I have struggled for as long as I can remember with mental illness. Finally I have decided that I want to share my story to help others going through a similar experience.
At the age of 3, I began preschool. I HATED the change and leaving my parents. To cope, I developed an exhausting morning routine (the beginning of my OCD symptoms as we all later realized). My Dad would drop me off, I would make him drive around the block one time, walk around the front garden at the school 3 times, walk up and down the hallway 2 times and then scream and cry as I waved goodbye at the front window.
Jumping forward to first grade, a lot was going on in my life. There was a new baby at home AND I was now going to school every day as opposed to every other day as I was previously used to (once again the change that I hated so much and had no idea how to cope with). This is also the year that it was realized that something was wrong and it was not just a phase or a fairly simple case of separation anxiety. This year was spent visiting several specialists and psychologists where I got my first ever diagnosis of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD).
Second grade was even harder, unfortunately. Halfway through the year my Oma (one of my best friends) was diagnosed with cancer for the third time. This is where I can distinctly remember the first time that my anxiety completely consumed me. We were getting ready to go and visit my Oma. Suddenly I began asking hundreds of questions to my parents “I touched the desk, it could be dirty and now I am going to go hug Oma”, “I touched this, what could happen…”, “What if there are germs on this that could make her even more sick”… this went on for some time. This became my life for the next year. I realized for the first time that I was different than everybody else. It was also around this time that my diagnosis was changed to ADHD with OCD tendencies.
It was August 30th of 2006 and I was headed into 4th grade (a huge transition for me to begin with). This involved a change in schools - no small deal for me and my anxiety, ADHD and OCD. It was August 30me that my life truly changed. For this was the day that my Oma went to be with the Lord. This was impossible for me, and was very hard on my anxiety and on me personally. Grade four was hard for me. My anxiety got much worse, especially my social anxiety. My little brother at the time was obsessed with the TITANIC and everything to do with that boat. It was after the exhibit that everything got much worst. The idea of tragedy filled my every thought. The ‘what if’s were awful, and the thought of death consumed my every move. I was revaluated by a psychologist and was diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety.
Grade 6 was my hardest year of school to date. My little sister was born (I was so, so excited). However the change in my family was once again very hard on me. School became a task for me and I spent a lot of my time playing with students younger than me as I didn’t feel accepted by students my own age.
High school came, another huge transition, and my family and I expected the worst. The first few months were super hard as I struggled to fit in. However it was in and around November of that year that I met three of my super close friends. My high school experience changed forever. Though I still struggled with my anxiety in every aspect from homework to home life. I was able to develop some better strategies with the help of many amazing counselors.
Next and most recently came the battle of university. I decided that I wanted to start fresh. I opted to go to a school 2.5 hours away from my current home. I was so excited for this change. It was not nearly as easy I thought. The first day I sat on my bed and cried. That week I cried and cried some more. It was not until the beginning of October that I slowly began to realize this was possible, I could do this, I COULD go a full day without crying. It was around this time too that I slowly began to realize that my OCD symptoms were becoming much more prevalent than they ever had been before. I had to follow a strict and exhausting routine at night. Than I could FINALLY go to bed.
Many don’t realize OCD and OCD symptom tendencies are not just a strict routine. It is the feeling that if you do not do an action something horrible will happen to you and those you love (at least that is how it is for me). I finally felt more used to the environment, although this wasn’t until February. Though even after this point, I continued to go home at least 2 weekends out of the month (though it was usually 3). It acted as a reset button for me. It became a coping strategy.
My current diagnosis is generalized anxiety disorder with OCD symptoms though I know It will be ok. I am so excited to now say I am headed for my next adventure, second year!!My dream is too inspire and speak to other people and groups to let them know that tomorrow is a new day and despite one’s struggles today there is a tomorrow to look forward to, a chance to hit the restart button and that with time comes the abilities to create new strategies to help get you to tomorrow as a better person.