It’s not always what it seems.

If you don’t know me (you probably  do) I’m Marissa. Nice to meet you, good to “see” you whatever applies here. I’ve had this thought, or I guess stream of thoughts running through my mind over and over for days, I think I have literally written this post 4 times, in my mind, so I figured I would write it for real, for you. It’s not always what it seems, that’s what I want to talk about, things aren’t always what you you would assume them to be, or what they would seem to be. Sometimes things are far more complex, multi-faceted, we just need to take the time to understand that.

A little background, I was diagnosed with OCD at the age of 18, I had been living un-diagnosed with OCD since I was a child, not to the fault of my parents I simply just didn’t mention it. (more on that later) As you read that you probably had some fleeting thought like “oh her house must be so clean” or “I wonder how many times a day she washes her hands?” and I too would have had that same thought before I was told I had OCD but as I began to understand I realized, it’s not always what it seems. I wanted to write this because so often when I say I have OCD people tell me they don’t think I do because I don’t exhibit the classic symptoms they associate with it, they mean well, they just don’t understand… OCD or Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is defined as “a mental disorder in which people have unwanted and repeated thoughts, feelings, ideas, sensations (obsessions), and behaviors that drive them to do something over and over (compulsions). Often the person carries out the behaviors to get rid of the obsessive thoughts.” The term OCD is most commonly associated with cleanliness, washing hands, excessive cleaning, fear of germs, and that’s valid and real for some, but not all. For me the obsessions (not the good kind) are with health concerns, things happening to me while I’m alone, not having intrusive thoughts, the list could go on but those are the major three. When I was younger I did have some “classic” obsessions and compulsions excessive hand washing, and having to do things a certain number of times because that number was “safe” and others were not, but I just that was normal and never talked to anyone about it, it didn’t bother me. As I grew up though it all started changing. I would obsess over the thought of a friend or family member dying and me never being able to get them back so I would not be able to move things they had put somewhere or touch things they had touched and I would experience extreme anxiety if something was moved or I accidentally touched something. Even then I thought this must just be normal, and I didn’t talk about it. It wasn’t until high school when it started showing up in health related concerns that I started having to talk about it strictly because my obsessive thoughts were starting to make me physically feel unwell. I began being terrified of having a heart attack, I would obsess about not having one so much that my body would start exhibiting symptoms of one, chest pain, arm pain, back pain, and then the compulsions to stop the obsession would kick in. I was obsessed with not fainting, so much so that I stopped walking around, if I wasn’t standing up I couldn’t faint, problem solved on that one, except not really, because then I was bed bound. I would chew gum incessantly, massage my neck over and over, take constant baths (how this stops a heart attack I don’t know, but it made sense to me) I would have to be in a moving car, that somehow was going to save me, the compulsions were endless and ever changing, and never made sense to anyone but me. These obsessions only grew and the tools I used to stop them (the compulsions) only became more ridiculous. My life was literally consumed to the point where my thoughts felt like they weren’t my own anymore like someone had taken over my brain, someone I hated, and turned it into a terrifying place where every bad thing that could happen lived and gave me lists of things to do to stop them from occurring. So when I say things aren’t always what they seem I simply mean OCD doesn’t always mean I have a beautifully clean home, or that I take 4 showers a day… all though I still cannot sleep at night without taking a shower first like literally will not sleep… it means that my brain obsesses about things to the point of extreme anxiety and then invents odd ways to “fix it”. Obviously these little tricks I’ve created don’t actually fix anything, they merely mask the issue and provide a temporary comfort. Comfort is great, but not when it’s temporary. I’m slowly learning what permanent peace feels like.

It has been a journey, one that I haven’t wanted to walk, but one that I am proud to have traveled. My family, my friends, my husband have all been the most gracious and loving people in my ugliest of times, find your tribe, they make all the difference. As a Christian I have prayed countless times for healing and while God hasn’t taken my OCD away from me He has walked right beside me and shown me so much, given me so much compassion, insight, understanding, and wisdom as I’ve walked. I know He works all things together for good and if I can help just one person because of what I’ve experienced then this has been good, worth every second. I’m still on my journey, some days are good and some days are bad, but all days are worth it and everyday is a gift. I guess what I am trying to say is don’t always make assumptions based on limited knowledge of something, take time to understand, you might be surprised what you find. I don’t claim to be a psychiatrist, I don’t know it all, but I do know that OCD looked a lot different than I thought it would and had I not been blessed with a psychiatrist who helped me understand I probably would have thought that this was just the way my brain was supposed to work and remained anxious and depressed for years. If you are still reading, thanks, this was probably the most boring thing I have ever written, but I couldn’t get it out of my head unless I deposited somewhere else so here it is, in all its grammatically error filled glory. I’m not going to obsess about what you think of me now, its taken awhile but I’m learning to love even the not so pretty parts of me.

