Today, I honestly don't really feel like writing much. Like last week, I'm having a hard time emotionally. But I don't want to shut you guys out, and I know if I keep breaking routine by not writing my blog posts, it'll only make things harder for me. So I guess I'll write about what I'm feeling.
People, when they read my blog posts, they're amazed at how forthcoming I am at sharing my experiences with OCD, in particular. They say that it's brave and touching and incredible. But for me, the posts I've written about OCD haven't been difficult. They've been written during times of relative peace in my life, where I could look back at the hard things I've been through and feel good sharing them. I felt like I was making a difference, telling people about what it's like, revealing truth, allowing people to understand me and others like me. That's why I'm a writer in the first place: because I love the feeling of baring raw the truths that burn inside my heart. It's painful, but it's a good kind of pain, especially when I can believe that someday, someone out there will read them and hear me. One of my biggest fears is not being heard, especially when what I'm trying to say is the truth.
In general, I'm a very open person. I don't have secrets. I'm quite public about my life, and part of that is in fact because of the OCD. Nowadays, I do it either out of habit and for the sake of truth itself, but in the past, it was driven by my OCD telling me that there was something integrally wrong with me, that I was never going to measure up, that I would always be less than the people around me. I word-vomited about my life because I desperately wanted people to see the real me, and to tell me exactly who that was. I wanted truth about myself and if I was a good person and if I was worth it. I didn't want there to be any chance of me being misjudged. I, of course, misjudged the way that we understand each other. I assumed that my existence couldn't stand for itself.
I still stand by the power of language. My voice is my strength. But a lot of the time, I say things that don't need to be said, and in saying them, lose sight of the things that do need saying. When the OCD was compelling me to speak my truths, those truths often failed to reveal the OCD itself. The OCD, of course, turned out to be the core issue I was trying to work around for most of my life so far. It silenced me in regards to itself, because those truths hurt too much, scared me too much, were shameful. In the moment, struggling with my anxiety and compulsions, I couldn't voice the reasons why I was so honest about everything else.
I had to fight for years to reach true honesty, because, like many people, I was taught by society that mental illness means unconquerable craziness, that tears are weakness, that an obsession with body image is always vanity. The OCD had me so terrified of being a weak, bad, wrong person that I couldn't admit the very things that needed admitting. I constantly talked about the things that my OCD was telling me were wrong with me--that I wasn't pretty, that I couldn't play cello right, that everyone else was better than me, that I was worthless--but I didn't talk about the actual problems that needed fixing because I understood, in some way, that they were the real deal, and I was scared to death of discovering that I couldn't be saved from what really was wrong.
So I tore my face open in private and covered it up with makeup again, hidden where no one could see how neurotic I was. I refused to talk about body image even when my obsession with it drove half my actions. I spent hours crying in my room, making lists of how terrible I was, and at the very top was that I was crazy, unstable, weak, high-strung, what kind of person makes lists like these anyway? but I never revealed them to anyone else. I couldn't help bursting into tears all the time, but I did my best to hide them, to run away from the public eye. I replaced shame and jealousy with disdainful distance and grumpy glares. And I fought against the idea of counseling, not just because I'd had an experience with a bad one when I was younger, but because counseling meant admitting I had a problem I couldn't control. I was determined to overcome it myself, to hide the crazy, wrong person my OCD kept telling me I was.
Yes, the OCD itself had a lot to do with my shame. But societal ableism caused a lot of that too. Had the world shown me that everyone needs help sometimes, that being diagnosed with a mental illness doesn't mean the end of your chance to be a moral and productive person, I might not have hidden it so much. I might have gotten help sooner. But I believed the stereotypes. I believed that if I got diagnosed with a mental illness, it would mean that everyone knew I was beyond help, abnormal to the extent of being unsalvageable.
When I finally got the point where I had to get help, I discovered a truth I'd been hiding from: that getting proper treatment meant I could overcome the weakness I'd been so ashamed of for so long. Admitting I had a problem led to recovery, led to an ability to feel happiness in a way I'd never known I could, led to me not hating myself anymore. As the OCD's iron grasp on my life became more of a fingertip poke, I realized that mental illness was not me, that my self-hatred was not me, that I was not wrong to the core of myself in a way that could not be mended. All of that had been lies, covering up the real truth: that I am a valuable human being with a immortal soul. That I am worth universes, like everyone else. Mental illness is not so wrong as to make me worth less. The OCD had been lying to me about who I was and what I was capable of, and so was society, by telling me that mental illness means you can never be 'right' again.
So now, as I said, from a place of relative peace, I write these stories for you to read. I tell you all about what it's like to have OCD and about the recovery process and I beg anyone who has struggles like these to get help, like I finally did. I do this because ableism is an incredibly pervasive part of our world and it damages those who need encouragement the most. I do this because I'm not ashamed of mental illness, or so I tell myself. I am not my OCD, though OCD is in me. It shaped my life, it's much of my history, but it doesn't mean that I'm past saving. It isn't something I should have to be ashamed of, because it's an illness, like any other illness out there. And when I write these blog posts, I really do feel those things. Looking at it with 20/20 hindsight, I'm not ashamed.
But my struggle also isn't over yet. I will have OCD for the rest of my life, which means dark moments. I'm still working to overcome my fear of driving and telephones. I still have to work hard to keep myself from tearing my own skin open. Despite myself, I still feel shame about the things I haven't yet 'conquered.' So those other posts? They're not brave, not really. This post, this post is difficult. Because I don't want to talk about how I feel right now. I don't want to admit that everything's not 100% fixed. And I have a right to not talk about these things if I so choose, but I've found that when I don't want to talk about it, that's probably when I need to talk about it most.
Here's the State of the Union: I'm sad. I'm really, deeply sad. For the past month, in every moment when I'm not busy, I feel this sadness like a bubble in my chest, filling up my whole soul. I have reason to be sad--as a college student with one semester left, I'm facing a future more uncertain than I've ever seen before. I don't know what to do next. I don't know where I'm going. Every plan and hope I had before I started college has been, in some way, thrown out. So when I think about my life, my future, I see nothing.
As a person with a mental illness, though, this affects me more than it might others. January has always been the hardest month for me. So I have nightmares every night, when I'm not wide awake with my mind whirling over a million random thoughts. I sleep in every day until at least 1pm, largely as a result of that. I recently had to cut my fingernails, which I'd been growing out, down to barely nothing and hide my tweezers so I'd stop ripping my skin open. I feel like everything I've ever written is probably trash, so I'm hiding from editing COCA right now. I have to put reminders on my wall of self-care, because, even though I know there is purpose to my existence, even though I know I matter, I don't really know it right now, in my heart, where it matters. Mostly I feel like there's no point. Mostly I just want to cry. And honestly, I am ashamed of that.
So this is me fighting back against ableism by being honest about my OCD, even when I'm in the middle of it. I am sad. I am struggling. It's not hardcore anxiety the way it used to be. But it's also real. And I feel bad about it because society has told me that I'm supposed to be positive all the time, that crying and sleep are for weaklings, that I should always be accomplishing something and being productive and that mental illness is not something you're allowed to take time off to recover from. But I am going to take care of myself. I'll make it past this, by going through it instead of by ignoring it. And I'll stand up here and face the ableism and say that even though I am ashamed, I shouldn't have to be.
That's what I've got to say today, guys. I'll see if I can get back into COCA soon, and I will hope hope hope that I won't hate it as much as I'm afraid I will. I've never been so afraid of my book not being good as I have with this one. But yes, I'll post again Wednesday. See you then.
Images via chrislocurto.com and Stop Ableism on Twitter.
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