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Overcoming Mental Illness: My Struggle With Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

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I’ve struggled with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder my whole life, but the past year is when my symptoms started significantly affecting my mental health, relationships, and education.

The way my OCD works is that I will begin to obsess over insignificant, and sometimes unrealistic, worries. Or falling into a despair of intrusive and immoral thoughts.

Pared with that, I will use my compulsions as a distraction from my thoughts, or to make myself ‘feel better’ in that given moment. My compulsions range from counting in fives, fiddling with my hands, making small noises, checking lights or doors, repeating phrases, spelling words in my head, to ritually saying prayers.

Throughout the year, I had no idea that OCD was the problem I was dealing with, and I believed this was the way I would always live my life. I was swarmed with anxiety since I could not control my thoughts, as well as depression because the thought of living like that the rest of my life was unbearable. I felt stuck in a constant cycle of intrusive thoughts and compulsions to temporarily and falsely relieve the anxiety.

I can say now that I’m so thankful that I did not give up, even when I had no idea what I was dealing with. As I’ve become more understanding of my disorder and how it works, I’ve found ways to manage it on its worst days. 

OCD can manifest itself differently within each person who experiences it. I had the pleasure of talking with other individuals who shared their own stories, and what they’ve discovered works best for them to manage their day to day lives with OCD.

How does your OCD work?

Jae: I have both where the obsession is that if I don’t do certain things that feel right or that I do all the time, someone in my family is going to get hurt, my boyfriend will cheat on me or stop talking to me or die, and also [I will get hurt]. These fears are ones I don’t think of they just pop into my head at random times. ‘If you don’t do this then so and so will happen.’

Palmyre: I used to have ones with numbers where I have to do certain things four times. For example, to protect my cat when I leave him in the morning I would do 4 series of kisses and each of them was 4 kisses each. I would redo it if I wasn’t happy about how I counted or how I did it. I would have this gut feeling, basically, to dress up in the morning. I follow my instinct and what my gut tells me. If I wear that it’s going to be ok. It goes up to choosing a fork/spoon/knife, a bottle at a shop. I stare at them for a few seconds until my gut tells me which one is going to make things ok. I would have to step on drains on the pavement and I knew that if I didn’t something bad would happen. My rational brain knew that it was stupid and it wouldn’t do anything, but I couldn’t take the risk. I almost lost my job because of the tardiness. It was impossible for me to know how long it would take me to go from point A to point B as I didn’t know which drains I would have to step on, if it would be all of them.

I was scared to leave home as I knew the way people looked at me. My friends were understanding, but I was ashamed. I isolated myself and thought I would end up in an institution.

I even had violent urges against myself because my rational side was angry at the other for saying ‘but what if’.

Oly: My OCD started at a young age. I had to do things in order, check doors, go back to things, etc. if I believed something bad would happen to a family member. In my early 20s, my thoughts revolved around anything I’m morally against, I try to convince myself I’m that person. The thoughts pick up momentum, 4 to 5 times a minute, then anxiety strike and depression follows. Daily, it drains me; on a bad day I’m so wired by the time I get to bed I can barely close my eyes. It makes me feel worthless; it makes me feel like I’ve done something I’d never do. I live the fear and guilt as if I’ve done it.

How do you manage your OCD?

Jae: I surround myself with people who really help. My boyfriend will always tell me it’s okay to do a certain thing because those bad things won’t happen. My other firmed tries to get me to talk about how it makes me feel and just a bunch of that stuff. I am also someone who looks to pray for comfort and that helps me out a lot. Sometimes just trying to muscle up the strength to go against the voice in your head telling you to do sometime helps as well.

Katie: The short answer: low-dose medication. I’m a firm believer that if I was diabetic I would take insulin and a mental illness should be treated no differently. The long answer: unending patience and endless communication.

The only way to face my battles is to recognize them for what they are rather than ignoring them and hoping they’ll disappear.

I constantly remind myself that growth and healing are not linear, but rather a life long journey of humility, excitement, and self-love.

Palmyre: I used to not be able to manage [my obsessions and compulsions] at all. They had control over my whole life. Now every time I feel them coming back I just take the time to think about it and remind myself that It won’t change a thing. CBD oil and therapy helped me get to a place I could be well enough to question them and realize that it won’t change anything [whether I] do them or not because bad things happen with or without them. Sometimes I question my recovery and wonder if it’s because I’ve given up on life or not. But it’s not. I’m just in a better place in my head. But I know that I can’t take it for granted. We never fully recover, and I know that it can come back or another form of OCD can appear. It’s a constant fight and as soon as I’m more under pressure, stressed, or anxious, I feel the urge to hide behind my OCD to comfort me, but it won’t help. It’s like a bad drug that an addict would take to escape reality, but it’s destroying them at the same time.

