*TW* Explicit mention of suicide, self-harm, OCD and depression in this post.
It is with a very heavy mind that I write this post today. I’ve woken up just about twenty minutes ago, late on a Friday morning, 10am. I’ve just used the bathroom as I know this post is going to take me through a whirlwind, and I have to be ready for it. I haven’t even eaten breakfast yet, and maybe I will during it, as I’ll need my brain power to work through this post.
My morning was beginning bright and chipper.
But with discovering this daily prompt–the reality of it has sunken me in. I scrolled through some of the titles being used so far. And I just FEEL stigma clinging to my very soul.
Granted, I know after this post I can implement my positive coping strategies and proper self-care–so my mood will pick UP once again.
For now though, this subdued atmosphere is just what I need to write this post with.
“Obsessed” or “obsession” does NOT mean what you think it means.
An obsession is an unwanted thought, idea, feeling that loops itself around on a loop tape. It’s an obsessive thought that causes anxiety in the individual, leading them to practice compulsions, which are MENTAL or PHYSICAL behaviors that they use in an attempt to relieve that anxiety the obsession caused. It works, sort of. Except it just FUELS the OCD further.
OCD stands for Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, by the way.
I know OCD well. If the beginning of this post hasn’t shown you that, then the rest of this post will.
- I am NOT “sooooo OCD”.
- I am NOT “just a little OCD”
- I am NOT the butt end of your OCD joke.
- I am NOT dealing with obsessions on cleanliness, organization or having things in a certain order. So, NO, your jokes about that are NOT WELCOME. Even if that IS what I struggled with–newsflash: They would NOT be welcome.
I live with OCD on self-harm and suicide obsessions.
- NO that does not make me suicidal
- NO I am NOT choosing to be ‘obsessed’ with self-harm or suicide
- NO I do NOT appreciate your jokes about these topics when I’ve disclosed I suffer from OCD.
- YES I feel and sometimes joke that I feel 4x the stigma because of the nature of these topics.
NEWSFLASH! I am a PERSON first.
I am NOT “my OCD”. I am a daughter, a friend, an artist, a blogger, a mental health activist, a lover of gazebos, a fan of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, I would wear Marvel related fandom things if I could afford it, I love watercoloring and painting, I practice mindfulness, I am compassionate, I am kind, I’m a pretty awesome human being, I love House MD (watched an episode or two last night :)), I love organizing, I love reading and I freakin LOVE stationary.
THAT is who I am.
Fuck OCD for ever making me think otherwise.
That’s the groundwork I wish to lay down upon this post first.
From here, I don’t know where we begin.
I suppose, I had subtle symptoms of OCD when I went into college at the age of 19. They peaked once in the fall of 2013, but I still didn’t know at the time that I was dealing with any type of diagnosis.
In fall 2014, I was diagnosed with OCD by my university’s counseling center. At the time, I was seeing a graduate student there. Getting the diagnosis was…a flip of the world I knew. If I had had symptoms all that time and didn’t know it, what else was I unaware of?
The symptoms of OCD then just EXPLODED outwards. Having a name to a phenomenon was exhilarating–until that name began taking over my very world.
Despite taking an abnormal psychology course within that very semester, and having related to the notion of obsessive thoughts, I completely glossed over the mental compulsions bit. But that’s what I was dealing with–mental compulsions.
Let me be clear: I wasn’t exactly a danger to myself at this point in time. I did NOT want to act on my obsessions of suicide or self-harm. In fact, only when I started dealing with progress on the suicide obsessions, did the self-harm ones arrive.
I wanted to do ANYTHING BUT act on my self-harm and suicide obsessions.
You see, there’s a DIFFERENCE between suicide obsessions and suicidal thoughts. Suicide obsessions are OCD in nature, suicidal thoughts are often depression or other conditions in nature. Suicide obsessions won’t be acted upon by the typical OCD sufferer. The anxiety is over the idea that you MIGHT want to act on it, despite having NO intention of doing so. Suicide obsessions do not equal suicidal thoughts. We’ll go over this more later on.
And in between this, here are some great articles about it online (from the same website): http://ocdfreedom.com/suicide-ocd-vs-suicidal-thoughts/
I hope I am making sense and being understandable. This is the part of my story I’ve effectively told at least fifty times by now. So, it brings up some impatience with me. But it’s important, regardless.
Whenever I had an obsessive thought about suicide from the OCD–often things like:
“Kill yourself. Jump off the building. You’re just attention seeking. So pathetic. Don’t you dare tell anyone about this.”
This is what would happen: “Kill yourself. –Wait what, no, I don’t want to do that. Yes you do. No I don’t. Yes you do. No, I don’t. Are you sure? Do you need to check? N…no. I mean, I could. Maybe, am I suicidal? I’m not, right? I don’t know, why don’t you kill yourself.”
