My childhood was practically perfect, but that ease and happiness did not last. My journey with mental illness began with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) before I was 16. My rituals and routines began to take up more and more time. It would sometimes take me two or three hours to make it to bed at night, and other rituals invaded the rest of my day. I also began to self-harm.
It was not long before I had to be admitted to the psychiatric unit in my local hospital. I was there for a month while we tried to figure out what to do next, as my OCD was becoming debilitating. Finally, I was transferred to an out-of-state treatment center. I was there for two months while I did intensive work on my OCD. By the time I left, I had a much better handle on my disorder, and when new behaviors cropped up I was generally able to use the skills I had learned to reduce those behaviors before they became consuming. However, my struggle was not over.
Shortly after I returned home, the first severe depression of my soon-to-be diagnosed bipolar disorder hit. I began self-harming again, and I started to severely restrict my food intake. Over the next year, I went from down to up to back down again and was finally diagnosed as bipolar. I had to go to the psychiatric emergency room because of a medication-induced manic episode. I climbed up on a third-floor balcony railing because I thought I would bounce if I fell off, but luckily my best friend pulled me down. I saw my books rearrange themselves on my bookshelf. My therapist at the time didn't think I was safe (she was right, I wasn't safe), and she told my parents she would call Child Protective Services if they didn't take me to the hospital.
By the time I left, I had a much better handle on my disorder ... However, my struggle was not over.
By this point, I rarely ate or slept. My parents tried to force me to eat by sitting at the table with me for hours while I stared at my food, but they realized that while I was eating a little bit, I was not recovering from my eating disorder. I went back to the psychiatric unit at the hospital and then to a new out-of-state treatment center. I stayed at the eating disorder treatment center for four months while I dealt with my anorexia. I returned home at the end of my junior year of high school, and I barely made it through senior year because I was so depressed. On top of my mood episode, I no longer had any friends left after the preceding tumultuous years.
However, I was hopeful about starting college. I went to a small liberal-arts college out-of-state. I started drinking, and I began to be more and more desperate to drink. A few months into the year, I woke up in the hospital after having nearly died of alcohol poisoning. At the beginning of second semester, my friends started acting oddly and purposefully avoiding me, so we parted ways. I spent the rest of the year alone. I returned to that school for my sophomore year, but I only made it three weeks before my mood and anxiety disorders became too much to deal with on my own. I moved back home and took distance classes before beginning school on-campus at my local university.
I have not made much progress yet, but I am sticking with it. I am not alone because I have my supportive family, mental health professionals who do their best to help me ...
I still have no friends because my social anxiety makes it very difficult to form new friendships, and I don't have the energy or inclination to try to make friends when I am depressed. My generalized anxiety disorder makes going to school or doing anything out of my house very difficult. Lately my mood has been very inconsistent, and this is difficult to deal with. I am trying to address these problems by going to therapy three times a week. I have not made much progress yet, but I am sticking with it. I am not alone because I have my supportive family, mental health professionals who do their best to help me, and NAMI meetings for social contact. My family is helping me to prepare for whatever the rest of my life may hold. I certainly hope to be able to work successfully in the future, but we are going to begin the process of getting me on disability in order to have a backup plan for me when my parents are gone. I am grateful to not be alone in this journey through the trials of mental illness.