For This 'Stranger Things' Actress, OCD Wasn't A Casual Diagnosis. It Was A Real Struggle.

"Despite my struggles, past and present, I am alive, and, now, I want to be."

Trigger warning: This post discusses mental health and suicidal thoughts.

For Shannon Purser, being able to open up about her mental health struggles — and having the internet as an outlet to search for information about them — was a saving grace. The Stranger Things star penned a very personal essay for Teen Vogue in which she discussed past struggles with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts.

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The 20-year-old began by noting how everything in her life seemed to be just fine — good group of friends, doing all right in school, and OK family relationships — but appearances aren't always as they seem. Aside from everything appearing fine on the outside, she was battling OCD on the inside.

"Most people have heard of OCD and even have a perception of what it looks like: someone frantically cleaning their house or adjusting anything that looks a little out of place," the Riverdale star wrote. "You may have also heard of OCD because lots of people like to casually diagnose themselves with it, saying things like, 'I hate when things are messy, I'm so OCD.' The world seems to see OCD as a weird quirk to joke about."

Purser went on to actually define OCD, explain how it's different for everyone, and reveal how her experience with it shaped how she dealt with the world. Her OCD preyed upon the guilt she was familiar with having been raised in a religious upbringing. It began to manipulate her and she withdrew from others. On top of that, the OCD also warped Purser's self-image, making her think she deserved to die. That said, she changed that way of thinking with a simple action: telling her mom.

"Looking back, I wish I'd been able to reach out for help sooner," Purser wrote. "I was so consumed by fear and shame that I'd convinced myself that no one in the world was going through these trials. I'm so thankful that I had the Internet at my disposal, because that was the tool I needed to begin to understand my disorders and become more comfortable talking about them. Now, after doing research and meeting other people like me online and in person, I know that there is an amazing support system out there whenever I need it."

For Purser, knowledge she gained over the past few years was "instrumental" in her healing process and being able to talk to a trained professional in therapy — as well as getting on the right medications for her, something she has since given up — was a life-changing relief. She is able to handle what life throws at her now in a healthy way.

Ever since Purser put out her story, she has been getting a lot of love on social media. Some of that love has come from a familiar place, Purser's Stranger Things co-star David Harbour — you know, the guy who appears in yearbook photos with fans, officiates their weddings, and plays with penguins in Antarctica.

In the end, Purser is glad she got help and her lust for life is thriving, writing: "Despite my struggles, past and present, I am alive, and, now, I want to be."

If you or someone you know is contemplating suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255 or text Crisis Text Line at 741-741.

Cover image: Kathy Hutchins / Shutterstock

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