By Aerin Fink
It started with the lice. After two months of camping, I had tiny bugs crawling all over my scalp. I knew all it would take to get rid of them was a shower cap, conditioner and a comb; but once it was all over, I feared what my friends would think after hearing I had lice.
The end of that humiliating moment was only the start of another. Obsessive hand washing. Putting clothes in bags. Constant showering. All to prevent a disgusting bug from landing on my head and controlling my body. During this time, I learned that I needed help.
After my traumatic head lice experience at age 11, my OCD began to surface. I feared contact with my own clothes, friends and family. My erratic behavior quickly became out of control; it was only a matter of time before my happiness dissipated. Some people lived their lives out of a suitcase; I lived mine out of plastic bags.
The longer I waited to tell my parents about what was going on, the worse it got. Because I was no longer able to function normally, my parents watched their little girl live a life of fear and discomfort. Day after day, I was faced with obstacles to overcome. While my friends were hanging out and having sleepovers, I was repeatedly washing my hands and analyzing my belongings to make sure they did not touch each other.
On a winter day in December, my parents told me that I was going to a therapist. A once-naive and anger-filled teenager walked into therapy. Little did I know that this unfamiliar place would become my safe haven — a place of expression and free of judgment.
A a 12-year-old girl having struggled with anxiety my whole childhood, therapy was the best choice my parents ever made for me. Throughout my life, I struggled with my temper; and leading into my teenage years, I was diagnosed with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Little did I know this diagnosis would change my life forever.
After my first therapy session, a spark ignited inside of me: It was my time to make a change. I would learn to talk back to those stupid thoughts. During therapy, I learned how to think rationally and conquer my fears. My illogical and absurd thoughts were overpowered by realistic ones. I was finally learning how to cope with my mental illness. Without this coaching, I never would have been where I am today: functioning, happy and healthy.
One important lesson I took away from therapy is to embrace the struggles of everyday life. As my therapist Ellen would always say, “You have to be uncomfortable to be comfortable.”
I received this piece of advice five years ago. It has stuck with me ever since. For this reason, the best advice I would give anyone is to get help, just like I did. Despite my nerves, I was able to speak to a therapist and get the help I needed. My once-irregular lifestyle has turned into one of a normal teen. Based on my own experiences, I encourage everyone to seek help, no matter how hard it may be. This, I believe, is the most beneficial change someone can make in her life.
Aerin Fink, 16, is a student at Cranbrook. She and her family attend Congregation Shaarey Zedek in Southfield.