Oly: I turned to running as a form of therapy. I now support, motivate, and inspire others to run against their daily struggles through the support page [on Instagram] @run4yourmind. Running makes every day that little bit easier, it’s honestly saved my life.

Last thoughts?

Jae: I wish I would have known that more people deal with it than I thought. Beforehand, I never opened up about it but to like 2 people, plus my parents, and they did not get it at all. It was weird for them to think how my brain works. And they would try to help me, but they didn’t know where to come from or what to say to me when I would have an episode of it getting bad.

Katie: It’s all completely normal. All the thoughts I had that I thought were my secret shame or meant something awful about me were just very common symptoms of a very common disease. My diagnosis was such a gift.

Even to be able to put a name to the feelings and thought patterns I’d been experiencing my whole life was so liberating and turned my anxieties from a fearsome lion into a tiny mouse. 

For myself, I’ve learned that distractions such as learning, watching my favorite tv-shows, and writing have been able to bring me out of my overwhelming thoughts that OCD causes. I’ve learned that talking through my irrational thoughts, with myself or people I trust, keeps me grounded. Simple things I had no idea would maintain the real me in the midst of OCD when it becomes chaotic have made such an impact on my life.

Throughout my research for this article, I found more alternatives to coping with my OCD. There is a community of people who struggle with this disorder that have made me feel less alone when dealing with the extreme anxiety that OCD brings. NOCD is a reassurance-free app providing a platform for expressing OCD’s unending thought patterns. NOCD also has an SOS feature, a type of exposure therapy, that, with time, can help OCD sufferers manage the anxiety that obsessions and compulsions arise. For me, talking through my intrusive thoughts with others who could relate, and even shared their own coping skills, has lead me down a path to healing and managing the way I approach my OCD. 

Figuring out what methods help you manage your own personalized disorder is a process. There are no quick fixes or short cuts, it just takes time and self-love. Understanding yourself is part of life, and understanding your disorder just so happens to be a part of that too. And you are not, and I repeat, are not going through that all by yourself. This undertaking can be grueling at times, as well as weight lifting. But OCD does not have to be your full story, just a footnote that you have the capability to write yourself.

By: Morgan Holland

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Never Have I Ever May Not Represent My Brown Experience, But It Represents The Brown Experience of Others

Aanandi Murlidharan

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Three of the main South Asian characters of the Netflix series Never Have I Ever standing in front of a orange/pink/purple screen.

Turning on the TV growing up, I rarely saw anyone who looked like me. When dressing up as Disney princesses, my friends and I used to fight over Princess Jasmine because her olive skin and dark hair best resembled us. Flash forward a few years later, and my representation was only mildly upgraded.

Phineas and Ferb gave me the nerdy, bullied Baljeet with his stereotypically thick Indian accent. Jessie gave me Ravi, another nerdy, bullied brown kid. He was also the only one with a stereotypical accent despite all his siblings being adopted. Years past and the media continued to feed me inaccurate representations of my culture and myself. 

When Mindy Kailing’s Never Have I Ever was first announced, I was through the roof. I was finally ready for an experience that encompassed my identity as an Indian-American teenager. However, while I was watching the show, I felt that certain aspects of my brown experience were perpetuated incorrectly.

There were times where I could not understand Devi or her mother’s actions. I couldn’t identify with the way Devi felt about her culture. 

While Never Have I Ever doesn’t entirely encompass my brown experience, it does succeed to encompass the brown experience of others in five different ways.

1. “Devi, make sure to favor your left side.” 

I was taken aback the first time I heard this line. I found it shocking how Nalani, Devi’s own mother, could say something so hurtful regarding her daughter’s physical appearance. My brown mother has never commented on my physical appearance in such a manner.

However, while I may not have experienced this personally, emphasis on physical appearance is still a pressing issue within the brown community.

In the South Asian community, colorism is a rampant issue. Being a light-skinned Indian myself, I have often been praised for how “fair” and “beautiful” I look. However, many of my dark-skinned friends have struggled with being perceived as beautiful by their community. Sometimes even by their own family.

