full of anxiety?” We can ask God that question all we want, but the whole time the answer is right there in front of our eyes.
The answer is that life is full of battles, hardships, and trials. Life is not perfect and it was never meant to be. The sooner you realize that, the sooner you can stop asking the why and start accepting the battle that you were given to fight, even when you feel as if you can’t fight anymore. This past year I was diagnosed with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), anxiety, and depression. I think I knew from a young age that I dealt with these disorders, but it wasn’t until now that I decided to do something about it. If you let these disorders go untreated they only get worse and you eventually find yourself crying out for help.
Since I was very young I felt as if there was something “different” about me and something “wrong” with me. I never felt like I was a normal kid and I never felt as if I could fit in anywhere. Instead of hanging out with friends, having fun, or even being able to study and focus on school, my days were spent worrying about one thing after another: fears that I was going to die, fears that I had a brain tumor, fears that I was going blind, fears that I had diabetes, fears that I would be kidnapped, fears that my house would burn down, fears of people, fears that I wasn’t good enough, pretty enough, or smart enough, fears of failure, and fears that I had no future. The list goes on and on and that’s not even close to a fourth of the ridiculous fears that were constantly running through my head. These fears led to constant rituals that I HAD to do to try to ease the anxiety that they were causing me. I Googled diseases and illness constantly. This resulted in me going to pretty much every type of doctor possible and doctor appointments all of the time: brain scans, eye tests, allergy tests, test for diabetes, X-rays, and so many others. I’ve had just about everything on my body checked because I’ve constantly panicked in my mind that there is something wrong with me. I’ve spent way too many of my nights awake, paralyzed in panic because I was so convinced that the worst things would happen to me at night. It was usually that I would either get kidnapped while asleep or that my house would burn down in flames. This resulted in me turning lights on and off, locking and relocking my doors and windows, and checking outside my room over and over again. It was as if I was just waiting for something bad to happen and the anxiety would keep me awake all night. I did things like count the number of steps I took, the number of times I touched something, and pretty much the number of times that I did anything. Numbers were constantly going through my head and they always needed to end in an even number; if it didn’t end in an even number, I would often have to redo things until it felt “right.” This made my days feel full of stress and anxiety, and it made me dread every day because I didn’t want to have to deal with it any longer.
These fears have been crippling me all of my life. They have made me distance myself from having friendships, relationships, jobs, school, social events, and anything that could trigger these fears and cause me more anxiety. My fear of failure and of people has resulted in me skipping many days of school and making many excuses to friends to not hang out or go to social events. Every day of high school was a trial for me because I always thought that everyone was judging me and looking down on me. I thought of myself as fat, ugly, stupid, and never good enough for anything. After barely graduating from high school because of a very low GPA and a very high number of absences, I was ready to start college. I felt like I could have a new start to do better this time around.
Quickly my old ways continued into college and again I was skipping and failing classes. My depression and anxiety kept me unmotivated and once again disappointed in myself. Feeling like I had no control over my life and absolutely no self-confidence I decided that I needed to turn my life around. I thought that a great way I could do this was by losing weight. Little did I know that my goal of losing a “little bit” of weight would trigger my OCD and lead me down a dangerous and even worse path than I was on before. Losing weight turned into my obsession, my passion, and my life. It was all I cared about and my days were spent writing and rewriting my calories, counting and recounting my calories, and stepping on and off the scale over and over again. I would read and watch videos about weight loss and made a routine of rules that I HAD to follow every day. I had certain times that I was allowed to eat and certain times that I was not allowed to eat. I had my certain foods that I was allowed to eat and a ton of foods that I would not allow myself to eat. I had to eat the same two meals of the exact thing every day or else my day would be ruined and filled with anxiety and self-disappointment. I thought at first I was doing something good for myself and like I finally had the control that I had always wanted over my life, but really I was the one being controlled by OCD that had now led me to an eating disorder, anorexia. Every day the number on the scale would drop and every time I saw a lower number I was proud of myself and felt like I had finally accomplished something for once in my life. I was down to 88 pounds in a short amount of time and all that I wanted was for the number to keep dropping.
Family members and people began to worry about my physical and mental health and at first I didn’t understand why and I couldn’t agree with them because my mind was so distorted by this disorder. It wasn’t until my family and I vacationed in California last summer that I truly realized how bad my problem was and how truly miserable I was. I couldn’t enjoy a single second on vacation because my thoughts were consumed with food, I cried after every meal I ate, I was cold the entire time and shivered while in the sun on the beach. I could barely hike or ride a bike because my body was so malnourished and weak. I was constantly dizzy, shaky, and my whole body would tremble from just walking a few steps. It hurt to even sit down because every bone in my body stuck out and would bruise so easily. I knew that I had a problem and that my body was shutting down, but I felt so trapped and like there was no way of getting out. It was scary thinking that this would be the rest of my life and left me with constant thoughts of suicide.
When I got home from California, I immediately went to an eating disorder center looking for help. It was suggested to me that I go away to an inpatient program in Philadelphia but I chose against this as I felt that it was not the right thing for me. I promised myself and my family that I would gain weight and recover from this disorder. I did not want to let it control my life for another second and was motivated to recover. Little did I know how hard and how long the process would be for me to truly let go of it. After months and many tears I finally let go of my routine and I began to let myself gain my weight back. Still with thoughts of suicide and depression, I knew that I immediately needed to get help before doing something that I would later regret. I finally found a therapist and psychiatrist and that’s when I was diagnosed with OCD, anxiety, and depression. The constant worrying and fears, the anxiety attacks, the rituals and obsessions finally all made sense. I finally felt like I knew the reasons why I acted how I did all of my life, and I felt like I was finally taking the steps to help myself that I need to for so long. An antidepressant and finding things that I can do that help with my anxiety and depression are all playing a role in helping me overcome this battle. I’m still always going to face these problems every day, but I am going to try my hardest to find the best ways to deal with it and fight through it every day. Some days will be harder than others, and those are the days that I will want to lie in bed and cry, but that’s OK because some days I’ll feel happy and those are the days that I will cherish. I know that I can never let the depression take away my life like I once almost did.
A lot of people don’t understand how serious and crippling OCD, anxiety, and depression are and I understand how they couldn’t because if you have not experienced it yourself then I don’t think anyone could truly understand it. To the people who do understand and who are also dealing with OCD or any other type of mental health, I want you to please know that you are never alone, there are so many people who really do understand what you are going through, even when it feels like no one does and when it feels like you are completely battling this alone. I understand that feeling of just wanting the pain to go away and of just wanting it to end for a single minute.
Even though I doubt this at times, I believe that God wants me on this Earth for a reason and he also wants every single one of you here, too. I’m sharing my story so that maybe I can help or relate to at least one person out there who is also struggling. I want whoever you are to know that you will never be alone in this battle and that if anyone needs a friend, or someone just to talk to, I am here and I will listen to you. We will all have many battles to face in this lifetime, but that is what will make this life so rewarding. I will choose to push through and fight every day knowing that this is my battle and I can either let it conquer me or I can choose to conquer it and you can, too.