This week was a very important week for me: it’s OCD Awareness Week.
I’ve talked about my struggles with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder in the past (click HERE to read about it) and I kinda wanted to update everyone as to how I’m doing and get this all off my chest.
First of all, this week. It’s important because OCD is a very real, very tangible disorder that affects millions of people across the US. It’s often misdiagnosed or swept under the rug, but it’s very real and very painful.
I was diagnosed with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder as a teenager, but I’ve had it my entire life. As a child, I had very strict bedtime routines my parents would have to follow, and should the routine go awry or in a different direction, I’d beg them to start all over again. This meant singing lullabies in a particular order, tucking me in a certain way, and doing things in a proper order. As a child, I also had certain anxieties about smells. I’d even have my parents wash my toys because sometimes the smells of them made me uneasy.
As a teen, it was all about the obsessive thoughts and, well, obsessions. Thoughts about death and dying. Thoughts about sex and strange, peculiar, embarrassing fantasies. Obsessions with boys, people, routines. And a small-scale case of hoarding. Hoarding clothes, old makeup, magazines. To this day, I still hoard magazines – I have them saved in my closet for reasons unknown, but the thought of parting with them breaks my heart.
And as an adult, it’s the same story. Obsessed with routine, clinging to it desperately with a significant fear of change. Some days, it manifests itself as something more “minor”, like vacuuming the house until something inside of me clicks and feels better, or surrounding myself with magazines to feel more comfortable. Other times, it manifests as something far more sinister, and that’s when I begin picking. Nit-picking at myself and my flaws mentally, and physically ripping open my flesh and scalp with my fingers until I bleed. Those are the days where I feel completely overwhelmed by this disease; days where I feel like I’m stuck in a dark hole with the tunnel of light so far out of reach.
People often misunderstand OCD. OCD isn’t necessarily about being clean and tidy, though that’s most common. My OCD fluctuates. Some days, I’m obsessed with order and tidiness. I like my kitchen to be spotless and obsess over crumbs and counter stains until I can rid them. Other times, I have so much anxiety building up that piles of things build up, too. Books, magazines, receipts, pens, wrappers, clothes, garbage. I’ll be surrounded by it all without really noticing it. It isn’t until my mom comments on how my room is so dirty or someone complains that our kitchen table (where I work from) isn’t even visible under the piles of stuff. Then I get embarrassed. How did I let this get so bad? How did I let myself go?
It pains me when people make comments about being “so OCD” or joke about the disease. Just because you load your dishwasher a certain way or like to color coordinate your closet doesn’t mean you’re OCD. OCD is much more than that, it’s so much deeper and darker. It’s an insidious monster that affects the person’s every waking thought and action. In fact, each action we make, we’ve likely already obsessed about making it for hours, if not days before hand. We’ve already fantasized these elaborate scenarios of what could happen – what could go wrong – that when the scenario happens, we’re exhausted from dreading it and probing it for so long. It isn’t about wanting clean hands; it’s the intense, very real fear that something terrible will happen if we don’t clean them repeatedly. That sense of doom, like a dark cloud of dread and depression, looming over us, ready to open its arms and surround us any second. The very tangible feeling of panic coursing through our veins, our minds replaying everything in painstaking detail on repeat. That is what it’s like living with OCD. It’s no joke. It’s not funny. It’s very painful, very real.
And I understand that people joke. It’s not like I’ll start crying or slap you across the face if you make a joke like that. But personally, I liken it to the dreaded word “retarded.” I’d never make fun of someone and call them retarded because that hurts those who do have mental and/or physical disabilities. So why would you call yourself OCD when you don’t live your life suffering with it?
All I want is for people to be more aware of what they’re saying and how they say it. That’s all. And to have some compassion for those afflicted with this disorder. There’s such a gross, unnecessary stigma against mental illness in this country, making it often impossible to get the help people desperately need. We need to be more understanding and compassionate toward those suffering and offer an ear to listen, a shoulder to cry on, and a heart to help them heal.
I hope, if nothing else, that you are more aware of OCD after this post, and will make the changes in your life to end the stigma of mental illness and raise awareness about Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder if you know someone who may be suffering. And please, don’t blame them for the pile of magazines everywhere – sometimes, that’s the only shred of reality they have left.
Now, let’s talk about something far less sad, shall we? Liiiike these Dulce de Leche Cheesecake Bars, for example. They’re loaded with amazing caramel flavor and topped with a sprinkling of sea salt for that intoxicating sweet-and-salty goodness. And they’re a cinch to make!
Let’s just say Iatethewholepan. Because I’m not a liar and had no shame when devouring every last crumb. You will want to devour every last crumb, too!
*adapted from my Perfect Cheesecake Bars recipe
Dulce de Leche Cheesecake Bars
- 1½ cups cinnamon graham cracker crumbs finely ground
- 1/4 cup brown sugar
- 1/4 cup melted butter
- 2 (8-ounce pkgs) cream cheese softened to room temperature
- 2/3 cup sugar
- 2 eggs
- 1 Tbsp vanilla
- 1/3 cup sour cream
- 1 (13 oz can) prepared dulce de leche
- Sea salt for sprinking
- Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Line an 8x8" pan with foil, extending the sides of the foil over the edges of the pan. Mist the foil lightly with cooking spray and set aside.
