Mental Note Podcast Banner
Podcast
Mental Note

Episode 15 - More Than My OCD - Moving Beyond Compulsion

By Sunnie Gruwell
Join us as we journey with Sunnie Gruwell through the process of dividing her own identity from that of the disorder. Along the way, we'll discover just how good life can be.

Quote by Sunnie

Synopsis:

Sunnie never knew she had OCD.

Rather, this mom of six simply soldiered on – doing her best to ignore the disturbing voices in her head. That is until a diagnosis finally opened her eyes to a whole new world where she could be free from her mental prison.

Join us as we journey with her through the process of dividing her own identity from that of the disorder. Along the way, we'll discover just how good life can be.

Transcript

[00:00:00]  

[music] 

Ellie Pike: We've all had that moment when a thought rushes into our head, a thought that totally shocks us and leaves us wondering, what am I capable of? For most of us, those intrusive thoughts come and go and are not a big deal but what if those impulses never took a vacation? What if it was a constant bombardment that went against everything you say you stand for that [00:00:30] you can't stop thinking about it? Today's storyteller represent the host of silent grapplers. People learning to live with obsessive-compulsive disorder. 

She's dealt with it for decades through elementary school, college, marriage, and the beginning of her family, until finally a diagnosis empowered her to find lasting change and freedom from shame. It's a story that illuminates an often misunderstood mental illness. Gives us an insight into how we can separate ourselves from a disorder and 

[00:01:00] speaks to the multi-generational impact of seeking treatment. You're listening to Mental Note Podcast. I'm Ellie Pike. 

[music] 

On the outside, you may never know that Sunnie has struggled with a mental health disorder. 

Sunnie: My name is Sunnie, and I'm a mom of six kids. It feels like [00:01:30] more than that sometimes. I live in Houston, Texas. 

Ellie: She's rooted in a strong faith, family and has a long list of life accomplishments. Yet below the surface, she felt like a twig mentally arm wrestling with a bodybuilder. Her story begins in elementary school. Sunnie, we're so glad to have you on this episode. I wanted to start off with asking you a little bit about your childhood and what your first impressions of your own brain were and how you notice that your brain [00:02:00] seemed to work differently than others? 

Sunnie: Probably my first inclination that something was a little bit off with the way that I thought was maybe around the age of seven or eight. I can't remember exactly when it was. I started to have this fear that somehow something was going to poison me. It started mostly with my food and I just really became totally paranoid that my food was poisoned somehow. 

I would get these meals that would be prepared at home by my parents, [00:02:30] or meals that I ate at a restaurant or whatever, and I would sit there and I would pick through the food and look at it. If there was anything that looked off with the food, any sort of black speck in my food or anything like that, I wouldn't want to touch it and I wouldn't want to eat it because I was just terrified and convinced that somebody had poisoned it. 

I even got to the point where I couldn't swallow my own spit. Had this need to confess to my parents at night before I would go to bed. I just had this desire to go and tell them "I'm sorry if I [00:03:00] misbehave today. I'm sorry if I said anything that made you upset." Every night it was like, I had to go through this ritual of laying in my bed for a while, thinking about my day, feeling guilty for maybe something I said, that wasn't kind or whatever and I'd have to get out of my bed, walk to my mom's room and tell her, "I'm sorry that I did this today. I'm sorry that I said this today." 

Ellie: How did your parents react to both of those, that constant need to ask for forgiveness and wipe your slate clean, as well as being fearful that you were going to get poisoned? 

Sunnie: We never went anywhere [00:03:30] as far as just beyond me dealing with it at home. I know that they are worried and they'd have to tell some of my friends or my friend's parents that they were going to take me out to eat like she might not eat. This is what's been going on. I know that it was a factor of concern for them but we never did anything beyond just talking about it. 

Ellie: You had so many intrusive thoughts going on. What was your thought about yourself when you were at that age and you were living in this fear constantly? What was your thought about yourself? 

