Welcome 2015!

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Woah, look at that.  Somehow another year has flown by!  Well, I guess I wouldn’t say it (being the year) flew, but rather crawled, sat, napped, jumped, ran, jogged, and crawled again.

The idea for this post was born in my mind today, as I drove a snowmobile through the mountains in Utah (true story).  I may have been the slowest snowmobile driver of the group, but I still had a really fun time; the most I’ve had in a while.

Of course, as most do, before we usher 2015 in, I feel we should say goodbye to 2014.  But not a ‘I-never-want-to-think-about-this-year-again’ kind of goodbye, but one where we are able to reflect on the ups and downs of the year, and then get ready for something new.

14 Lessons I Learned in 2014:

1.  Asking for help is not only a good idea, but necessary if there’s a problem.

2.  It’s important to show appreciation of family and friends during both good times and bad.

3.  Hospitals aren’t just for the physically ill.

4.  One’s external appearance isn’t always a clear indicator of illness (physical or mental).

5.  I want to live in DC (or another city) after I graduate college so that I can utilize public transportation and avoid driving (I’m not a fan…).

6.  Dogs or cats (or a Komodo dragon if that’s your sort of thing) can be as wonderful company as humans, if not more at times.

7.  Writing– novels, short stories, poetry, journaling– is where I feel most natural.

8.  Embracing yourself is key to a happy existence, in addition to thinking about others.

9.  I hate stereotypes of any kind (gender, race, illness, sexuality, religion– and the list goes on…)

10.  Being independent feels good.

11.  Learning Portuguese isn’t hard when you have a strong background knowledge in Spanish and French.

12.  Being open about your feelings rather than denying them will solve you a lot of trouble later down the road.

13.  My friends rock.

14.  My family is amazing.

15 Things I Can Look Forward To in 2015:

1.  Getting back to college to begin my Sophomore year after being off for a semester.

2.  Integrating running back into my life in a more social way.

3.  (Hopefully) passing my finite mathematics class and putting math behind me forever!!

4.  More exploring of DC in college.

5.  Planning a future study abroad term.

6.  A family vacation in Hawaii this summer!

7.  Spending more time with friends and family.

8.  Busy days.

9.  Lazy days.

10.  Creative days.

11.  Meeting new people at school.

12.  Staying healthy, or at least making my best efforts to do so.

13.  Asking for help if I need it.

14.  Turning 21 in September (woah… I can’t really be that old, can I?)

15.  More writing; more time to immerse myself in words.

So now, I encourage anyone reading this to make their own lists.  You can do as I did, and think about what you’ve learned and what you have to look forward to, or some other variation.  Now, I know I could’ve sat here and listed all of the negative or positive events of 2014, but I decided it would be summed up more nicely in lessons.  This way I can avoid dwelling on the downs, and use those events to push myself forward during 2015.  I cannot believe how much I’ve changed this past year, for worse at first, but then ultimately for the better.  A year ago I was in the midst of mental turmoil, and had never felt so alone.  Today, I’m happy and have realized I have the support of so many people, including my immediate family and friends.  WOO, here’s to a new year! 2015!!!!!!!! (T-minus 3 days, but still).

url  (image taken off of Google Images)

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The Non-Perks and Perks of Having OCD (for me, at least)

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder– a lot about this illness sucks.  After all, how fun can having intrusive thoughts that begin to take over your life be?  Especially when those frightening thoughts, that don’t even feel as though they belong to you, lead you down a repetitive spiral of compulsions that you know rationally don’t make sense.  Yet you fear that if you don’t engage in those compulsions all of your worst thoughts will come true, and that you’ll hold some sort of responsibility in yourself or others getting hurt.

Woah, what?

What if What if What if What if What if What if What if What if WHAT IF WHATIF WHATIFWHATIFWHATIF

OCD is a series of constant doubts and ‘what if’s.

Before I get to the advantages of the disorder, I would like to share my story:  I have many obsessions but one main compulsion that I engaged in at the peak of my disorder:  Every time I had a ‘bad’ thought, something that I deemed inappropriate, that I felt simply by thinking it, it would come true, I had to knock on wood.  It began in third grade, where I would carry around a little piece of wood in my pocket that I had picked up off the ground (cute, right?).  My intrusive thoughts of horrible things happening were bothersome but didn’t take over my life at this point.  My compulsion of knocking on wood became a daily thing, but was hardly noticeable to others and didn’t bother me too much.

Then in fourth grade, my family moved from Ohio to New Jersey.  My OCD kicked up and became more frequent, the obsessions feeling stronger.  I found myself sitting on the school bus in the mornings with my sister and neighbors, and would envision all of us dying in a horrible accident.  To counteract this thought, I began to knock on the glass window, because there was no wood around.  At school I would knock on my desk and at night I would knock on my wooden bunk bed frame.

In seventh grade my family moved to Switzerland, the uprooting of my childhood into another country a very stressful change for me.  Obsessive thoughts ran rampant for me, but I often tried to ignore them… which, naturally, made them come back stronger.  I experienced depression and generalized anxiety throughout those years.

