Have you ever given much thought to mental health? Probably not unless you or someone you love has experienced a struggle with it. It can be crippling, scary, exhausting, and confusing. I live with OCD and Tourette’s Syndrome. Here’s what anyone who’s facing anything can learn with me.
It was September of 2006. I had just started the fifth grade. Up until this point in life, I had been an outgoing, bubbly, and fearless kid. In a matter of moments, that all began to change. The long journey to finding out what was wrong with me and why as a nine-year-old I was experiencing adult-sized panic attacks, having irrational fears of someone hurting me or my family, and not being able to leave my parents’ side was the closest thing to Hell I ever want to experience.
After months of trying to find someone who was familiar with my symptoms, we met Dr. H. He was able to diagnose me with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and Tourette’s Syndrome. He gave me a placebo, and when that didn’t work, we started to talk about medication. I was prescribed a low dose of a common antidepressant.
Medication was a turning point in my healing process. It completely changed my world for the better. After almost a year of chaos, I was slowly able to start living my life again. I wasn’t the kid I used to be, but I was able to establish a new normal. I could go all day at school with no panic attacks. I could hang out with my friends without fear that something bad was going to happen, and most of the irrational fears began to stop! I was able to jump back into sports. This was huge for me! After about 10 years, I was able to stop taking medications, and that was a great thing for me, too.
Before I continue, I want to note this: I fully realize this is not an option for everyone. If you’re stable and want to experiment with going medication-free, it is of the utmost importance that you do so only with the help and guidance of your medical and other support team.
Please don’t read me wrong: I still fully believe and know medication is a wonderful thing. Without medication, I wouldn’t have been able to come to a place of clear thinking. But once I did, and was able to think straight, I was able to let Jesus take control and further my healing—body, mind, and spirit. That doesn’t mean the journey wasn’t hard, because it was. I still have to go to Him daily and ask for His help. If your road is different from mine, don’t let that make you feel bad or weak. God brings healing in many different ways. I’m thankful that He brought healing to my mind through medication for almost a decade, and now through continuing to daily renew my mind with His power.
I still deal with mild Tourette’s. I’ve gotten really good at hiding it, and most people don’t believe me when I tell them because they’ve never noticed my tics. Medication has never helped with those, unfortunately. Although they are annoying and sometimes embarrassing, I believe God is good, and just like the woman in Mark chapter five, I continue to reach out to Jesus asking for healing in my body, too.
Your story is different from mine, but I bet we have a lot of similarities, too. Anyone who’s ever had to face something difficult, something painful and long-lasting, will relate to my story. In fact, I think anyone who’s facing anything can learn what I’ve learned (and am learning) along with me. Here’s what we can learn together.
- You know yourself better than anyone. When you start to feel like something is off, tell someone! Some people might not listen, so find someone who will.
- Realize that getting the emotional help you need for whatever you’re facing can be a journey, but it’s one that’s worth taking.
- Do not neglect taking care of yourself. Talking to a doctor to see if medication could be helpful is worth doing. Medication not working? Keep talking to your doctor to find a solution that does. I learned that deep breathing exercises are a great way to consistently take care of your mind and body. Breathe in for ten seconds and then out for ten seconds. Repeat until you feel calmer.
- Talking to a counselor, therapist, or even a mentor is very important. Talking to people was very important for my healing process. Getting out of my own head and letting others in was super helpful. Get your thoughts and feelings out of your head and into the open so others can help you make sense of it all. You can’t fight life’s battles alone.
- Figure out your triggers. Whatever you’re facing, you can alleviate extra drama and pain for yourself if you can figure out what hurts you or fires you up needlessly—and learn to avoid it! For me, scary movies are on the don’t list. Maybe for you, it’s time to set some relational boundaries. Stop going to certain places. You get the gist.
- Find Scriptures to speak over yourself. Scripture has the power to renew your mind and spirit like nothing else! Verses like Psalm 57:1 and Psalm 32:7 helped me speak truth over myself.
- Find encouraging music to listen to. One that is currently helping me is Peace by Hillsong Young & Free. Listening to worship music helps me rebalance when I’m feeling off and reminds me that whatever I’m experiencing at the moment, although it feels like chaos and is scary, my God is bigger than all of it.
- Go to God daily. Go to Him continuously. Every time you feel yourself falling, reach out to Him. If that means praying every minute of the day, do it.
I know how scary it is. For me, just the words “OCD and Tourette’s” were scary. But you are not alone in this war. I’m praying that as you read these words, Jesus fills you with hope and a plan.