Sunnie: I don't know that I ever really knew [00:04:00] to think anything beyond just what I thought. I don't know if that makes sense. I didn't necessarily feel like something's wrong with me or whatever. It was just how I felt. I was a kid and so I didn't really know any different. That was just the way that I thought. Of course, I didn't like it and there would be times where I would be just really anxious and it became really hard to sleep at times. 

Ellie: It was kind of you're normal? 

Sunnie: Yes, it was. 

Ellie: As time went on, Sunnie's OCD tendencies seemed to vanish for a while. She's not sure why, but her teenage years were relatively calm and carefree. [00:04:30] It wasn't until college when the OCD came back in an exhausting way. 

Sunnie: I didn't really notice anything start creeping back in until I was in college. 

Ellie: What happened then? 

Sunnie: Probably the first thing that I remember was we had this assignment where we had to read an entire textbook. It was a health textbook, and I had to read the whole thing from the front to the back. In my mind, in order for it to count, I had to read every single thing on the page. [00:05:00] All the text on the page and every single photo caption, every single number, every single reference citing, every single thing that was written in that entire book, I felt like I had to read in order for it to count for the assignment. 

I was driving myself crazy reading this entire textbook and feeling I had to read it and then reread it if it didn't stick in my brain, reread it and reread it. It was just became this really torturous assignment. That's probably the first thing that I remember when the OCD started to come back in. 

Ellie: [00:05:30] Did you have a diagnosis for obsessive-compulsive disorder yet? 

Sunnie: No, not at that time. I actually had no idea that that was what was going on with me. 

Ellie: Sunnie's symptoms remained steady and undiagnosed for years before she discovered what was plaguing her. In that time, she married young and started a family soon after. Right after her second pregnancy, things took a scary turn. 

Sunnie: I was in college and I got pregnant with my first [00:06:00] child after I got married, and I had a baby and everything was great. She was happy and cute. I was taking care of her and I finished up my degree. It was when I became pregnant with my second child that I really started to struggle heavily with some of these OCD symptoms. It was more this time in the form of intrusive thoughts, where I would get these thoughts and my brain would just stick and they would stay and they wouldn't go away. 

They would just cycle through my brain and they were horrible, scary thoughts [00:06:30] and things that I never would want to be thinking about myself or about others or about anything like that. They would just stay and they would stay and they would stay. It was like sticky brain. That whole concept where something comes in and it stays and it does not leave and is with you all the time. 

Ellie: How did you ever make it better? Was there anything that you did that would make your thoughts feel better? 

Sunnie: Mostly the thoughts that I was struggling with at that time, we're just this fear that I would harm somebody, mostly my own children. [00:07:00] It just was had this constant fear that I was going to do something to somebody else that I would regret. This fear that I was capable of doing these things that I know I'm not capable of doing. Then with that fear also came this intense guilt and shame for even being able to have those thoughts. 

I started to believe it, believe them about myself. Then I start there believing that I was capable of doing these really horrible things. Then on top of the fear that I was going to do this live with this guilt and shame that I'm this terrible person, that I [00:07:30] could even have those thoughts. That I was that way and it was horrible. I started do to counteract those is I would pinch myself. 

If I had a bad thought or if anything I pinched my leg, pinched behind my leg or scratch my neck or just something not really intense self-harm, but just enough to put my thoughts somewhere else to just distract myself for that moment. That was just like a quick little outlet to get rid of that thought to not in a way punish myself for having it, but kind of I had the thought I'll just scratch myself [00:08:00] to make it go away for a little bit. 

Something else that I found myself doing a lot is if I had any of those thoughts, I would find myself needing to like pray, to ask for forgiveness, like, "Oh, I'm so sorry, I had that thought. I can't believe I had that thought. Forgive me." Then I would move forward. Then I just found myself in this constant cycle of having these thoughts which were terrible thoughts, I'd feel bad about myself, I'd scratch myself or I would try to pray, pray it away, and then go forward again. Then it would just repeat and repeat and repeat and it would go on all day long. 

Ellie: All these feelings of shame and pent up fear had very few [00:08:30] outlets. At that time, Sunnie was in a new town, lacked nearby friends, and stayed at home to raise her family. 

