After conquering severe OCD, Dr. Liz McIngvale now helping others manage mental health

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Unloading her dishwasher and then rinsing out a cereal bowl before putting it in the empty machine, Liz McIngvale's morning is seemingly unspectacular. Yet, it's actually something close to a miracle.

"You know, my OCD had taken away everything," said McIngvale thinking back to her teenage years. "My will to live, my belief in the future. It had really made me question everything. Why was I here? What was my purpose? Not only was I suffering, but I was watching my whole family suffer from illness and fall apart."

ABC13 first profiled her struggle with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder back in 2004. The signs of her illness first began in her pre-teen years, and by age 15, her rituals would prompt her to shower for hours or wash her hands dozens of times - the idea of contamination overtaking her every thought and action.

"In the beginning, people in the community were telling my parents, 'you just go get her better and don't talk about it,'" she said of the remedies offered by others in good faith. "But my parents never believed in that which was a real blessing in disguise."

Her famous father is Jim McIngvale, better known as Mattress Mack. His Gallery Furniture advertisements and philanthropy play prominently on TV.

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Liz's mother, Linda, ran the Westside Tennis Center, where, in the mid-1990s, the then-world champion Houston Rockets would train in the offseason. It was there that one of the Rockets, Sam Cassell, helped connect Liz with an NBA player with OCD, giving her hope that she might be able to live normally one day.

"I got to realize there's other people like me, and that was a first turning point. That was the first sense I'm not alone," said McIngvale about the meeting.

Her family didn't just have connections, they also had the financial resources to get her the very particular care people with OCD need, at the Menninger Clinic, which was located in Kansas.

"I couldn't bear the fact or the thought that some people might not get that same chance because of money, or because of where they live, or because of cultural stigmas. And so I knew it was going to be my life mission," she said.

Now, Liz is Dr. McIngvale, an assistant professor in Baylor College of Medicine's Menninger Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, based in the Texas Medical Center, practicing as a social worker. She speaks around the country, advocating for mental health in addition to launching the Peace of Mind Foundation and its website that makes OCD self-help tools accessible worldwide.

While she still may be best known for her role in the Gallery Furniture advertisements supporting the family business, her family enthusiastically supports her mission, especially post-Harvey, to do what the McIngvales have become legendary for: service.

"I will say my diagnosis is not something I like, it's certainly something I would change, but at the end of the day, it's something that I feel like has given me a platform to help other people and that's what life's about," she said.
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