(This is the twelfth post in a series called “Anxiety Society,” in which I interview everyday anxiety suffers from all walks of life about their struggles, their triumphs, their coping methods, and more. I believe that the more we openly talk about our mental health, the less of a “thing” it becomes. Conversation can reduce stigma, and my interviewees want to be a part of that.)
Last week, we met “Jemima,” a woman living in Brooklyn who has been dealing with various forms of anxiety since childhood. As a teenager, she was diagnosed with OCD and has discovered that her anxiety manifests differently now as an adult. Her main triggers are interpersonal conflicts and romantic relationships.
Our last interview left off with Jemima describing her anxiety as “relationship-induced”:
Relationship-induced? Can you go into detail on what you mean by that?
I hate to say it, but I think the biggest anxiety trigger for me is men. The first time I was hit with anxiety that prevented me from functioning, it was my first serious relationship. I knew that my boyfriend made me anxious, but was able to convince myself it was just something I had to work through to enjoy the relationship.
Why did that relationship make you so anxious?
I don’t know why. Honestly, he was a really great guy who treated me well and with whom I had a lot of fun… but the moment we broke up, though I was very sad, the anxiety magically went away. I was just in a more recent relationship that didn’t make me feel anxious all the time… only when I could feel things were starting to not feel right, and then the anxiety hit because I was truly in love and didn’t want the relationship to end.
You also said that conflict is another big trigger of yours. What kind of conflict?
I will flee the moment I can sense a confrontation looming. I spent a summer as a camp counselor, living for three months with a girl I didn’t get along with at all. Not even a little. We butted heads every single day and I was plagued with extreme anxiety every day that summer, dreading the next day and just wanting summer to be over so I could go home.
What advice do you have for others who are exhibiting OCD symptoms?
My advice is just to not be ashamed and to seek help. It’s a disorder that causes severe distress and inhibits living a normal life, but when treated allows you to get by day to day without even thinking about it. Movies like to poke fun at OCD and while “What About Bob?” is one of my favorite comedies, it can cause people who also exhibit OCD symptoms to become ashamed of it and afraid to confront the problem.
Do you identify with any of Jemima’s experiences? If so, please leave a comment if you’re comfortable with sharing your own story about dealing with anxiety and OCD. Or, you can visit her blog, “Exes and Whys“, where she writes about dating and relationships.