Join us as Anxiety In Teens sits down with one of our AiT Contributors for a special Q&A section following her PANDAS and OCD testimony. This is a continuation from “Part 1: Finding Sunshine In A #PANDAS Storm: My Story of Triumph Over OCD Terror.”
AiT: How did you find out that PANDAS was the correct diagnosis?
KR: My mother was discussing my symptoms with a close friend of hers, and she recognized the symptoms because her son had PANDAS. It was after my time in inpatient treatment in a hospital that my parents asked for her PANDAS doctor’s phone number. After explaining my symptoms, he concluded it was most likely PANDAS. He later confirmed it with multiple blood tests.
Editor’s Note: According to the National Institute for Mental Health (NIMH), PANDAS is short for Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorders Associated with Streptococcal Infections. “A child may be diagnosed with PANDAS when:
- Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) and/or tic disorders suddenly appear following a strep infection (such as strep throat or scarlet fever); or
- The symptoms of OCD or tic symptoms suddenly become worse following a strep infection.
The symptoms are usually dramatic, happen “overnight and out of the blue,” and can include motor and/or vocal tics, obsessions, and/or compulsions. In addition to these symptoms, children may also become moody or irritable, experience anxiety attacks, or show concerns about separating from parents or loved ones.”
AiT: Throughout the ups and downs, what have you learned about anxiety and OCD being a process to manage or a journey to be aware of?
KR: I feel anxiety and OCD is a journey to be aware of. By being aware I can focus with my therapist on different things to work on. By doing so I continue my journey with my tools to use when challenges come my way.
AiT: How did you decide that taking the first semester of was the best choice for you, and what were some considerations which helped with that decision?
KR: Taking my first semester off was very difficult, but I knew it was the right thing to do because I was not going to classes, and I was in the ER every other day. When I signed myself into inpatient, I knew I needed to focus on getting better before I could focus on my academics. The time off gave me the ability to commit myself to my therapy and my exposures so I could return and stay at school.
AiT: After seeing the therapist regularly and gaining some important Cognitive Behavioral Therapy skills, you explain that the storms did come back but you had the tools to brave through them. Can you share with us how therapy played a key role in this?
KR: During therapy, I would expose myself to my panic and OCD triggers to become desensitized, and learn ways to cope with them when they started. It also helped me believe that I would get better if I worked hard. Over the years I have gained better skills and insight to push through panic and OCD.
AiT: As with most young people who struggle with anxiety and OCD, your family had a learning process of their own to understand what anxiety and OCD were all about. What were some key things that helped them learn better what you were dealing with and how to help you?
KR: It was a very long learning process. It has been four years, and there is always more to learn. My parents were very dedicated to trying to help me succeed. They read books on how family members should help their child cope with panic and OCD. My mom did a lot of research, spoke to many doctors, and got advice from parents with kids going through the same thing.
AiT: For readers who may be struggling with panic attacks or OCD, what one action would you recommend they take immediately to start helping themselves?
KR: In my opinion, the most important thing to do is to try to slow your breathing down. The way a person breathes plays a significant role in other bodily sensations. An effective way to slow down your breathing is to look up meditation apps or videos.
AiT: After overcoming these obstacles, how has that changed your outlook as it relates to your ability to help others and educate consumers about OCD and anxiety disorders?
KR: My experiences have fueled my passion for becoming a therapist and helping others who struggle. I have learned to have a deeper understanding helps connect and educate those who are working through OCD and anxiety. Empathy goes a long way. Through personal experience, I have learned that empathy is important to help people feel they are not the only one struggling.
By: Kelsey Rood, Anxiety In Teens Contributor; Solome Tibebu, Anxiety In Teens Contributor