By Scott Zakaib
I have an illness. Well, I don't like calling it that. But that's what it is.
General Anxiety generally accompanies Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, and I have been back-and-forth with the two of them for the better part of ten years of my life. It started in high school, when the nerves were so powerful that I would lie awake at night, wondering how I would survive another day.
It didn't start as all the time. But soon, it was. After a doctor and psychologist agreed that they were able to name it and decided to help me with the condition, I stopped sleeping almost entirely. I distracted myself, tried to numb myself to the constant, biting fear. I was afraid of falling, or being guilty, or being unsuccessful. I was afraid of myself, of my friends, of my family. Nowhere was a safe space for me. I became paranoid, angry, and sometimes delusional. But I closed that part of me off to the world, and refused to show it. Because I knew that it wasn't normal, and having this condition didn't mean anything to anyone else in my life. It was a disguise I wore poorly, and the day I finally snapped, it was time for medication.
There was a light at the end of the tunnel. I reached out and grabbed it with both hands, working with my therapist and taking medication to try to take control of my head. The person who came out the other side may not have been entirely the same, but I was feeling better and that's all I cared about. For years after, I would have glimmers of overwhelming panic, but I was able to push it back down, control it, and bring myself back to reality without being drawn into a spiral that would cause me to lose my emotions into a pit of terrifying delusion.
But something happened somewhere in there and I guess it didn't go away after all. Nine years after I was "cured", the beast reared its head again. I had almost forgotten what it felt like -- an icy hand grabbing at your throat; a pounding pain in the back of your head; an itch along your veins, like something's crawling inside of you trying to scrape its way out.
It comes in all kinds of forms. It's so easy to forget what it feels like to feel any way besides the way you feel right now. It's easy to tell yourself it's normal, that you can deal with it, and that you can push whatever this is back down until you feel like you can keep going with your day. It's even easier to be mad at yourself for hating the things you used to love because they make you scared, or they're triggering, or they make you want to curl up into a ball and forget that you even exist.
The hard part is knowing that you can give yourself the benefit of the doubt. And in that shadow of confusion and emotion, you have to accept what it is, remember your training, and reach out and let someone in. No one has ever told me that my feelings are invalid, or that I shouldn't bother them with my problems.
It is a big problem, and you are worth helping. Everyone else seems to know it, so why do we struggle to remind ourselves of such a simple fact?
Today, I take medication and I deal with OCD and anxiety every day. I have a strong support network, I take control of my life when I can, and I make myself feel things I would otherwise fear and hate. Because if there's a light at the end of the tunnel, it's going to take a lot of work, a lot of self-awareness, and a lot of learning along the way.