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Two Sisters, OCD and Their Quest to Encourage Others to Live Presently

OCD, Two Sisters and Their Quest to Encourage Others to Live Presently

Emily and Lindsay are two sisters living with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder and Anxiety.  Through their life experiences, therapy and a little inspiration, they turned their mental health challenges into a unique mission to support others with similar challenges.  Emily Stetzer shares their story here.

I had always been an anxious girl — from refusing to go to school, to wrestling with the guilt of watching an R-rated movie when I wasn’t allowed, to experiencing terrible anxiety in college — my anxiety had evolved over the years. It was always a part of my life. And part of my family’s life.

My older sister had been diagnosed with OCD in 2005. Her anxieties were very different from mine. She never cried on the way to elementary school, never confessed to our parents for doing the littlest things, nor did she refuse to eat dinner until she finished studying for tests in high school. She would worry about things — like whether or not she flipped the light switch enough times or questioning the reality of life and death — that never even crossed my mind. It was much to my surprise when I finally decided to go to therapy, I learned that I, too, was experiencing symptoms of OCD. Turns out, this disorder comes in many shapes and sizes.

Fast forward six years, and many therapy sessions later.

It was the end of the summer of 2020. The pandemic was still terrifyingly fresh, my social life had become non-existent since I moved home, and I was about to begin a long-distance relationship with a first year law student. The anxiety was crushing and I decided I needed a little extra help.

I thought about what my therapist would say if I told her everything that was on my mind. “That IS a scary thought. I’m so sorry you are dealing with that. Life is filled with uncertainty. There are so many things out of our control. And we have no way of knowing what the future will bring. It’s okay to feel anxious. That anxiety will fade over time. But for right now, here’s what you can do to help you take each day as it comes.”

Here began my search for a tangible reminder of all of these things I’ve learned in therapy. Something that I could look to in moments of intense anxiety when my therapist wasn’t around. I wanted a bracelet. I’ve seen tons of bracelets with sayings on them, so it shouldn’t be too hard to find something that suited my needs, right?  Not quite. Google search after google search brought me to hundreds of variations of the following:

> Anything is possible.

> Life is good.

> Choose joy.

> Be happy.

Here’s the problem:

As helpful as some of the above affirmations can be for some, it can be experienced as toxic positivity for others, especially those with OCD.  When we constantly encourage only a positive attitude, we’re sending the message that feeling any negative emotions is unacceptable, but it’s actually healthy, and frankly, quite necessary to allow these emotions to come to the surface.  And this isn’t just true for those of us with OCD. This is relevant to every single person on this earth, whether they have a mental health disorder or not.

We need more reminders that support our mental health, that teach us how to effectively handle life’s most difficult situations.

This is the moment I ran downstairs to tell my sister that we were starting a business.

Lindsay has always been an open book. She consistently uses “I have OCD” as her fun fact in any group setting. She is always quick to share her story because she knows there is always a chance that someone else could benefit from it. So, a business that involves anything related to mental health? She was in.

We put our heads together, and, along came Presently

A mindfulness jewelry brand featuring bracelets engraved with phrases that we’ve personally learned in therapy. They are designed to help manage stress and anxiety using cognitive-behavioral and mindfulness techniques to ground you in the present moment. They remind us to embrace and accept our anxiety, the discomfort and uncertainty it brings, and everything in between.  Like:

> It’s okay to feel how I feel.

> I let go of what I can’t control.

> Embrace uncertainty.

> My thoughts are passing clouds.

Presently isn’t just a jewelry brand. We wanted to start a platform to open up the conversation around mental health. We were lucky enough to have had the support of our family to get us the help we needed. But, there are so many people who know absolutely nothing about what they are dealing with internally and how to manage it.

Because of the stigma that still exists around mental health disorders, we are not properly taught how our mind works, how it breaks, and how it heals. With every feeling, every fear, and every story we share, we give others the opportunity to share their own struggles. We want to empower those who suffer silently to discover real, effective ways to feel less overwhelmed and removed from the present moment.

We want to help others live presently.

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If you struggle with any form of Anxiety, check out Emily and Lindsay’s Presently, offering men’s and women’s gemstone bracelets and mirror stickers with the phrase that resonates with you the most.  There is also a quiz to help you find one, if needed.

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Lisa Brookes Kift, MFT

Lisa Brookes Kift, MFT is the creator of LoveAndLifeToolbox.com with emotional and relationship health articles, guides, courses and other tools for individuals and couples. She is a frequent consultant for the media having appeared in CNN.com, HuffingtonPost.com, MensHealth.com and others. Lisa has a private practice in Marin County, CA and offers Emotional Health and Relationship Consultations via email, phone or video conference.