Sunnie: I found myself just with a lot of time to be alone with my thoughts, which is a really terrible place to be when your thoughts were as harming and negative as mine were at that time. I just felt I had all day long to sit with my cute little daughters and then my thoughts that were just terrible and horrible at that point in time. It made for a really long and really hard days. 

Ellie: [00:09:00] Yes, and so it turned into sleepless nights. What happened then when you were just plagued by this anxiety, couldn't sleep, did anything worse start to happen? 

Sunnie: Right. It never really got better and it was just getting worse. It finally got to the point that it was so bad that my husband and I talked about and we're like, " We need to need to do something about this. We need to maybe get some outside help and figure out what is going on." 

My husband was such a huge support to me at this time, which was a great blessing to me because [00:09:30] I felt at that time, I felt really unlovable. I felt unlovable. I didn't love myself. I felt unlovable by other people. I felt unlovable by God. I just felt how could anybody be okay with this. My husband was just a great strength and support to me because he always loved me and I never questioned that. 

[music] 

Ellie: That first effort to look for help took Sunnie to the office of her OB/GYN. 

Sunnie: What we first did was  

[00:10:00] I spoke with just one of my general doctors, my OB doctor actually, and explained to him what was going on. He prescribed me with some medication. Said, "Hey, maybe this is what's going on. Let's just take this medication." He gave me something and I tried it for one day and I hated it. I hated how it made me feel. I just was so nervous about it the whole day long. I felt terrible when I took it. That was it. I just took it one day and I was like, "Forget this. I'm not doing this. This is not the right approach. 

As time went on and it wasn't getting any [00:10:30] better, we decided I needed to maybe talk to a therapist. We found a therapist and I went to go talk to her and I explained all the things that were happening with me. She was really kind and really understanding. She pointed me in the direction of probably a psychiatrist. 

Ellie: I'd like to point out here how much tenacity it takes to get a diagnosis sometimes. There were plenty of points along this path where Sunnie could have given up and it's really admirable that she kept going on. 

 Sunnie: I found a psychiatrist and I went to him. [00:11:00] In my first appointment, I went and I talked with him and explained everything that was going on. That is who officially diagnosed me with OCD. Now I remember after he talked to me about it and explained it all to me, I went back to my car after our first appointment, I felt so happy that somebody could tell me what was going on with me. That there was a reason behind all this thing. I just remember it being such a relief. 

Ellie: [00:11:30] Sunnie finally got her diagnosis, but what exactly is OCD? For a mental illness that is so often in the limelight of pop culture, there are a surprising amount of things that we get wrong about it. To help dispel myths and set the record straight, I reached out to Lara Schuster Effland from Eating Recovery Center. 

Laura: I'm an LCSW and I'm the managing director of Clinical Operations for Washington. I'm also one of the national [00:12:00] leaders of our Mood and Anxiety and Insight Behavioral Health Centers Program. 

Ellie: We began by breaking down the very name obsessive-compulsive disorder. 

Lara: The DSM-5 [crosstalk] 

Ellie: Let me jump in here and explain that the DSM-5 stands for the fifth edition of the Diagnostic Statistical Manual. It's basically the source of all mental illness diagnostic criteria. 

Laura: The DSM -5 really illustrates obsessive-compulsive disorder as you really do need to see the presentation of both the [00:12:30] obsessions. That's where the thoughts start to become persistent and overwhelming and intrusive in nature, and that it's either focusing in on one particular subject or it's focusing on many. 

It can start to generalize. Then there's the compulsions, which are behaviors, it's tends to be observable, not always. Sometimes it's also an internal compulsion in which you are trying to either negate, suppress neutralized, you're really trying to [00:13:00] support the thought and trying to make it better so to speak. A lot of times for obsessive-compulsive disorder, the individual feels as though the thoughts are the problem. 

The thoughts are the reason why it shouldn't be happening and so they're trying to prevent them. They're trying to do something about it. The compulsions feel actually more appropriate. They feel like they're helping. They feel like it's something that really should occur alongside the thought. 

Ellie: Let's apply this to Sunnie's symptoms. She kept having intrusive thoughts [00:13:30] as an adult and waves of guilt or fear of food as a kid. Those got coupled with behaviors. 

