Letter #98

Content Warnings: Intrusive thoughts, Panic, OCD


Dear friend,


It all started in my junior year of high school. The intrusive thoughts started to take over, one by one. I’d go to bed pondering an intrusive thought, waking up the following day in a complete panic, the thought still lingering in my mind. Every thought I had was an intrusive one. “Who am I?” I thought to myself. This has never happened to me before. I didn’t even feel like me anymore. I’d spend hours every day staring up at the ceiling, wondering when it would end. The persistent tightness in my chest. The slow numbing of my arms and legs. The feeling of being in a body that wasn’t my own.


Sleep wasn’t in the cards most nights, but I needed to do something to ease my worries. So, one night, I opened my laptop and got to searching.


“Constant bad thoughts and need to stop them from happening,” I typed in the search bar.


The first result that popped up was something called obsessive-compulsive disorder, or OCD. The name sounded familiar, but definitely not what I expected. I always thought OCD was a kind of perfectionism disorder – the need to organize and clean everything compulsively. People would say things like, “I’m so OCD; I love washing my hands”, and at the time, I never really questioned it. I had no knowledge of the disorder, so I felt it wasn’t my place to engage. But in hindsight, it was insensitive for them to make such

comments without understanding the tremendous pain and discomfort individuals with OCD experience on a daily basis.


I recall one of the worst OCD flare-ups I’ve had to date. It was in my freshman year of college. One evening, I had an intrusive thought about not wearing a mask to school the day before. Though the mask mandate was lifted, I couldn’t help but wonder: “What if I secretly have COVID? What if I accidentally spread it to someone on the train? What if that person spreads it to someone who is high-risk? What if that person gets severely ill because of me?”


The intrusive thought loop was never-ending. My brain was catastrophizing faster than I could even process. My head started to pound, and my heart was beating out of my chest. I felt sick to my stomach. “What do I do now?” I asked myself repeatedly.


Another intrusive thought told me, “You have to skip school tomorrow, or else you might make someone else sick”. Back then, I didn’t understand the nature of my OCD, so I complied. I spent the rest of the day conversing with my intrusive thoughts, no matter how absurd.


Three years later, with the help of therapy and self-care, my OCD has gone from crippling to mild. I still get intrusive thoughts every now and then, but I’ve learned to manage them in a healthy way. I honestly cannot emphasize enough how beneficial therapy and self-care have been for me. My quality of life has improved drastically, and I would not have been able to do it had I not recognized the importance of having a healthy mind.


For those of you reading, whether or not you have OCD, please, tend to your mental health. Take time out of your day, every day, and invest in an activity that brings you happiness and inner peace. Take care of yourselves; I promise you, you won’t regret it.

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