Of Inner Strength Unimaginable

Underestimate: To estimate something to be less important than it is.

Hmmm, what do I have to say about this topic?

Well, what comes to mind when I see this word is how I’ve underestimated my ability to bounce back from mental health issues and plow into recovery (imagine a grand arm gesture here, because I just made it but you couldn’t see it).

I imagine you don’t already know, I haven’t mentioned it yet after all, so let me fill you in. :]

I was diagnosed with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder back in the fall 2014 semester in my junior year at university. The diagnosis was news to me, since I hadn’t known I was dealing with any illness!

Through the winter break of that year, I developed secondary depression which really kicked up the intensity of the suicidal obsessions and thoughts that I was having (I should mention, the OCD I deal with is on self-harm and suicide obsessions). I entered 2015 with the notion that I was going to kill myself before I ever saw, well, anything in the future.

By March 2015 I began my recovery journey. It came after two hospitalizations where in my second one, I finally gained a psychiatrist. This was wonderful news, after all. I began taking Zoloft which gradually increased in dosage until about June 2015.

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A drawing of a strengthening tree hand holding onto hope. =]

But for the time between January and March, I wasn’t set on recovery. I felt a negative sense of power when it came to being the one with the answers. When people would look at me and express their worry and concern, I was so far out of whack with my emotions and my apathy that I would be confused and unable to understand their worry. To me, suicide became like talking about the weather. It was no big deal, I mean, I was only trying to kill myself after all. No biggie. Nothing to worry about.

Even when I started medications I was worried that it would make the OCD go away. And, unbeknownst to me at the time, I was strongly identifying as the OCD, the depression and the suicidality. Without OCD, what was I? I didn’t have the answer to that.

I was so convinced that I was meant to die by suicide that I secretly viewed everything I did as my final actions. If I said a compliment to someone on the train, it meant more because I’d think about how that would be the last thing I ever said to them, and they might find out about my death on the news one day. If I made a present for a friend, I felt it would ease the pain they’d feel when I was ultimately pronounced dead.

And, this wasn’t just a one time thought process. I lived 2015 with the notion that I was not going to see the new year. Even when I got a new therapist at the middle of February, I was convinced that I’d kill myself the next time the ‘opportunity’ presented itself.

In a twisted way, it’s what got me through that difficult time. If I just kept thinking and believing I’d be dead, I wouldn’t have to focus so much on how shitty of a time it was. That notion helped bridge me to when I was strong enough to accept recovery into my life. And that was brought on by a therapist who asked me, whether or not I wanted to get better or not. I hadn’t expected the question but I answered honestly, “Part of me wants to and part of me doesn’t.” And they told me, that because I was actively in treatment, I had to see it through. It was a very enlightening experience, and I’m glad most days that I decided to begin the process of recovery then.

Recovery began as writing ‘Stay Safe’ on my wrists. Recovery began as wearing a rubber band on the outside of my sleeves to serve as a deterrent before I acted on scratching myself. Recovery began with finding positive and inspiring music to listen to when I was going through crises. Recovery began with choosing to Live.

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From a photo shoot I did on campus one day in April 2015. You can see the tips of more color, where I had up and down my left arm, dozens of phrases and words to help get my mind off the shit in my head.

As the weeks went on, I finally knew when I had set my path to Recovery: There was a day on campus where I wanted to sit outside on a ledge, but I found myself asking “But…what does that MEAN?” And I knew then, that my treatment providers would not be happy with me if I told them that I went outside to sit on a ledge rather than asking for help or coping positively. So instead, I coped positively.

Although I set my path to recovery, that doesn’t mean it was always easy or that I didn’t slip up–with either a lapse or a relapse. In fact, I got my third hospitalization in June 2015, and I relapsed after being nearly 4 months clean from self-harm at the end of June.

But from there, and from July 2nd 2015, I began recovery again. So far, that’s been my longest stint free from repetitive self-harm, even including my 3 lapses. Before I went into the OCD-Institute in November 2015, I considered heading back to a partial hospitalization or even going into the psychiatric ward again because I was beginning to feel unsafe again. Luckily, I got the call that I’d be admitted in a week, and that news helped turn my whole world around.

In treatment there, I learned how to experience my emotions again, the feelings of a crisis, without having to act on them. What a sense of freedom and liberation that was. It was an epiphany that I could feel desperate, feel depressed, feel anxious, yet I didn’t have to act on anything beyond those feelings or thoughts.

I continued drawing from an art therapy core, where you draw mindfully without judgment of whether the piece is ‘good’ or ‘bad’. The piece just is. And it’s about the process of it, not the product. I even began painting while I was at the OCD-I, most of which the work I have from there is on my walls now or sliding off of them, ahaha.

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This piece says “I believe in a better tomorrow” highly influenced from the song linked above. Music is a huge part of my recovery and I’ve infused much of the songs I’ve heard into my artwork and into my journey. Painted November 18.2015

After my 5 weeks there, I was released into the world again, where I blearily waited until the new spring semester began. I still had trouble when I was in the spring semester, but transforming into a mental health activist within a month deeply helped infuse more strength and power into my recovery.

