One year ago today I walked out of my counselor’s office with a prescription in my hand and a new understanding of my brain. One year ago today I was diagnosed with OCD. OCD “features a pattern of unwanted thoughts and fears (obsessions) that lead you to do repetitive behaviors (compulsions). These obsessions and compulsions interfere with daily activities and cause significant distress. You may try to ignore or stop your obsessions, but that only increases your distress and anxiety” (thanks for the medical definition, Mayo Clinic). This diagnosis was strange because it had always been this joke in my family about how we like to keep things clean and we’re really attached to order. But this was different. I was hit with a ton of bricks that much of how I experience life and experience anxiety is not a joke. This is a disorder. Something is wrong with me. Or so I was telling myself.
Having OCD for me means I have an affinity for order and schedules and routine that impacts my life and those around me. Though it’s grounded in a grasp for control that many of us experience, I experience disorder and uncertainty on a different level. It causes me to freeze up. It causes me to check out. It causes my thumbs or even my entire hands to shake. It causes trichotillomania, or hair pulling. It causes a lack of ability to communicate or articulate what is happening and why it is affecting me so greatly. And after a year, I can safely say I still struggle with all of these symptoms.
Stigma around medication is mind-blowing to me. Whether you take pills and don’t feel like you can tell anyone or you might need pills and you’re too afraid to name it, we can all do better to be honest with ourselves and those around us that it’s okay to not be okay. And that there are a lot ways to get help. My anxiety medication keeps me closer to reality, even when things are hard or constantly changing (because that’s life, right?). My anxiety medication makes my hands shake a little less and helps me sort out my thoughts a little more. Just a small plug to say get help if you need help. And if you need encouragement, I’m here for you.
I chose to share my story about this struggle in my life because I know that I am not alone. I still stumble when when plans or expectations change and I am expected to make a new decision quickly. I still stumble being honest with my counselor about the stress and fear I experience in new and changing circumstances. I still stumble “putting my eyebrows on” in the morning because I’m too embarrassed to let the world tangibly see the internal fight I’m experiencing. And yet I sit here today with a much better understanding of a God who created both order and chaos.
In the first creation story (Genesis 1:1-2:4), God added things to the chaos of the formless void that was earth. God added light and God added land and God added vegetation and plants and fruit and the sun and the moon. All of these things made the earth good. A side note that the earth was not very good until human (adam) had a partner, a helper (eve). However, God was present in both the chaos and the order. In the darkness and the light. In the water and on the dry land. In the things that seem formless and the things that have form. I have learned in my life that God is present in the order as well as in the chaos. Thanks be to God.
In the second creation story (Genesis 2:4-25), God sits in the disorder, the indistinct, the structureless for 2.5 verses. Then slowly God causes things to be added to life on earth. A stream rises up. A human is made from dust. A garden is planted. It feels like God takes intentional time to appreciate both the chaos and the order. So as I learn to sit in the reality of both determinate and in-determinate, shaped and unshaped, harmony and disarray, I know that this is a holy and valuable act. After all, we’re all here trying to be more like our Creator, right?
As I find ways to both relish and reconcile one year of this diagnosis, I wanted to share. Because Creation was designed with purpose. Because we are all overwhelmed in this time of uncertainty and wrecked plans and fear of what the future will be. Because honesty and vulnerability are necessary in this world. Because I am not alone. And neither are you.