They are often told that they are “undesirable” or “dirty” due to the color of their skin. They are told to drink less tea, stay in the shade, or drink lemon juice to make themselves lighter. Even Indian companies hire famous Bollywood actors to promote face-lighting products. 

Even within the show, Kailing subtly draws attention to this stigma within Indian society. In the very same scene, Nalani tells Kamala, Devi’s light-skinned cousin, that “all her sides are equally beautiful.” Immediately after telling Devi, who is darker-skinned, the opposite. 

2. “I thought I came to America for the education, but my favorite part is the ice cream. There are so many flavors here. Way more than pistachio.”

I found this line from Prashant to be the most problematic line in the entire show due to the sheer inaccuracy of the statement. Historically, India has always been known as the world’s flavor and spice hub.

Growing up, I would spend many summers at my grandparent’s house in New Delhi. My grandfather’s favorite pass-time was taking my sister and me to the market to buy ice cream. The shopkeeper would fill our baskets with choco bars, lychee bars, cola pop, and my personal favorite, Mango Duet.

To this day, I still have barely scratched the surface of all of the flavors posted on the shopkeeper’s wall. 

Prashant’s statement may not be an accurate representation of the amenities offered in India, but it does represent the thought process of many new brown immigrants. A large part of the immigrant experience is comparing the resources and opportunities of your homeland with the country in which you just arrived.

Some brown immigrant families might praise the “sizes of the bags of chips” or the “cleanliness” of American streets. Conversely, some may choose to focus on how there is “less empathy” or “less of a community feel” in the United States as compared to India. 

3. “Yes, you look like a careerist western woman, which you obviously are, but they don’t need to know that yet. Kamala, his family wants to see that you can cook, clean, and cater to all their son’s needs.” 

Nalani said this statement to Kamala while preparing for the first step in Kamala’s arranged marriage process, a video call with her Prashant, her prospective suitor’s parents. The purpose of the video call was so that Prashant’s parents could see whether Kamala met the requirements for a potential match.

After this conversation, Nalani told Kamla to change from her “careerist western woman outfit” to the traditional Indian sari. I found it difficult to believe that Prashant’s parents would not be interested in the fact that Kamala is a biologist pursuing her Ph.D. in Caltech.

Growing up, education was always considered something that was invaluable in the South Asian community. Academic achievements, such as entering a prestigious college, were always talked about (sometimes a little too much) regardless of gender.

However, I realized it did represent the deep-rooted sexism and general patriarchy that many brown women face in the South Asian community. In many South Asian families, there is also a very clear double standard between women and their brothers, fathers, and husbands.

A man is lauded for working long hours and praised for his prestigious job, while many women are ostracized for doing the same. They are encouraged to leave their job to take care of their family or perfectly manage both. If a woman fails to do any of the following, she is seen as a failure.

Never Have I Ever touched on this aspect of a brown experience that often goes unnoticed within the community through this interaction. 

4. “If you’d like to go to Elenor or Fabiola’s house to do something fun like practice PSATs, you have my permission.” 

At first glance, this line truly upset me. I felt as if it perpetuated the stereotype of the “Asian tiger mom,” who only cared about grades and could not understand any other use of their time.

I felt anger rising in me because it made it seem as if all brown parents fell into this category when, in fact, when my parents were the opposite. My parents had always encouraged me to follow my passions. They unconditionally supported me and trusted me to find my own path. 

In frustration, I sent a message to one of my close brown friends, venting about the problematic nature of this line. “I felt that she wasn’t strict enough,” replied my friend. “I guess it’s because I grew up with a real tiger mom.” 

Many Indian kids do have parents who fall into the tiger parent category. However, this is not necessarily a bad thing. It is because they want the best for their child’s future. The most tangible, almost guaranteed path to this is through academic and professional success.

In many Asian countries, the education system is set up to be exam based. To enter the top programs and colleges, you would have to score well on a series of exams.

Portraying this aspect of Devi’s mother’s personality was not in fact, perpetuating into a stereotype, but it was portraying a brown experience that many Indian American children experience. As tough as Nalani was on Devi, she loved her just as much. 

5. “Aunties are older Indian ladies, who have no blood relationship to you, but are allowed to make, but are allowed to have opinions about your life and all your shortcomings. You have to be nice to them because you’re Indian.” 