In March 2016 I was trained as a NAMI In Our Own Voice presenter where we travel across Massachusetts sharing our mental health experiences with a wide variety of audiences. In the fall 2016 semester, I will be a part of restarting the Active Minds chapter at UMB. I have also become a contributing writer to the Mass Media, our school newspaper, about mental health and my own experiences with it. And finally, those experiences have led me to creating this blog itself. Using yet another outlet on this big, wide web, to promote recovery and positive coping strategies and my journey through the thick and thin.

I haven’t always been Responsible Raquel, but with a recent lapse I’ve had this month, I’m finding that Resentful Raquel really isn’t as great as I thought she was. Responsible Raquel is far more awesome than I gave her credit for.

Becoming a mental health activist gave me the feeling of positive power. Where I can empower myself and hopefully others, to get help, share their stories, or just be comforted by the notion that recovery IS possible and better days can come into their lives again.

So, while struggling Raquel underestimated the power and beauty of Responsible Raquel and Recovery Raquel, now I get to live in all the hope and inspiration today. And I get to surround myself with all that I’ve learned and grown and have become stronger in and by.

Although a mental illness isn’t something I chose to have, I can say that oddly enough it’s brought me more opportunities in life than I could have had otherwise. In my journey, I’ve come to identify who I am separate from any diagnosis. I’ve come to more often be my true, authentic self in all my glory. And, I’ve come to taking more opportunities to learn and build my resume than I ever had prior to these trials.

Going through these difficult times has brought me a new understanding and compassion to those who also suffer from mental health issues. And, honestly, I wouldn’t take that back if I had the chance. I quite like this newly budding self, and that self should reallllllly be studying for finals, so, that marks the end of this post!

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I hope you enjoyed it. Stay safe, my friends. ❤ If you’ve underestimated your power and inner strength before, take some time today to remind yourself of how amazing, beautiful, inspiring and fantastic it is to be you. Take care!

 

(In response to: Underestimate Daily Prompt)

I so don’t know how to link to the daily prompt post. T_T I think I got it, yay!

14 thoughts on “Of Inner Strength Unimaginable

  1. This post is brilliant Raquel- it perfectly describes how I have felt when I have flippantly discussed my suicidal intent with people, and I am the one who finds their reactions to be completely over the top-I’m like chill guys, it’s just killing myself, no biggie! And I’ve been questioned about whether I want to get better and have been ambivalent at best. Now I can definitively say I am committed to my recovery, but I can relate to everything you write and I am relieved to know I’m not the only one. You’re an inspiration. Your positivity comes through, you shine bright in spite of everything 💛💜💛 go you! X

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ahaha, I totally know what you mean! I remember one of the first friends I told flippantly that I’d just been in a psych ward had reacted understandably concerned and shocked and like this “O_o” and afterwards I was genuinely asking myself if I was the one with the adverse reaction, rather than her!
      I think it’s important to note that there are even times within the recovery process, especially with lapses or relapses, where that ambivalence can play a role again. And then it’s about just steering yourself back on track to recovery.

      I’m glad to hear that you are committed to your recovery! ❤ ❤ You crush through those bad days, whenever you have 'em! 🙂

      And thank you so much, that's so sweet of you to say! ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  2. A brave and extraordinary Post – thank u, Raquel.
    As someone who has suffered from depression on/off since th age of 15 myself, I use creative writing and meditation to try and combat all th negativity.
    A recent spate of ignorance and rejection has almost triggered it off again, so to see u put th 1st Like on my new review Post means such a lot – many thanks for this.
    I see this is your inaugural Post – if nobody has done so already: Welcome to the blogosphere!
    I see u r a MCU fan – feel free to run around my blog archives; I’m sure u will find plenty of entertaining goodies!
    Cheers!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ah, yes! Now I remember where you’re from, at first I was slightly confused (I’ve been online too much today) but then I checked through the tags I’m following and it all made sense. ^^

      Thank you so very much!! That means a lot to me and thank you for the welcome!
      What kinds of meditation and writing do you do?

      I’m glad it could bring a positive spin to your day! We all need more of that some days. ❤
      And yes, MCU is life. Ahaha. Cool! I'll be sure to check it out! =]

      Thanks again ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Wow. What a genuine and humble post you wrote. As a recovering alcoholic and twice suicide attempter with past battles with depression, I can relate to a good chunk of what you wrote.
    Thank you for your courage to tell some of your story here and in your advocacy speaking. It will empower others. Keep it up.
    Marianne

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I’m a therapist. What you have written here is a beautiful description of what people with extreme OCD go through. Thanks for being so honest. And congratulations on your (underestimated) strength!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh, what an honor it is to be receiving a comment from you! Thank you so much! =)

      And thank you, thank you, thank you! This post was spontaneous and fresh so it was a nice exercise in bringing words together to form a mostly coherent narrative. Now, I get the bonus of seeing cute adorable animals this afternoon, hooray! I’m glad that I’ve reached this point where I can be so honest and open and free. =]

      Thank you again! ❤

      Liked by 1 person

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