In tenth grade, we returned to living in New Jersey.  This was when my OCD entered a new level, and I first realized that I may have a problem.  I had new kinds of obsessive thoughts, stickier than any others I had previously had.  I walked around constantly feeling guilty and confused, but did everything in my power to hide those feelings.  I couldn’t have other people knowing I was a bad person, or sick.  I would convince myself that it was mental illness, but then my OCD-ridden brain would tell me that it wasn’t, and that I was simply a bad person with bad and disturbing thoughts.  The summer going into my junior year, I got hit by a car and experienced a concussion. This was a turning point where my OCD became constant.  I still hid my compulsions from most people, but I now had no limit to which surfaces I could knock on.  I knocked on wood, walls, paper, glass, plastic.  My OCD had expanded itself so that I could constantly engage in compulsions.  It didn’t feel like I had any control; it felt like I was drowning in the background of my disorder.  I still didn’t show it though; I couldn’t have other people know.  I was ashamed at the prospect of having OCD, but I was equally ashamed at the prospect of not having it; because that would mean I was a bad person with no control over my thoughts.  Throughout high school, my OCD also manifested in an eating disorder (although I didn’t know it), and numbers became the way I gave myself worth in the world:  miles ran, race times, speed.  Weight.  Amounts of food.

In college last year, all of this became unbearable.  I was knocking on wood, and many other surfaces (and even ‘air’… like what!?), hundreds of times a day.  And in increments of two.  If I did it wrong, I had to start over.  It became noticeable at this point, and more than the compulsions, it was the thoughts that tortured me.  I wanted to escape the hell that my mind had become.  I would ask my friends for reassurance and google (other compulsions) for hours to make sure I wasn’t this or that.  Exercise and step counting had also taken over, making me feel crazy and ‘unhealthy’ if I didn’t follow my OCD-structured regiment.  Even the compulsion to get rid of ‘bad foods’ after I had eaten them developed, truly bringing the eating disorder to light.

So, I’ve been home this semester to get help for all of this, and I’m happy to say that I only knock on wood about ten times a day, and that’s pretty amazing.  I feel great, but it wasn’t easy to get here.  Treatment has been a bumpy road, but certainly worth it.

Now finally, for what I consider ‘the Perks’ of my disorder:

1.  Attention to detail:  I am very observant and take in a lot of details that I feel many don’t notice.

2.  Thoughtfulness:  Because I had so many fears of hurting others, I do think about other people frequently, and am careful to try to not upset or harm those I care about.

3.  Creativity:  This by far is my favorite perk, as I know that I have a large imagination.  My OCD causes me to constantly generate thoughts that seem as if they appear out of nowhere.  When I’m writing or working on a project, it’s easy for me to invent and expend that creative energy.

4.  Organization:  Now I happen to not be the neat-freak type of OCD (just ask my roommate from last year), so I don’t mean this in a cleanliness way.  I mean, in the sense of organizing my schedule and being super-efficient, I feel my OCD has played a role.  I used to put this into organizing workout schedules and running distances, but as I move in a healthier direction in my life, I’ve found that it’s always helped me stay on task academically and in managing my time.

5.  Dedication to a project:  Often when I start projects, I obsess (shocking) and obsess.  This helps me get things done quicker at times, or if not faster, at least resulting in a higher quality.

6.  Empathy towards any mental illness:  This simply comes from experiencing OCD or any mental disorder.  I want to advocate for all mental illnesses, and to say that they are serious.  It’s crazy because mental disorders are so often hidden and not known to those on the outside, but that doesn’t make them less hard to live with.  Getting help is important, and I want to advocate for that.

Thanks for reading my story!  OCD isn’t curable, but it can be put into remission through therapy and medication.  It can come back in other forms, but for now I’m happy to say that I’m doing well.

http://iocdf.org/

Click on the link above if you would like to learn more about the disorder, or have concerns about yourself or someone close to you.

DSCN1282  My dog Maxie, to the left, because… well, do I really need a reason to post pictures of my dogs?  Yeah, I didn’t think so.

Rolling Down the Big Grassy Hill

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This title isn’t metaphorical as one might guess– this is about a story where I quite literally ROLLED down a big, grass-covered hill.  Why, may you ask?  I’m not entirely sure, and for once that’s more than okay (uncertainty is up there on the list of “Things I Hate,” including Math, ignorant people, MATH, and traffic, just to name a few).

I can’t even tell you that there’s a lot to this story.  It was merely a strange day, but I mean this in the best of terms.  I unintentionally stumbled upon something that I feel all people are looking for in life– a state of pure euphoria.  No, I didn’t get it from drugs, alcohol, or even exercise (running long distances used to be my vice for this).  In fact, I didn’t do anything.  Nothing amazing happened to me: no one asked me out on a date, I didn’t win the lottery, nor did I receive any other form of good news.  I simply ate breakfast, took a shower, pet my dogs, and slowly felt this sensation enter my bloodstream.  I found myself grinning from ear to ear, dancing and singing around the kitchen (AND TRUST ME WHEN I SAY THIS, I DO NOT SING **tone deaf**).  I decided to meet up with a couple of friends to go on a nature walk.  I, without warning, threw myself down the hill, rolling, laughing and screaming.  I have to say, for the first time in years, I felt zero ounces of self-consciousness.  I felt free.  I didn’t care who saw me or what anyone thought– I felt as though the chains of anxiety, depression, and day-to-day stressors were lifted.

Of course, this happy, hyper state eventually crashed, leaving me feel glum.  But if there’s one lesson I learned from days like these, it’s that you can be happy without any tangible validation.  You don’t need to win to feel like a winner; you don’t need alcohol to dance (although it certainly helps for some); you don’t need to be told you’re attractive to think you are; you don’t need to be a prize-winning artist to make something unique and masterful.  We’re all searching for that moment of euphoria, and for some it comes frequently and for others hardly at all.  When you do experience pure joy, take it and run with it.  I’m not saying go do anything crazy that you’d regret, but sometimes we just need to throw ourselves down a hill and get a good laugh out of it.  The last thing I’d like to say, is that nothing felt more freeing than the releasing of the self-conscious part of myself.  I’m beginning to learn that it’s more fun being 100% me than a watered doDSCN1074wn version of myself.

*Photos taken by me [at the park where I happily rolled down a hill]