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I try to share my story at every possible opportunity through my writing or through talks, such as my TED talk

What do I write?

This should be an easy question, because as a writer, I should be bursting with so many ideas that I would never be able to complete all of them. But when someone asks me about my OCD, or I have to write a piece on it, I wonder…what part am I supposed to talk about? How am I supposed to convey the enormousness of my experience into whatever little space or time I’m provided? How do I talk about something that has been with me for as long as I can remember, that is as natural as breathing yet as unnatural as that choking, stifling loss of breath that occurred every time the obsessions became too much.

I was a very emotional kid, and being emotional and constantly absorbed in forms of escape that didn’t involve hitting any kind of ball was looked down upon when you were a boy. The OCD started out then, and grew with me. I was terrified of everything, constantly on the watch; filled with thoughts I had no control over, having to suppress urges and desires that were repulsive and destructive.

Whenever I tell people I have OCD now, after I know what was truly going on in my mind, they shrug it off. But can I really blame them? They’re not mean or spiteful. They’re simply ignorant. They didn’t have their minds assailed with images of friends or family members in pools of blood. They didn’t constantly have to worry that they were going to harm themselves. They didn’t constantly have to analyse and examine everything. We both had vastly different systems of thought, and they didn’t even know. I did. I was isolated, alone, angry, lonely, depressed. But not destroyed. The very fact that they couldn’t connect with me didn’t matter because I could connect with them.

I could write. It was a gift, some said, but I knew that that gift arose from the pain that I endured every day. And so I chose to view that pain not as something that I could not overcome, but rather as the necessary cost to that gift, and I just let it push me harder. I wrote more, and wrote better, and pushed myself to be creative and innovative for a simple reason: If the pain became worse, but my writing was not as good, the pain won. I could not give up. Little bit stubborn that way.


By the age of 21, I had a well-received book published, another one written, and a fictional world in its beginning stages of creation for future books. But I almost didn’t get there. Earlier this year, there was a lull in my writing as the pain finally became too much. I didn’t think I would make it. Waves of pain shot through my head and I spent hours screaming as I fought the images, the thoughts that grew stronger and stronger each day. That’s when I finally went to therapy and was diagnosed. The pain didn’t stop after for a while, because the medicines took time to take effect, but I can say that I’m much better now and onwards to a speedy recovery.

I try to share my story at every possible opportunity through my writing or through talks, such as my TED talk (Something that I’m immensely proud I could give) so that I can educate and remind those suffering from any kind of mental disorder that they’re not alone, that there are those who understand, that they have the strength to overcome that pain which seems insurmountable.

– Varun Gwalani, Author of “Believe”