Today begins a 30 Day Mental Illness Challenge. My hope is that you can learn from my experiences with mental illness and that I can learn more about myself. Each day for the next 30 days, there will be a prompt and I will try to write something meaningful based on that. If you have any questions or (positive) comments, please include them below. I would love to hear from you. Thanks!!
Day 1: What is/are your mental illness(es)? Explain it a little.
In January, I was diagnosed with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. I experience intrusive, often upsetting, fear-inducing, annoying thoughts that give me immense anxiety. This, in turn, prompts me to complete seemingly meaningless tasks, or compulsions, to relieve the anxiety, albeit only very briefly, before the anxiety begins again. I was only diagnosed in January of this year, but I have suffered with this my entire life. I remember playing cards with my dad as a kid and he would play the parent trick of “Hey! Who wants to play 52 card pick up?!” And I was always the first to be excited, even after the 100th time of him asking. See, I love to organize things. It makes me feel like I have some semblance of control over my life and my decisions if everything fits perfectly into nice, neat little boxes. Unfortunately, life doesn’t work like that, hence the anxiety. I was good at hiding my quirks, or at least what I thought were quirks, from my family and friends because I was very bright. I excelled in every subject and graduated high school with highest honors and ranked 15 out of 450+ students. I went on to attend the Georgia Institute of Technology and graduated with a Bachelor’s of Science in Economics and landed my first “big girl” job before I even graduated. The reason I excelled wasn’t just that I was intelligent – I’m also a perfectionist. I don’t settle for anything less than absolute perfection, which unfortunately, doesn’t exist. So again, hence the anxiety.
So on the outside looking in, it would appear that I have my shit together. But 6 years ago, I crumbled under the pressure and nothing has been the same since then. My grandfather passed away from cancer 6 years ago this past July. He was my hero, and my grandma, my heroine. They could do no wrong in my eyes. They loved me unconditionally and praised me often for my accomplishments. I went off to college knowing that they were never more proud of me than knowing I was getting a quality education. But when my grandfather died, it was very quick. He died exactly one week after we found out he had cancer. I was crushed. I vowed not to go back to school, to stay home and try to heal. My family insisted I return. Looking back, it was the best thing for me, in terms of my education and career, but the worst choice in terms of my mental health. I was an hour from home, 45 minutes from my sister and aunt, and I was essentially alone. As alone as you can be in a city of 5 million people. I had my husband (boyfriend at the time) and he put up with my random crying, my not sleeping at night, and my insistence that I never be left alone. And that is something I’m not proud of, and something I still struggle with today. When I’m alone, my brain takes over and I lose all control over my thinking. I can’t stop it and sometimes it makes me want to bang my head on the wall just to get it to stop. But I digress. At that point 6 years ago, that is when my OCD “exploded,” so to speak. I had always struggled, but this was a whole new level. Over the last 6 years, I have continued to get worse and worse until the point when I sought treatment in January. My life has changed so much in the last 9 months and I can safely say, seeking treatment has been one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.
I guess I sort of rambled a lot, but you get the picture. Again, feel free to leave questions/comments below.