 Sunnie: Sorry that I did this. Sorry that I said this. Pinch my leg, scratch my neck, try to pray it away and it would just repeat, and repeat and go on all day long. 

[music] 

[00:14:00] 

Laura: In the moment, it feels as though it's helping or it's doing something, however, it's actually only causing a momentary relief because you feel like you actually are putting action to it. You're being proactive about it. However, it's not correcting the issue. The issue continues to be prolonged. If anything, it actually makes it worse. Because you're causing the brain to think, "Well, whenever I have this thought, or whenever I have this [00:14:30] fear, if I just do this, then that will support or neutralize or get rid of it." 

When actually the thought is not the problem at all. It's your response to the thought, that's really the issue. Now, what now? You basically doubled down on it. 

Ellie: Using whatever that compulsion or behavior is, actually reinforces the thoughts over time? 

Laura: Yes. In Sunnie's situations, so what she was working on was exposing herself to these thoughts. The [00:15:00] important thinking that was happening or the concerns that she was having or the need to then use the compulsions to then support the thoughts. What was happening over time for Sunnie is that it was just reinforcing that the thoughts were the problem. You can't control thoughts. Thoughts just happen. We all have intrusive thoughts, but what happens with OCD is you pay great attention to them and it feels as though they're problematic. 

Really it's about [00:15:30] retraining the brain to no longer see the thoughts is the problem, but instead, what can I do differently with them? How do I not try to take all the time to do something about them, but instead to accept them and to have different experiences around them, maybe they will never go away. How do I respond to that? It's essentially learning how to tolerate uncertainty. 

Ellie: Not only did Sunnie need to tolerate the uncertainty of intrusive [00:16:00] thoughts, but she also had to let go of some crippling shame from thinking those thoughts in the first place. Having a diagnosis was really helpful in understanding the whole trajectory from the time when you were eight and fearing that there was poison in your food all the way up to fearing that you would harm your children or not being able to sleep. You talked a lot about that shame. I'm having terrible thoughts, therefore, I'm a terrible person. That shame really took a hold of you and you were constantly asking for forgiveness and just trying to do some [00:16:30] cleansing to wipe your slate clean. 

How would you say that your faith has affected your perception of your thoughts? 

 Sunnie: I think my faith and my beliefs did play a big factor in it. Because like I said, I was raised as a really religious person and so raised with these high morals and high standards that I held myself up to and wanted to live by. Because of the way that my OCD works, it's attacked those core beliefs and those core things about myself and took every single thing that I knew or thought I shouldn't be doing [00:17:00] and would make me think I was capable of doing it again and again and again. Then, because I was a faith-based person, and because I just wanted to be pure and clean and felt good about myself, it made me live with this guilt. 

I think that that's how OCD works is it just attacks those core beliefs sometimes about yourself and attacks those values and just makes you think you're capable of doing these things. Like you said, it's that whole concept of like, I think, therefore, I am. Because I think this, that must mean that I am [00:17:30] this way, even though that's really far from the truth, but given how my brain works, that was what I thought. 

Because I am this faith-based person and want to be good and make right choices and do all that, it was terrible to believe that about myself, to believe that I was all these things that I've been taught my whole life that you're not supposed to do, you're not supposed to think you're not supposed to have bad thoughts or all this. 

Ellie: When you got the diagnosis of obsessive-compulsive disorder, did it help you realize that those weren't necessarily [00:18:00] your personal thoughts, that it was this mental illness? 

 Sunnie: I think it took a little bit of time. After I got diagnosed with OCD, he decided to put me on some medication, and he explained to me how the medication was going to work because I had had that one really bad experience with medication before. He said, "I'm going to give you this medication and we're going to start slowly and build you up to the dose I think you need to be on. 

What it's going to do is it's going to build up this wall in your brain in a way." He's like, "It's not going to cure [00:18:30] the OCD, it's not going to make all these thoughts and things go away, but it's going to build this wall up for you so that the thoughts and things that come can stay on the other side of this wall and so that they won't bother you anymore." 

