It’s a mental illness, and a nasty one. It will take your loved ones, your success, your hopes and your dreams. But only if you allow it to.
I think it’s best for me to describe my bumpy road to recovery to you by painting you a picture. Imagine a tall, thin and incredibly awkward girl. She is shy at first, and enjoys all of the things that society deems to be “normal.” In elementary school she enjoyed Barbies and Arthur, High School it was bashfully flirting with a new interest: boys, and not to mention, learning how to operate a vehicle (and trying not to cause her dad to rip his hair out in the process…). In college, she enjoyed the campus life, music, and that guy she had been selfishly stringing along…but that’s a totally different blog post. Yes, she is a girl. So she can have the snarky, cat-like moments that just about any westernized girl is capable of having (especially when she gets hungry…). However, she has never truly done something with the intentions of hurting, belittling, or betraying them.
Sounds “normal” right? Yes, yes. I know. The word “normal” is a relative term and doesn’t really have a definition. I know. But let’s just be a bit Freudian here for a second, and agree that the picture I just painted is not abstract. It’s simple, slightly ordinary, a bit boring, and…normal.
Yes, that’s me. The average American girl. Blessed with one hell of a family. Smart and witty, but not overly intelligent. Not ugly, but would not appear in a Victoria’s Secret catalogue. Some hidden talents might include: the ability to wow a crowd in concert (okay, maybe just in the shower), the crippling inability to parallel park a car no matter the circumstance, going to the store and getting everything except for the thing that I needed, and just trying to do the impossible: please everyone.
As much as I would like to write “And that’s it! She lived a happy and simple life with a husband, decent income, a dog named Fido, she sometimes would make* (*accidentally burn) home-made casserole, and drove a 2013 Subaru Legacy.”
But then that would be the most boring blog post you have ever read, and you would close this window and go back to looking at conspiracy theories of Steve Harvey ruining the 2015 Miss Universe.
But what if she actually wasn’t so normal? What if she had some “crazy” in her brain that was just waiting to come out one day…like a ticking time bomb?
What if she was secretly like one of those deranged crazy girlfriends on those Lifetime movies that just snapped and killed their boyfriends for snoring?
What if she was just simply out. of. her. damn. mind.?
In my personal opinion, mental health is the most important thing in the world. It’s crucial. I mean, think about it—it’s what makes YOU, well YOU. The mind is the powerhouse of the body. And if you’ve lost that, then well…you’ve lost your powerhouse, my friend.
The fear grew worse. It would mutate from fear of harming others, to fear of harming self. And she told no one. I mean, who would? What would she even say? “HI YES I AM HAVING A PANIC ATTACK, NOT BECAUSE I’M NERVOUS TO BOARD AN AIRPLANE OR TO CONTRACT THE EBOLA VIRUS BUT THAT I AM GOING TO LOSE MY MARBLES AND SIMPLY SNAP AND SHOW UP ON A MILK CARTON OR THE CHANNEL 2 NIGHTLY NEWS.”
A few years went by and the tormenting dark thoughts came in, and then left. They came in, and then they left. I noticed that they would barge into my brain like a police officer with a warrant as if to say “Hi is this the brain of Hillary? You’re under arrest. You have the right to remain silent and to be consumed by this fear for the next, well who knows how long. Good luck, friend!”
It was kind of like wearing a blindfold that you’re unable to take off. When the blindfold is on, you’re, well, completely blinded by the worry and you forget about how life used to be when you can see. But then, something, SOMETHING happens, and the blindfold gradually falls off. And then you can see again, and you think that all of the crippling fear is behind you. That is, until the blindfold grips to your face once more, when you least expect it.
I decided to see a “professional.”
The reason why the word “professional” is in quotes, is because…well I ended up in an even deeper hole than I was when I first started the therapy.
We’ll call this “professional” Laura.
I checked out Laura’s website, to find that she kept a dog in her practice. SIGN ME UP. At least, if I got too overwhelmed, there would be a pup that I could turn to.
It took me about three sessions with Laura to really open up to her about what was REALLY on my mind. On the third session, I broke down and cried to her, and told her that there is something that I need to get off of my chest.
