I’m thankful for my therapist, for the SSRI that has given my inner voice enough power to be louder than the doubt
I remember the day exactly. March 12th. It was a wonderful day. I spent the day doing what I love, which at the time was fashion photography. I went home that night, and laid myself down to sleep for what I would now know as my last night of peace. I spent the night tossing and turning, only to realize that my heart seemed to be beating faster than normal. Strange? It was 10pm and I’ve never not been able to sleep before. I sent my older sister a text, and asked her if she ever couldn’t fall asleep because her heart was beating so fast.
Her response shook me. “All the time. You’re having a panic attack.”
The next three months were excruciating. How could I go my whole life not experiencing this, living such a normal life, now not being able to even take a full breath. I enrolled myself into therapy, and met my current therapist. We talked about my ability to be impressionable when it came to hearing others anxiety stories. Of course I was feeling that way, I was lost in this whole new world of fear and panic. How do I know what to expect? What to believe? She then spoke the sentence that spiralled me into the onset of my OCD.
“Maybe you just need to find yourself?
Words from a therapist you never want to hear. Words from a therapist, or from anyone in general, almost certain to cause a identity crisis in someone in their early twenties. I went home and carried on with my usual daily tasks. Cleaning up after myself, and picking up the stuffing from my dogs favourite toys. I went to grab the laundry out of the dryer and I thought to myself, “What if I have to leave my boyfriend in order to find myself?”
That thought caused instant panic. My boyfriend and I are high school sweethearts. We are perfect for each other. For the last 5 years, he has brought so much joy into my life. We’ve done long distance through college, we talk about our futures together, and have both made incredible sacrifices in order to be together. He supports me in every endeavour. How could I have to do such a thing? How could the only answer be to leave the one person who feels like home?
I gave in to the thoughts once, and only once. The ‘break’ lasted two days, and I realized being strong didn’t mean being strong enough to leave the relationship, but being strong enough to fight off my intrusive thoughts. The next few months were excruciating. I refused to leave my boyfriend. But there was this monster inside my head constantly whispering all the reasons I needed to leave. Leave him. You’re so young. Look at all your friends being happy and single, don’t you want a part of that? This relationship is boring. You’re not happy, and its because of him. You don’t love yourself when you’re with him. You’re not attracted to him like you used to. Look at him, he’s gained weight. Don’t you want to be with someone who you feel attracted to? Remember that really hot guy at the gym that walked by you at the gym? That’s how you should feel when you’re around him. Am I falling out of love? What if all this anxiety and doubt is because I’m falling out of love? If I really love him, why am I doubting it so much? And why doesn’t the doubt go away when I reassure myself that I do love him? What if I’m too young to settle down? Do I really know myself well enough? Is there someone better out there for me and I’m just forcing myself to go through hell in order to stay with someone who isn’t who i’m supposed to be with? Who am I supposed to be with? How do I know? How do I know which thoughts to trust? I don’t want to leave him. I want to be happy like I used to be. What if the only way to happiness is to leave him? I don’t want to do that. Im so scared I’m making the wrong decision. What if I regret not listening to myself for the rest of my life? I want to date other people. Wait, do I? That doesn’t sound like me? I’m curious about dating other people, but I don’t want to leave him. Is that a good enough reason? Im lying to myself. Leave him. Leave him. Leave him.
A constant flow of thoughts became my reality. I was unable to sleep, eat, work, even doing my passion was nearly impossible. Constant googling left me at a loss. No matter what phrase was running through my mind I could find both the answers I wanted to hear, and the ones I didn’t. I visited Sheryl Paul’s site Conscious Transitions, and I felt an immediate relief lifted off my shoulders. This kind of thinking wasn’t normal. This kind of thinking wasn’t because I was in the wrong relationship. My mind was in a constant state of fear.
I was fortunate enough to have a boyfriend who saw my struggles, and purchased multiple relationship anxiety courses for me. Something I would never be able to afford on my own. He supported my goals, and he believed me when I told him these thoughts weren’t what I wanted. That is something I will never take for granted. That is the one reason I know I don’t want to leave this man. How could I tell someone how much my thoughts tell me I don’t love him, and he can still listen to me and know these thoughts aren’t my truth? His trust in my mind was my goal for myself.
Eventually, the spirituality and Buddhist approach to relationship anxiety from Sheryl Paul was too much, and I needed something more scientific. I needed proof. Proof that this monster in my head was real, and that it was being studied. I came across The OCD Stories Podcast, and I began realizing that I was dealing with much more than anxiety. I was dealing with OCD. Pure O, to be exact. My rituals were not seen, but they were all in my head. The constant checking how I felt when I was around him. Do I feel love? Do I feel butterflies? What does love feel like? I feel anxious, this cant be love. The constant asking others about their dating lives. Was I missing out? If someone tells me they left their high school sweetheart and ended up happier, then I should too. I don’t want to miss out. I don’t want to do the wrong thing. There was a constant urge to confess everything and every negative thought to my boyfriend. He had to know everything. If he didn’t, I felt like I was lying to him. Every time a thought popped up, I had to argue with it. I had to throw all the reasons it was wrong back at it. Sometimes this included talking to myself when I was driving, other times it happened in the form of journaling. All pages were burned immediately afterwards.
All of these compulsions were my own ways of coping with these thoughts. My own ways to ease the anxiety these thoughts caused.
I still struggle day to day, and some days are easier than others. I’m thankful for my therapist, for the SSRI that has given my inner voice enough power to be louder than the doubt (sometimes) and I’m thankful for Pinterest. A few quotes I could not have made it this far without:
“If it’s meant to be, it will happen. But that doesn’t mean you won’t have to work for it. People tend to forget the second part.”
“I don’t want to look back in five years and think ‘We could have been magnificent, but I was afraid.’ In 5 years I want to tell of how fear tried to cheat me out of the best thing in life, and I didn’t let it.” *this one!!!
“May your choices reflect your hopes, not your fears.”
“There will be dozens of people who take your breath away. But the one who reminds you to breathe is the one you should keep.”