Cue the cycle all over again. My mental compulsions involved checking my memories for any suicidal intent, avoiding areas like ledges or being near train tracks to avoid what I thought would be myself acting on the thoughts (even though I wasn’t going to), missing classes because I got so anxious I’d throw myself down the stairs and die that I found I could NOT move from my location at the top of the stairs for over 45 minutes.
I was so anxious all of the time, I don’t know how I managed to get my schoolwork done. I’d sit with obsessive thoughts and compulsions for easily 6 hours. I started passing in papers late because of the time I was taking up with the OCD. I stopped attending Photography Club meetings, which I was President of, because I couldn’t stop going through the cycle of obsession and compulsions–I had to land on the idea that NO I was NOT suicidal and wasn’t going to kill myself–before I could leave and try to gather my attention to another task.
I knew Photo Club members were angry at me, and that anger further burrowed the OCD to tell me — see, this is yet another reason why you should just kill yourself.
I began acting on self-harm thoughts in the hopes to get SOME relief from the constant torment. I tried a variety of things first, before I found that scratching myself worked “best”.
Any time I’d get angry with myself for falling into the OCD behaviors, I’d scratch myself as punishment. I deserved it after all. What the fuck was I thinking? I was so pathetic. Really, I should have just killed myself.
Then the OCD would shut up for a while–because if I acted on it, it would give me relief for a while, the relief from obsessions, the relief that comes with acting on compulsions or doing the compulsions. Except the OCD would always come back, and worse too. Then it would be screaming at me to hurt myself, and still, I didn’t want to.
It was then that acting on the obsessive thoughts began to bridge as a compulsion behavior. It didn’t matter that I didn’t want to act on it. If it meant relief…what else was there?
I was open about these behaviors to the graduate student I was seeing. We worked on mindfulness practices, on CBT, on building safety plans and doing other positive coping strategies than ones that resulted in me harmed.
I recall many hours that I spent staring up at the ceilings, wishing I had the ability to kill myself. And if I couldn’t (which I could not), I wished some serial killer would kill me instead. Lay my body parts across a highway entrance, in particular.
At night, I was hardly sleeping, because I would do the compulsions in my mind until I exhausted myself and could fall back to sleep. I would DREAM of doing compulsions, of sitting on my bed and going through the compulsions, and the next day I’d wake up unrested and with further thoughts about the OCD on my mind, fresh and anew.
I would do better one week then slip back another. The semester was winding down and myself, my parents and my friends all thought that the winter break would help….
It didn’t. I developed secondary depression during that time. If I thought it was bad enough before with the OCD, it was about to get three hundred times worse. At this point in time, I became actively suicidal. I no longer was just dealing with suicide obsessions, but also suicidal thoughts.
It happened slowly. The graduate student I was seeing was on vacation for 3 weeks. I just had to make it those 3 weeks before I got back to seeing him in therapy again. That proved difficult.
The first week I missed him dearly. I wasn’t sure I was going to make it through that time without therapy. The world turned into a gray veil. On Christmas, I felt so … empty. So apathetic. I couldn’t muster feelings of happiness, and I didn’t understand why.
It was the night before New Year’s Eve where everything changed. I was trying to fall asleep and it was the one time since everything began that I could NOT fall asleep. This didn’t happen to me often, and as such, I had not preparation in place to deal with it. FOR HOURS I tried every positive coping strategy I could think of. I texted friends, I wrote my feelings on a piece of paper and tore it up, I drew, I did everything. For four hours–it wasn’t enough.
I reached my breaking point. I tried to call a self-harm hotline but they were out of hours and it was about 2am at this point. I went outside in the cold to make the phone call because I didn’t want to wake up my parents. They were in the dark about much of this and what was happening. And when I could tell them, they didn’t understand it. My Mom dismissed the graduate student and wanted me to get diagnosed by a professional. It was difficult.
I was texting a friend when I went to call the suicide prevention hotline. Except I felt like shit because I wasn’t suicidal and I wasn’t self-harming, so I tried to cut myself before I called. As a way to ….be requiring of that help, then. Because, for some reason, it didn’t count if I didn’t act on it. I must not need help then, was likely the thought process.
I couldn’t cut myself. I…tried, but it didn’t work. I was at my loose ends. If I couldn’t even self-harm properly what the hell was I doing?
It was then that depression spoke to me.
“There’s nothing you can do. You’ve tried everything and nothing is working. Nothing will ever work.”
And the light switch went off. I knew what I had to do, and I couldn’t believe I never thought about killing myself before. It made perfect sense. I had to die. To make the pain stop, to get relief, to find freedom, I had to kill myself. … Suicide was my answer.
For 8 hours the following morning I laid in a fetal position on my bed, fantasizing about suicide. I thought then, that what I was dealing with was still just OCD, but I was very, very wrong. Something wasn’t right. I could not feel myself in my body. I was …elsewhere. Nowhere. Nothing.
