If there was a way for me to share every detail of my mental health journey, people wouldn’t believe me. They would think I’m exaggerating. I’ve been to countless numbers of doctors in all different states and I’ve been admitted to hospital after hospital which insurance wouldn’t always cover. When I was eight, doctors diagnosed me with a severe case of Tourette Syndrome and OCD. There was no way they could prepare me for what was ahead, there wasn’t even much they could do for me besides prescribe pills. As a child, I didn’t realize how sick I was.
I knew I wasn’t like the other kids. I knew they didn’t have to leave the classroom multiple times a day to tic in the nurse’s office. I understood that they didn’t breakdown with body convulsions after a long day of holding them in at school. I knew they never felt so much emotion trapped inside them that they needed their mother to push them over the edge just to feel a release. Did they cry almost every night? Did they hear their parents cry over them at night? Did their parents sit for hours at a time and watch them when they were asleep; delighted that for once their daughter’s body wasn’t twitching? I knew the answers, yet somehow I always had hope that I would overcome it.
Doctors didn’t expect me to complete school, heck, neither did I. I couldn’t eat without gagging, shower without screaming. The mention of homework put my body in a state of paralysis which we later found out was called a Conversion Disorder. Any act of cleanliness such as brushing my teeth or brushing my hair was impossible. Sometimes after two weeks of no bathing or brushing my hair I’d feel strong enough to have my mom try to free my knotted hair. She’d sit me down and spend an hour or two brushing my hair so we wouldn’t have to cut it off. I took life one day at a time. My parents were lost as to what to do. I was days away from going into a group home for the disabled. They couldn’t keep me living the way I was. While researching my father found The Center for the Treatment and Study of Anxiety at the University of Pennsylvania. They slowly helped me get better, but I needed more intensive treatment. That’s when I went to Rogers Memorial After my time there I was doing better.
After coming home after 3 months of living in Rogers back in 2010 I did pretty well. I managed to make it into high school out of pure determination and help from my school and family. My senior year I even did the early admittance program to the local community collage. That June, I walked down the isle in my high school auditorium with my cap and gown and graduated from high school. Nine years of somehow making it through grade after grade with what I had gone through was shocking. Nine years of working twice as hard as the other students to not only attend class, but do well in them. Nine years of proving to the world that I could do it. My school had always recognized my struggles and they awarded me the Triple C Award for Character, Courage, and Commitment. The three C’s reminded me of how strong I was and I decided I wanted to continue my schooling.
August 21st 2013 I left for college. I did pretty well the first semester. I didn’t realize it at the time, but the signs of my OCD were showing up. The spring was hard. I didn’t understand what this internal resistance towards school was. It didn’t click that something was wrong. On top of that I started getting dizzy and had passed out a few times. I managed to make it through that spring semester and then spent the summer with my family figuring out why I was dizzy. The Cleveland Clinic diagnosed me with Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome (POTS) I went back to college for my Sophomore year but was struggling too much the first few weeks. I had brain fog and felt weak. I thought it was my POTS but would later realize that it was my OCD making me feel this way. My brain was manipulating me and I didn’t even realize it. I took a medical leave from college and things quickly crumbled. I couldn’t shower, I couldn’t think about school, nobody could even say the word around me without going into a panic attack. I started getting disgusted by my body. I felt like it was wrong to eat and when I did that I had to get it out. I purged often and binged every once in a while. I was paralyzed and trapped inside my home once again. We made the call to Rogers Memorial Hospital once again and I was added to the waiting list. The two and a half months of waiting were awful, but I finally got the call that it was my turn. It was 1 and a half weeks in the eating disorder center and three months of the OCD program. Months of fighting against every instinct my brain told me. Facing everything that scared me and having a panic attack after panic attack until my brain started to become retrained. I learned tools that would change my life…but just because I knew how to use them didn’t make it easy. In fact, it is very, very hard. They are tools that I have to use everyday, and most likely will always have to use. Although they are hard, they are the reason I’m able to function in everyday life.
After my time at Rogers came to an end, I got to go home. I was home for exactly one week before I was back at college…the very thing that is the root of my OCD. It was a hard semester. I missed quite a few of the classes because of the anxiety and ended up failing one of them. I received two C’s and a B in the others. I wasn’t too upset, I made it though my first semester back at college! January Term (a full class squeezed into the single month of January) I retook the class I got an F in. I missed more classes but ended up getting a C- in the class….sadly, I needed a C+ in order to continue in my major. Now it’s the Spring semester of my Junior year and I’m doing beyond amazing. I haven’t felt this good since July when my parents came to visit me at Rogers. I’m retaking the January Term class and haven’t missed a single class. In fact, out of all of my classes this semester I’ve only missed one because of my anxiety. I’m honestly thriving. Not only am I thriving, but I found out I will be graduating on time…I’m going to graduate next June. I’m going to accomplish my dreams, I’m going to prove to all the doctors that couldn’t see me going to college that I did it. The girl that was days away from going into a group home for the sick, with people with Down Syndrome and debilitating diseases is going to graduate college. It is so close. I’m almost there, and it’s the best feeling I’ve ever had. This week has been everything I dreamed of, and everything I never thought I’d feel again. I know in a few weeks I’ll fall back, but you know what? I’ll rise back up again. I have the tools, I have the strength, and I have the motivation. I’m going to be okay, and that single thought makes me cry with relief.
~ Stay chipper because it always gets better ~
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