The Lying Voice of Mental Illness

I had sold my soul to the devil of mental illness and I didn’t even know it. In the split second of hearing my mental health diagnosis, the Chrissie I had always known, always believed in, and always rooted for began fading away. A new Chrissie emerged. A mentally ill Chrissie. A black sheep Chrissie. A no longer deserves a good life Chrissie.

When I left the inpatient hospital, I stared at the familiar faces of my family, but there was a wall of shame and fear separating us. I was no longer dependable, rational, admirable Chrissie. I was now unpredictable, unstable, and one to be pitied Chrissie. I went from being the Chrissie people loved being around to the ‘how quickly can she get back to school so we don’t have to take care of her’ Chrissie.

A dark cloud settled around my head and in my thoughts. When I tried to face it, it retreated in the darkness of my shadow, hiding from any confrontation. It laced my every reaction, every decision, and every interaction. I was no longer the Chrissie I once knew. I cowered at the doubt and shame of a mental illness that had absconded with my optimism and confidence.

I wanted to run far away from this new doomed life. The stolen frightened glances of my family, the nagging secret of my suicide attempt and diagnosis weighing heavily, and the penetrating jealousy I felt for everyone who could live a normal life was too much to face daily. I wanted a fresh start. I wanted to be where no one knew me. I believed as many gas tanks in my Honda that I could afford would bring me to a place where the dark cloud would vanish. I wanted new scenery, new friends, and a new life. So I hit the road, and landed in the middle of the Rocky Mountains in Colorado. I believed there was no way the demons of my past could survive among the beauty of my new home in Steamboat Springs.

But with every job I took, believing that maybe THIS will be the time where I can feel smart and proud; with every relationship, believing maybe THIS will be the one who will fill me up and make me feel worthy of love; with every passing year, believing maybe THIS will be the time of my life where I may find a purpose and feel deserving of happiness; I always came up short. And the dark cloud grew larger and larger out of my shadow and into my peripheral vision.

There was nothing I could do to feel proud. There was no amount of laughter I could experience to feel truly joyous. There was no amount of commitment or love from others that could make me feel I was someone who deserved a good life. I felt as though I stood on the edge of the cliff of a barren, desolate, arid desert watching a lush and fruitful world below me. It was too far to jump, and I hadn’t the tools to climb down.

I was so lonely. I was so empty. My only friend was the demon of mental illness in my head who lied to me, telling me that I don’t deserve a good life, no one will love me and I am a throw-away person unworthy of love, happiness, and a purpose. And I felt like it was MY fault. I felt as if I had done something to deserve this punishment.

I successfully survived 12 years alone, in silence with a tormenting, tortuous disorder all while managing to graduate college, complete successful treatment, and survive a suicide and hospitalization. But the demon told me I should be ashamed. It convinced me that my illness made me weak, stupid, and undeserving. And I believed it. It was the only voice I chose to hear.

But one day, I woke up. On the heels of a crippling relapse, I needed positive affirmations to get through my symptoms. And as my affirmations began to solidify as truths with my illness, it also began shedding light on who I had become. I was tired of grieving. I was tired of hiding in silence. I was tired of not being good enough for anyone or anything. I wanted to learn to like myself. I wanted to get to know who Chrissie was without the illness and the grief.

And the dark cloud began to retreat from my vision.

My thought process went from absolute negatives of wandering lost and lonely in the world to a colorful array of hope and possibility. I began shedding the anger, shame, guilt, and sadness that kept me company in the dark hole of a life I had been living. But, I didn’t shed it with regret. Each layer of emotion had been essential to move through, to shape me, and to let go of the past. Each stage of grief I occupied was exactly the right amount of time I needed to plant my feet in the new, solid foundation.

Those lonely years were painful, but I look back upon them with nostalgia and gratefulness. It was as if I turned myself inside out in order to come to terms with my experience with mental illness. I left no stone unturned. I needed every tear, every sleepless night, and the security of every fetal position. I needed to make sure I was absolutely ready before I let her go. Before I released the old Chrissie from my grip. She was someone to be proud of, especially because she bore the brunt of everything that has put me into the recovery I occupy now. She was so much stronger than she ever knew.

There are still many days where the whispering voice in the dark cloud of mental illness creeps back into my peripheral vision. I have to literally tell myself it is okay to be happy, proud, or content in my life. I have to actively force my mind to believe it is okay to love who I have become and the life and accomplishments I have achieved. It isn’t always easy. It wouldn’t be hard to slide back into the dark, but I tell myself daily how much more enjoyable and appreciative of life I am because I choose to stay in the light. I choose to ignore the manipulative lure. I choose to recognize that the voice of mental illness is made up of lies. I choose to believe in the Chrissie I am now, NOT the Chrissie mental illness wants me to believe I am supposed to be.

 

 

 

If you are in need of peer support or referrals/resources for OCD specialists, please email me at ocd.chrissie@gmail.com or visit my websites www.chrissiehodges.com and www.treatmentforocd.com.

This blog is sponsored by nOCD, the app to help keep you on track in your recovery from OCD! Visit http://m.treatmyocd.com/chrissie  for more information and to sign up.

Thank you for taking the time to read.
There is hope. Recovery is possible. You are not alone

Chrissie Hodges

Mental Health Advocate; Peer Support Specialist; Treatment for OCD Consulting; CBT/ERP Coach; Author ‘Pure OCD: The Invisible Side of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder’ 

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