What happened over time as I took that medication and got up to the right dosage for me, was that it did exactly that. It did exactly what he said. It built up this wall in my mind and so that I could better separate myself from the thoughts. They would maybe still be there, but they totally stayed on the other side of this medication wall that [00:19:00] we had built up. I could look at them, but they didn't bother me. I think that was what was the most healing for me was once I realized and was able to take some time away from that obsessive line of thinking was I realized, "Oh, this is who I really am. Those thoughts or that was all the OCD." 

When the medication just helped me, for me, that was totally the right course for me and allowed me to just to have time away from those thoughts and so that I could better separate myself and I could better realize, "Okay, what was the OCD talking to me and what really is me and who am I? [00:19:30] What is my real line of thinking without being plagued by all those obsessive thoughts?" 

That is where I feel like my real healing began when I was able to be like, "Oh, this is who I really am. I really am a good person. I'm not all these crazy terrible things that I've been thinking for the last, however, many years of my life." 

[music] 

[00:20:00] Ellie: My question next is, what happened to that shame as you started to recognize, "Oh, wow, I am a good person. I'm not defined by my thoughts?" 

 Sunnie: Yes, it pretty much went away which was so great because it's something that I'd become so accustomed to living with for so long that with the thoughts and always came the shame but then once I was able to step away from them, the shame went away with it also because I was able to look at it and say that's not me. I'm not those thoughts. Then with that, the shame went away. [00:20:30] I was able to feel happy again. It was such a great period of time in my life and I just remember thinking that "If medication can help people, they for sure need to pursue that course because for me it was life-changing. 

[music] 

 Ellie: Far from being a magic bullet, medication was merely one tool that Sunnie used in addition to examining her own cognitive process. She was still the one deciding to let go of compulsive responses [00:21:00] and internalized shame. It wasn't long before she put that progress to the test when weaning off the drug in order to have another kid. 

 Sunnie: I had with medication for a while and I think I was on it for long enough and combined with the therapy to have just this greater understanding of how my brain worked and how OCD works and how that illness affected me. Because I'd had that time where I was able to think clearly and able to learn through therapy to separate my thoughts from the OCD [00:21:30] thoughts, I felt confident that I was going to be okay. I felt much better. I mentally was in a much better place and physically was in a better place. I wasn't tallying those shameful guilt, feelings, thoughts all the time. 

We decided we wanted to have another baby and that we-- I felt good enough that I could wean myself off the medication and so it really went okay. I weaned myself off. I had my third daughter and everything was okay, and it's been okay since. I haven't had to go back on medication again since that time. Not [00:22:00] that it's perfect, not that I don't ever have a thought that creeps in or a thing like that but I'm better able to understand it and to recognize it where I couldn't do that before. 

 Ellie: If you have an OCD thought that comes in and you slow down and you recognize that's an OCD thought, what do you do now that's more helpful than those compulsive behaviors? 

 Sunnie: I think I just try to pause and name it what it is, [chuckles] call it what it is. Call it like I see it. It's not always easy [00:22:30] because it feels really believable. I just have to remind myself that even if I feel this way, even if I feel like I want to believe it, I just have to remind myself that it's not. That that's the OCD talking. That's not me, that's not a real thought. 

 Ellie: Sunnie had traveled far in her healing journey but it wasn't until her daughter began to exhibit similar symptoms that their family was turned onto a new approach for dealing with the disorder. You started having more kids and then I imagine that you started to watch [00:23:00] some similarities from you and your husband pop up in your kids. Did you ever notice any anxiety pop up in your children? 

 Sunnie: Yes. My oldest daughter, unfortunately, started to exhibit some of the symptoms that we thought maybe would fall under the OCD category when she was probably about the same age as I was when my OCD began to creep in. We watched her and we tried to help her as much as we were able to. Help her through things and help her not give in to her OCD as much [00:23:30] as we were able to, but she never got officially diagnosed with it or anything for a while because we were able to help her manage. 

To manage her anxiety, manage the things that she was struggling with and dealing with. It was hard to watch your child struggle with something that seems so similar to what you had struggled with as a kid. 

 Ellie: Sure. What did finding help for her look like for your family? 

