Fairouz’s story: How Rogers helped me rise above my OCD and anxietyPosted on 08/01/23 02:53:pm
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“Rogers was a last resort before I deferred starting college. I was 17 years young and had never spent that much time away from home before. I was so terrified to go to Rogers that my stomach would drop and I thought my life would end right there in the car, but I had no other choice as someone who wanted a normal real life as badly as I did.
My parents couldn't stay home to take care of me and when they did, we would fight and exhaust each other because my crisis "needs" weren't something they could deal with. I'd done outpatient and partial hospitalization before to reduce anxious thoughts but had never escalated to this level. My parents saw signs of OCD since I was two years old, but I saw a normal kid who was "quirky" rather than a disaster waiting to happen.
When I was little, I used to stay up reading in my bed and flinch at intrusive thoughts about ripping my teeth on my panda fringe blankie. I could feel how uncomfortable it felt, but I would imagine it over and over as a fun little hobby. I played little "games" like that with myself all the time, counting steps, praying, neutralizing worried thoughts about friends and school, but it wasn't until the pandemic started that I began compulsive hand washing, researching, reassurance seeking, checking, isolation, and ruminating.
By age 17, I was a regular angsty teenager, even though it was mainly about psychiatric illness. At Rogers, I was able to socialize with kids my age and didn’t feel like I had to avoid them because they weren’t going through what I was or because I was shy. From 7:00 in the morning until midnight, I used my color-coded distress tolerance chart. I rock climbed twice to fight back against "Erica,” the name I gave my OCD. I used anger and my love for literary mental games to outsmart and overtake Erica. It was kind of fun having a sparring partner with a bunch of tricks in my head. Every moment was a chance to push myself even farther to where I am today, where I don't feel rumination clouding my head.
Through Rogers I came to value the time my journey took, even though I began to complain about missing everything at school. It gave me a chance to get myself together on my own terms and I couldn’t make excuses for giving into my despair. My YBOCS score went from 32 (severe) to nothing in two months and I rid myself of the fears that plagued me for most of my childhood. I grew into who I always was and wanted to be—a confident, loud, and intelligent teenager who commands a room without trying and can tell an unbelievably funny story. I made real friendships there that I still have (hi guys!!!) and I still can't stop laughing when I think of the fun I had there with them. Rogers was a special part of my adolescence. My time there made me an adult. Meeting diverse people from everywhere who were as strongminded, blunt, and unapologetic as I was inspired me as I focused on my own battles with intrusive thoughts. Now I am going to college this fall. Today I can say that I had OCD, and now I don't. And I have a story to tell.”
-Fairouz Noelle Ouikhlfen, former OCD and Anxiety adolescent residential care patient