- In a large bowl, combine the graham cracker crumbs, brown sugar and melted butter and stir until moistened. Pour into the prepared pan and press into a compact, even layer. Bake for approx. 12 minutes.
- While crust bakes, prepare your filling. In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream together the cream cheese and sugar for about 2 minutes or until fluffy and light. Add in the eggs, one at a time, until combined. Lastly, add in the vanilla, sour cream, and two Tablespoons of the dulce de leche sauce.
- Pour the filling over the crust and return to the oven to bake for approx. 35-40 minutes or until the center appears just about set and isn't super jiggly. Tent with foil if the top begins to brown too fast. Cool completely, then spread with the remaining dulce de leche in an even layer. Sprinkle with sea salt and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight before serving.
Caramely, buttery, smooth and creamy, that’s what these cheesecake bars are all about! You don’t want to miss this recipe!
Have a sweet day!
Michele @ Alwayzbakin says
Haylee, I had no idea that OCD could effect lives that way. You hear people toss those three letters around all the time like a joke. I’m sorry you have to go through that. What an enlightening and candid post. On another note..these bars look and sound amazing! I cannot resist dulce de leche OR cheesecake for that matter! Have a wonderful day. 😉
Thanks so much, Michele! Appreciate it and you! <3
Ahhh! These look so decadent!!!
Julie @ Julie's Eats & Treats says
Hayley you are one amazing girl! You have been so open about this struggle in your life and I know it’s helped people everywhere from dealing with it themselves to helping us understand from the outside. Now go devour a cheesecake bar 🙂
Thanks so much for the love, Julie! xoxo!
Alyssa @ Simply Quinoa says
You’re amazing. Simply amazing. I’m wowed by your creativity in the kitchen, how much passion you put into your work and how good of a friend you are. It was so fun hanging out with you in NYC and I can’t wait until the next time we are reunited. Love you! xxoo
Thank you SO much, my sweet blog bestie! xoxo!
Oh, my gosh. I’d eat the whole pan, too!!! Hayley I love you for opening up about OCD. I’ve learned a little more from reading your post and I’m guessing there are others with this diagnosis who find your post and get comfort knowing they’re not alone. xoxo
Thanks so much Liz! xoxo!
Karin B says
I must have missed your previous posts about this issue. How brave of you to be so open and vulnerable. I really never would have guessed. I’m a closet reader/pinner and everything I’ve seen from you has shown nothing but ease and grace. Thanks for sharing!
P.S. I’m making this cheesecake immediately. You had me at dulce….
Thanks a bunch, Karin! Love that you’re such a great fan – thank you! xoxo!
Kayle (The Cooking Actress) says
Hayley–not only do you make insanely amazing desserts but you’re one of the most truly amazing people I’ve ever met. I can only imagine how difficult living with OCD must be for you and yet you somehow manage to be incredibly upbeat and sweet and fun and successful—AND open and honest about your struggles. You’re so special and I’m incredibly lucky that you’re my friend 🙂
I definitely try! Thanks a bunch, Kayle. Love you oodles!
Gina Lane says
Thank you for sharing your story. My daughter was diagnosed with OCD two years ago when she was 13. It was a horrible time for her and our family until we got the proper diagnosis and medication. She’s currently on Lexipro and is doing well. I get angry when people casually toss out the term OCD to explain their quirks. It’s a REAL disease and I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy!
Gina, thanks so much for sharing your daughter’s story. I’m so sorry she’s dealing with this, but thank goodness for proper medication and therapy. The right meds really do make a difference! Hang in there! 🙂 xoxo!
Laura | The Kiwi Country Girl says
Brilliant post Hayley, I have to admit I didn’t know a lot about OCD other than what you hear people referring to it as, which is not really the real OCD! Thanks so much for sharing your story, and those cheesecake bars!!
Thanks so much Laura! xoxo!
Laura @ Laura's Culinary Adventures says
Thanks for sharing!
Thanks for saying this, Hayley. It makes me so angry when people say “oh I’m sooooo ADD, I’m sooo dyslexic.” It’s incredibly rude to those people who actually have to live with it. A girl at work recently said “sooo OCD” , and when I tried to explain to her why that was harmful, she looked at me like I dumped a pizza on her head or something. Which I kind of felt like doing.
Anyways, enough about that. These bars look amazing. I love that they have a salty-sweet note to them. Wonderful!
Hey Annie, thanks so much for your sweet comment! Hopefully by correcting her, even though she looked at you weird, she heard the message and won’t say hurtful things anymore. We must spread awareness!
During baking the graham layer with cheesecake mixture, does it need be submerged in a pan with water (bain marie)? Please advise. Thanks.
Nope, no need for a water bath! 🙂
Your post brought tears to my eyes and I feel a little less alone after reading it. Thank you for your honesty. Honestly heals. And thank you for the recipe, because there’s nothing like a good dessert to brighten one’s day.
