When I write a post I share it with my family to proofread. I want to make sure there are no glaring errors or something that could be taken the wrong way.
In one post I mentioned that I have OCD. I was asked by one proofreader whether I thought I should share that. I mean once it’s on the internet it never goes away. I thought for a minute and decided to keep it. It is part of who I am and without that element I would not be where I am for better or worse.
There is a stigma when it comes to mental health. My friend Erez, from The Shek Check, is one of the people trying to normalize this conversation and he has inspired me to share my own story. It’s not a tale full of major crisis but rather a mundane one about obsessively washing my hands, having to step on sidewalk cracks equal times with each foot, and my fear of being buried alive.
When I was six years old I had my first full blown public panic attack. I was at a fair in a nearby town and was on a very long line to get my face painted. I knew that my friend was by the river feeding ducks and I was quite certain that if I didn’t go to see her immediately than she would no longer be my friend. My parents warned me that if I got out of the line I would not get back in. I chose to make sure my six year old friendship was saved.
I went to the river, checked my I was still friends and went back to the line. My parents stood strong and reminded me I made the choice to get out of line knowing I would not be allowed back in. They had to pull a shrieking Sarah back to the car as my extremely thoughtful little sister offered to wash off her face paint when we got home.
Fourth grade was when it really started rearing its head. I began washing my hands all the time because they just felt dirty. I did this skip jump thing over every crack in the sidewalk. I flipped light switches.
My parents and I referred to these things as my habits. I didn’t WANT to do these things, I felt like I HAD to do these things. It was as if there was something telling me if I didn’t do it than it just wouldn’t be right and it made me nervous. If I walked through the dining room instead of the kitchen to get to the living room I would have to repeat it the “correct” way. I’m not sure what the consequence would be if I didn’t but, nevertheless, I did it anyway.
My parents took me to a therapist. I remember her telling me to “keep a notebook in the pocket of my pinafore” and wrote down every time I wanted to do one of my habits. My biggest question was “who wears pinafore?!?! We are not “Little House on the Prairie!” Needless to say this therapist was not the right fit for me.
I continued pushing through and tried to control my compulsions and it got less noticeable to others within the next few years. Then in sixth grade I attained the obsessive part of my OCD. I remember being in my Dad’s car and I put my head between my knees. I had a small panic attack about death and it began a lifelong fear of being buried alive. I had seen a commercial for the show 2020 and they spoke about a woman who was pronounced dead but actually wasn’t. All I could think of was how many other people had been pronounced dead but really weren’t and were buried alive. It began the assumption that would DEFINITELY happen to me and became my lifelong fear.
For most of my life I kept my anxiety and OCD something I was not open about. It felt like an invisible monster that would take hold of my body and brain and not allow it to relax. Not a single other person could possibly be feeling what I was feeling.
I felt like since I had not suffered a trauma that it was not really a big deal. People who I was close to had been to therapy so it wasn’t an issue regarding access to resources but rather feeling like I had dealt with it this long and led a successful life so why should I?
Once I was done having kids I finally decided it was time to break this cycle. I had a friend who was also anxious and we made a deal that we would each seek help. Knowing I wasn’t alone made it easier and I’m not sure I would have done it otherwise.
I went to the doctor and explained my situation and got some meds. (I realize that this is not the answer for everyone but it was a helpful tool for me.) For the very first time in my life my head was not spinning. I remember sitting on my daughters bed realizing, that for the first time, I was really present and not reeling about all the other things I needed to do, clean, whatever. It was life changing for me.
I still have my moments. I still obsess, I still have things I need to work on. I always will. I have found that I’m not the only one who has felt like this and I do my best to be open so others can feel like they know they are not alone. From the outside I may seem to have it together. (Or maybe not, depends on the day!) We all have our issues and addressing them, no matter how big or small they may seem, can help you grow. Transparency can help others understand who you are and where you come from and help understand why you do the things you do. It’s nothing to be ashamed of.
NOTE TO MY PARENTS:
As a parent myself I realize that we do the absolute best we can do. Just because I may have had this internal struggle there was absolutely nothing you could have done differently. It has made me who I am today and more empathetic to struggles people may have that are not visible.
PS As I write this, and really any other post, I realize that I’m a chronic over thinker. I constantly obsess over what I say and do and how it will affect others. Will I offend someone? Will I write about someone and they will take it the wrong way?
I’m doing my best to live for myself and, remember the words of RuPaul, “What other people think of you is none of your business.” (It apparently always comes back to a Drag Queen here at Ms. Sarah.)
We get one chance to live this life. Just know that, just as I try to live by those words from RuPaul, I also seem to follow this one: