November 19, 2012

OCD and Paying it Forward....

Now that I’m “on the other side” of the hell of OCD (at least for this moment), I can see the positive aspects of having such a horrible disorder.  The biggest thing about struggling with a chronic problem – be it physically or emotionally – is that it helps to develop compassion and empathy for human suffering.  I’ve learned a lot of lessons in my life, which – in my opinion is the “juicy” part of living.  Even though many of the lessons have been difficult and learned the hard way (I seem to be one of those people!), I thrive on learning and being challenged and growing.  It makes me feel alive. 

Since starting to really face my struggle with OCD a few years ago, I have been passionate about doing what I can to help others who are challenged with mental illness.  I seem to be able to see those people a mile away.  I can sniff them out.  The “crazies”.  (LOL – I say that with all love and affection.  I embrace it now!)  I guess the old adage “it takes one to know one” really works here.  But – in all honesty – I find “the crazies” the most interesting people.  We’re the ones who have struggled.  We have depth.  We have stories.  We get it.  I even find myself dismissing those who claim to never have struggled in life.  (Very judgemental!  I am working on that.) I chalk that up to either extreme denial, miracle genes, or well......just plain boring. 

Anyway, one of my friends Rachel has issues with anxiety.  I’ve known Rachel for about five years.  She’s struggles with perfectionism, combined with Panic Disorder (my diagnosis).  You see, Rachel is like many of us who have lived most of our lives in denial that we have an anxiety disorder.  So in the past, Rachel and I haven’t really related on that level.  In fact, I rarely spoke with her about my OCD. I don’t think she wanted to be able to relate – that would’ve made her crazy like me.  :o)

Until now.

About a month ago, Rachel started breaking down.  All of us can relate.  She started having panic attacks.  The thoughts in her head started ramping up.  EVERYTHING seemed like an impending catastrophe.  She and her family were on holiday in Hawaii and they had to come home early.  For Rachel, one of the side effects of her panic is to violently vomit.  She’s lost about fifteen pounds on an already very small body frame.   Things have spiralled downwards quickly. 

Initially, she wasn’t talking to me about it at all.  I work with her husband, and he would mention some things to me at work.  Then finally, last week it hit me.  She’s really bad.  She’s not coping.  I asked Michael – he confirmed my suspicions.  First, I texted her and just casually asked her.  She confirmed that things weren’t going well.  I just let her know that I was there for her if she needed anything. 

Since then, I have become Rachel’s “sponsor”.  She called me on Friday night to ask me some questions.  On Saturday, we walked the dogs, and then I went with her inside the house, where she proceeded to have a full blown panic attack.  She cried.  I cried with her.  I sat with her for four hours while she talked, and cried and talked some more.  Yesterday we went for tea.  And this morning as I was on my way to work I got a phone call: "Can you come over?  I need you.”  Luckily I was able to arrange my day so that I could be there for her. 

It’s amazing the pain I feel for my friend.  Unless you have suffered with mental illness, it is impossible to understand. It’s amazing how watching her brought me right back to those days....the days when I couldn’t sleep without having the TV on all night.....the days when I would panic if I had to be left alone.....the days where just making a simple decision about what to eat for lunch seemed impossible.  I feel incredible compassion for Rachel, but also a lot of hope.  She will get through it, and I keep telling her that.  She will figure it out in her own time, and in her own way.  She’s on the path. 

As for myself – I am so, so, so grateful.  Grateful for the path that I am on....grateful for my amazing therapist...grateful for the support of our little blogging community....grateful for having the courage, every moment of every day to keep going, despite anxiety....grateful that I am now far enough on the other side of it all that I am starting to figure out what I am passionate about – and actually see some of these dreams become reality...and grateful for the love and acceptance that I seem to have developed for myself.  It really all is OK. 


  1. How wonderful that you can be there for your friend! It would be easy for you to just live your life and move forward now that you are doing better, but instead you are taking your painful experiences to help someone else. VERY cool!

  2. Such an uplifting post! I am sure Rachel is grateful to have you in her life. Helping each other out.........that's what it's all about. Thanks for the reminder.

  3. That's really neat that you can help Rachel. I remember when I was really struggling, it was often people that had "been through it" in some form or another that I wanted to talk to and be with. Sometimes I just wanted somebody to UNDERSTAND. I'm glad that you can do that for her and still remain positive and thankful.

  4. Way to go, Pure O! Rachel is lucky to have you in her life. It makes life so much more 'worth it' when we can use our struggles to help and encourage another person.