“No one will understand. How can I explain these tormenting thoughts?” my overtaxed mind spit out.
Defeated and desperate, I mulled over my options–as my OCD mind jumped from one nonsensical thought to another.
“Should I disclose these thoughts to my parents? Who should I talk about my inability to concentrate? Maybe I should just drop out of UNC,” my overheated mind prattled on.
When OCD first hit me in college, I didn’t have the emotional skills to cope with the mental warfare going on my head. My OCD mind–and its disturbing creativity–scared the living hell out of me. But there I was, an overwhelmed freshman, gamely trying to navigate business calculus–while OCD had me in the equivalent of a headlock.
At that time, life’s degree of difficulty was a 9.7. But, truthfully, it didn’t have to be (more on that in a bit).
When OCD first torpedoed me, I thought I was losing my mind. The doubt was so pervasive, intense, and–quite frankly–scary. My mind seemingly reveled in my abject despair. As I shuffled to my Chapel Hill classes, there was a nagging sense of helplessness. OCD would always be there, seizing on the latest (and greatest) disturbing thought. That headlock would only tighten.
I needed to meet with a trained professional–someone who could explain the mental turmoil pinballing through my head. Thankfully, I had the courage (and wisdom) to visit UNC Student Health.
When I headed to the student health building, I was apprehensive. The prevailing thought: What would people think about these thoughts? And their prevailing response: You have OCD; you have come to the right place.
Not exactly what I was anticipating.
You see, I had glorified–even exalted–my OCD. With equal parts naivete and haughtiness, I believed I was the only person who had anxiety-provoking thoughts. I questioned whether anyone could understand–let alone treat–my stomach churning obsessions. In hindsight, my pridefulness/stubbornness exacerbated my OCD; I was turning life into business calculus (when, in reality, it was long division).
As mental health consumers and sufferers, many of us feel like we are an island of one. The thinking: this mental health burden is mine–and mine alone. In turn, we padlock our mental health secret, burying it deep within our mind’s confessionals. “Thou shall not discuss our mental health condition; instead thou shall ruminate endlessly about it, sinking into an ever-deepening pit of despair.”
This Scarlet Letter approach is counterproductive–one that, in my humble opinion, only exacerbates your suffering. Speaking from firsthand experience, talking about OCD is emotionally exhausting. But also speaking from firsthand experience, it is incredibly cathartic. When I first unloaded my deepest, darkest OCD fears to a trained counselor, there was a guttural sense of relief. Even if I was losing my mind (to OCD), at least someone–thankfully–knew that I was losing my mind (to OCD)!
As many of us know, living with OCD is tough; living with OCD on your own guilt-ridden island is business calculus. And, really, why would you ever voluntarily sign up for business calculus?*
*exception for an overwhelmed freshman scuffling through his first semester in college.