Paper dolls: A story of early on-set OCD and acceptance

Paper DollWritten by: Neurotic Nelly

At four years old it was said that I had OCD. I was a paper doll. I was small and fragile. I was easy to bend and easy to tear.  A gentle breeze could fold me in half. I was afraid. I felt pain so much more deeply than others my age. I was afraid of germs. I was afraid of death. I was afraid of everything. I had intrusive thoughts and images. I had phobias and fears. As I grew my voice inside my head grew. As I aged the voice in my head lurked. Telling me horrible things. It spit it’s lies in my ear. You are worthless. You are crazy. You are stupid and ugly and no one will ever accept you. Time went on, every year adding a layer of paper and pretty bits of string to my paper doll.

At fourteen I was a paper doll. I was stronger than when I was four. Fourteen layers made me a little more able to cope. It now took strong winds to fold me in half. It was the year I was officially diagnosed. It was the year I started medication. It was the year the monster inside of me was named. It was the year I learned I was not alone. I was moving slowly to find myself. It was easier to ignore the voice inside my mind. Time went on, adding layers of paper each year and pretty bits of string to my paper doll.

When I was nineteen I was a paper doll. I was less fragile and more strong. I got married to man who did not appreciate me. A man who lied and verbally abused me. I thought that is what I deserved. I lost myself. He tore up my paper doll. Then he left and I was broken. I was alone and had no idea where to go or what my personal worth was. I had to find the bits of my paper doll and glue it back together. Promising myself to not only find myself but to also learn to like myself. I was afraid. Time went on, adding a layer of paper each year and pretty bits of string to my paper doll.

In my twenties I was a paper doll. I was not easily folded or torn. I was unbending in my desire to accept myself. I was no longer going to let other’s in my life hurt me. I was going to be happy. I was going to learn to handle my intrusive thoughts and fears. I became a new wife to a terrific man and a mother. I was determined to be strong and healthy for them. And I was. Time went on, adding a layer of paper each year and pretty bits of string to my paper doll.

At thirty three I am a paper doll. I am stronger than I have ever been. My paper doll has been reinforced by thirty three layers of paper and pretty bits of string. I am no longer fragile. I am no longer easily bent or torn. It will take gale force winds to fold me in half.  Years of therapy and love from my family and friends have reinforced me. I have grown into who I am. I have come to understand my illness and found my strengths.  I still have intrusive thoughts and fears. I have taken a stance of acceptance. I accept that I am not normal. I accept that some will not understand. I accept that there are some things I can not do. I accept that I am a person with mental illness. I also accept that I am not what my mind has tried to make me believe. I am not broken. I am not what other’s have judged me to be. I deserve love. I am worthy. I am not crazy. I am not stupid or ugly. I am proof that  I am accepted. At this point in time, I have learned to accept my faults. I have learned to love myself in spite of them. I am not perfect, but then no one is. I am not normal but I am unique. I am a good, kind, and caring person. I am beautiful in all of my oddities. I love my uniqueness. I have taken in my four year old self and cradled her. I do what at that time I could not. I love her. I tell her all the things she needed to hear. I wipe away her tears and calm her terror. I tell her the same thing everyday. You are beautiful. You are strong. One day you are going to grow up and be amazing. One day you will grow up and be strong. One day you will be more than just a pretty paper doll.

Mental Illness does not mean that you are unworthy, ugly, or broken. [Tweet this quote!]

It just means you have to learn to love yourself. You are not dirty. You are not stupid. You are not broken or tarnished. You are me. You are unique and amazing. You are strong. You are more than a person with a label. You are magnificent.


Image credit: From the animated short Paper Doll by Annie Poon


NellyNeurotic Nelly
is a mental health blogger and mother of two. She is a wife, mother, friend, and daughter. She is a woman with OCD. Her hope is to inspire others to talk about their mental illness. She is fighting to change the world one post at a time.   She believes that we can all make a difference. She believes that talking about it will create discussion and understanding. She believes that we are all more than just paper dolls.

Her blog is

To check out all of Nelly’s guest posts on MHT, click here.


Like this story? Subscribe to receive each story via email

Post navigation


  • Bethany Lee

    Nelly, this is very beautiful. You have summed up brokenness, confusion, non-acceptance and healing in this one post. All with your paper doll. Love this.

  • Neurotic Nelly

    Thank you do much Bethany! It means alot to me that my post spoke to you. Sometimes it is hard to put our feelings into words. It can be hard for others to understand how mental illness effects our lives and our thoughts. It can be a struggle but we can come out the other side. Thank you so much for your kind words and your support. I am honored to have been given a voice on this amazing site.

  • Jared @ Schiz Life

    I feel like OCD runs in my family a bit. I see my father and my brother struggle with it as I once did. I can relate to your conflict with the invasive thoughts. Mine always focused on how I or another were unworthy in some fashion. It always seems related to the worst thing we can think of at the moment. My brother fears violence acted upon his family. My father fears loss of control of himself, the environment, and even other people’s beliefs. It’s a very powerful illness and I know that you must be very powerful to be contending with and conquering it. I read a great book that helped me understand the obsessive thought aspect of OCD, called “The Imp of the Mind” by Lee Baer, Ph.D. It’s a good one. Best of luck!

  • Neurotic Nelly

    Thank you so much Jared! I have not read that book but I will have to check it out. OCD is hereditary so you most likely do know people in your family that have it. Thank you for saying I am strong. It has been a long road. I truly believe that we all are strong and find what works best for us individually. It takes time but we can all do it and we are all worth it. Thank you for your support. Your kind words mean a lot to me. To talk about our mental illness is to heal. Thank you for sharing your story with me. We have very similar stories as I too have family members with OCD as well.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Notify me of followup comments via e-mail. You can also subscribe without commenting.