OCD – Getting Through the Holidays Unscathed *video

The holidays can be stressful. Here are some tips on getting through them unscathed.

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OCD and Addiction

OCD is a monster. One that we feel we must constantly keep pacified out of fear that the next spike will be unbearable. My OCD is mostly gone, save a few bad days and irritating moments, but I kind of appreciate those moments because they never let me take for granted what I now have. The OCD is mostly in remission, but the habits I developed to deal with it are still around. In my desperate attempts to escape, I developed a problem with addiction, which is now the new monster I am fighting.

Drugs is a controversial topic and one I have been shying away from, but many of us know the unpleasant stigma of mental illness and I think the only way we can get rid of that is to speak the truth. I know there are many others out there struggling with their OCD and hiding their addictions, which is why I am also choosing to discuss this; because it is when we suffer alone that we truly suffer.

I began to treat myself before I knew I had OCD. I was not diagnosed until I was 21. In my teen years I developed an eating disorder. It had nothing to do with body image, but entirely about control and escaping my emotional discomfort. I think the most important thing a lot of people misunderstand about eating disorders like Anorexia and Bulimia is that they are anxiety disorders, not issues concerning low self-esteem.

I deprived myself of food to induce stomach aches which would distract me from my racing and obsessive thoughts. After it was getting out of hand, I started smoking weed. Every night, it put me to sleep, for years. Then, one fateful day in hte hospital, I was prescribed Ativan for my rapid heartbeat, which I explained was normal due to my anxiety. I started taking the drug every day because it made me feel “normal”, but I became dependent on it and the side effects were so awful I decided to get off of it. I did this safely.

I replaced Ativan with narcotics, sex, drinking and cutting. To me, it didn’t matter what the vice was, as long as it was something that changed how I felt. The one thing all these vices had in common was that they all altered my mental state, but lead me to a crash the following day.

I had gotten so used to escaping my feelings and running at the first sight of OCD or discomfort, I stopped feeling anything… anything bad, anything good. And trust me, the thought of feeling numb sounded pretty fucking good, but it wasn’t numb, it was just kinda down all the time. No joy, no color, no vibrance, just gloom.

Therapy has helped me tremendously to learn how to not only tolerate my emotions, but to accept them. I realized that my use of drugs and such was because I didn’t know any coping skills for feeling emotions, and feeling emotions was and still is scary.

Drugs still have a place in my life, like once in a great while when I am really anxious because of traveling or something, then I do take an anxiety pill, but other than that I am learning to deal with my emotions and such without self medicating.

The complication for me was that my need to compulse and need to use drugs or alcohol got intertwined (like when I cut) sometimes I felt like stopping, but my OCD brain felt like the number of times I cut was wrong, so I would cut more than I wanted to. It was weird to lose control doing what I started to do because I thought it gave me a sense of control.

The addiction monster and OCD monster can feel the same, but what I’ve discovered to help both is learning to accept myself and learning how to deal with emotions. I have also learned that when the need to cut or use comes up or the need to compulse comes up, I take a deep breath, remember what I learned in therapy like journaling, and most of the time I get through it, and the more times I get through it, the more I learn I can get through it.

If you struggle with addiction or OCD or both, you are not alone. Please seek help if you want it, because you can get through both if you want to. Stay strong.

Your Goals

Many of my goals were and are related to OCD and my health.  I didn’t make a lot of other goals because I didn’t see myself being able to achieve them.  I thought that “normal” people had the privilege to dream and I simply did not get that luxury because I had so much work to do just to be “normal” and do simple things most people took for granted like turn a light switch off once.  

I kept telling myself that if one day I could get to a good place with my OCD, I would push forward with what I really wanted to do, practice medicine.  As some of you know, my OCD is mostly in “remission”, though I still feel like the “OCD” girl sometimes, like the scars still just stare at me.  And when my OCD went away, I was so angry at myself for not taking advantage of this and pursuing my big dreams right away.  I felt behind and that I had so far to go.

But, I realized it’s never to late to start dreaming!  I didn’t really know what I wanted to do when I was a kid.  When in first grade, sitting in a circle, kids shared what they wanted to be; a fireman, a school teacher…I said “I want to be a super star!”  My teacher said I couldn’t be that.  I saw a crest toothpaste commercial with the blue sparkly toothpaste star dancing and saying ‘you can be a super star too!”  I thought that sounded good to me, so that’s what I said.  After that bitch crushed my dreams, I didn’t pick up any new ones.

Until now!  I had so much determination to get my health in order, and though there’s only so much I can do, I did everything I could because it was my ultimate goal to be as healthy as I could be.  Sometimes, a lot of times, I felt like quitting, but that little voice inside me kept pushing me. Sometimes it’s hard to hear that voice, but we all have it.

And finally, this leads me to how important it is to have faith in yourself and pursue your goals.  If you don’t have any yet, start simple and small.  That’s ok 🙂 Some of my goals are tiny, like “eat”. Some of them are big, like “become a doctor”.

This week in therapy we discussed self-limiting thoughts. Things like “I’m not enough” or “I’m a loser”. Stuff that gets in the way of me pushing forward towards my goals and sometimes leads me into the realm of self punishment. I’m trying to figure out where I learned mine and why it’s so hard for me to let go of them. So, I decided to try an exercise. I took a photo I liked from a recent photoshoot and I looked at me in the picture, and thought about all the self-limiting statements I believe about myself. Thoughts that no matter how many people tell me are untrue, I simply cannot change my mind. I wrote these thoughts on the photo, trying to look at it objectively, wondering if it’s possible other people might not believe what I believe; that maybe I’m wrong and that these beliefs are just untrue statements taught to me during my early life.

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As much as I did not want to, I did this exercise again.  Even if I don’t believe it right now, I realize a lot of my emotional pain stems from my thoughts and I have got to start showing myself more compassion.  Maybe I’ll believe it someday.  That’s a goal of mine!

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Like, I’ve said from the beginning…stay strong.  This means, don’t quit and remember that strength sometimes looks like tears.