Losing a loved one is one of the hardest things we can go through in life, especially at a young age. User Donald told us how losing his mum, his ex-girlfriend, and dealing with OCD impacted him throughout his teenage years.
He shared his story with us along with some of the ways he found to cope.
Donald, 20, lives with his dad and his dad’s fiancé. He is passionate about poetry and video gaming, incorporating both into his daily activities. He also spends time hanging out with friends, walking his dog, and chatting to neighbors.
For Donald, mental health was always an open topic of conversation when he grew up. However, this did not make his time any easier as he navigated his first experiences with OCD and later on the loss of two people in his life. His OCD started early on in high school.
"In the beginning, I was able to contain it but when I started becoming an adult, day to day I would spend hours cleaning for no reason and it just started becoming unmanageable, like I had to do cleaning in order to do other things. It was just very intense.’"
Growing up with OCD
Donald is one among many adolescents who suffer from obsessive-compulsive disorder. OCD can manifest itself in different ways for different people, but for Donald, the focus was on cleaning. He recalls a time that it particularly impacted him and how he slowly started to overcome it with help from people on TalkLife.
"I remember one day I didn’t take care of a cleaning routine, and oh God, I freaked out, and people on TalkLife checked in. They helped me, and now the direction I try to take is think and think again, rather than thinking and doing."
His experience highlights how things can often become more manageable when we are supported through times of crisis and when we have an outlet for our emotions. As Donald tells us later on, having an outlet was one of the things that really made him learn and understand what was happening to him.
Dealing with grief
For most people, the loss of a loved one occurs fairly late in life, but Donald's first experience of loss was early on in his teens when he woke to find his ex-girlfriend had taken her own life. This very sudden and traumatic event led to an extremely difficult year ahead.
"For the rest of that year, I was just straight up out of it. I felt depression had really hit hard then."
It is not uncommon for death to trigger a mental illness in people, even when they haven’t had a history of it before. For anyone losing someone through suicide, it can be a really tough and overwhelming time.
If you or someone you know is going through this, it is important to let yourself grieve, surround yourself with people who will look after you, and look after yourself through such an emotional, and sometimes physically trying time.
Whilst Donald was coping with the aftermath of this loss, he also had to witness some troubling circumstances with his mum.
"There was a legal battle going on over her competency, and that drove me insane. It kept me up at night a lot, and it just really boiled me over. If you really want to see a worn-out Donald, that was it. I really struggled to keep up with school work then, especially math."
For anyone juggling such a wide range of stressors, both at home and at school, it is understandable to find it hard to keep up with things like schoolwork. Our minds and bodies can only cope with so much. In times of great distress, it is extra important to give yourself the time and room to get better.
Losing a parent
Sadly for Donald, there was not enough time to do this, as another tragedy was on the way. A little while later Donald experienced his second loss, as his mother passed away.
"When my mum passed, it hit me hard, but it made me more worried about how hard it would hit my dad, being married for over 25 years, that hits a lot. I remember I woke up when my dad came home and he said, I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but Mum passed away. And at the time she was in rehab, and I just thought, how did this happen?"
To lose a parent at such a young age is a terrible thing to go through. It can bring up so many questions and confusing emotions such as grief, guilt, anger, and a variety of other things.
Finding hope in writing
There is nothing that can take away the pain completely, but there were a few things that helped Donald to get through these tough times. The first was poetry.
"When I first started writing poetry it became an easier way for me to express at first, and be able to put things together and understand. It could be difficult at times, but getting back in touch with this and hashing out things, that's a wonderful feeling."
Many people will agree that having an outlet to express yourself can make a world of difference when going through traumatic events. It can be a creative outlet like poetry, singing, or painting, or a physical one like running, yoga, or boxing.
Making sure that you are not bottling your emotions is a really good way to release and come out the other side.
Donald & the TalkLife community
The second thing to help Donald overcome grief and OCD was TalkLife.
"I came to TalkLife when my mum passed away and made a huge post about that, and people did reach out. Growing up with that community always being there does mean a lot! Especially during bad moments, I have always found TalkLife to be helpful."
TalkLife is a fantastic online peer-to-peer support community, where people from all over the world come together to share their feelings and support one another. Some like Donald have been on Talklife for years and years, whilst others join sporadically as and when they need it.
Whatever you need from TalkLife, it will be there to welcome and accept you.
Rebuilding a family
Finally, the third thing to help Donald get back to a feeling of normality was getting back to the family dinner table
"Living with my dad and his new fiance, we now have a kitchen table and it's been like a really long time since we had that. Ever since my mum passed away we haven’t had family dinner… It’s been tough, but getting back to that family table, and all the shenanigans, has meant a lot to me."
Sometimes ordinary routine things can be the things we miss the most when we lose a loved one. It can often be quite painful to revisit these activities, but as time has passed, for Donald it has been the thing that has made him feel the most comfortable.
"Life has its lemons and sometimes it has roses and thorns. Being introduced to mental health at an early age, I went through a lot of pain and so forth but at the same time I’ve had so much time to heal and learn lessons from things and make the best out of the cards I have been dealt with. And I feel like all those lessons have played a big part in my development. So it's played out pretty well I would say.’"
It is incredible to see someone who has gone through such a lot, come out with such a positive attitude. Growing from all the things that have been thrown his way. He is a true inspiration to those who don’t feel like things can get better.
Our incredible TalkLife community is filled with unique people like Donald from all over the world. We would love to give them a platform to share their inspiring stories. If you have a story that you would like to share, log onto TalkLife today and let us know!
You can always find support at TalkLife. A safe online peer-to-peer support community, offering a place to share the ups and downs of life 24/7. Join now to connect with millions of people around the world who are ready to offer support and a listening ear.