Corinne Starkey: Ending the Silence
When Corinne gets home, her shoes need to go in the exact same spot, her book bag needs to be put down and her husband needs to wait for her ritual to finish before he can finally hug her.
Corinne Starkey found out she had Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) as an adult during a conversation with her ecclesiastical leader.
She had just gotten engaged and since she is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, she had promised to keep herself from having sexual relations before marriage and avoiding anything that could lead her to break that promise.
She decided to meet with her bishop every two weeks to make sure she was on the right track.
“Whenever I met with him, I was upset all the time because I would be constantly thinking and overthinking, ‘We did something wrong. This is horrible. He touched me where he shouldn’t have,’” Starkey said. “But, in reality, he didn’t do anything wrong. He would hold my side while we were walking, and I would freak out.”
Past mistakes came up in her conversations with her bishop and he noticed a pattern in her experience. Luckily for Starkey, her bishop was a counselor at her university and brought to her attention that she was struggling with scrupulosity, which is when people constantly think they are doing something wrong, especially in religious settings.
Her bishop then encouraged her to visit the school’s Counseling Center, so she could get the treatment she needed. Talking to the counselors helped her cope with her mental health challenges.
One of her symptoms consists of false fears, which means unrealistic thoughts and fears she makes up in her head.
“It’ll start from a tiny little thought and spiral to something that is way bigger than it started out to be,” Starkey said. “… And then I create this completely alternate reality in my head that feels like a real fear and that it’s actually happening, but it’s a false fear. It’s not actually happening and that’s something that I learn in counseling is to try to distinguish between the two.”
Talking it out also helps Starkey cope with it. Her husband normally sits by her and listens. Being able to talk about every detail and discuss every false fear helps her realize that those fears aren’t real.
“As I talk it out, I recognize and realize that it’s not real and I don’t get so anxious, and then he’ll hold me, and he’ll just comfort me, and I wish I had that support because in my home growing up, my mom and my dad, they obviously didn’t recognize that their child was suffering from something,” Starkey said.
She said her mom is a “suck it up” type of personality. When Starkey went through a break up growing up, she remembers feeling like a mess. Her mom then reminded her that “There are other fishes in the sea.”
“She wasn’t there emotionally, and I’ve come to find out that she suffers from social anxiety,” she said. “So being able to give any of those comfort supports wasn’t there for her, it wasn’t possible and because I have a husband who gives comfort and recognizes when the anxiety starts because he’s been to counseling with me it’s a huge help and that’s like part of my medication is being able to have that support system, because going through all of this alone is really hard.”
Her symptoms manifested since a young age. She would play in her family’s backyard and at the end of the day, the toys would be covering the entire ground. Contrary to most kids, Starkey felt the need to put the toys back to their specific places.
“If the toys weren’t put back where they were supposed to, and I realized that at night while lying in bed, it didn’t matter what time at night it was, at 3 o’clock in the morning or whatever,” she said. “I would have to get up and I would have to go outside and put those toys away where they went because everything has its place in my mind.”
For her parents, Starkey’s attitude was odd. They normally just told her to go back to bed.
“I wish,” she said. “I just wish I would have had parents who would have recognized what was going on in my child’s brain.”
Starkey said recognizing the signs for each mental illness could have helped her figure out her challenges earlier in life and she would have been able to get the treatment she so desperately needed.
“I used to think … there is two Corinne’s,” she said. “There is the anxious Corinne and there is the normal Corinne and sometimes it’s really, really hard to differentiate between the two.”
She said doing research may help people not only get more informed, but find ways of helping the people around them.
“There is so much great material out there and if you are a student … being able to visit a counselor and not feel ashamed for having to go to counseling, not feeling ashamed that there is something wrong with me because the anxiety that people have is not them,” Starkey said.
Add your voice to Corinne Starkey and end the silence around you.