OCD, ADHD, Depression, and Anxiety: these are the mental illnesses I’ve dealt with my entire 33.5 years of life. I spent many of those years not knowing there was a name for what I was experiencing, that there were things I could do and people I could talk to to help navigate life with mental illness.
Growing up, I struggled with a lot of social anxiety. I was very shy, even around family members, and couldn’t order for myself in restaurants. I dreaded going to school and spent a lot of my elementary and middle school years either at the nurse’s office trying to convince her to send me home or spilling my heart out to a school social worker instead of attending math class. Avoidance was my middle name. If I could get out of something, I would. The anxiety I felt about being around my classmates was overwhelming at times.
Every night before bed, I had a list of things I had to say to myself before I could fall asleep. They were all related to terrible things that could happen to my family or me. Please don’t let me get kidnapped. Please don’t let anybody in my family get kidnapped. Please don’t let our house catch on fire. Please don’t let anyone murder me or my family, etc. Without fail, I said these things every night for as long as I can remember. If I didn’t, I couldn’t fall asleep.
My socks had to be on my feet just the right way before I could put on my shoes. I remember my parents taking them off and on so many times that they would often get frustrated with me. I was (and still am) very rigid when it came to rules and plans. Things had to be a certain way and couldn’t change or I’d get very upset. I grew up feeling like this was normal — that everyone did things and felt the same way I did, and I had one very strong reason to feel this way: my father was the same way.
Although he was never diagnosed, my father exhibited so many textbook symptoms of OCD, there was absolutely no denying it. He’d check that doors were locked so many times that he’d break door knobs at work. He’d repeat himself under his breath a set number of times and had rituals he had to complete every single day. He avoided going places and couldn’t do many basic things for himself. He had an assigned seat on the couch and a routine that had to be followed or else. He was very rigid, inflexible, and lost his temper frequently. I always thought his actions were so unreasonable. I know now that he was mentally ill.
So, at 31 years old, when my therapist told me that I had OCD, I thought, Ah, I get it now. This is what it feels like to have a breakthrough in therapy. Little did I know that I would experience that feeling tenfold when I received my ADHD (Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder) diagnosis in March 2020, five days before my 33rd birthday.
Looking back at my life since receiving both of these diagnoses, I realize that if I had gotten help sooner, things might have been drastically different. I don’t regret the time it took me to find the answers, but it did inspire me to speak out so that people who are dealing with the same things might feel inspired to speak out and get the help they need sooner than I did.
Mental illness is so stigmatized in our society that many people neglect to share their struggles for fear of being criticized. This prolongs suffering and very sadly can result in very serious health problems or worse, suicide. My goal in speaking openly and candidly about my mental illness to show that it’s OK to reach out for help. I use my blog and social media platforms to share my experiences and connect with people who might be dealing with the same things. In November 2020, I started designing and selling merch to raise awareness and end the stigma surrounding mental illness with a portion of the profits going to mental health organizations like ADAA.
It is my hope that eventually we will live in a world where people can receive the help they need without feeling ashamed and I’m trying to do every little thing I can to get us there.
Information about me: Rebecca Rose
IG:@rosey_rebecca and @talktomeaboutmentalillness