Written by: Rebecca Feinberg Published: May 1st, 2022
A glimpse of what it feels like
Always a writer at heart, I have found the process of writing to be instrumental in helping me to process my feelings and emotions.
Recently, as I have begun to be more confident in expressing my own voice and my own truth, I have found myself writing more and finally feeling brave enough to share my writings with others. As someone who craves connection through authenticity, my hope is that my writings resonate with others and may serve to connect us with one another, so we do not feel so alone in our individual challenges, especially surrounding mental health. In my experience, mental health issues are often "taboo" to discuss and lead to a sense of isolation and shame.
When not writing, I spend my days working as a public health researcher at a large university, raising my 16 year old son as a single mom, and enjoying the beauty of Western Massachusetts, where my son and I live.
“You have no idea what it feels like inside my brain.”
My child once said to me, as I was losing my patience and compassion,
For what felt like the millionth time in his young life, he asked me if I had washed my hands before touching something.
And, he was right, as much as I tried, I (and others) could have had no idea what it feels like to live every single day with the unrelenting obsessions swirling around in the brain and the subsequent compulsions that follow.
To live each day with the level of anxiety that throws the body into such distress and drowns out all other thoughts.
And so I think about our society right now.
And how it may serve us all to have a small glimpse into the lives of those people whose brains feel this way all the time.
We wash our hands, over and over again. Told to perform this ritual for a certain length of time, in a certain prescribed manner. And we wonder if we washed enough (was it the whole 20 seconds?) and if we did it correctly (did we get under each fingernail?), or if we need to do it all over again. Our days now consumed with such obsessions and compulsions...
We clean, over and over again. Told to use special cleaning supplies and to be mindful of disinfecting each surface touched, each nook and cranny. And we wonder if the doorknob is really clean now and if the light switch was touched before or after we washed our hands, or if we need to do it all over again.
Our days are now consumed with such obsessions and compulsions...
We keep our distance, standing a prescribed number of feet away from people (and wonder if it was 6 feet or actually only 5 feet).
From not only strangers, but from loved ones,
For fear of contamination and harm,
Secluding ourselves for safety, both ours and theirs—not able to leave the safety of our homes.
We feel exhausted, mentally, from all the fears and anxiety spiraling in our minds
Trouble focusing on work, on pleasure, on much of anything right now.
And, so I ask that when all of this is over, and we return to our “normal” lives and our lowered levels of anxiety, that we hold a place in our hearts to remember what it felt like in this moment of time.
And that we have more patience and compassion for the people in this world, including my child, who are diagnosed with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and whose brains feel this way each day of their lives.
Among us, approximately 1 in 100 adults (2-3 million) and at least 1 in 200 kids/teens (500,000) are living with OCD.