Sitting opposite my therapist at McLean’s OCD Institute, my mind echoed the words I just heard.
“You may have to stay here for an extended period of time.”
My heart raced, turning it over and over again in my mind. How had this become my life? Just a couple years before, I was wrestling. I was part of a team, enjoying life, excited about going to college. But it wasn’t that long before I started to notice these thoughts creeping into my mind. Thoughts I couldn’t ignore, take lightly or let go of.
Worry, fear, anxiety, uncertainty, and guilt turn over in my gut when those intrusive thoughts take over.
Intrusive thoughts are powerful thoughts that have fear and anxiety attached to them. They punch their way through your rational conscious mind, and make you believe (no matter how outlandish) they’re possible, altering your behavior.
For example, an intrusive thought might start out as the fear of getting HIV, and that fear gets so strong you may stop having sex or not want to touch people (especially after getting a paper cut).
My mind would latch onto a thought, and I would worry about it all day, every day. Morning and night. Every day was Groundhog day. Was this my future? Alone in a room with nothing but these images playing in my head on repeat? I was a prisoner to my own mind. Sleep was my only escape.
So now, sitting in that chair, looking my therapist in the eye, I had a choice to make. I could either allow my OCD to define me for the rest of my life and surrender to the intrusive thoughts that plagued me. OR I could make a choice to rise above my disorder and define the man I wanted to be.
I spent weeks figuring out different tools and coping skills. Patience brought me self-awareness, and through self-reflection, I was able to understand and deal with my OCD.
Before I knew it, I had created a treatment plan. I brought it to my therapist and asked her if she thought I was onto something. She said, “See, Ryan. You are your own best therapist.”
Those six words meant the world to me. The thousands of hours of working on myself lead to me getting better and one of the top OCD experts in the world telling me I did this myself. As if this weren’t enough, my therapist followed it up with, “Ryan, you’re going to change the world.”
It was as if the clouds parted and I was feeling the sun on my skin for the first time in months. I had a purpose, passion, and I was determined to not only help myself but anyone else suffering from OCD who needed a new approach to recovery.
After I was in recovery, I started looking for ways I could share my method with other OCD sufferers. That’s when I met Ben Stern, 18-year-old Shark Tank investee. Ben’s dad, David, was a patient with me in McLean’s. David’s OCD was intense and debilitating, but he kept fighting for his son.
Six months after I left the hospital, I went back to McLean’s to visit David and meet Ben. We hit it off and decided to bring my OCD discoveries to other OCD sufferers so they could get on the road to recovery too.
That’s how my business was born.
Looking back, it wasn’t until I accepted responsibility for my own mental health that I started improving. When I surrendered my recovery to the doctors, I retreated within myself, tormented by thoughts that struck me to my core. But when I stepped up to the plate and made the decision that I was taking my life back, everything shifted.
I was able to let my doctors know what was and wasn’t working, how I felt about different approaches, and what I needed to find recovery for good. Now I get to share my treatment plan with other OCD sufferers to help them find their own recovery through my book “The Missing Peace: A Patient’s Guide to Recovery” coming soon. It’s a treatment plan made by an OCD patient for OCD patients.
Surprisingly, I’m grateful for my OCD. Overcoming it taught me anything is possible. I went from struggling with OCD in a mental hospital to having an opportunity to help millions of people.
Never give up. Have Patience. Believe in yourself. And most of all, realize you have a purpose and right to be happy.
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