As far back as I can remember, I have always had some form of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. When I was younger my family and I referred to it as my ‘habits’ that I would do – close every single drawer and cupboard in the house, check under my bed and out the window a certain amount of times each night before I went to bed, say ‘love ya’ to my family every time they left the house, etc etc etc etc etc. You know, the usual stuff carefree kids do! If I didn’t do these things I genuinely thought something terrible was going to happen to my family. But, I was a kid and this was just a ‘funny’ and ‘quirky’ thing I did... right?
One time when I was about 11 years old I answered the home phone and instead of saying ‘hello’ I said ‘love ya’ simply because I was so in the habit of saying it... it was my friends dad on the phone and I immediately threw it to my sister and pinned it all on her. As I got older, my ‘habits’ slowly dissipated and I no longer had to go through a 15 minute ritual before I went to bed every single night.. some things stuck but mostly it seemed under control. Hindsight, am I right? It’s little wonder to me now that this dormant OCD spiralled into an eating disorder when I was 18. I was absolutely consumed by the number on the scale and the goal of having the ‘perfect’ body.
During this time I lost a lot of friends, didn’t socialise at all and missed a bunch of opportunities.
I was unable to hold attention on anything other than my weight, what I was going to eat that day and how I looked in the mirror – at least, how I thought I looked. It was bloody debilitating and went on for about a year.
One of my favourite authors Elizabeth Gilbert said “I’ve never seen any transformation that didn’t begin with the person in question finally getting tired of their own bulls***t”. And I was so tired. I started seeing a psychotherapist who introduced me to hypnotherapy, mindfulness and the power of our subconscious beliefs. I’ll admit, I only started seeing him because I thought he would hypnotise me and I’d be cured in one session... when I learned it would actually take approximately a year of consistent sessions, I was already in too deep to back out (AKA my parents made me). I’ve gotta tell ya, it was a really long road of up’s and downs, and more and more downs and some up’s – but I finally got to a place where I was putting on weight and feeling pretty okay with it. I mean, I even started to like the booty I was growing – even if I did have to invest in literally an entire new wardrobe because nothing fit me anymore. It all seemed worth it to me. Cut to some months down the track...
After recovering from my eating disorder, I went through almost a second puberty... I got my period back and the other really fun thing that happens when you go through puberty – pimples. Instead of being stoked that I was on my way to full recovery from anorexia, it was as if all of the concern that I ever had towards by body got completely redirected to my face. It was as consuming as my eating disorder had ever been and I slipped into another, more intense depression. I’m not kidding when I say this, I would not leave the house. I went full agoraphobic.
I was living in the city and my parents would have to come and rescue me from my room and bring me back to their home on the coast because I was in such a bad way.
Reading this you are probably thinking that I was being just a tinyyyy bit melodramatic about simply having pimples... um yeah I agree! Around this time is when we pinned it all together and realised that my ‘habits’ from when I was younger may have actually been the first sign that I was born with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Instead of focussing and rearranging external things, I turned my obsessions towards my physicality – first my body and then my face.
For those who don’t have the pleasure of experiencing this disorder, I’ll try and explain it a little to you – when I was younger and had to do things like closing all the doors in the house, my mind simply would not be able to focus or comprehend anything else until that thing was done. When it was done, I would get some relief. Now when it came to my skin, as all people know who have had troubles with theirs, fixing it is never an instantaneous thing. It takes time and honestly, stressing less about it.
With Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, my mind was not able to rest until it was fixed – I was completely fixated on it. My mind simply needed a bloody break – as a family we decided that I should try a low dose of medication that specifically targeted OCD. For me, this was such a difficult decision to make. The stigma around things like antidepressants is pretty intense – I envisioned it completely changing who I was, making me emotionless and visions of Jack Nicholson in ‘One Flu Over the Cuckoos Nest’ were circling my brain. Also, I’ve always at least tried to live in a pretty natural way and I thought this would completely contradict that.
But, I was exhausted. I was completely exhausted.
The first two weeks taking the medication were pretty crappy, the anxiety is heightened, you feel a bit nauseous and sleepy all the time. After about six weeks, my mind started to clear a bit, I started laughing again and I was so much more in the moment than I had been in such a long time. The medication gave me the time to do the self work that I needed to do – my meditation practice was able to progress, I started doing yoga every day, exercising in the healthiest mindset I ever have, I travelled throughout Asia for 4 months, met amazing people and enjoyed life so much.
I realised you can still live a mindful lifestyle and take medication – the two can absolutely coincide. I’m not pro-medication and I’m not anti-medication – I believe that you should do whatever works and feels good to you. And you should never let people make you feel bad for your choices either way.
My one belief is that if you do take medication, you cannot simply rest of your laurels – you have to work your butt off on in conjunction with the medication to become the best version of yourself. We all only have one life and we need to suck out all the joy we possibly can and be the best version of ourselves that we can be. Whatever that looks like for you, do that.
I never wanted to be the woman that got to 50 years old and suddenly realised what was important and valuable in life. Because of everything that I’ve been through, I don’t think that I ever will be.
Love Lilli x