Tell us about yourself.
I'm a 26 year old elementary school teacher in SF. I love cats, reading, and watching movies.
What mental illnesses do you suffer from, diagnosed or otherwise?
I don't like to say the word "suffer" anymore but that I deal with anxiety and OCD.
What inspired you to share you story with us?
I was inspired by the progress I've made and want others to know that it does get better- it just takes time and effort.
At what age did you first notice your symptoms, and then when did they become problematic?
As an adult, I can now see my anxiety started around 2nd grade but I thought it was normal to worry the way I did. I would feel sick to my stomach and sometimes vomit. It stopped by the time I went to middle school but it started again when I transferred to SFSU and that's when symptoms of OCD also started.
Can you recall a particular moment?
I can recall when my OCD started. I watched a t.v. show that made me question the people around me. If they would ever hurt a future child of mine. Then I questioned whether I would ever do that. From there, my symptoms and obsession became worse.
When did you seek help?
I sought help after about 2-3 weeks. I googled my symptoms (google can be a blessing and a curse) and forums of OCD would pop up. I found a local therapist who has been so supportive.
Is there anyone that can you speak openly with about having OCD?
My therapist and members of our OCD group.
How are you coping?
Much better! It shocks me, actually. I still deal with intrusive thoughts but I'm much better at accepting them and not letting them define/control me.
How are you beating your OCD? In what ways have you felt empowered to live alongside your illness, without having it define or control you?
I've beat my illness through repeated exposures- continuing student teaching, teaching summer school and now having my own classroom.
It feels great to kick OCD's butt by accomplishing my goals and not listening/believing the thoughts. At times the thoughts still scare me but not as they did about 2 years ago. Be kind to yourself- OCD is telling you you're a bad person and keeps feeding you thoughts you don't want. OCD is a bully that you too can overcome. Stand up to the bully and I promise you, slowly but surely, you will see changes.
Can you share some of your intrusive thoughts?
One of my intrusive thoughts I'm okay sharing is when I'm driving, I visualize myself getting into an accident or purposefully hitting another car. I've also thought of hurting cats and those I care about.
Do you believe your OCD has held you back in any way?
In some aspects of my life, yes, such as hanging out with friends. I turned into a hermit crab for a bit.
Do you find that it gets in the way of your work?
How would your life be different if you didn’t have OCD?
I think I would have my driver's license by now! While I have a permit, it's been taking me a while to get my license. I deal with intrusive thoughts about driving.
What have you been able to achieve in spite of your mental struggles?
As of right now, I've achieved what I've wanted- becoming a teacher and passing the required exams, except for one. I'm still studying for that test and my driver's license.
Use three words to describe your experience.
Nightmares, scared and community
Can you think of any positive things that have come in to your life because of OCD?
Becoming a part of the OCD group with my local therapist and online community. It feels great to know you're not alone or have "weird and demented" thoughts. They're just thoughts.
Are there some parts of your OCD that you don’t feel comfortable discussing with other people?
Yes, there are some parts I don't feel comfortable sharing with others outside of my OCD group. It's so taboo, at times, it still makes me feel embarrassed and ashamed.
If you could say one thing about your experience, what would it be?
Roller coaster- ups and downs and sometimes it's steady.
If we share this on our blog, your photo and name will be attached. So potentially your family and your friends would see this. If it were anonymous would you share more?
If this were anonymous, I would share more. But I also think it's powerful putting a face to OCD.