This Young Californian Was a Prisoner of Anxiety and OCD—Then She Took a Trip That Changed Her Life

Sally Appert is a 27-year-old accountant from San Jose, CA. She grew up with anxiety that eventually evolved into obsessive-compulsive disorder. At her lowest point, her every day was filled with the fear that comes from OCD, and she felt out of control. This is the story of how she overcame anxiety and her life was transformed—after an unexpected discovery on vacation.

Crippled by Fear as a Preteen

I think I was born afraid. I cried if anyone besides my parents held me. As a little girl, I was terrified of loud noises, especially the sound of running water.

When I was a preteen, I became afraid of a whole list of things: germs, crowds, sleepovers, food, bad smells, the slightest symptoms of illness, and even the future possibility of my stuffed animals getting old and falling apart. I know that last one sounds strange, but I lay awake at night worrying myself sick over it.

By the age of 12, I had no choice but to get help for my anxiety, and I received medication from my doctor. Though the medicine helped me at the beginning, at age 15 my anxiety evolved into symptoms of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).

To give you an idea of what it means to live with OCD, for example, everywhere I went I was compelled to read every single word I saw. From billboards and labels to instructions or book covers, or anything at hand, I had to read whatever my eyes landed on. If I didn’t, I felt horrible anxiety, as if hot water had been poured into my stomach. It felt like I couldn’t control my own mind, and it was terrifying.

“From billboards and labels to instructions or book covers, or anything at hand, I had to read whatever my eyes landed on.”

Looking back, I think it was lucky I was home-schooled. If I had been in a public school, I don’t know how I would have gotten through each day. At home, I managed it by keeping my eyes to the floor as much as possible to avoid looking at words.

As my symptoms got worse, I had to take twice as much anxiety medicine to control the OCD, but the medicine didn’t completely cure it. I knew that the chemicals in the medicine weren’t good for my body, and I had heard that this drug was addictive and hard to quit, and that I might have to take more and more as the years went by. I didn’t want that to happen, but I was afraid to stop taking it.

Once, when I forgot to take the medicine for two days in a row, I became irritable for no good reason. I also felt strange dizziness, which I suspected was a withdrawal symptom. This made me even more afraid to quit the medicine.

“As my symptoms got worse, I had to take twice as much anxiety medicine to control the OCD, but the medicine didn’t completely cure it.”

Considering I also had some symptoms of autism, my stepmom helped me apply for Social Security disability assistance when I was about 18, as she was afraid I wasn’t even capable of holding down a job.

A Trip That Changed Everything

Despite my OCD, I still tried to live a normal life. I held hope that one day I would overcome my anxiety without the help of a drug.

The summer I was 19, I went on a trip to Alaska with my mother, sister, and stepdad. Aside from having a great time, I started to notice some amazing changes in my mom’s health.

During that trip, my mom was unusually energetic and never seemed to get tired. She hiked across an enormous glacier, explored a cave, and visited all kinds of tourist sites with us, and she never complained of fatigue. She wasn’t even eating the usual strict diet and nutritional supplements she used to require in order to function. It was as if she had suddenly become young again, as if she had a new life.

Sally Appert (R) with her mother and sister during a trip to Alaska in July 2010 | Courtesy Sally Appert

For years, my mom had suffered from long-term Type I diabetes and fibromyalgia symptoms, so I was used to her having a fragile state of health.

For example, not too long before the Alaska trip, we had visited the Foresthill Bridge, the tallest bridge in California. I wanted to climb down the side of the canyon under the bridge to get to the river, but it was a long, steep hike. My sister and I were young and fit, but our mother was weak and fatigued. We climbed a short ways down the canyon, but our mother said she wouldn’t be able to climb back up if we went any farther, so we turned around. She barely made it back up the hill—she had to link arms with us, and we towed her up.

So I was thrilled to see such a sudden change in her. Later, she explained to me what had happened. Her recovery was thanks to Falun Dafa, an ancient Chinese meditation practice for improving the mind and body. In just a few days, practicing Falun Dafa had made her feel much better and more energetic.

