My mental health coming out: a love letter.
I am in doubt of where to start. There is a short lifetime of stories in my brain and heart; they all want to be told. I am overwhelmed by them and how little I have disclosed of my experiences. Luckily blogs don't have article limits so I don't have to get it right, I just have to get it out.
So, how do you start telling a story that feels like a box of puzzle pieces in my brain?
It's like trying to unravel a ball of wool that was cut in the centre; there is no long, linear or sensical stretch, just new endings, beginnings, middles and more knots than logic. This is how it feels to be open about having O.C.D. The change is that I now feel these stories wanting to be told, they are aching to be free; to reach out of my own experience and bring hope to others.
I have a yearning to unburden myself. I'm no longer afraid of what people will think of me, because I know I am good.
The irony of my darkness wanting to do good is infuriating. Where was this freedom and love when I first started having intrusive thoughts?
That's my poison: intrusive, violent, horrifying images nearly every day for nearly a decade. It is hell to imagine terrible things happening all the time. It is a horror to think you are evil. It is a waste of life to numb pain and in so doing, numb joy. I hate shame. I. Hate. Shame. I HATE IT.
There is freedom in acknowledging hell. There is freedom in admitting how long I struggled and how long I felt so alone and fearful of what I thought was the truth. I believed I was bad. I believed I was shameful. I believed I was unworthy. I believed I was dangerous.
I believed these things because over and over and over again I was subjected to examples of their "truth." My mind created every possible situation in which I could potentially harm someone I loved in great, visceral detail: like a slasher flick on repeat in my brain.
At first, at 17 years old, I found ways to cope. Suicide pacts with my teddy bear, "I'll hurt myself before I ever hurt anyone" or plans to simply disappear "I'll move far away, and then no one will be at risk." It seems quaint but many times I only fell asleep knowing I had these fail safes in place.
The great irony of O.C.D. is that the empathy it thrives on, the imagination it requires, the overwhelming capacity for love of people that cope with it is in fact equal to it. Because you fear the worst, you love deeply. Because you want to prevent, you pre-plan. Because you are so afraid of losing someone, you go through all the terrible ways it could happen. You negotiate the dire fates of those around you to ensure their survival.
I hit rock bottom so many times before I reached out. I wish I could properly express this feeling. Imagine your deepest, deepest shame. It is wrapped around your heart like dark ivy. Now imagine the terror of telling someone for the first time and expecting them to run for the hills and instead, having them hold you close and tell you they aren't afraid of you. Speaking truth is medecine. Kindness is medecine. Love is medecine.
That desperate bravery I found to say something SAVED ME. That was the spark that lit the match that grew to a fire and you are now reading the forest of my hell burning to the ground.
I started to crawl out of the shame swamp. Slowly, painstakingly through in-the-moment confrontations in my brain. Every day, every thought was a battle that I started being able to fight: to identify, label and dismiss the thoughts I didn't want to identify with anymore. It was and is to this day hard, exhausting and draining work. But I am so much better at it now. I have so much more love for myself now. I have so much more understanding of my mind. And I have love for it, in all its madness and effort to derail.
I will write so much more about how I now cope in the posts ahead. If you're reading this and crying out "HOW?!" I will be there for you soon and teach you everything I know about thought management. I am very good at it now. If you are willing to put in the work, you DO NOT HAVE TO LIVE defined by these thoughts.
What I needed when I was 17 was a voice. I needed someone to reach out, from anywhere, and give me an example and a path of what I didn't understand wasn't my fault. If I could go back to me then, I would have so much hope and possibility to tell myself. I would save so much burden.
But wishing for time travel is a waste of energy I do not entertain. And the truth is that I wouldn't change a thing about what I know now because I have been made strong and I have been made useful. I can help. I can put this unique knowledge and understanding out there for another 17 year old who is being driven insane and inshame by their own brand of intrusive thoughts.
I'll leave you with a prayer I wrote for anyone who needs it. This is another new beginning in my ball of yarn. Another big knot to untie. Another shadow meeting the light. I think it can help, and I would very much like to be useful.
Thank you for reading.
For you, my love,
I am with you and I am not afraid of you. I am with you and you do not scare me. Not your most horrifying thought can move me from your side. Nothing your beautiful brain can create could ever move me to leave you. You are not alone; you are in my heart. Your perceived truth is changeable. Your future is bright and peace is possible. You. Are. Good and I love you.
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