Adele, you are so sweet; thank you for your comment. I am so glad my honesty could help you feel less alone. <3 Sending lots of hugs!
I couldn’t find cinnamon graham crackers for the crust. Would you suggest adding some cinnamon to the honey graham crackers or just omitting it? Thanks!
Hi Emma! Yes, you can absolutely use regular honey grahams plain, or add 1 tsp ground cinnamon to them!
These were delicious, but mine turned out very messy. I’m not sure what I did wrong, but the dulce de leche didn’t really firm up in the fridge (overnight), so when I cut the bars, the sauce mostly dripped down the sides and loosened up the crust from the cheesecake layer, leaving hardly any dulce de leche on top. Do you think I should have left them in the fridge for longer? Either way, they were really good just not very pretty to look at! Thanks for the recipe.
I’m about to make these and I’m feeling nervous about finding the correct “prepared dulce de leche” for the exact reason you described above. What did you purchase?
I used Eagle Brand Dulce de Leche – the 300ml can. I think what might have caused my problem was putting the sauce on before the bars were completely cooled (I thought they were, but maybe not quite). The sauce is very thick to pour on, but mine thinned a lot and ended up dripping everywhere. I’m thinking maybe an ingredient in the sauce separated from the residual heat. So, I think this brand is fine to use but maybe put the bars in the fridge for a couple of hours before spreading it on top. Hope yours turn out!
Hoe do you get the dulce de leche to a spreading consistency, because I use it every morning in my coffee and it does not completely dissolve in a hot liquid due to it’s thickness.
Shari Nielsen says
Thank you for being so honest about your struggle. And please forgive me if I’m being presumptuous, yet I’m wondering if you have a relationship with God? When you mentioned your mind struggles with a sense of dread, it reminded me of a passage in the bible about ‘evil forebodings.’ Just begin talking to God. You can’t do it wrong, and you can’t go wrong. He’s listening. Use your free will and make the choice to believe and read the Bible. Get a study bible to help you understand what you’re reading. Meditate on the Word. Pray for understanding. I went most of my life without having read the bible, and it has changed my life. When you make the choice to believe you will be amazed at how everything begins to open up for you. You will still have struggles, but you will have the peace of God which transcends all understanding. And you will know that God is who you can count on. He will never fail you or abandon you. May the Lord bless you and keep you. May the Lord make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you. The Lord lift up his face toward you and give you peace.
This came out great! I used regular graham crackers and added 1 tsp of cinnamon (because that all I had on hand) and for the dulce de leche topping, I boiled a can of sweetened condensed milk for 2 hours (it’s really my favorite dulce de leche recipe.) I did add an extra tablespoon of butter for the crust to help it come together a little more, as well. But, all in all, great recipe! ?? My brother-in-law actually told me I couldn’t eat any this morning because the dog licked it last night…. nice try buddy! And don’t judge me…. it goes great with coffee ?
Will this work if I do it in a springform pan??
Hi Tiffany, the baking temp will change, and the cheesecake won’t be very big since the cream cheese filling mixture is designed to go in a smaller pan. But it’s worth a shot!
Ohh shoot and it’s already in the oven at 325. Any time suggestions?? Cheesecake looks about an inch thick. Baking is not much forte lol thanks
As a person living with a family member that has OCD, I feel grateful to read this since I understand and live the struggle daily. I am with you, why do people throw this term so loosley!?
I’m going to make these for my daughter’s first birthday! I’m a huge dulce de leche fan. Thank you for sharing everything. I appreciate it, you touched my heart.
So hard not to eat the whole pan. I used a 9X9 pan, because that was all I had and they still came out perfect. People were fighting over them. Great recipe. Looking forward to making them again.
Robbin, so happy you loved them!
Sounds like a great recipe. It says 2 packages of cream cheese but it does not say how many ounces. 3 oz or 8 oz? Does anyone know?
Two 8-ounce packages!
Can I double the recipe and bake it in a 9x 13 pan?
Hi, you sure can! Just adjust the baking time – start with less time, then check it in 5-10 minute increments.
These were amazing. Your very brave being that open about your struggle. One of my older children suffers from the same thing, self harm included, and it is heartbreaking. It is very real, and also either misdiagnosed or missed and dismissed altogether. Just know you bring much joy to peoples lives with your baking, wit, and humor. Keep it going!
Maureen Iu says
I’ve always made cheesecakes but this one was one of the best I have made & it got fantastic reviews from my guests. I did change up a few things like not prebaking the crust which turned out exactly the correct texture. I also poured the balance of the condensed milk in a small pot and stirred it for approx.6 minutes on med.heat. If you boil it, it will be way too thick & it does thicken while cooling. Both the cheesecake & the caramel have to be cooled completely. I absolutely love this recipe. Thank you.
We all enjoyed it. I forgot to put the Dulce deLeche in the cheesecake batter. I just put all of it on top. I will make it again for the taste and simplicity.
They look delicious! I don’t have any experience using Dulce deLeche. In the photo it looks like it is a dark rich carmel. Is it like that right out of the can or do you have to do something with it before you use it in the cheesecake. I’m thinkig about not putting the salt on top. Will it be too sweet without the salt.