Overly anxious thoughts hold us back from our full potential
Cali won nine conference titles in distance running while in college and competed in the 2020 Olympic trials in the marathon. It was not without a lot of hard work, both physically and mentally
I wasn’t diagnosed with obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) until I was 21. But I had traces of it since I was four years old when I would touch my nose and say, ‘Sorry God,’ in case I did anything wrong. I worried that if I didn’t, I would go to hell or my nose would grow like Pinocchio.
Unlike the form of OCD that involves obsessions about contamination and compulsive actions like handwashing, Cali’s form created intrusive thoughts. She envisioned bad words and imagined sexual and harmful behaviors. The stress of competing in her beloved sport made her OCD worse.
I also developed an eating disorder my sophomore year in high school and struggled with it through my college years. I would restrict food and overeat to a point of feeling excessive guilt, throw up, and then start the cycle over. But I normalized it.
I already had a mental health issue and didn’t want to bring attention to a second. In fact, I didn’t tell anyone about it until just a year ago. I now know that eating disorders can go hand-in-hand with OCD.
Throughout Cali’s childhood years, her parents tried to help, taking her to several therapists, but OCD was left undetected, and instead Cali was given the label of being an “anxious kid.”
It wasn’t until she got the diagnosis and received exposure and response prevention (ERP) therapy that she felt some control over the illness. The therapy involves exposing the patient, in small amounts, to the very things they are afraid of.
When I came home from college on Christmas break, my family saw how I was avoiding the kitchen because I didn’t want to be around sharp knives. As part of my therapy, I purposefully had to go into the kitchen and help my mom cook.
As she continued to see improvements, Cali decided to change her career path to become a therapist herself so she could help others. Now she has her own practice, working with athletes with OCD and other related mental health issues. She is also studying to get her PhD in clinical social work.
When I was at my worst, I thought I would never get married or have a job. It was hard to leave my house without having a panic attack. Finding the right therapy changed my life.
Cali is now married, has two dogs, and describes herself as happy. She continues to see a therapist herself monthly, or whenever her symptoms surface during stressful life events. She has also written a children’s book to help kids and their families struggling with the disorder.
You can achieve anything you want to with OCD—it should not slow you down. You can be in the driver’s seat.