Coping with OCD and Anxiety

During COVID-19, I entered my sophomore year of high school and I expected it to be effortless. I thought to myself, after all, ninth grade was a breeze. Now that everything's online, tenth grade should be easy, too. Having unlimited access to the internet during quizzes and tests put my mind at ease. With my new confidence, I loaded my schedule with AP and honors classes. I quickly found out that searching for answers online did not equate to good grades. 

Never could I have predicted that tenth grade would be the first time I experienced a panic attack. That panic attack alone would ultimately reveal other problems down the road. I remember the event that started it all. I didn't even know I had an honors English quiz on this specific day. While taking the quiz, I struggled to figure out what the questions were asking, but I couldn't. Even before receiving the score, I knew I was doomed. I logged out of my remote class and sulked downstairs for lunch.

The thoughts were spinning in a circle in my brain. Thinking about the quiz again and again made me fall into a panic. I thought, If I fail this quiz, my grade will drop to a C. I'll get rejected from all colleges, then my friends and family will be disappointed. Suddenly, my breathing accelerated. I felt my mouth dry up, and my head started throbbing. I wound up collapsing on the floor. My parents heard something was wrong, ran over, and helped me calm down. Mom held my hand as I tried to slow down my heart rate. 

I was already dealing with unwanted thoughts about self-harm and compulsions. Failing this quiz made me spin out of control. Imagining how this would affect me later at school and in life worried me. I felt anxious and mentally drained. After this event, I feared that my family's perception of me changed, and that made me feel even worse about myself. My sense of self crumbled and revealed the deeper issues. 

I communicated that I was experiencing repetitive, disturbing thoughts and compulsions as well. For so long, I hid the fact that I struggled with completing daily tasks because of these issues. My parents suggested I seek help from a specialist. Even though I had a negative view of therapy, I decided to give it a go. I felt that it was better to try and solve a problem than to leave it alone at the risk of getting worse.

Then began online therapy. On the very first day, I was diagnosed with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, or OCD. I learned that OCD includes both compulsions and unwanted thoughts, both of which I dealt with daily. For example, I constantly felt the need to arrange objects in a certain way. All of the notepads on my desk were equally spaced. The sunscreen, toothpaste, and toothbrush around my sink were lined up perfectly. Any time they were pushed slightly out of order, I would feel anxious.

Each session with the therapist was about an hour long. We discussed breathing exercises, coping techniques, and the causes of my OCD and anxiety. Discussing my problems was harder than distracting myself with the phone. Each session felt like opening up a wound. At times, revealing my problems felt embarrassing and it was not easy expressing them aloud. Every week, I was given a test to measure levels of anxiety, depression, OCD, and quality of life. After three months of working alongside a therapist, I could manage my symptoms better. I really underestimated how difficult therapy would be, but I'm glad I stuck through it.   

If I could comfort my younger self, I would tell her that she is doing fine and that failing one test is not the end of the world. I would explain that therapy is more common than she could imagine and share valuable exercises I've learned from therapy. Some of my favorites are the 54321 grounding technique, counting by multiples, and eating cold or sour foods during stress, which I use to help me to this day. 

Even today, I struggle with OCD. I know I won't wake up magically cured, but I'm proud of the way I handle my thoughts now. I would encourage those with OCD or disturbing thoughts to express themselves, either through journaling or talking to trusted adults. Letting others know about what you're going through is not a sign of weakness; it's courageous and can benefit you and those around you.

1 comment

  • Thank you so much for sharing this. I feel like there are so many who can benefit from reading this, and the more we all share, the more supported and understood we all feel.


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