 Sunnie: We just tried to help her at first just on our own as much as we were able because we didn't really know where to start. It's like I knew how to get [00:24:00] myself help but I didn't know how to help my child get the help that she would need for this. She struggled with it for a time, but it was manageable and we were able to help her. Then the older that she got when she got closer to her teenage years, she developed an eating disorder. With the eating disorder, her anxiety obviously continued and her eating disorder got to the point where she needed to get medical treatment for it. 

She had to eventually be admitted to a treatment center where [00:24:30] she was diagnosed with anorexia and along with her diagnosis of anorexia, she was also diagnosed with obsessive-compulsive disorder. That's where she received her official diagnosis of OCD. 

 Ellie: What type of therapy did they do for her? 

 Sunnie: They did just the basic therapy that they would do for anyone struggling with an eating disorder but then because she had that other diagnosis on top of it, of OCD, is they started to put her in a group where they focused on exposure therapy. Basically, what [00:25:00] they would do, was they would talk to them about these things. Their fears, their obsessions, the things that they were afraid of, that they were obsessing over and they would expose them to those exact things again and again and again. Whatever that fear, whatever that trigger was for the OCD, the obsessive thoughts, the compulsions they would expose them to that. 

 Ellie: The lesson in that is instead of doing a compulsive behavior like pinching yourself or praying to cleanse or even like washing yourself again to slow it [00:25:30] down and actually let that intrusive thought stay there and write it out and then eventually that anxiety and intrusive thought goes down. 

 Sunnie: Seems like counter-intuitive. You would think, "No, I don't want to do this thing that causes this anxiety in me. I want to run away from it. I want to hide from it." That's how I felt like in my own life. What I'd spent so much time doing which is run from these thoughts, hide from these thoughts, do something to make them go away. Pinch yourself, pray about it, whatever, anything but don't sit with it. Don't sit with that anxiety, don't sit [00:26:00] with that fear or that shame, that thought that this might really be true. 

I think that's exactly what exposure therapy tells you to do is you need to sit there with this fear, that feeling of anxiety and do it. Expose yourself to it again and again and again until you realize that you can beat it. You can overcome it and that anxiety will lessen with time. It's hard to believe but it actually works. 

[music] 

I feel like in my own life what I took away from that was that I [00:26:30] learned, again, that I have to stop running from my thoughts. If I have a thought that I'm afraid of, if I have a thought that comes in that's an OCD thought, instead of responding to it the way that I want to respond, to just make it go away, to make that anxiety go away. I have taught myself that I have to stop. That I have to turn around instead of running from it and look it in the face and call it what it is. 

Sometimes I even verbalize it out loud. I say that shameful thought that I'm afraid of. I give it a voice and in the verbalizing it or in the talking back to it and the saying and I'm telling myself, "Of course, this [00:27:00] isn't true. Of course, I would never do XYZ." Actually verbalizing it and saying it out loud, it loses its power. Thoughts feel really powerful at the time but if you force yourself to express them, to verbalize them, to write them down, to give them a voice, they really do lose their power and the anxiety that surrounds those tends to lessen and tends to go away over time. 

 Ellie: I think that that's so important for people to hear because that's the most terrifying thing to do when you have OCD, is to [00:27:30] not wash your hands again or not check if the oven is turned off or not pray as a ritual to cleanse because all of that is what OCD tells you to do to make it better but then it catapults the whole cycle. 

 Sunnie: I think because of OCD, I do have those checking rituals or behavior things where I do. When I walk by the oven, I want to touch all the knobs and make sure that they're turned off. Or if I walk by my fridge outside, I want to check it and see what kind of food I have in there to make sure we have enough food. I want to make sure the doors are locked, I want to make sure [00:28:00] all those things are just right in order in or in place. I want to check on my kids again and again before I go to bed to make sure that they're okay. 

With exposure therapy just teaches you that you need to just not do those things. You have to just sit with that uncertainty that maybe the door is unlocked but that's okay. What's the worst thing that can happen? I have to just catch myself. I have to catch myself when I feel like I'm falling into one of those things so that I don't get into that cycle because once you do it, it's never going to be enough to just check it one time. There's [00:28:30] really no relief that comes from-- There's a temporary relief that comes from participating in those rituals, but it's not a permanent relief. 