Every breath was a battle. I was exhausted. I just wanted to be dead. It felt that I was already dead and by killing myself, I was just making all of me dead. I felt nothing. I was nothing. Nothing mattered and nothing would ever matter.
I was only able to get up and move again when I scratched myself. Self-harm was becoming a way of…living again.
The following six days I fixated–note, NOT obsessed, but fixated– on suicide. I planned, I planned, I found details, I found access, I researched, I fixated. Suicide was ALL I thought about. It was all I was interested in. It required all of my time to make my plan just so. I read multiple websites and articles about how to kill myself and how to prevent myself from killing myself. My true self was still there-anxious and afraid, not wanting to die, knowing things could change, that I could survive. But…
I was either going to die by suicide or I was going to survive and call it self-harm. Those were the only two options.. I never considered I’d get high.
6 days later, on January 6th 2015, I tried to kill myself.
It was a shitty experience. I didn’t last long before I asked for help from friends, not exactly saying “Hey, I just tried killing myself” but rather “Hey, not feeling too great right now, anyone can chat would be great, thannnnks”. I didn’t get any response.
So I told a friend of mine and proceeded to talk on the phone with her for 2 hours.
I went to work that day like nothing had happened.
It was only the next day where my mind plagued me again and I wondered exasperatedly why I tried to kill myself and why I didn’t take more to actually get the job done.
When my graduate student came back, I told him what had happened. Reluctantly, but I told him.
I wasn’t ready to give up on my suicide plans though. I still had intention of dying by suicide thereafter.
I was first hospitalized on January 29th..I think of 2015.
I relapsed again with scratching myself after that, and landed in the hospital again on March 2nd 2015.
My dark days began the foundation of my recovery journey. In March 2015 I was so resigned to having to die by suicide, that I genuinely thought nobody would stop me from doing so.
Instead, when I confessed to the graduate student, they promptly gave me my one-way ticket to the psych ward. I was picked up by ambulance from the counseling center that very day.
By the middle of March, having found a psychiatrist, I began my second round of medications. It was this medication that would be the key for me. Something I’m still on now.
In April 2015, I managed to not have to go to the counseling center at all–whereas before I was going for multiple crisis appointments.
March 2nd 2015 began my nearly four month recovery journey from scratching myself. In May 2015 I had to go back to the counseling center for suicidality, but I managed to get to my therapist that afternoon (who I had been seeing twice a week since the middle of February) and to finish off the semester.
On June 2nd 2015, I began my third hospitalization, after I had written extensively about my suicidal thoughts and written my suicide note in the form of a poem and acted on several suicide related thoughts (although I backed out of a few too).
In my third hospitalization it was brought to my attention that I was identifying as the OCD, as the depression and as a suicidal blob. I began the work on reattaining my identity from there.
I still struggled with suicidality and scratching myself. At the end of June 2015 I tried to kill myself again. It was that suicide attempt that made me realize the BULLSHIT I was being told by my brain and the lies I had believed from the OCD and the depression. It was then that I realized suicide was NOT freedom. Suicide was regret and a mistake, and I didn’t want to die by that way.
This has waxed and waned since then but the message itself is still intact: Feelings are temporary and suicide is a permanent action to a temporary crisis. Crises pass.
And there’s so much stationary out there to love.
In November 2015, I was admitted into the OCD Institute, and stayed there for 5 weeks.
In January 2016, I began school again. I wound up writing for the Mass Media, my school’s newspaper. I wound up being VERY open about my struggles with mental health. I passed my classes, I made it through the semester, and I made lots of new friends. I got trained as a NAMI In Our Own Voice presenter in March 2016 and have done about 10 maybe presentations since then (my next one is this Saturday). I made this blog at the end of May 2016, where I discuss my experiences and my journey of recovery extensively.
I’m currently taking a Statistics course where I’m near the top of my class at the moment. I’m alive today and more days I’m happy with that. I have my reasons to live, I have goals and dreams I want to achieve, and words I have yet to say and write.
It’s been a hell of a journey, and every day of sunshine has been worth it. I know I skipped over some parts quickly and this isn’t so in-depth of my journey, but I’ve written a LOT about it before, you just have to know where to find it on this blog.
I’m no stranger to telling my story, which is good because I want to give a TEDtalk on it in 2018. I’m practicing and practicing before that point in time.
I hope that my blog can be one of hope and inspiration to any of those suffering from mental health issues out there in the world. I hope this post while long, has given others out there a testament to what OCD really is, and how dire and serious it is and can become.
This is probably the best condensed version I could have written, and the least amount of OCD I could have had writing it.
I have less parting words than that for the end of this post. I suppose, just, remember that recovery is possible and if you ever want to talk, I’m here and you can reach out to me. ❤ ❤ ❤
The artist behind this blog. ❤