Why My OCD Diagnosis Actually Made Me Happy
Generally, the word “happy” doesn’t fit in the same sentence as “mental illness.” For me, however, my diagnosis brought me a glimmer of hope and relief.
On paper, I seemed like a pretty average kid. And for the most part, I felt like I was, too. I was a cheerleader, gymnast, played the violin, received good grades and loved hanging out with friends. Nonetheless, I knew subconsciously that my brain was wired “differently.” Sometimes, I felt like I had to re-fold my clothes dozens of times. Other days, I’d wash my hands so much that they’d chap and bleed. On some of the most stressful days, I found myself “checking” things with others. “Are you sure I locked the door? Are you sure my hands are clean?” The “checking” ritual was embarrassing and something I knew I really didn’t need to be doing, but for some reason, I felt I had to. What I learned later when I started therapy was that all of these rituals were giving in to my obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). Giving it power. Letting it waste too much of my time.
Toward the end of middle school, I started cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). CBT is also referred to as “exposure therapy,” which involves being exposed to your fear, or elements of your fear, for elongated periods of time. While this sounded outrageous to me at first, mark my word, it is one of the strongest tools I’ve ever used to combat my anxious thoughts so that they don’t rule my life.
Over the years in therapy, I’ve learned that I am not OCD. I have OCD and I cannot give it the power of identifying who I really am. When I received my diagnosis and started aggressive CBT, it felt like the 800 pound backpack I was lugging around was starting to lighten off my shoulders. While “on paper,” being a well-rounded kid feels great, seeing my diagnosis on paper felt even better. It solidified the part of me that knew I shouldn’t succumb to OCD thoughts, it validated that I wasn’t alone and it provided hope that I could live a happier and healthier life.
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Getty image via BartekSzewczyk