Most of the people who read this blog right now are quite close to me, so none of this is going to come as a surprise. Nonetheless, I'd like to officially share a life update. I've been dealing with some stuff that I didn't feel comfortable talking about here before, but now, I'm ready.
So here we go.
I arrived at BYU - Idaho on January 3rd. BYU - Idaho has a three-track system with a Fall, Winter, and Spring semester as well as a brief Summer session, and every student is assigned two semesters to attend. I'm Winter/Spring, which is why I started in January. Classes began on the 6th. I was immediately bored by most of them, since they were mostly beginning gen-eds that I have to take to make up for the transfer.
Now, I can handle boredom. But very quickly within that first week, it became clear that I was not doing well.
Those of you who have been reading this blog for a while are aware that I've struggled with my mental health a lot. This came to a head my second semester at college, before I decided to transfer to BYU - Idaho. I had an emotional breakdown and finally agreed to try counseling as a result. My situation improved with the help of one of Adam State's student counselors, but over the summer, I had a second breakdown, and this one was worse. This is partially because of the lack of resources available in my small New Mexican hometown. At my worst point, I couldn't leave the house without having an anxiety attack. Thanks to a few key people, I managed to make it to January. I knew that once I arrived at BYU - Idaho, I would be able to apply for counseling through the school..
The first week there was extremely rough, however. I had anxiety attacks multiple times a day, and my fibromyalgia wasn't doing well, either. I had to get an anti-inflammatory shot halfway through the week to keep the pain down. Finally, at the end of the week (which sounds quick, but felt like forever), I was approved for counseling. I saw one counselor, whom I didn't particularly like, for an evaluation, and then I was referred to a different counselor they believed would fit my situation. That counselor listened to my story, asked a couple of questions, and then said, "You have an anxiety disorder. It's called obsessive-compulsive disorder."
Yeah. As it turns out, I have OCD.
The first related episode I remember happened when I was about eight. However, like many OCD patients, I've had anxious tendencies my whole life. Now that I know the cause, everything suddenly makes so much more sense. It's like my life has fallen into place. OCD is caused, essentially, by an overactive nervous system, just like fibromyalgia. It seems I was born to feel too much.
As a self-professed psychology nerd, I'm ashamed to admit that I didn't actually know much about OCD before I got diagnosed. I never researched it because I thought I already knew everything I needed to--and I was wrong. There is a pervasive stereotype about OCD in our society that distorts our idea of what it is. Yes, there are patients who are always cleaning their environment or washing their hands or counting to certain numbers. But there are also people like me.
My OCD is more internal, which is why it flew under the radar for so long. Some people call this form of OCD "Pure-O", but my counselor doesn't like that term because it's not accurate. In order to have obsessive-compulsive disorder, you need to have both obsessions, or intrusive thoughts that cause anxiety, and compulsions, or behaviors you use to try and stave off the anxiety. There are lots of different obsessions, which means there are lots of different compulsions. People with "Pure-O" do have them, just in a subtler form. What most people see in my case is me overreacting and being negative about myself.
My primary obsession is moral scrupulosity, which is sometimes called "religious OCD", although it encompasses a lot more than religion. I'm basically obsessed with making myself perfect, which means I struggle a lot with feeling unworthy. My biggest compulsions are avoidance and rumination.
Unless you have OCD, it's hard to truly understand it. It's probably the disorder people joke about and reference the most in casual conversation (along with ADD/ADHD) because it looks weird but not dangerous. What they don't realize is that OCD can have horrific effects on people's lives. It's an anxiety disorder that brings with it every anxiety-related emotional agony. It can destroy a person's self-confidence, it can limit their capacity to function, and it even leads to self-injury and suicidal thoughts. (There's a really good article about OCD misconceptions on Cracked here.)
Since my diagnosis, I've been working hard to balance my classes and hobbies with my efforts to get the OCD under control. It's difficult, but thanks to both antidepressants and counseling, I've made substantial progress. Essentially, I'm fighting a battle with my own brain. Doing this while trying to attend college and live a normal life is not a lot of fun. That's why I've decided to take Spring semester off. I'm going back home again.
Once there, I'm going to work hard to get the OCD under control in a familiar environment where I have more people in my corner. I'm hopeful that I'll be able to return, better prepared and more stable, to BYU - Idaho in January 2015. It'll be interesting, certainly, because I have a whole different set of challenges to face at home, but I'm confident that I'll be able to do so. I intend to apply for jobs, to volunteer at the animal shelter, to take a couple of online classes, and to continue my exposure-response therapy by spending more time at social activities, in the driver's seat of the car, and on the terror that is a telephone call, among other things.
So that's where things stand right now! Pray for me, if you will. I want to be free of the control my OCD has over me. I want to be able to be myself without it. I think I'm starting to see now who Kira is beyond her mental health issues, and it's a strange and unfamiliar prospect, but I like it.
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