A Renewed Sense of Freedom

I miss you guys! I know I’ve said it before in posts, but grad school is a major time suck. But I really miss this blog and had a moment the other day that I wanted to share. Hopefully I’ll graduate soon and have time for this again because there’s so much I want to share with you guys about what I’ve been up to. I’ve been going after my fears—both OCD fears and general ones—and knocking them down. But that’s for another day.

Wednesday, February 26

One year ago, I traveled to a writing conference and, for the first time in years, didn’t have anxiety about staying in a hotel. I hadn’t done that since I was a kid. It was exhilarating.

Today, I’m sitting on a plane, going to the same conference, and I’m in a large amount of pain (I have chronic pain all the way down my spine). My neck is stiff and aches up into my head. I’ve got the tray table down, my elbows resting on it, my face in my hands, willing the pain away. Desperate and feeling very broken—in many ways, not just physically, though that’s the most immediate, at the moment.

But I’m sitting here with my face in my hands and just realized how amazing it is that I no longer notice when I touch my face, something I was also unable to do for many years. I could only touch it immediately after washing my hands.

I washed my hands earlier when I used the bathroom at the airport, but that was 4 hours ago. Since then, I’ve touched things on the plane, things my brain absolutely qualifies as dirty. But I don’t have hand sanitizer with me—haven’t used hand sanitizer since June, another feat I still can’t believe sometimes. So my hands are, by my standards, filthy.

But I’m okay. I’m not even a little bit afraid of them, these filthy hands. And I’m so floored by that. I feel like crying but don’t want to confuse or worry my fellow passengers.

I’m flying in the air, way about Utah, and I’m touching my face, and I’m not afraid, and, in some ways, it feels like a miracle. I don’t mean this happened magically or with divine intervention. I worked my ass off to get to this point. It was so difficult. It just feels miraculous because for so long I didn’t believe I could ever get to this point, that I could experience something as simple and beautiful as touching my face with my own hands and without fear.

This is all to say—I’m not trying to brag or ask for a pat on the back or anything like that. Yes, I’m incredibly proud of the work I’ve done, and I should be. But that’s not my point. My point is that IT’S POSSIBLE. For years, I was paralyzed by OCD. I’m sure there will come a time when it paralyzes me again; that’s the nature of mental illness. But today, I’m free. It took so much work, but I made it.

I want to share that because I want those of you who also struggle to know that it can get better. It can get so so so much better. You have to work your ass off for it. You have to go through some really difficult times and face a lot of tough fears, but you can come out free on the other side. I hope this gives you courage in dark moments. I know there are so many dark moments, but there are also bright, beautiful ones, and those are worth all the struggle it takes to find them.

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5 thoughts on “A Renewed Sense of Freedom

  1. Oh, what a wonderful post and I’m sure you helped a lot of people by writing it and giving them hope. The only comment I have is that you say you know there will come a time when OCD will paralyze you again. While I know OCD waxes and wanes, I’d like to think you’ll never be as bad off as you were before. You know how to fight your OCD and know that it is possible to win. That makes all the difference in the world. Wishing you all the best in the days to come!

    1. I absolutely hope that it’s never as bad as it was again. But I’ve also read and spoken to people who overcame it but were still crippled by it when it came back. I think some of that could be because OCD doesn’t always look the same when it comes back. My has been primarily contamination and perfectionism, but when it comes back, it could be totally different symptoms, which I’d have to learn how to deal with.

      I do like to think that I’ll be okay because I have the tools—and even more than that, I just KNOW now that I CAN do it—but I also want to be realistic. It might take over again. Doesn’t mean I won’t fight it again. But you’re right. I have something now that I didn’t have before: the knowledge that it’s possible and that I am strong. Thanks for reminding me of that.

    1. I will try to. It felt really good to write something for this again. And I do feel that sharing my experience with others is super important. I know that other people’s experiences really helped me get through my own struggles. I definitely feel a responsibility to share.

      The problem is that I’m getting an MA in creative writing, so I’m already writing a TON (or I should be, but I’ve had writer’s block lately), in addition to teaching. Maybe I’ll write on here a bit more often until my fiction writer’s block passes. 🙂

  2. This is a really inspirational story and gives me hope that I can conquer my OCD too. I recently went on a plane journey and the amount of hand sanitizer I used was ridiculous. If I can also take a flight without it I will feel that I have truly overcome my OCD! I’d love to hear your thoughts on my experiences too (although I have only just started writing). http://obsessivecompulsivediary.wordpress.com/

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