The Dark Days Which Enlightened my Life | NAMI: National Alliance on Mental Illness

The Dark Days Which Enlightened my Life

By Alaa Anonymous

“Where there is no struggle, there is no strength” – Oprah Winfrey

I’ve always looked at this stage of my life as dark pages to be flipped quickly, still considering it the toughest struggle I’ve ever been through. I doubt if struggles could get harder than being a young patient of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.

The symptoms first showed up during grade 10. I had unusual thoughts that told me to do certain actions, more like commands. Things seemed normal in the beginning, but these thoughts gradually increased, became kind of intense and repetitive, so repetitive until it was really distracting! The annoying point was that I had to obey the thoughts to stop them from popping up again, as I obeyed a thought it did shut up for a while until another new thought showed up in the same compulsive way. A thought followed another and another. I couldn’t escape the thoughts no matter how hard I tried.

The disorder got so harsh that I sometimes wished death. I thought it was the only direct way to end the battle going on in my mind. I lived in a state of mental exhaustion, not knowing how I was supposed to deal with the hell going on inside my head. You can’t easily decide what to do, because it is hard to claim that the voice you hear deep inside is wrong. You can’t tell whether this thought came from “You” or the disorder. But the whole thing got on my nerves, as I noticed these thoughts being intrusive, numerous and started to negatively influence my mood. Each and every time I used to have what I now call the thoughts-attack, during which these thoughts became very condensed and extreme on me like my mind was being powerfully invaded by the disorder. I still recall how tough it was, not knowing how to stop the intrusive stream of thoughts, having no one to talk to, feeling both weak and afraid. I remember how I used to break down when I’m alone, sobbed and cried until I was relieved. You’d be truly lucky if you haven’t ever tested the feeling of completely falling apart, because it hurts like hell.

One good part was I had the ability of hiding whatever happened in my head from other people, pretending everything was normal, just keeping life going. Thankfully, my academic level at school wasn’t affected much; I could still get straight A’s. However, this was super difficult, trying to balance yourself between all the mess in your brain and your external expressions, social attitude and school life. Day after day, things kept getting worse. I couldn’t handle it on my own; I desperately needed help, which made me think of telling mom about what I was experiencing. Well, I didn’t receive the sort of help I wanted. My parents tried to help me out but just added fuel to the flame. In the past, I had to respond to two voices: the disorder’s and mine. Now I had to deal with three.

It’s really hard to describe how terrible it feels when the closest people to you, the ones who love you the most consider you partially insane. Although they didn’t say it out loud, It was still clear to me as they didn’t treat me the way they did before. Deep inside I knew they wanted my state to improve, but all they did was urge me to stop listening to those thoughts as commands. “Ignore them!” they said. They just didn’t understand it wasn’t under my control.

After about six months of suffering, I started searching about my case. I found out it was a known disorder which occurs worldwide. As I searched more and more, things became clearer. Low concentrations of neurotransmitters, serotonin specifically, along with abnormal hyperactivity of certain areas in brain; orbital cortex, cingulate gyrus and caudate nucleus, which altogether caused me what’s called Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. This 3-word condition was behind my struggle.

Common sense then obviously says I should start seeing a doctor, but making this point clear enough for my parents was pretty challenging. They believed it was all my mistake tolerating and obeying the thoughts I had. I had to live with OCD for another couple of months, during which my case became very extreme that I couldn’t stand it anymore. Unfortunately, all of my trials in convincing my parents failed, and it already felt awful to inform someone you suffer from mental problems.

To be fair, I understand that being told your daughter has a mental health condition is a nightmare to all parents, but it’s a condition just like other conditions, and needs to be medically treated. Why is the society showing these red caution signs when it comes to mental health? Realizing my doors were closed, I called my older sister, who knew about me and OCD and showed full understanding and support throughout my struggle, asked her to seriously talk to my parents, see if she would be able to influence them. Thankfully, they agreed! I finally got a milligram of happiness.

Afterwards my mom booked me an appointment in the psychiatric clinic. Medication was prescribed plus psychotherapy sessions with a psychologist. The doctor said the treatment depended equally on the medication and therapy sessions. Later on, I was introduced to my psychologist who was so helpful and sweet. So, as I went on with the medication, I started feeling calmer and the thoughts I battled became less intense. During my regular appointments at the clinic, the doctor took notes of how the medication affected me, whether it altered my mood and sleep hours.

Having to visit the psychiatric clinic regularly changed my image of mental health and patients of mental illnesses. Right then I realized how really unfair society is when it comes to mental health.

I could touch the difference as I went on with the medication and sessions. I finally felt I was ‘recovering’ from that nightmare. Plus, the medication supplied me with an additional dose of happiness and internal peace. I stayed on the medication, graduated from high school with high scores and enrolled in dental college.

Now that I have learned to manage my OCD, I see a different person in the mirror. My impression about psychiatric patients changed greatly. I can understand their struggles and see the hope in their recovery. Moreover, the struggle and treatment enhanced certain traits in me, opened up my mind and added a new perspective. That’s because overcoming OCD literally means overcoming yourself and being a in a continuous battle with your own thoughts.  I became more optimistic, calmer and most importantly stronger! I learned how to filter out my thoughts and have control over my life. As they say: “The darkest hours are just before dawn.”  


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