I would be completely lying if I said that this quote doesn’t reflect my brown experience. I have definitely faced my fair share of aunties, who have also made passive-aggressive comments about my life and shortcomings.

On the other hand, I was also lucky enough to meet aunties, who have shown me great warmth and compassion. Since most of my family is in India, these aunties became my family in the United States. They have supported my family and me when we have most needed it.

However, I know that not every brown kid is fortunate enough to have adults outside of their immediate families with whom they experience a genuine connection. Too often, brown kids are trapped in communities and social circles built upon envy, pride, and ambition.

The competitive nature of adults in these communities can make every interaction with an adult feel like an assessment or judgment for these kids. This causes many brown kids to seek out ways to detach themselves from and escape their brown communities. Thus, preventing them from fully accepting and embracing their heritage, like Devi. 

Never Have I Ever may not represent the entirety of my brown experience, but it does represent the brown experience of others. Representation is not a bathing suit from a shopping channel that claims to be one size fits all. It is not possible for a single show to represent the vast experiences of every brown person that is part of the South Asian diaspora.

However, what it does do is pave the way for more stories centering on the lives of South Asian Americans. Never Have I Ever is the first show to feature a brown teenager growing up in the United States and is top-ranked on Netflix. It, therefore, proves to Western mainstream media that South Asians can be the main character.

They can move out of supporting roles like Baljeet or Ravi that have no function other than for comic relief. This show may not represent your brown experience or my brown experience, but it paves the way for a multitude of brown experiences to be told in the future. 

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How I Cope with My Eating Disorder Triggers and Behaviors in New Places with New Foods

Katherine Feinstein

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Now, living in Copenhagen, I can challenge that voice by trying new foods I can’t try anywhere else, while also knowing my recovery is safe.
Source: Westend61 | Getty Images

Eating Disorders are extremely complex and persist based on sets of rules, routines, and compulsive behaviors that make the all-consuming disease a top priority.

Because people with eating disorders (ED) are forced to operate through these food rituals in order to maintain control and feel safe, starting over in a new place with new foods can exacerbate ED thoughts and compulsions. For me, transitions like moving to college and going abroad forced me to find coping mechanisms to put my health, not my ED, first. 

I have had an eating disorder since I was 13 years old, and I am now 20. 

The most crippling thing about an eating disorder is that no matter how your weight fluctuates up and down, or how your emotions and relationships evolve, your disease will always be a part of you. 

In treatment, we gave our disorders names to try and conceptualize the intimacies and attachments of a relationship with an ED. My Anorexia, fondly referred to as Anna, is a part of me.

However the difference between my relationship with my ED when I was 13 versus now, is that I now have the tools in recovery to keep my thoughts and behaviors in check. 

When I was 13, I physically could not eat a bite of pasta no matter how much my non-ED brain wanted to. Now, if I want a bite of pasta and have those same self-deprecating, restrictive thoughts, I have the autonomy and upper hand to choose to raise my fork to my mouth against my ED’s wishes. I now make choices in spite of my old friend, Anna. 

It is now important to recognize when access to those coping mechanisms and tools becomes threatened, as I have recently started a new chapter of my life studying abroad. When I was packing for my four month stay in Denmark, I couldn’t help but reflect on the challenges 

I faced making a similar complete overhaul of my life when I moved from home to the University of Michigan. Leaving for college felt different than leaving for abroad, as back then I had been chained to my recovery by my parents’ watchful eyes. 

When I left for college, I imagined a new world of opportunities to restrict and give in to Anna without my parents or childhood friends noticing.

When I got to school and all of my safe foods from home had been replaced with confusing dining halls and new foods, I immediately reacted by restricting once again. Everything I had learned in recovery flew out the window. 

Being in a completely new place meant that the triggers and behaviors I had kept at bay with safe foods and routines at home were now reopened wounds, raw, exposed, and I had no idea where a new set of bandages would be. 

Instead of being able to establish new guidelines and coping strategies at Michigan, my disease overpowered me once again.
Source: Tessa K | WeHeartIt

Instead of being able to establish new guidelines and coping mechanisms at Michigan, my disease overpowered me once again. 

Seven years later, I’ve more than found a routine, exercise regimen, and comfortable eating resources at Michigan and am the healthiest I’ve ever been. The coping strategies I re-found and the new tools I learned in my relapse are ones that I am taking with me abroad. 

