TELEMENTAL HEALTH IS AVAILABLE.

We are so excited to have Kat with us to answer some questions today. She’s an inspiring young vlogger who shares her experiences of OCD and mental health issues on YouTube. Her videos go back 4 years, and she has videos on OCD, ERP, coping, anxiety, hospitalization, and other mental health topics. Read what she has to share below:

What gave you the idea to do the Shalom Aleichem vlogs 3 yrs ago?

That’s difficult to answer because it wasn’t just one thing. For one thing, YouTube has been my favorite website since I was 13 and I had dabbled in making YouTube channels before making Shalom Aleichem. When I made my channel in 2014, I was a year into exposure and response prevention therapy. I had gone through an intensive outpatient program in 2013, then gone back during the month of July in 2014. At this point, I was comfortable with ERP. Well, not the exposures, but I knew how ERP worked. And I had just started actually having a positive regard to ERP.

Around this time, I began looking up content about OCD and I was very disapointed. Majority of the information I found was either focused on how difficult it is to live with OCD or gave really bad advice for dealing with OCD. I did find a few good content creators, but it was really only those two. The majority of content at the time did not discuss recovery and devalued exposure therapy.

From this, I thought, “I wish there was someone who was relatable to young people and knew ERP well, who could encourage teenagers and young adults in recovery.” This would look a lot like what I had experienced in my intensive outpatient program, actually. The attitude in my intensive outpatient program was always jovial and encouraging, we did not dread going to the clinic everyday. We were not always happy with our exposures, but it was not impossible. and terrible either. We (the kids, staff, and doctors) kept each other’s spirits high. It occurred to me that I could be that person that speaks as a relatable, young adult, real YouTuber, and celebrate recovery through the gold star OCD treatment.

Considering the long time it can take for people to be diagnosed, what was your process of being diagnosed like?

My diagnosis was very frantic, but also fast, and I am thankful for that. I had silently dealt with harm intrusive thoughts for a few months before it was severe enough that I knew I had to do something different. I was already seeing a therapist for depression and generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) at the time, who I had been seeing on-and-off for years. I’m sure having that background of mental health treatment with a therapist helped me feel comfortable seeking help. So, I first told my counselor, and she had no idea what was going on. I also told my mom, and she saw me become more and more distressed. My counselor ended up recommending that I see my primary care physician because she didn’t know what was wrong, I was in shambles, and the nature of my thoughts would be concerning to any counselor. I went to my doctor, and she said I should go to the emergency room. The emergency room determined that I was unsafe – I don’t know if they thought I was suicidal or if they thought my harm obsessions toward others were problematic. Regardless, I was sent to an inpatient unit to a local child and adolescent psychiatric hospital. This was a new experience for me, and very stressful. But it was there that I was diagnosed with OCD by my attending psychiatrist, who knew immediately knew what was wrong and was clearly much more knowledgeable about OCD.

What is it like to share your experiences of highly vulnerable moments, such as hospitalizations, self-harm, and changing providers?

Sharing these experiences is mostly cathartic and therapeutic. Getting feedback from people who have been through similar experiences is also helpful. I didn’t actually realize how weird it is until people started asking me this question. And that may be because I grew up with the internet– from my preteen years, I was drawn to forums, blogs, and websites where people were authentically discussing life. Clearly not everyone shares about their deepest struggles, but I resonated with those who did. As I got older, I started using websites to vent my emotions, so it became normal to me.

Another motivation is simply wanting to help other people, and because of this I definitely have a few videos that were hard to film and post. But I knew people dealing with the same thing I was would benefit from hearing it, so I did it anyway (such as my video on sexual and harm obsessions). Usually, I am motivated by my desire to discuss the topic or help people, so despite any initial anxiety, I feel good about posting it. I do not second guess myself until much later. I will think, “Oh, should I have really posted that videos where I said that thought or cried?” Then I again feel embarrassment and anxiety about what people think. But I then think about how many people have been helped by it, and I don’t regret it.

What’s the hardest part of your treatment? What helps you to continue engaging in the work?

I have been through many of the unique struggles an ERP patient goes through since beginning treatment. At the moment, the hardest part is moving forward and living a functioning life. There’s a part of me that wants to hold onto to my identity as a patient or as an individual with OCD. Every time I hit a milestone, I get apprehensive. My OCD is also mostly manageable at the moment, so I, naturally, obsess about the role OCD plays in my life. I also have obsessions about doing ERP right (my friends and I call this “having OCD about OCD”), and I struggle to do exposures in a less structured way. However, my therapist frequently tells me having an “exposure lifestyle” may be the best way for me to expose at this point. When I don’t do regular structured exposures, I feel like I’m neglecting treatment (and sometimes I am), but exposing in my daily life is also helpful. It’s a very grey area, and I am not good at dealing with those.

What helps me continue engaging with treatment the most is talking to people who are also in the midst of exposure treatment. Also, thinking about all of my successes I have had since beginning treatment. As cliché as it is, I also love saving motivational quotes and songs that remind me to fight OCD and stay true to my values.

What are your goals for Shalom Aleichem in the future?

My goals for Shalom Aleichem are to continue expanding the wealth of knowledge I’ve documented on the channel. I want to continue talking about types of OCD, advantages of ERP and ACT, various mental illnesses, medications, and common experiences people who have mental health diagnoses share. Likewise, I would love to begin talking about chronic illness and research about OCD. I recently became more interested in research and would love to bring that cool information to a broader audience.

 

A big thank you to Kat for sharing with us! Visit her YouTube channel, and see her amazing work at: ShalomAleichem YouTube

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I hope you enjoy!