Some of the earliest memories I have are of me as a two or three year old asking my mom multiple times every day if I had to go get my booster shots.
“Mom?” I would ask meekly.
“Yeah, buddy?” my mom would reply.
“Am I getting shots today?”
She would sigh, and reply sweetly with, “No, buddy.”
Eventually I got over my fear of shots, but I never quite got over all the fear in my life. Naturally, my worries matured with me. By middle school, I was afraid of bird flu, mad cow disease and any of the other terrifying ailments that signaled the end of times in the mid-2000s.
This perpetual anxiety is something that has been with me for my whole life. I didn’t know any better. I thought it was normal to spend 4-5 hours a day worrying that I was about to die from an incurable disease. I thought it was normal to have to ask my parents 13 or 14 times a day if I was healthy, safe and secure.
I never thought to seek help. Despite the disturbing thoughts that constantly plagued me, I chose to keep quiet and cope. To admit that I had a problem would be admitting that I wasn’t a good Christian.
Far too many trusted adults had written off my anxiety as something that I just needed to give up to God. So many of them quoted scriptures to me about birds in the sky or flowers in the field. Several went as far as saying that my identity as a worrier was God’s gifting to me; they claimed that my worry made me a more empathetic person.
If I was called to be martyred by my thoughts, then by God, I would do it. So, I carried that cross. For two decades, I willingly lived with constant anxiety because I didn’t think that treatment was an option. I knew that my life could be better. I knew that I could be happier, but I buried those ideals and slogged onward.
I didn’t seek help until someone close to me got sick… really sick. My anxiety became unbearable. If it could happen to them, I’d think to myself, surely it will happen to me.
I would spend hours washing my hands, sanitizing surfaces, checking my temperature, all to ensure that I wasn’t getting a disease. Many days I would hardly get out of bed for fear of the disease that lurked outside of my room. My life was totally taken over by anxiety.
Fortunately, I have the best family in the world. They gathered around me, and without passing judgment, were there for me in the midst of my struggle. Eventually, they were able to convince me to seek help.
Six months later, I am on medication and in treatment for OCD. My life has never been better. Though I still find myself caught in my obsessive-compulsive cycle from time to time, I have never had so much clarity and so much peace.
If you ever find yourself in a similar place that I was, just know that you deserve to be happy and healthy, regardless of what others may say. Please seek help. It was the best decision I’ve ever made.
Peyton is a junior
visual communication design major from Cincinnati, Ohio.