“She shrank away from him and shook with terror and loathing. Unfortunately this was the worst thing she could have done, for it was always her obvious fear which encouraged him to continue tormenting her. If only she could have ignored him, he soon would have tired of teasing and her company and would have wandered off to look for other prey. In all her life, however, Much-Afraid had never been able to ignore Fear. Now it was absolutely beyond her power to conceal the dread which she felt.” –Hannah Hurnard, Hinds’ Feet on High Places
For the past year and a half, I have resembled a character like Much-Afraid. I developed obsessive compulsive disorder paired with anxiety as a result of intrusive thoughts. Reflecting on my life, I have always had OCD, but in the most minor, insignificant ways. I have always checked the locks on my door and performed mental rituals and prayers for my loved ones out of fear that something bad would happen if I didn’t. A year and a half ago, however, began the most challenging season of my life. The light I had learned how to dance in slowly, but oh so surely, was blotted out by the unforgiving marks of anxiety and obsessive compulsive disorder.
My illness is sparked by intrusive thoughts. Everybody has intrusive thoughts from time to time, but when you have obsessive compulsive disorder, you dwell on the thoughts. Most of them are irrational, but they demand attention. My compulsion is a mental ritual I must perform in order to temporarily receive relief from the false evidence that appears to be so real in your mind; if I don’t perform the compulsions, I fear the intrusive thought will come true. The fact that my illness is physically unseen speaks volume on the stigma that exists about those with mental illnesses. Nobody around me knew I was suffering; life was going on around me, on the outside everything was perfect. Mental illnesses have the strength to rob your life if you let them, though. Dread, fear, and sadness flooded me internally. Out of this, anxiety grew.
For the longest time, I suffered in silence. I was ashamed, lost, and confused. But I was still fighting. Fear will torment you, if you let it. Just like Much-Afraid, one day came when it was absolutely beyond my power to conceal the dread which I felt. It was this past April. I was in my favorite place in the world, the Dominican Republic, serving with my church in the town of Villa Altagracia. I have been so blessed to be with the thriving community there, teaching eager-to-learn students English, and forming closer bonds with my youth group. On our final night, we held a beautiful devotion where my fellow senior girls and I were prayed over. I desperately longed to be present within this time and to experience the prayers being proclaimed over me. It was a powerful moment. But I allowed my OCD to be even more powerful. I felt the need to fully devote myself to my compulsions and tune out the wonderful prayers.
After this, I sought out help. A mentor of mine encouraged me to visit a therapist. I never considered therapy, I always thought it was a far off possibility.
Today is June 22, 2018. I am almost two months in the treatment process. I can feel healing, hope, and pure joy. Some days are still hard, most are uncertain and uncomfortable, but I am just getting started.
Although I have been weak, I am still strong. I can boast in nothing but the goodness of God.
I encourage anyone and everyone who is reading this, if you are struggling, reach out. Something I always tell myself is to look for the yellow butterflies. These butterflies signify a sense of transformation, joy, and signify better things are coming. They dance so marvelously, echoing the need to move to the next level of purely being. Purely being present, expectant, and willing to relearn how to dance in a fresh, unfamiliar, yet promising light.