Every week I post on Instagram, asking how I can pray for you specifically. And every week, I get replies about mental illness. Crippling anxiety, depression, OCD, bipolar… the list goes on. Many, many heart cries for healing and peace.
This post was initially supposed to be about ways to reduce anxiety during the winter months. I will get to that, but as I tried to write it, the words just wouldn’t come. Usually, when I stare at a blank screen for the duration of my “writing time”, it’s because my heart is being tugged in a different direction. A different story is begging to surface. So, here it is. My story – The part you don’t know.
I have told my testimony a million times. Anxiety, trauma-induced OCD, treatment, and healing. Boom, done. Right? Not quite. There is a very dark side to this story that I intentionally left out. Maybe it was shame, fear of judgement, or worry that future employers would consider me fragile. I think it was a combination of all three. Either way, I subconsciously “edited” my story to make it more blog-able. So, why am I changing my mind now? It has become glaringly apparent that altering my story was not my decision to make. Omission in this case isn’t benefiting anybody. So buckle in, because there is nothing highlight worthy in these next paragraphs.
“I can feel my motivation to get better leaving me. Everything feels different. Like I’m not really even living anymore, just bracing for the next pain. I don’t care about anything, not even OCD. I’m scared of this feeling, but also I’m not. I’m all out of fight…. I see peace in dying. I’m finally done just holding on. I’m not stupid, I know how much easier it would be for my parents and friends. They would think they missed me, and then life would go on. They would save money, time, and effort… and I could stop swimming against the current. I’ve been drowning for so long, I’m tired.July 12, 2015
I wrote the words above in a journal I kept throughout 2015. I include them here because I want you to know how fully I understand what it means to feel hopeless. I am not just using this platform to exploit my mental illness, I ate, slept, and breathed it for many, many months. These specific words are significant, because they were written the night before I found myself in a psychiatric facility, on a four-day, mandatory suicide hold. How’s that for rock bottom?
Let’s back up to the days prior. Partial hospitalization for OCD was exactly what I needed. It was intensive, all-day treatment for OCD symptoms, including obsessive thoughts and cleaning compulsions. I fully believed that this rehabilitation would “cure” me completely, and quickly… and fully underestimated the power of OCD when it’s being focused on 24 hours a day. My psychiatrists had warned me it would get worse before it got better. Looking back, I had no idea what that meant. How in the world could it get any worse? Surely treatment would not make me more sick. I was wrong.
OCD is marked by the obsessive thoughts that get stuck in a crippling loop inside the mind. A thought, something like “Touching this doorknob will make me sick” latches on, and sucks the life right out of you. So, coming face-to-face with each of my obsessive thoughts in succession quickly made me hyperaware of the presence of mental illness… and my inability to escape it. Depression set in quickly and with a vengeance. Panic attacks became worse and would debilitate me for the remainder of a day. After roughly three weeks in treatment, OCD was all I knew. There was no life outside of it. This condition robbed me of all joy, all relationships, and all life as I knew it.
Something inside of me snapped on July 12th. I knew I could no longer live this way, but I just couldn’t see a way out. This was not a cry for attention, and it wasn’t an intentionally selfish act. My decision to leave this Earth stemmed from the constant turmoil that defined my existence at the time. I truly believed that to die was the only way to find rest, and I was at peace with my decision.
I called in “sick” to treatment first thing in the morning. Laying in my bed at my parents house, staring at the ceiling fan, I felt nothing at all. I was absolutely defeated, and painfully numb. Something in my voice during that initial phone call must have triggered the therapists at my treatment facility, because when I finally got up to execute my plan, I was met at the top of the stairs by my mom. She was frantic and immediately grabbed hold of me. We struggled. I was in such a bad place that I could not be thwarted: I just knew I had to get out of this house, and away from this life. Turns out my mom is stronger than I anticipated, though, and I could not wrestle out of her grasp. About this time, the police showed up.
There was debate for roughly an hour about whether or not to take me to the hospital. Apparently, when a mental health professional deems you unsafe to yourself, it is nearly impossible to escape the system. Regardless, I ended up in the back of an ambulance with no shoes… and absolutely no hope.
Being on the other side of healthcare, being the patient that everyone assumed was “crazy” felt absolutely surreal. Even the physician who was supposed to be conducting my mental evaluation was vague, quick, and offered very little sympathy. I’m not saying that anyone needed to feel my emotions were justified, but at the very least a bit of understanding would have sufficed. I still remember laying in a hospital bed, with a police officer guarding my door (I mean really?) and feeling like I was floating. Like all of this was happening in front of me, not to me. At the same time, I was utterly indifferent to my fate. Lock me up, let me go… it made no difference. I was so very lost.
Unbeknownst to me, an officer was called to escort me to a psychiatric facility. Turns out he went to high school with me, which was absolutely the cherry on top of this horrific nightmare. I was forced to both ride in the back of the police car, and make small talk with a former acquaintance. All while wondering why anybody cared at all if I wanted to die. Moments later, walking into the facility, my life was about to get SO much worse.
To be continued…