I told her my fears, about the Lifetime movie character thoughts, fears of self-harm, and fears of “snapping.” I explained to her that, well, it’s weird. I wasn’t quite having suicidal ideations, but rather suicidal fears. Fear of the encompassing principle of self-harm, and always thinking, “But what does it even take for someone to get that low? How could someone possibly think that is the answer?” I don’t know. It. Just. Scared. Me.
She looked at me with the blankest stare that I had ever seen.
“I mean, not necessarily suicidal FEARS, but like…fears that I’ll just lose control of myself and, well, you know what I mean?”
“No…I don’t know what you mean…Hillary, is there something you’re not telling me? Have you ever tried to hurt yourself?”
From the look on her face, I burst into tears and exclaimed to her that I have never, in my life, attempted to hurt myself. Sometimes I am even afraid to use my razor to shave my legs! (That’s right, boys.)
She then proceeded to tell me that she legally had to report me to a psychiatric facility, for she feared that I was a harm to society and myself.
I could hardly believe it. I was stunned. It was true. All of the fears that I had been having for years, they’re true. I am a monster. I am an evil person and I deserve to be locked up and kept away from society so that I don’t hurt anyone or myself. My poor parents. How is it that my sisters are so normal? But me… I am a true monster.
That was the recording that played through my head for months to come. I will never forget the day that a doctor, a “professional,” told me that I was a threat to society and myself, making me feel truly psychotic. I mean, when a licensed professional tells you something, you tend to believe it.
The feelings of despair only got worse. I was living at home, since I had recently graduated college and was saving up for an apartment of my own. I lost a lot of weight, which is a big deal for me, considering the fact that I am 5’8” and have never weighed in at more than 114. I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t focus at work. My relationships were failing—with my boyfriend, friends and family. The fears had truly robbed me of everything that I held dear to my heart.
Helen came into my life at the absolute perfect time. I was in a hole so deep that I could not even see the light of day. Helen was a PsyD. and clinical psychiatrist. Scarred from my last visit, I was hesitant to make an appointment. I dialed her office number numerous times, and would hang up after the first ring. “She’s just going to refer you to a psych ward, just like the last one. You’re hopeless.”
I had read somewhere online that my fears and worry matched up to that of an OCD diagnosis. “No way. Haha, no freakin way. I am psychotic, not some sort of clean freak that needs all of their socks folded a certain way. Hell, I don’t even wear matching socks! I am psychotic, end of story.”
I suppose it was my “Well I guess I have nothing to lose” mindset, but I booked an appointment with Helen. I almost canceled it three times.
I came in, sat on her couch, and felt somewhat at ease. Then, out of no where, I started sobbing. Uncontrollably. We hadn’t really even started talking yet. She asked me what’s been going on in my world, and all I could say was “Well, I’m crazy.”
I poured out everything. The fears, the intrusive thoughts, the ongoing thought of “what if I’m actually just a BAD person with some underlying BAD intentions?”
Then, I will never, ever forget what she said next.
“If you only knew how many people just like you came to me, saying the same exact things.”
Fast forward five months. Things did get worse before they got better, but after all of the ERP, the progressive YBOCS assessments, the remissions and the unfortunate relapses, and then the returning remissive states—I gained my life back.
I wish I would have known. I wish I would have known that EVERYONE has those thoughts. But the brain of an OCD’er is “sticky.” Instead of the thought shooting through one ear and out the other, they stick to the walls of the brain, and latch on to your mind—making you rehearse, reimagine, and ruminate. Over, and over. I wish I would have known that the fact that I worry so much about these specific dark thoughts, simply means that I am less-likely to carry them out.
I still have my bad days. It gets ugly. But what if I am the exception? What if Laura was actually right with her diagnosis…
As with anything, it’s a work in progress. It’s a mental illness, and a nasty one. It will take your loved ones, your success, your hopes and your dreams. But only if you allow it to.
Now, you can go back to looking at conspiracy theories of Steve Harvey ruining Miss Universe 2015.