Healing Through Helping: A Newfound Purpose To Cultivate Authentic Friendships

Healing Through Helping: A Newfound Purpose To Cultivate Authentic Friendships

by Joseph Ettinger

In recent months I’ve become struck with a newfound and startling sense of clarity. I’ve come to realize that the OCD recovery space has a glaring gap. There is a conflict at hand, but nonetheless, where there is a problem there is often a great deal of potential; potential for change, for betterment, for a new step forward. I’m determined to capitalize on this potential. My name is Joseph Ettinger and I am a 21-year-old student at the University of Maryland, balancing the demands of studying computer science and finance, alongside the challenges of entrepreneurship and work, all while managing the relentless struggles of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). Just so I don’t feel like too much of a stranger, and to help better lay the foundation for the rest of this piece, I’ll share some details contextualizing my OCD.

My OCD manifests itself through intrusive thoughts and obsessive worries, often rooted in catastrophic thinking. Every thought is oriented around a "what if," often spiraling into a storm of anxiety. These thoughts latch on to the topics that fear me the most, like death, loss, sickness, humiliation, failure, and the whole nine yards. My compulsions include excessive list-making to document and rationalize my fears, taking pictures of my surroundings for reassurance, and engaging in mental rituals to combat the constant flood of intrusive thoughts. Each day for so long felt like a battle against an invisible enemy, with my mind constantly at war with itself. And while I have improved, the journey is far from over.

But this story isn’t just about the struggles, it’s about the next stage of my self-improvement process. It’s about an enlightening understanding that I now realize might be the key to OCD recovery, not just for myself, but for others as well. This being the realization that authentic friendship and genuine community, in complement with therapy and medication, is what truly drives OCD recovery. 

Loneliness is plaguing those with OCD, presenting a serious obstacle to achieving OCD recovery. Because if the therapy gets expensive, or the medications don’t seem to work the same, or the articles just aren’t resonating, where are we to go? Who are we to talk to? Where is home base? And that, ultimately, is the heart and soul of why I am writing this today.

Driven by this newfound purpose, I have created an online community with unique features designed to foster authentic friendship. This isn't just a support group, it's a place where people engage in meaningful conversations everyday, share resources, network, and build lasting friendships. We aim to offer access to guest speakers, courses, virtual meetups, and more. Our community is also connecting with professionals and organizations, thereby creating a supportive environment of diversified and useful perspectives. We’ve cultivated a space where people can openly discuss their struggles and triumphs, find solace in shared experiences, and draw strength from the collective resilience of the group.

The journey hasn’t been easy, but I am incredibly proud of what we've built so far, and we’ve only just begun. I am traveling to OCD fundraisers, conducting widespread outreach, collaborating with magazines and podcasts, and partnering with organizations. The Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) has been wonderful, and their willingness to share this message gives me hope that we can reach sufferers worldwide. Every event I attend and every conversation I have reinforces the importance of this mission and fuels my drive to expand our reach.

There is a new hope for those with OCD. A new resource is available, and I am committed to bringing it to the world. Through this journey, I’ve found that my relationship with OCD has improved as I’ve pursued helping others. Building this community and working passionately towards a common goal has invigorated me with the energy to change lives. OCD is a challenge, but together we can face it. Let’s reignite the flame of recovery and build real friendships. In a world of superficial social media interactions, I am determined to create an online space for people with OCD that is different. I am here to change the world, one community member at a time.

This story is one of transformation and determination. From the depths of my own struggles, I have found a way to help others and, in doing so, help myself. The journey is far from over, but with every new member who joins our community, I am reminded of the power of connection and the incredible impact we can have when we come together. Thank you for taking the time to read my story. I hope it inspires others to seek help, find community, and realize that they are not alone in their battle with OCD. I’ll see you inside.

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