Are you wondering what I am doing? Why am I posting these pictures? Am I looking for external recognition? Am I a narcissist? Do I need to post these so that you love me more? Are you hooked yet? I, like many women, tend to see the inadequacies, the parts that can be improved. But that is not what this particular entry is about. I am playing a trick to keep you reading. I am trying to get the teenage girl to listen. The teenage boy to pay attention. I want to call attention to a newlywed, the college student or middle schooler. I am trying to get the new mom to keep reading. I am begging you. I believe society is desperate to hear this. This is about a secret. A long-held secret that tormented me for most of my life.
The first symptoms I recall started as a child. However, I was not diagnosed until the age of 14 and finally had it under control after my second child at age 28. I suffered in secret. I was diagnosed in 1987, the exact same time a new drug was introduced. You may have heard of it? Prozac. Yep, I have been on it since it was invented. Yikes, true story. I was an absolute professional of hiding it all through grade school, then middle and high school. The only people I let in on the secret were my family and husband. In 1987 I was so happy to have a name for what tormented me.
The pictures I posted are to show you the face of someone with OCD or Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. OCD is a disorder categorized under the anxiety umbrella. To cope with the obsessions and compulsions, I consistently grappled with one addiction or obsession after another. From the outside, many of them were perceived as healthy. The first coping mechanism was Anorexia. I was just eating well, or so they thought. Because 90 lbs. at 5 ft 6 in is totally healthy. Then, I moved on to a new plan which was way easier to overlook; Over-exercising. This was back when Buns of Steel and Jane Fonda were all the rage. “I really like to exercise. It’s so good for you” I would say. Of course, running up and down the stairs on Easter because you had too much candy from your Easter basket is “like totally normal”. (Que the 80’s music. 😊) Don’t forget the destructive relationships. You know the ones where you were going to fix him? Classic! Why date the guys who were well adjusted? Since I was so well adjusted, I thought I could fix “him” or how about “him”? I know, I will pick this one, who is an absolute disaster. So laughable. I grappled with perfectionism. Of course she is doing well everyone would think. She has an older boyfriend and she gets straight A’s and she has a great car and several jobs and she teaches aerobics and is on Student Council and, and, and. I was haunted by generalized anxiety, depression, suicidal thoughts and the list goes on.
Does it sound exhausting? It was. It is. It is life threatening, but it is also treatable. Thank God for Prozac. At that time, it was presented as a new drug that may be able to help me. It did help. It actually saved my life. However, OCD has this creepy way of lying to you. I would take the prescribed dosage. I would get better. OCD would lie. I would think I was cured. I had everything under control. I didn’t need medication anymore. So, I would take myself off it. I liked to do that over and over and over. You know, for some fun variety. Add some spice to life. After finally coming to the conclusion, I mean listening to my psychologist beg me to stay on it. I did so. A few years later though, I purposely weaned off the medication for each of my pregnancies. Those were super fun times. My husband knew we would be married forever when he was able to survive three pregnancies and then subsequent post-partum depression.
I am happy my pictures caught your attention and got you to keep reading. That is what I was hoping. Those pictures were of me at age 17, deep in the trenches of mental illness. I bet you though I had it all together. I bet that is what everyone thought. The world needs to know this because someone needs help. Maybe it is you, maybe it is your neighbor, sister, friend, parent? I am begging you to listen, to observe those around you, to ask for help, to offer help. I suffered even though I had access to the best therapists and medicine. Imagine someone who doesn’t have access to any of this? The desperation at times was overwhelming even with the massive support I had. I have wanted to talk about my story for many years, but it is so hard. I am
48, um 49 in a week now and the thought of telling the world this (or the 2 people that will read it) makes me sick. My stomach hurts. What if everyone thinks I am crazy? What if no one cares? I have to push that feeling aside. I felt compelled to tell me story. I feel compelled to try to help. Mental illness needs to come out of hiding. Everyone struggling needs to know that they are not alone. It cannot be an ugly secret anymore. There is such a stigma to mental health or the lack there-of. It cannot be like that anymore. There are people whose lives depending on it!
It is time to stop the shame. It is time to move your life in a healthy direction. It will take time. It will take therapy and many times medication, but it is possible. I am living proof. I have been in the depths of despair with no hope for the future. I know what it feels like. With the help of family, I have worked so hard to dig myself out of this hole. It is so hard, but it is so worth it. Please join me as I discuss my journey. I will discuss what tools and tricks have worked for me, the many recent issues I have dealt with outside of OCD but under the anxiety umbrella as well. I will touch on my recent epiphany that life is worth living. This came from some hard, internal work, the help of a life coach and a long-needed medication tweak. “Hint, don’t use your general doc to prescribe your meds.”
I want you to know that life can be spectacular. It starts with mental health. It is the foundation of your entire existence. You want to be happy? You want to succeed. You want to have better relationships? Better clarity? Better anything? It starts with mental health! The families, schools, government, the world, has to listen! If everyone has better access to mental health care….if everyone is able to discuss mental health openly…If we remove the stigma, maybe we can save a life. Maybe you can save your life.
So, the dictionary definition of beauty may be what someone sees on the outside, but real true beauty, a beautiful life has nothing to do with what is on the outside. Real, true beauty is living a life of purpose. It is living a life full of health, spiritual wealth and mental clarity. It is a life surrounded by family and friends and one that is worth living. Cathy Heller from Don’t Keep your Day Job says it perfectly. “The opposite of depression is purpose.” I hope that you will accompany me or forward this story to someone who may need it, as we traverse forward and design a life that is worth living. A life with purpose.
Be sure to check out the following people that I have recently discovered in my walk towards mental health.
- Inspiration: Don’t Keep your Day Job.
- Clarity: Anne Marie Christian Coaching
- Laughs: Laugh as a Rambling Redhead
- Self acceptance and beauty: To Be Free