YouTuber Brenna Burk blogs about life with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
Years ago, if you’d asked me what OCD is, I would have given you one of two answers: “Isn’t that where people organise stuff a lot?” or “I don’t know, I’ve never heard of it.” If you ask me today, however, you’re in for a much longer, detailed, and knowledgeable explanation, because I was diagnosed with this disorder approximately eight years ago.
Before I go into detail about my mental health, let me introduce myself. My name is Brenna Burk, I’m a 19 year old college student from the United States of America, and I am probably the most smiley and fun loving person you’ll meet. I grew up playing sports and dancing, which developed into a passion for fitness and personal health/nutrition; something I now regularly practice to create a better version of myself everyday. I also really enjoy the arts – in so many different forms – drawing, writing, film, and makeup, the last two being a merged passion that turned into one of my most exciting hobbies – my YouTube channel. If you happen to be a girly girl, or are just bored enough to watch me talk, you can check my channel out with the link provided with this post.
Now that you know a little about me, let’s move onto the reason you’ve arrived at this post: my OCD.
I had just finished sixth grade when one certain event during that summer (that I don’t tend to discuss, but am willing to in more personal situations) made me feel immensely guilty. Being so young, the only type of guilt I’d ever experienced was the kind where you steal your sister’s toy and then lie about it to your parents. But I felt in my naive heart that this was something new, something so heavy that I couldn’t keep it to myself. I told my mum, via email. Yes, email. I couldn’t face the confession of this horrid feeling in person. This was the turning point of my mental health; I went from carefree to guilty as could be. I felt guilt over everything – and I mean everything.
“I felt guilt over everything – and I mean everything.”
As the days went by, I started getting more and more intrusive thoughts about everyday actions that my mind told me I should feel so shameful about that it made me sick. That one email to my mum turned into multiple per day, until one day I broke down and felt frantic because the amount of confessions I felt I needed to make to her were more than I could keep up with. These thoughts (the “obsessions”) not only manifested themselves in these confessions I speak of (the “compulsions”), but in weird ways that I couldn’t explain. I had to take nine steps in the living room. I had to count all stairs. I had to look over my shoulder six times. I had to stop breathing if I looked at someone that had a disease or was injured, because I thought breathing while laying my eyes on that person would give me their health problem (and I’ll admit, this is still one of my compulsions to this day).
“I had to take nine steps in the living room. I had to count all stairs. I had to look over my shoulder six times”
My mum eventually sought counselling for me, which was absolutely the right thing to do, but I stopped going soon into my treatment because I felt it was too shameful to talk about my thoughts. I do remember that in my first couple of sessions, that counsellor was able to diagnose me because my symptoms were so severe and obvious. By the time 8th grade rolled around, I was feeling lots better and I was convinced the OCD had mostly gone…wrong. So wrong. Fast forward to my junior year, where it came on stronger than ever before, and my confessions were aimed at my then-boyfriend this time around. I repeated the my past actions and I stopped going to my counsellor. I am not proud of that, but I can thankfully say my confessions have eased up again. I did, however, decide to start attending therapy again in my freshman year of college to address my depression and general anxiety, and I’m happy to say that this is one of the best decisions I’ve ever made for myself. Finding the right therapist who relates to you deeply can make a world of a difference. Though I’ve come a long way, I still carry excessive and unnecessary amount of guilt, shame, and self doubt with me. To this day, I continue to live in fear that another episode of constantly confessing will haunt me in the future.
Now, at 19, I can say I’ve learned so much about OCD and its ability to make your mind take over your body. I’ve learned how immensely isolating it is to feel like you are living a double life, putting up a front for everyone around you while your head spins with self-destructive madness. I’ve learned that OCD is so powerful, and even more terrifying, because it truly feels like you have lost control over your own actions. Like I said, I’m doing loads better now, but I still have little compulsions everyday that simply feel routine now after all these years.
“Finding the right therapist who relates to you deeply can make a world of a difference”
If you suffer from OCD or love someone who does and you’ve read this far into my story, you’re probably begging me to reveal the magic cure. I resent to tell you that there isn’t one, but I will tell you the number one thing that has helped me to cope and get past my ugly, dark thoughts: Every time they invade my mind, I say to myself that it is the anxiety talking. This is not Brenna, this is OCD. It is trying to convince me that I don’t have the power and strength to not give into my compulsions. It wants to take me over, but I will not let it. Accepting my thoughts and resisting my compulsions, as frustratingly difficult as it is, is the thing that has healed me most. I’ll also tell you what has been the most challenging part of having OCD, and that is loving myself. I want to say I have learned how to, but the guilt and shame that comes with this disorder makes it feel nearly impossible. With that being said, though, I want to beg you to never stop trying to love yourself. I have made a promise to myself that I won’t give up on trying, even on the days where there is not an ounce of progress in sight. As humans, we give so much love to the people and things that matter to us. They all deserve love, just as every being on this planet does… so tell me, why don’t you? You would never rip someone else to pieces, pick out their every flaw, and tell them they are not worthy of love, so why do you do this to yourself? Next time you look in the mirror and start the self destruction, think about the questions I just asked you. I hope more than anything that you will find the power to love yourself someday.
Let me reintroduce myself: My name is Brenna Burk, I’m a 19 year old college student from the United States of America, I am probably the most smiley and fun loving person you’ll meet, and… I have obsessive compulsive disorder. I left this out the first time I introduced myself to you, as I do with every other person I meet. Why? Because as much as OCD feels like a part of me, one thing I will never do is let it define me. This disorder and I have driven a long path together, but I’ll never stop fighting it- even if this road trip lasts the rest of my life.