 Ellie: I think that that's a really helpful example because it would take so much time out of your life if you were doing all of those things. In this process of slowing down, exposing yourself to your own anxiety, and rediscovering who you are, how would you describe yourself now that you're able to separate yourself from the OCD thoughts? 

 Sunnie: Well, definitely a happier person for sure. [00:29:00] Years ago when I really was struggling, I really, and like I said, I didn't like myself. It was really hard to live and to feel like I was this terrible person all the time when it's like I knew I wasn't. I knew I was a good person. I knew I was trying to be a good mom, to do all these things but I couldn't believe it about myself because my thoughts told me otherwise all the time. 

Now, that I've been better able to separate myself from it, I can just enjoy life so much more. I can enjoy being a mom. I can enjoy sitting down and reading a book. I can enjoy [00:29:30] sitting through church which were all things that I struggled to do before. I couldn't sit still at all. I can just live life. 

 Ellie: I find it interesting that you say you can't just be magically healed from it but you've learned to cope with it. I just wanted to say thank you so much for sharing that piece of your story. 

 Sunnie: Well, I want to say it too and like you talked about giving the OCD voice, like verbalizing it out loud is one way to help lessen it. It is hard though because, for me, at least, it was  

[00:30:00] all these things that I would be terrified to ever verbalize, the thoughts and things, the horrible thoughts that went through my brain because they were terrible. In hiding from them and in feeling that shame and not giving them voice and not saying them out loud, it causes the OCD to grow. Stopping and actually saying them out loud and talking to them about somebody is really, really therapeutic, even though it's really scary. 

[music] 

[00:30:30] 

Ellie: Sunnie is continuing down this new path that she blazed with the help of her family and medical team. Through the simple, yet revolutionary decision to declare that she is not her thoughts, Sunnie has created the community, found tools, and helped others in a similar place. What about all those pop culture references to OCD and the way we casually throw it around when we talk about keeping our desks clean? [00:31:00] Well, she just shakes her head and thinks, "If you only knew." 

Mental Note is sponsored by the amazing team of doctors, therapists, psychologists, and solution seekers at Eating Recovery Center and Insight Behavioral Health Centers. They're in the business of taking impossible situations and helping you find hope again. If you're plagued by OCD, mood or anxiety issues, or an eating disorder, give them a call at 877-411-9578. They have a team of professionals [00:31:30] ready and waiting to help you find the next step forward. Our show is produced by Sam Pike, edited by Sam Pike and Erica Prather, and mixed by Meredith Turk. I'm Ellie Pike. Until next time. 

[music] 

[00:32:01] [END OF AUDIO] 

Sunnie-Gruwell-new-pic_1.jpg
Presented by

Sunnie Gruwell

Sunnie is a parent advocate on ERC’s Recovery Ambassador Council. Sunnie resides in Houston, Texas with her husband and six children. Her faith and religion are very important to her, and the strength that comes from those beliefs has helped her family make it through whatever trials they have faced. She has immense gratitude for the life-saving treatment her oldest daughter received at the Eating Recovery Center in Denver, Colorado, and recognizes the extremely important role that caregiver knowledge and education play in the treatment of adolescents with eating disorders. She admires the strength, resilience, and growth her daughter has shown as she battles her eating disorder. Her continued support for her daughter reinforces the reality that recovery is not a one-time event, but a journey.

“Successful mothers are not the ones that have never struggled. They are the ones that never give up, despite the struggles.” (Sharon Jaynes)

Eating Recovery Center and Pathlight Mood and Anxiety Center are accredited through the Joint Commission. This organization seeks to enhance the lives of the persons served in healthcare settings through a consultative accreditation process emphasizing quality, value and optimal outcomes of services.

Organizations that earn the Gold Seal of Approval™ have met or exceeded The Joint Commission’s rigorous performance standards to obtain this distinctive and internationally recognized accreditation. Learn more about this accreditation here.

Joint Commission Seal