Ways to Cope with Eating Disorders

Firstly, finding a non-triggering or ED behavior-based activity that would also give me a support network is essential. I realized that my long distance running had become Anna’s primary crutch, the perfect mechanism to control me once again through numbers.

So, I gave up the gym entirely and found yoga as a new outlet. I established a community at the studio that I knew would be looking out for me, and then did yoga teacher training to give myself a set exercise and study routine that would be supplemented by emotional support and plenty of self-reflection.

For me, finding this nurturing outlet full of people to help me grow has been instrumental in my recovery. Within my first couple weeks in Denmark, I tried four different yoga studios and found two that I know I can always go to. In taking this practice abroad, I’m able to find some normalcy to keep me grounded.

Another coping strategy that I’ve learned to bring with me wherever I go is knowing to research and plan ahead. As soon as I received my housing assignment in Copenhagen, I immediately looked up what kinds of foods and resources would be in my area.

I scouted just a few restaurants and eateries that would have food I’m comfortable with, packed a box of my favorite granola bars and snacks, and reached out to my assigned roommate to let her know I’d need support. 

And, though I’ve planned ahead, I’ve also learned that in the face of new foods I must at least try to take on the challenge of being uncomfortable and have safe food to fall back on instead of reverting to restrictive behaviors.

 I try to make choices in spite of what my eating disorder wants, but recognize how my day to day limitations will affect these choices.
Source: Cali Legitness | flickr

 A difficult part of navigating recovery is that it isn’t as easy as just telling yourself to eat.

 I knew I wouldn’t arrive in Denmark, go to a new restaurant with foreign foods, and immediately be able to pick up a fork and dig in. Instead of restricting like I did as a Freshman at UofM, I went into this new chapter prepared to at least try new foods.

If that meant triggering ED thoughts and feeling compulsions creeping back in, I knew that I had safe food at home, and a list of places to get safe food instead of just not eating altogether. 

Recovery is a give and take: sometimes I challenge myself and win, and other times it’s too much and I make sure I have a plan B to fall back on. 

Lastly, over time I’ve worked hard to weigh the pros and cons of these challenges and be honest with myself on where I’m at in my recovery. I try to make choices in spite of what my eating disorder wants, but recognize how my day to day limitations will affect these choices.

When I left for college, I could only listen to the voice in my head which gave me two options: eat the short list of safe foods I had established at home, or starve. Now, living in Copenhagen, I can challenge that voice and try all the new foods I can’t try anywhere else, while also knowing my recovery is safe.

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K-pop star Goo Hara has died at age 28 just months after suicide attempt

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Korean pop star, Goo Hara, was found dead in her apartment on Sunday at her home in Seoul, South Korea. 

The young artist was just 28 years old. 

This tragic event was not foreseen in the slightest and has left many fans devastated at the loss of such a talented musician who was part of the five-part girl group, KARA. 

An investigation on the cause of Hara’s death is still underway. Taking into consideration Hara’s recent attempted suicide in March of this year, the possibility of her having killed herself seems to be a likely cause. 

March was a difficult time for Hara as her ex-boyfriend was attempting to blackmail her with threats of assault and the release of a sex video. Because of the terrible effect that this was having on Hara, her contract was soon terminated by her agency. 

Hara signed a new contract in June with a leading talent management agency in Japan. The agency, Production Ogi, helped Hara gain popularity and she appeared on TV shows and well-known fashion events in Japan. Hara soon released her solo Japanese single “Midnight Queen,” which was a hit. 

In October of this year, Hara lost her best friend, Choi Jin-ri, otherwise known as Sulli. The young singer and actress was also found dead in her home and the authorities have stated that it was most likely caused by suicide.

Sulli had been a member of the K-pop girl band, f(x). In recent years, there have been multiple deaths among young Korean pop artists and actors. Many were living with depression, dealing with abuse, and hiding all their pain under the elegant exterior of the entertainment industry. 


Major entertainment companies have resulted in celebrities being put on pedestals above the legions of fans. Celebrities are caught between their personal lives and the lives that fans prefer to see them living.

Fans obsess over every little thing that celebrities do. They are judged for what they wear, what they eat, what they say, and beyond.

Unfortunately, the lives that fans see, are covering the ugly truths that celebrities are constantly dealing with behind the scenes.

In Goo Hara’s case, she tried to live out a false persona for too long and therefore led to her to give up on not only the false life fans saw, but also her personal life.

By: Sydney Murphy

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