Although we are gaining more awareness about OCD every day, learning about obsessive-compulsive disorder can be incredibly alarming and confusing for people. It can feel like a heavy diagnosis with no end in sight. But at the end of the day, OCD is a treatable mental health disorder, and there are individuals living full and robust lives.
When I was first diagnosed with OCD, I knew absolutely nothing about the disorder. And nearly 13 years later I am still learning so much about myself and OCD. Although I am in recovery now, I do still experience bouts of anxiety and intrusive thoughts. But I’ve learned to seek exposures and accept myself in my own journey. If I was able to go back in time, I would love to be a support to myself early in the process of diagnosis. So if you’re new to a diagnosis or just need a few reminders, here’s the advice I would give to my 13 year self.
- This illness is not a joke. Comedy and joking have always been coping mechanisms for me and I’ve used tools like performing to relay myself to other people. When I was first diagnosed with OCD and anxiety, I really didn’t take the diagnosis seriously, which could’ve been a result of my age (13) at the time or my lack of knowledge of mental health disorders. I remembered telling some of my theater friends that I had a fear of choking to see how they’d react to it. In reality, I was secretly performing rituals and ruminating about matters that greatly affected me. I used the performances as a deflection from the true symptoms I was experiencing. I still use some comedy as a healing component in my life, but I’ve got way better material now!
- You get to choose who you disclose this illness with. You don’t have to tell everyone you meet about your OCD unless you are truly comfortable too. Or you can choose to disclose that information when it feels right to you. Since I am very vocal about my OCD and mental health advocacy online, I’ve found healthy ways to share my experiences on OCD. In the past I’ve had instances where I felt so anxious that I needed to tell someone right away about my diagnosis as if I was “giving them a heads up.” I am proud of who I am and who I am becoming, and I am not afraid to share. But now I am really intentional about how I speak about obsessive-compulsive disorder.
- Never stop doing art. I have loved art my whole life. It has been a very exploratory facet of my healing journey. But at one point in my life I completely stopped doing art. In fact I threw out a lot of drawings I did when I was going through a darker period in my life. I also had a lot of perfectionism around creating art, so I found it hard to just do art purely for the sake of doing art (aka because it’s incredibly healing). But now I include creativity time into my weekly routines. I love to paint and draw and write whatever is on my heart. In fact I use my expression quite a bit to share my stories around mental health.
What’s the advice you would tell yourself upon receiving an OCD diagnosis?