Imagine a giant pink elephant following you around all day. When you we're at work. While you were hanging out with your friends. That elephant is always there, sitting next to you. He never seems to go away, even when you ask him too.
I've always been a happy person. The littlest of things excite me. I'm in constant wonder of the world and I thoroughly enjoy the company of most people. If you know me, you know this: If I'm not laughing every 30 minutes, something is wrong.
Many years ago I had a very traumatic event in my life I never told anyone about. Something happened to me that I don't think I'm ready to share publicly just yet. But I had blocked it out and chose to forget about it. I buried it deep inside. So deep that I thought it would stay there forever.
Late last year the memory of that event popped into my head, and I just could get it out. Every moment I was awake I would think about it. People would be talking to me and I did my best to listen, but this thought was there. Not only the thought, but this voice saying "What if they find out? What will they think of you? They'll judge you. They'll hate you."
I didn't want to leave my house. I would stay in bed all weekend. Social media scared the shit out of me. I didn't want to post anything. When my phoned dinged from a text message I would get a horrible feeling in the pit in my stomach. There was someone telling me they loved me, or that they missed me, or that they couldn't wait to see me, and all I could think was, "I'm a disgusting person. You don't want to know me."
This went on for a month and a half, day in, day out. I was in complete panic mode the whole time. If you have ever had a panic attack, imagine it lasting for months. I didn't eat. I hardly slept. And most days I would just break into tears wishing and praying this thought would go away. My self esteem went from 100% to zero. In my mind I was a horrible person and I didn't deserve to be happy....or to live for that matter.
I didn't know what was going on and I didn't want to tell anyone. I was ashamed and very afraid of losing the people closest to me. Eventually I had to share. I let my fiancé Jared know what I going through and he immediately identified it as Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD).
Or at least he thought that's what it was. He has suffered from OCD his entire life (he gave me permission to share that) and I knew that about him. But I could never truly understand it. It now made complete sense to me.
Every night after work I would come home and talk. And Jared would listen. ALL NIGHT LONG. Short term this is very helpful for an OCD sufferer. But seeking reassurance from someone can become part of the obsession. I needed help.
I visited my family doctor and told her I thought I had anxiety, depression, and OCD. She gave me a medication that would help with that. This medication probably should have been prescribed after seeing a therapist first, but it didn't matter at the time. I was super excited! This thought in my head would finally stop! I started on the medication that night.
The first day I was on cloud nine. I felt amazing. The thought was there but it wasn't as loud as it had use to be. I was in the clear!
Then day two hit. Zero sleep. Constant feeling of dread. The thought was louder, stronger, and would not stop. Day three and four were exactly the same.
Part of the medication's side effects is that you'll get worse before you get better. I knew that going in, but I didn't know how low I would sink.
After 92 hours of zero sleep (I mean not one ounce of sleep) I reached the point where I knew I couldn't do this anymore. I wanted to tap out. Just remembering that moment now makes me sick to my stomach. I never judged anyone for having those thoughts, but I always wondered how someone could get to that point. Now I knew.
I said to Jared, "I give up. I can't do this anymore."
Jared grabbed me by my shoulders, looked directly into my eyes and said, "You can't see the end of this tunnel, but I can. And I won't leave your side until you can see it too."
And he didn't. He sat right next to me. He held me. He loved me. He saved my life. And after a few more days I was finally starting to see the end of that tunnel.
I decided I needed more than medication. I needed to talk to someone. After lots of research, I found a psychiatrist that specialized in OCD and was LGBTQ friendly - this part was very important to me. I booked an appointment and have been going to him for a few months. I was officially diagnosed with OCD in December of last year by my psychiatrist and I've learned a lot about myself by working with him: my strengths and my weaknesses. How to overcome these thoughts with tools. That I'm not a horrible person, and that what happened to me is not my fault. Guilt is just a feeling. And you can overcome a feeling.
Remember that pink elephant? DON'T THINK OF IT.
What did you think of?
That's what OCD is. It's a pink elephant that you can't get out of your head. The elephant tells you to wash your hands, or walk a certain way, or count to ten, and if you do, he'll go away. And he does. Sometimes for hours. Most times for seconds.
Then that pink elephant is back and you have to wash your hands, or count to ten all over again. These thoughts can be anything from "There are germs on my hands that might make me sick" to "I actually think I hit someone with my car so I have to stop every 5 minutes to make sure I didn't." I personally have Real Event OCD that attaches itself to events that actually happened in my past.
Please understand that OCD is real. There is no way to control what you think. The idea of "mind over matter" is complete bullshit. Things like Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, and Medication have helped me tremendously! I still get the thought almost every single day. But now I know how to recognize it, and let it pass.
Today I feel so much better. I feel better than I ever have actually. Therapy, medication, change in diet, change in friends, and understanding of just how I tick have all added to my recovery.
I'm not a doctor and I'm not in the market of giving out medical advice. All I can do is speak from experience. If you think you're suffering from OCD or any other mental illness, PLEASE tell someone. This is the first step to getting help. Someone out there loves you and cares about your wellbeing. Looking back it seems ridiculous that I thought I couldn't tell the people closest to me. But when you are in the middle of the OCD storm, nothing is ridiculous. Everything is real and immediate. But if I hadn't told someone I wouldn't be here today.
You're not alone. And not everyone who has a smile on their face is happy. I'm lucky to have come out the other end of the tunnel unscathed. But I am forever changed. I actually feel blessed that this happened to me. I know that sounds strange, but I have learned more about myself through this journey that I ever thought I would have had. I'm different. I'm better because of it.
Finally I want to say SUICIDE IS NOT THE ANSWER. It might seem like it at the time, but it's a permanent solution to a treatable problem. And to anyone who judges someone for committing suicided, fuck you! That person was not weak or selfish. That person felt a pain you have not felt before. And I hope you never do! Once you've walked that path, you know how much pain it takes to want to end your life.
Thank you to everyone in my life who walked with me during this difficult time. You know who you are. But you'll never know just how much you mean to me. I love you.