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  • Writer's pictureShriman Visahan

Interview with Lyssa

Updated: Jan 30, 2021

We interviewed Lyssa as part of our series, OCD Fighters. Check out the interview below!

Hey folks! We return this back with a new guest! Meet Lyssa, a dancer with various hues of energy. Energetic and contagious, she happened to keep up the spirit throughout the interview even when I was down with flu. Wow. (P.S. I am cranky during the flu).

Later, I realised that she was undergoing her therapy for AVM (Arterio Venous Malformation) the same week I was down with the cold. Long story short, her condition is a ticking time bomb. Scary. Like real scary.

But that didn't stop her from matching my timing 8 time zones away!

I mean, I was lazy because I had the flu and she didn't let a juggernaut condition stop her in any way!

Wow. She is the OG. Period.

Now, let's have a look at the conversation I had with her whilst I was blowing my runny nose. Ha-choo!

1) OCD has two sides to it, like a coin. The good and the bad. We have all seen the bad, but hardly about the good side. What do you think is the biggest pro in your condition of OCD which has had a positive impact?

I have had OCD my whole life, but I wasn’t officially diagnosed until I was 19, after having first been diagnosed with depression, anxiety, bi-polar etc, but every one of those diagnoses and treatments would only help a select piece of the whole that is my pathology.

Because I spent much time with my grandmother growing up, I learned how to make it work for me instead of against. She was a prodigal pianist and used the amazing fast thinking and repetition of OCD to work for her. I do the same. I memorize very fast and can sync up my body to what I’m seeing (eye hand coordination is crazy good)

For dance I can learn and memorize very fast and keep up with a fast tempo learning environment in general. I love knowledge and just absorb, that’s the positives, being a quick thinker and planner etc.

2) Let's roll out some easy stuff. Imagine that you are on national TV and the judges ask you to give a short run down on who you are. You have got around a minute to boil down yourself. How would you do it?

I’m 34, from Virginia originally and now live in Florida for some crazy reason, married and have a cat. I’m a fusion dancer and artist. I have onset age 2 hoarding OCD that is genetic on the female line on my mothers side. I am an AVM survivor having 2 brain surgeries back to back in 2010 and have just found out the damn thing regrew so another craniotomy is on the table now.

I have been through some shit in my life, but I always try and find as much or many creative ways of self awareness and communication to help myself survive and (trying) thriving, as well as helping others.

3) How is the condition of OCD looked upon by the general public in your opinion? Also, a customary question for all our guests. What would be your favourite movies which carves out OCD in the most realistic way possible?

Portrayal of OCD and many other mental illnesses is kind of a love-hate thing for me. The characters almost always have a characteristic that’s viewed as “quirky” with only a small to medium amount of actual symptoms. Which I understand is that, there are visual and audio symptoms of mental illness, but not reality.

They all also have some kind of success that further allows them to be able to “fit” into the norms of society a bit better.

I feel one of the closer portrayals was in “As Good As It Gets” because though it showed the “stereotypical” OCD rituals fears, confusion, the anxiety wasn’t as apparent, as well as the character wasn’t exactly relatable. You’re supposed to be rooting for the other characters until the mentally ill character starts to confirm, then we root for them.

I won’t even get into how mentally ill women are portrayed in media, but suffice to say, there’s a ways to go.

I feel it may be beginning to get better and more relatable with some of the newer media, but it’s still not there yet and having the “quirky” parts of any mental illness still shine brightest further the stigma.

4) How would you describe the support system you had access to while battling OCD? How did your close ones respond to your condition?

I have a very strong support network consisting of my husband, parents, and close friends. As well as a very good therapist whom I’ve been with for 9 years, and other doctors that are doing their best to aide me in this.

When I start to spiral with intrusive thoughts I can reach out to any one of them to help me re-center and refocus.

I have various code words as well as mental activities that we use.

5) Alright. You won the Super Lotto! Congratulations! Now, you got to spend all the new found cash on three things which will make the struggle of OCD easier for the world. The world is your oyster! What would you focus on?

Education, information and knowledge.

The only way we can help any person with mental illness is to normalize it. Not in making the illness fit into “normal” but more that it is treated not as less just different.

That all starts with education, information, and knowledge. Have more taught about mental health and illnesses, meet people who have them, make it easily digestible for a neurotypical person so it’s not strange anymore.

This will create space for people like me to be able to do more.

If I have an issue in public or with my friends and family, what is there currently that’s socially acceptable to do? Not much.

So I hope and strive for a day when mental health is widely understood and no longer something that’s cute or quirky

i.e. “oh I’m so OCD”

No, you’re not. It’s not an adjective.

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