"My Battle on and off the IceÃ¢ÂÂ: the Story of Brandon Fehd
Brandon Fehd is easy to spot on the ice while playing for the Rapid City Rush. You'll probably recognize his #93, or see him kneeling in prayer after every game he plays. As a defenseman, you've seen him clash opposing forwards and desperately try to keep the competition away from his net.
You've seen him battle countless times for the Rapid City Rush on the ice. What you haven't seen is his constant battle off the ice, a battle that has followed him for his entire life.
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.
"I've had this since I was born," Brandon Fehd said of his condition. "Some of my earliest memories in life are of an obsessive-compulsive nature. As far as I can remember, I'd have to say it was anywhere from between three and five years old that I've had this."
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, known colloquially as "OCD", is a common, chronic, and long-lasting disorder in which a person has uncontrollable, recurring thoughts (obsessions) and/or behaviors (compulsions) that he or she feels the urge to repeat over and over.
People that suffer from OCD can be fixated on cleanliness, germaphobia, symmetry, or another specific pattern. For Fehd, its numbers.
"I'll perform actions through numbers in certain multiples, but for me, it's different," Fehd explained. "For example, I like the number four, but I might not like the number six, so I'll tailor my algorithms to that. But if I like the number four, but don't like twelve, twelve is a multiple of four, so there's a challenge, and for me it varies constantly. The significance to the numbers varies. Sometimes, I center things around a number I used to wear, or a number a teammate wore. In the simplest sense, some numbers are just more visually appealing to me and relieve my anxiety. Others trigger a compulsion that I have to counter with a thought or action before I can continue to go about my business.
"It's constant. I have compulsions that I go through every day," Fehd explained. "I set three alarms every day. I'll wake up at 6:02, to make 62. When I wake up, I'll pray to God and meditate with Him, then go back into a minor sleep. Then I'll set one for 7:03, for 73. That's when I visualize my day. I treat that as a 'snooze' of sorts. Then it's another alarm at 8:01, for 81. After that, I'll get up, go through my compulsions, or twitches. When I get dressed, I put certain parts of my clothes on a certain amount of times to get to a certain number that relieves my anxiety. But if it doesn't feel right, it has to jump to another number, which isn't always the same."
That's just the start of Fehd's day, before any meal, practice, or game.
"I have a series of compulsions that I go through, that I refer to as algorithms, but sometimes they're not always set," he elaborated. "Sometimes I wake up feeling great, not so anxious, and I don't have to put my clothes on nearly as much. Depending on the order I put my clothes on, I try to match that number in a sequence with how many times I put it on. For example, my underwear is the first thing I put on, so I'll put them on three times to get to 13, one for the first article and three for three for the attempts to put them on. My shorts are the third thing I put on, so I try to put them on once to get to 31, or eight times to make 38.
"That pattern continues to everything I put on," Fehd continued, "trying to get to numbers that relieve my anxiety. If it doesn't feel right, however, I have to start that process all over again. There are times where I've put my clothes on 38 times before I feel good. There have been times where I've been 'stuck' in a spot for hours just because a number didn't feel right."
The struggle persists throughout his daily routine. After he gets dressed, the same routine applies to how he brushes his teeth, how he eats his meals and drinks his protein shakes, how he exits a room, how he goes to sleep at night, and everything else that he does throughout his day.
The base root of OCD is anxiety, and Fehd says this isn't something he can simply "shake off". If he doesn't go through his algorithms, as he refers to them, his triggers become worse.
"Certain things trigger my OCD, like numbers, places, colors, and reading. When I read it's a battle, because I constantly have to re-read certain things a certain number of times. If I don't twitch or do anything to counter the trigger I suffer while reading, it magnifies," Fehd said. "It's as if there's a thousand pounds of pressure on my chest. My physical twitches change too. There was one twitch I had that I would snap my head around and shake my wrist hard, but over time it got too violent and began to hurt. I grew out of it and did something else to relieve my anxiety.
"I don't want to do these things, but in my mind, I don't have a choice," he continued. "There are days where I've woken up and just said 'forget this' to myself. You try, but it's so hard, especially with all of that weight on your chest. For some of my twitches, if I don't do it, I feel something bad will happen. For some people, if they don't lock the front door four times, then they think they'll get robbed. It goes down that rabbit hole on occasion. For people like us, that is our reality."
His twitches, occasionally, come at a price.
"There was one time where I accidentally burned my hand on a stove," Fehd recalled. "When the pain subsided, my brain essentially told me 'you still have three more touches'. It was a double-edged sword...you don't want to burn yourself, but if I don't touch the stove again, the weight of not doing it is unbearable. I compromised and touched the stove three times rapidly just to do it. It was definitely a challenging situation to be in.
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