A few months later, she hiked all the way down the Foresthill Bridge canyon and back up with me and my sister. No arm-towing was required.
Needless to say, I wanted to learn more about this practice. I eventually started to practice Falun Dafa myself, joining the tens of millions of people in China and around the world who have experienced its amazing benefits. It was like an unexpected gift, not only for my mom, but now for me too.

Learning How to Be Calm

At the age of 20, I started reading “Zhuan Falun,” the main book that teaches the principles of Falun Dafa and how to practice it. The book taught me how to improve my character through following the practice’s guiding principles of truthfulness, compassion, and tolerance.

Sally Appert holds up the book “Zhuan Falun,” the main book explaining the principles of Falun Dafa | Courtesy Sally Appert

The practice also teaches meditation and a set of calm and peaceful qigong exercises that complement the spiritual teachings and help you balance your internal energy. In my case, I started just with reading the book, but before I even practiced the Falun Dafa exercises, the OCD symptoms calmed down. I started to feel better and more in control of my mind.

Before, taking medicine had enabled me to function, but the symptoms had never really disappeared. I had felt enslaved by fear, as if part of my free will had been taken away. Now I felt that the illness was really going away, and I was free.

A few months later, I finally started to practice the five sets of exercises, including the meditation. Soon after that, I gradually stopped taking anxiety medicine as I felt it was no longer needed.

Sally Appert doing the meditation exercise of Falun Dafa | Courtesy Sally Appert

This time, I didn’t feel any of the irritability I had felt before when I forgot to take the medicine. The OCD symptoms didn’t come back, and there was no need to continue taking medication.

Becoming a Better Person

One of the first things I learned from Falun Dafa was how to improve my attitude and character and use self-reflection to improve every aspect of my life.

For example, I used to complain about doing my chores, even though I didn’t have very many. After learning the principles of forbearance and selflessness, I washed the dishes, cleaned the bathroom, and helped with what I was asked to do without complaint.

Sally Appert doing the second standing exercise of Falun Dafa | Courtesy Sally Appert

One day, I argued with my dad and was disrespectful to him. However, after I thought of what I’d learned from reading “Zhuan Falun,” I quickly realized my fault and apologized to him, saying I had been rude. He smiled and hugged me, and immediately the conflict was over. This was the power of self-reflection in action. I realized I had handled it completely differently from how I would have in the past. I was truly changing.

In addition, I used to argue with my stepmom and didn’t get along with her very well, but Falun Dafa taught me to be more compassionate, and I changed my attitude. After that, we got along wonderfully.

From then on, whenever I encountered conflicts, I always looked inside myself and tried to follow the principles of truthfulness, compassion, and tolerance. The results have been amazing, and the practice has truly helped me to improve my state of mind.

From Disability to Happiness and Independence

Today, I’m 27 years old, and I can say my whole life has changed thanks to the power of Falun Dafa.

I recovered from OCD, and I now work for an electronics company as a junior accountant. I even wrote to the Social Security staff and explained that I was no longer disabled. When I feel overwhelmed, I practice Falun Dafa exercises, do the meditation, or simply read the book.

I got married to a man who also practices Falun Dafa. Since we both adhere to truthfulness, compassion, and tolerance, we get along very well and rarely get angry with each other. I am now able to have a normal life, a happy marriage, and a peaceful mind. The anxious child who used to lie in bed worrying about her stuffed animals is gone.

I hope this story serves as a testament to the fact that if you have ever felt overwhelmed or are dealing with hardship like I did, there is always hope. It can come dramatically during a trip to Alaska like it did for me, or through everyday situations such as casually reading an article like this.

I hope that my story helps more people learn about the power of truthfulness, compassion, and tolerance and how following these beautiful principles can change your life. If you enjoyed this article and want other people to benefit from it, please share it. You never know whose life you can change with a simple good intention.

Sally Appert and her mother in a forest in the Redwood National and State Parks in California in 2010 | Courtesy Sally Appert

Editor’s Note:

Falun Dafa is a cultivation practice of mind and body that teaches truthfulness, compassion, and tolerance as a way to improve health and moral character and attain spiritual wisdom.

For more information about the practice or to download “Zhuan Falun,” visit: www.falundafa.org All books, exercise music, resources, and instructions are available completely free of charge.

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