love you

xx M


The big IF

Today has not been a good day. I woke up already shaking, probably from hunger but that set the tone for me right then. I decided I wasn’t hungry so I choked down a small little meal and stayed in bed, finally around one I decided I needed to eat, so I got up made the trek to the car and drove with my mom to get some fast food, eat, and sit in the car while she ran errands. I had every intention of staying up afterwards but then all the physical symptoms started piling up, shaking hands, dizzy, heavy chest, the usual everyday feelings. So when I got back home, I laid down once again, a couple of hours later I got tired of feeling sick and laying down so I got up, opened the curtains, a window and sat in a chair. I decided I needed to do something so I sanded a cabinet for a few minutes and when that exhausted me I went back to laying down. Then I started getting restless and asked my mom to bring me to my place so I could shower, and possibly go get groceries. None of this happened, because the BIG panic set in and I stopped being able to focus, was having trouble swallowing, dizzy, shaking, my face was tingling, and my mind was going a thousand miles a minute with the “what if”. Which brings us to now, see the problem is I live my life around a what if. “What if I go to the grocery store and faint?” “What if I am about to have a heart attack?” “What if there is something seriously wrong with me physically and nobody is going to know until something catastrophic happens?” “What if my blood sugar dips too low?” “What if I have a seizure?” “What if I am taking a shower and pass out?” “What if I have to ride in an ambulance and stay in a hospital?” “What if I lose control of myself?” “What if I get dizzy in public where there is no place to sit down?” “What if friends come over and I don’t feel well but have to pretend I do?” These are just some of the what if questions that plague me almost daily. It’s ridiculous for me to live this way, and ridiculous that I have believed the lies of the enemy for so long to get me in this place. I sit all day on social media and observe other people’s lives, I think about how much fun they are having, and how they are living, and I get angry and sad about how I am not. The problem is I don’t know how to get out of the place I’m in. Then I wonder how many people that I look at on social media are actually being true to their lives in their posts, my posts tend to always be cheery, a photo taken at a good moment, on a day where I wore make-up, a status that’s positive because I know other people are struggling too and I want to be a light, a joke to a friend because inside of me that fun person is still wanting to come back out; but those things aren’t a true reflection of where I am at right now. If i was being true I would be posting a what if every 10 minutes. So why do we hide behind all of those things? I know we need to be able to keep our personal lives private, and everyone doesn’t need to know everything about us, but why, then would we post a lie? If I post the truth might it help someone else, and even if it doesn’t might it provide me with some freedom? I don’t know the answer to all of these questions and you probably don’t either but these are the things I’ve been thinking about today and I thought I would share them with you….So this evening I am trying to take the what if thoughts captive as they come, throw them away, and then declare a God truth over myself. It seems as if I could do this for hours and all though it becomes tiring after a few minutes, as long as my mind is believing the lie still I need to bombard it with the Word, and the promises of the Lord. Currently I am a slave to my mind, and that is not what God has planned for me, I need to start standing firm.

“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” Galatians 5:1

On the Highway

The thing about this journey is that its unpredictable, its moment to moment, second to second, kind of like being on the road, one moment you could be speeding towards a green light and the next second its a red light, you can never be positive what’s going to happen next. I took some big steps today, most of them involving being on the road again. I drove myself into the city about 45 minutes away, knowing that I would have to drive myself back home later this evening. As the day progressed my physical well being began to spiral downwards, you see I was anticipating the drive home. Anxiety is a lot like driving, some days you feel like you are stuck in traffic, stopped, never moving, never progressing, and others you are speeding down an open road at 70mph, nothing in your way, nothing stopping you, thats how my day began. I woke up feeling awesome, I got Starbucks with my husband I took him to work and got on the road, but with every red light, or stop sign I began to feel trapped. It goes back on the moment to moment changing, the lights are green the traffic is light I am soaring, but the lights are red or I am stopped and I am spiraling downward. See for me a green light means that I can go, I don’t have to worry about being stuck somewhere or not being able to go I am moving, I am progressing. My mind recognizes the red lights, the traffic, as a symbol of how I have often felt in life, stuck, trapped, stopped, not progressing, being alive and breathing but not being able to move forward. So this evening getting into the car my symptoms were already fully pronounced, I had the floaters in my vision, the worms as I call them, my legs were beginning to shake, I was getting unbelievably dizzy, and I couldn’t focus on anything, I was feeling trapped, stuck, and I just wanted to be somewhere familiar with someone familiar. I had forgotten my water bottle, my comfort when my mouth gets dry and my head gets foggy but going through a drive-thru seemed near impossible at the time. I made it about halfway home and the dizziness overtook me, I had to pull off in a parking lot and I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to make it the rest of the way. I called Samuel as I was supposed to be picking him up soon to explain and he prayed over me before having to get back to work. I turned the radio on to the Christian station and started trying to center myself again. I found just an ounce of strength inside of me and reminded myself that with God all things were possible and began speaking aloud that God and I were driving home together and could conquer anything as long as I kept Him the center. The further I drove the more the enemy attacked, the radio started going fuzzy, the station was gone, and my phone case was blocking the headphone jack for me to be able to play worship off of it. I was mapping the way home in my head remembering each turn-out each road or parking lot I could find refuge in, and then I realized how fed up I was with the enemy. I sat up straighter in my seat and yelled out for him to get away from me and kept going. I had timed my drive out to miss the traffic on the one lane road into town, but tonight of course it was backed up much further that it ever should be at the time I was coming through; I started to panic again, I was so close to home, to a safe place, but I had to remember that God isn’t going to bring me anything I can’t handle and to rejoice at my obstacles because often they are treasures he has brought me to help break off these earthly shackles. I reminded myself I wasn’t stuck that even though it was slow, I was progressing, and I would eventually be at a destination I wanted to be at; just like through this journey. Some days I feel stuck, and I am moving slow, but I’m never not moving forward, I am always one step closer to that eventual place of complete freedom. Even if some days I take a step or two back, I am learning how to overcome the situation better for the next time I go out and conquer it. So today I started out on the open road, I got stuck in a traffic jam that seemed impossible to get out of, and I ended up back on the open road. It wasn’t an easy day and as I write this I am feeling all the aches and pains from tense muscles and the weakness from a racing heart and rushing adrenaline, but I am thankful for each of those feelings because they remind me that today I was victorious…

