My name is Bella, and I’m 10 years old. Last year I was diagnosed with OCD - Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. A lot of people think OCD is just about having to keep things clean and organized, but that really isn’t the whole picture.
If someone looked at me or spent some time with me, they probably wouldn’t notice anything different about me. My OCD presents itself in the form of intrusive thoughts, and my compulsion is to ask my mom again and again if my thoughts are true. When I first started experiencing this, my parents took me to a therapist who thought I was just having anxiety. We did talk therapy, but every time I went to see her, the thoughts just got worse. It wasn’t helping my symptoms at all.
Over time, I started to have more intrusive thoughts, and some them were pretty scary. Eventually, it got so bad that my parents took me to the hospital. A woman there asked me a lot of questions, then she said it sounded like I might have OCD. She explained what OCD was, and I actually felt relieved because I realized I wasn’t the only person dealing with this. I went home and my parents spent weeks trying to find a therapist who understood OCD and how to treat it. Eventually, we found a great therapist named Nina, and working with her has made a huge difference for me.
There is no cure for OCD, but the right kind of therapy can help tremendously. The kind of therapy that helps with OCD is called Exposure Response Prevention (ERP). This is where you do different exercises that help you face whatever you’re obsessing about. It isn’t easy, but it is very effective. Instead of trying to ignore my intrusive thoughts or distract myself, I have to write them down or say them out loud a certain number of times every day. The more I write and say them, the more my brain realizes they’re just words, and the less anxiety they cause me. My family and I have tried to be creative by making up songs and games to make this hard work a little more fun. ERP has helped me a lot.
Now that I have learned how to put my OCD in its place, I want to raise awareness for this disorder, and reduce stigma surrounding mental health. I recently made a video that describes my journey with OCD, because it seems like a lot of people think it’s just a joke. I hope that my video will both educate people who aren’t familiar with OCD, and help others with OCD realize they’re not alone.
Although my OCD will probably always be a big part of my life, I feel confident knowing that I have the right tools to fight it, and I want anyone facing mental health issues to know that there is always hope, so keep your head up!