May 7, 2015 by positivelypeachie
Here in Canada it’s mental health awareness week. See http://mentalhealthweek.cmha.ca/ for more details.
I want to take a moment to discuss something uncomfortable in the hopes that it might help someone else. It’s no secret that many people struggling with infertility and/or loss experience mental health issues – it’s a very emotionally taxing experience. If you feel like you’re struggling too much, and like it’s too hard, please speak about it to someone – your doctor, nurse, spouse, sibling, parent, friend…any one. There’s no shame in asking for help. I did, and it changed my life…
10 years ago last month, was the year I fell apart. The year I had what’s medically referred to as a “mental break”. I didn’t go crazy waving a gun, I didn’t hurt anyone, I didn’t jump off a bridge or kidnap a baby…I just fell apart. I had been a happy, normal young woman in University and having the time of my life. Somewhere along the way, though, I had started to become anxious…so anxious I couldn’t sleep. I stopped eating and I lost 45 pounds. I pulled away from my friends and I cut off my family. I stopped going to class. I didn’t understand what was happening, but I knew I was alone and hurting. It was an awful, terrifying experience. The anxiety slowly took over my life and I couldn’t even function…the only thing that relieved the anxiety were these strange things like washing door knobs, locking and unlocking and relocking the door, washing my hands or organizing cupboards and closets – I really thought I was losing it. My friends were young, and it was too much for them – so I quickly found myself completely alone which only made the cycle worse. I didn’t know what was happening and I didn’t understand – I had no one I could go to. I felt so overwhelmed and insane – I really thought I was experiencing horrific and I didn’t want to live like that anymore. So I did something that I will always regret – moments later I realized what I had done and went to the emergency room which was a blessing in disguise. I was suddenly filled with a want to get better and I started telling any doctor who would listen what had been happening – I wanted help, and I was asking for it. They agreed to help me. I spent a month in the hospital, working on rebuilding basic function and enhancing my quality of life. At that point, they diagnosed me with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder – which devastated me. OCD was an actual disease and I didn’t want to be broken, or malfunctioning. I wanted to be normal – like I had been the year before. I wanted them to tell me I was eating something weird that was causing this, and to stop eating it and everything would be ok. But it wasn’t and wouldn’t be ok because they were telling me my brain wasn’t working right. What had I done to deserve this short circuiting of my brain? Why my brain? What happened? I really, really struggled with that diagnosis and was filled with shame so deep I told no one. Once I began treatment, I felt 100 times better. It was incredible. Learning that what I was experiencing was the disease, and not me, was huge. Realizing that I actually had a disease lifted so much stress and pressure from my chest – it was like being born again. Except I was still alone because I was too ashamed to tell anyone what happened so I had not contacted anyone. I didn’t want to go home, or back to my apartment, because I didn’t want to answer any questions and I was sure they would never forgive me for being so crazy for weeks. My doctor recommended a great outpatient program in another province, and so I took the opportunity. I moved to a province where I knew no one, and started trying to rebuild my life. Except I was rebuilding it the wrong way – trying to replace my real family and friends with people who knew nothing about my past, and who I thought were better family than what I had. Naturally, it fell through and I soon found myself alone and hurt again. My counselor who was working with me through the outpatient program made a great recommendation – she recommended I work on rebuilding me, and let the family and friends come after. I took her advice, and it was the best thing I ever did. With much work and tears on my part, I slowly began to rebuild my life. I was learning the ins and outs of who I was before the mental break, and who I was now with OCD – and how to reconcile the two. I was developing life skills that I had missed out on as a child, and I was growing into the woman I was meant to be. I am truly proud of this phase of my life because it was incredibly hard, but incredibly rewarding.
After a couple years, I had built a loving, beautiful circle around me and I had begun to rebuild relationships with my family. Around that time, hubby came into my life. After a couple years, we decided to get married and then move back to where my family lived so I could give our relationships a real chance at survival – and I am so glad I did. It has really been a blessing – hard, but a blessing.
Every time a new major stressor comes into my life, my OCD crops up in a new way. It’s a short circuiting of my brain that I will have for the rest of my life. There is no way to change it, except by choice – and you have to consciously make the choice to not engage it every single day. It will always find a way to be present, and I will always have to fight it. But it has become a lot easier as time has passed, and I find myself much more aware of OCD compulsions and much more equipped to stop them before they become a ritual. Most of the time (I’m not perfect!)…
The important thing is that I got help. I didn’t know what I was getting help for, but I did it anyway and my life is infinitely better than it was and I got out of my mental break relatively unscathed. There are people who lose everything when they have a mental break – I just lost the stuff that wasn’t really important anyway. I did finish University (if you’re wondering) and got married and have a healthy marriage and a wonderful family life. I have a medium profile job that I love, and I am intelligent, enthusiastic and mostly sane (haha). I have stresses and struggles like most people, but I handle them well now. I am, overall, a well rounded person with a big heart – exactly what I had always hoped to be. Most people don’t even know I have OCD – just that I wash my hands a lot –so I am mostly “normal (what’s normal anyway?)”. Getting help was the best thing I ever did for myself, and I thank God every day for giving me the strength to do that – if I hadn’t, it was only a matter of time until I ended it all. It’s also allowed me the chance to speak out about OCD – a commonly misunderstood and misused term (“Had to clean my desk off, just my OCD side, haha” – totally not appropriate!!!). I’m here to say OCD is not funny, or something to joke about, and it does not mean you’re also a serial killer (thanks Crimin.al Mind.s for portraying OCD as a prevalent trait in your serial killers!). It just means your brain works a little differently than everyone else’s – but there is help and hope for you, no matter how bad it is.
I say again, for anyone reading who is struggling with something – even if they don’t know what it is – please get help. Forget about stubbornness or pride or obstacles, go to your Doctor and tell them what’s going on. Don’t pay with your life for something that can be helped. Get help and most importantly, forgive yourself and love yourself. We’re all different – it doesn’t mean bad or wrong, just different. Mental health needs tending, just like dental or eye health. If something isn’t right, go to the doctor – it’s never too late to get help, and it really could change your life.
Sending lots of love to anyone out there struggling. You’re not alone.