“But the Lord is faithful, and He will strengthen you and protect you from the evil one.”
2 Thessalonians 3:3

This is just the beginning

It all started years ago, my first vivd memory of a panic attack is from the age of 9. They were’t constant in my early years, in fact they rarely happened at all and when they did, I was sometimes forcing them out in order to get out of doing something I wasn’t keen on doing. All though I’m not proud to say that, it’s the truth and how are we ever to grow and move past something if we can’t speak truth about it? It wasn’t until junior high that it really started hitting me. My circumstances changed, my life changed, my grandfather the greatest man alive and my best friend passed away suddenly, my cousin someone who I looked up to in a bigger way then I knew then let me down in the worst way possible, and my father the man who I thought so highly of left the family. Later on my best friend was taken out of the world by cancer.. It was a crucial time in my life I was just becoming a teenager and my body was changing and I was trying to figure out who I was and all these events rocked me to the core, and without realizing it then I let myself fall into a spiral. I choose to be partially home-schooled in high school, the though of having to be somewhere, trapped, for hours was not something I could handle, I still attended weekly classes but only for hours at a time and not daily. I was the comedian of my friend group, the loud one, the life of the party, the center of attention, and that is how I coped. Some of my dearest friends didn’t even know my dad and mom had separated because everyday I put on a face for them instead of being real with them. It was easier to act like nothing was wrong, if I hid things from them I didn’t have to deal with my emotions, and at the time pushing them away seemed like the way to get past them. The problem with ignoring emotions is that one day they will come back, by stuffing them down, I only let them grow and become strongholds in my life. Instead of just facing them when they were happening, I ran. Running is something I have often done in my life, if I don’t like something I flee, I get away from it so that I don’t have to face it, a habit that is not healthy to have. So while I was running, and putting on a face that wasn’t my own in public I was having daily breakdowns at home to my family. It wasn’t right of me to do and they were all struggling with things that had happened and were happening as well, me only adding to their burdens. I chose not to medicate, I wanted to be able to overcome this on my own, to come out victorious using my own strength, and what is the problem with that way of thinking? The problem is I wanted to rely on my OWN strength, that leaving God out of the equation. Don’t get me wrong through this all I was attending church, praying, and reading my Bible daily, but when I was anxious I relied on myself and the world to bring me into a place of peace. The world, family, and friends could distract my mind for a time but when I gave them the responsibility of being that for them, I didn’t give God the ability to bring me through the trial and use it for his purposes. I got better for awhile, after meeting my husband I had something to look forward too, to be happy about everyday, I found strength in myself to travel cross the country on multiple plane flights to visit him, and I found peace in God’s presence. Finding peace in the Lord was the best thing I could have ever done, but I was still ignoring the trial and having God bring me through it and out of it no matter how hard overcoming some fears and scars might be….and that brings us to today. I’m 20 now, and this year my fears and anxieties have taken me out of life completely. I stopped coping by living and being the comedian and I started coping by hiding in my house and never going anywhere. I started coping by stopping living. You see the trails we face are often hidden gems, God lets us walk through them because he is refining us for His purpose. All though most of the time I don’t understand why He allows us to walk through certain trials, it is not mine to understand. All I need to understand is that He is working, and that He is bringing all things together for His greater good. So now, as I am writing this I have come to the realization that God is bringing me through this trial not to harm me, to strengthen me and I need to stop running from it and face it head on. I need to let God be in control and stop trying to control my life for Him. If you’ve read this far you are probably wondering why I am writing this, why I am sharing it on the internet with you? I am writing this and sharing it because I need to, I have been so hidden and closed off for so long even from my greatest friends something that is not fair to me or them, I need the people around me to be able to understand me and where I am in my life. Maybe God is going to use me in mighty ways to help other people walk the journey of anxiety, and maybe he is already using me to reach you as you read this. I don’t know his plan and I don’t need to know his plan, I trust in the fact that he is my victorious warrior and is going to bring far greater good than I could have imagined out of this situation. This blog is simply a place for me to process what is going on in my life and to share it with anyone who wants to read it or who is in the same place as I am. Sometimes all you need to get better is to know you are not alone…