18 May Recovery Story: May is Mental Health Month
This recovery story comes from the National Alliance on Mental Illness:
This past year I was diagnosed with obsessive compulsive disorder, anxiety and depression. I think I’ve always known that I live with these conditions, but it wasn’t until last year that I decided to do something about it. Since a very young age I always felt as if there was something “different” and “wrong” with me. I never felt like I was a normal kid and I never felt as if I could fit in anywhere. Instead of hanging out with friends, having fun, or even being able to study and focus on school, my days were spent worrying about one thing after another. Fears that I was going to die, fears that I had a brain tumor, fears that I was going blind, fears that I had diabetes, fears that I would be kidnapped, fears that my house would burn down, fears of people, fears that I wasn’t good enough, pretty enough or I wasn’t smart enough, fears of failure and fears that I had no future. The list goes on and on. These fears led to constant rituals that I had to do to try to ease the anxiety that they were causing me.
I googled diseases and illnesses constantly to see if I could possibly have one. This resulted in me going to pretty much every type of doctor possible. I’ve constantly had a panic in my mind that there is something wrong with me. I’ve spent way too many of my nights awake and paralyzed in panic because I was so convinced that the worst things would happen to me at night. It was usually that I would either get kidnapped while asleep or that my house would burn down in flames. This resulted in me turning lights on and off, locking and re-locking my doors and windows, and checking outside my room over and over again. It was as if I was just waiting for something bad to happen and the anxiety would keep me awake all night. I did things like count the number of steps I took, the number of times I touched something and pretty much counted the number of times that I did anything. There were constantly numbers going through my head and they always needed to end in an even number. If it didn’t end in an even number, I would often have to redo things and do it until it felt “right.” This made my days feel full of stress, anxiety and made me dread every day because I didn’t want to have to deal with it for any longer. These fears have been crippling me all my life. They have made me distance myself from having friendships, relationships, jobs, school, social events and anything that could trigger these fears more and that could cause me more anxiety.
My fear of failure and of people has resulted in me skipping many days of school and to make many excuses to friends to not hang out or go to social events. Every day of high school was a trial for me because I always thought that everyone was judging me, and looking down on me. Quickly my old ways continued into college and again I was skipping and failing classes. My depression and anxiety kept me unmotivated and—once again—disappointed in myself. Feeling like I had no control over my life and absolutely no self-confidence, I decided that I needed to turn my life around. I thought that a great way I could do this was by losing weight. Little did I know that my goal of losing a “little bit” of weight would trigger my OCD and lead me down a dangerous and even worse path than I was on before. Losing weight turned into my obsession, my passion and my life. It was all I cared about and my days were spent writing and rewriting my calories, counting and recounting my calories, and stepping on and off of the scale over and over again. I thought at first I was doing something good for myself and like I finally had the control that I had always wanted over my life, but really I was the one being controlled by OCD that had now lead me to anorexia. Every day the number on the scale would drop and every time I saw a lower number I was proud of myself and I felt like I had finally accomplished something for once in my life. Family members began to worry about my physical and mental health and at first I didn’t understand why and I couldn’t agree with them because my mind was so distorted by this disorder. It wasn’t until my family and I vacationed in California last summer that I truly realized how bad my problem was and how truly miserable I was. I couldn’t enjoy a single second on vacation because my thoughts were consumed with food. I cried after every meal I ate, I was cold the entire time and shivered while in the sun on the beach. I could barely hike or ride a bike because my body was so malnourished and weak. I was constantly dizzy, shaky and my whole body would tremble from just walking a few steps. It hurt to even sit down because every bone in my body stuck out and would bruise so easily. I knew that I had a problem and that my body was shutting down, but I felt so trapped and like there was no way to get out. It was scary thinking that this would be the rest of my life and left me with constant thoughts of suicide.
When I got home from California, I immediately went to an eating disorder center looking for help. I promised myself and my family that I would gain weight and recover from this disorder. I did not want to let it control my life for another second and was motivated to recover. Little did I know how hard and how long the process would be for me to truly let go of it. After months and many tears, I finally let go of my routine and I began to let myself gain my weight back. Still with thoughts of suicide and depression, I knew that I immediately needed to get help before doing something that I would later regret. I found a therapist and psychiatrist and was diagnosed with OCD, anxiety and depression. The constant worrying, fears, anxiety attacks, rituals and obsessions finally all made sense. I finally felt like I knew the reasons for why I acted how I did all of my life and I felt like I was finally taking the steps to help myself that I need to for so long.
I’m always going to face these problems, but I am going to try my hardest to find the best ways to deal with them and fight through every day. Some days will be harder than others, and those are the days that I will want to lie in bed and cry, but that’s ok because some days I’ll feel happy and those are the days that I will cherish. I know that I can never let the depression take away my life like I once almost did.
A lot of people don’t understand how crippling OCD, anxiety and depression can be. I understand how they couldn’t because if you have not experienced it yourself then I don’t think anyone could truly understand it. To the people who do understand and who are also dealing with OCD, or any other type of mental health condition, I want you to please know that you are never alone. There are so many people who really do understand what you are going through, even when it feels like no one does. I understand that feeling of just wanting the pain to go away and of just wanting it to end for a single minute. I’m sharing my story so that maybe I can help or relate to at least one person out there who is also struggling. I want whoever you are to know that you will never be alone in this battle. We will all have many battles to face in this lifetime, but that is what will make this life so rewarding. I will choose to push through and fight everyday knowing that this is my battle. I can conquer it and you can too.
To see similar stories to this one – click here to visit the National Alliance on Mental Illness’s website.