Part 2. For Part 1, click here.
Jo’s disorders started manifesting around the age of 9 as little quirks, and soon escalated to something much worse. Over time, and without treatment, her relationships with friends and family broke down, and she attempted suicide several times. A chance encounter with an old friend became a turning point in her recovery process, and despite a relapse, she was recently released from psychiatric care; a true sign that she has come leaps and bounds.
Whilst at rock bottom, and isolated from people in mainstream school, I got a message on Facebook. It was from a girl I used to have class with at school. She wanted to know where I had gone, and if I was okay.
Something as small as a message on Facebook changed my life.
Someone had noticed me. I wasn’t completely insignificant. We got talking, and eventually she invited me out to meet some of her friends. By the time I was ready to return to mainstream school, I had my first group of real friends, people who understood my situation and didn’t care that I was a little different. I had a reason to go to school every day. I had friends. I started to do a little better, to get to class, to work again. I became close with a handful of teachers who took the time to get to know me. There were people who cared.
Of course, that didn’t fix everything. Over the years I’ve learnt that you can’t build the foundations of your happiness on other people. That’s a motto I live by. While having friends helped, I still had rough times. I still self harmed. I still attempted suicide a number of times. My therapy wasn’t going too well; I didn’t like my doctors, and for a little while, I dropped out.
It wasn’t until I was fifteen that I asked for help again. I had hit another low. I hadn’t gotten out of bed in a long time, and my thoughts were heading down an all too familiar route. I had started to drink to self-medicate. On an evening out drinking, something happened to me. The details are a little too graphic to share, and really, it’s something I’ve revisited in my own time and since put to rest. However, it was this incident that prompted me to return to therapy.
This time, it worked. I had a psychiatrist who dealt with medication. I was prescribed antidepressants to combat the depression and OCD symptoms. I also met a psychologist who dealt with talking therapy.
Slowly, I started to piece my life back together.
We discussed my childhood, incidents that had led to me feeling the way I did, my current symptoms, and how best to handle them. Over time, I developed the skills I needed to understand the way I felt, and to live with the way I felt. I found safe and healthy alternatives to self harm, and I even began to rebuild a relationship with my parents. Including them in my recovery made us closer, and helped them to understand that my behavior was a result of my illness, rather than something I was to blame for.
It took time. It took patience. It took dedication.
Believe me, there were times I thought it would never happen, and there were times I thought I didn’t even want it to happen. But, it did. When I was sixteen, I made it through high school. Somehow, I managed to get all of my GCSE’s, and move on to study for A-levels. When I was seventeen, my doctor and I started preparing to discharge me from the mental health service. We spent a year discussing how I would cope without the support, and whether I was ready.
A few months before I turned eighteen, despite all the progress I had made, I relapsed. It felt like the end of the world. I had been working towards my final exams for my A-levels, had recently taken on a part time job, and I was starting to feel the pressure. I had been getting regular panic attacks, and despite the coping methods I had picked up, I felt I couldn’t handle them anymore. I began to feel depressed again, and started to isolate myself. After a few weeks of feeling this way, I made my last suicide attempt.
This time, I was taken to hospital by the police, and my parents were called. It was here I had a moment of realization. I was treated with compassion by complete strangers. The police officer told me about his daughter who shared my date of birth, and he and his partner spent hours sitting with me until my parents arrived. They took the time to get to know me, to help me, to talk to me.
These complete strangers cared. My family cared. My friends cared. People cared, and
I wasn’t alone.
I hadn’t ruined everything by relapsing, and I hadn’t taken any steps back.
I had just paused on my path to recovery; and that was okay.
Once I was released from hospital, I returned to making progress. My family and I became closer. We had open and honest conversations when a problem arose, and therapy was going well. I started to ease off medication in preparation for stopping all together. My sessions were cut from once a week to twice a month. I got back on track, and made it through my exams.
This week, I was discharged from the mental health service. I’m no longer a psychiatric patient. I still have some symptoms of depression. I still sometimes get panic attacks. I may still relapse one day. But I know that won’t be the end. I know I can cope with it now. I’m no longer on medication, and I don’t need therapy anymore. I have my life back on track, and I have a future. As for my OCD, intrusive thoughts barely pop up anymore. When they do, I know how to deal with them. I can finally accept that I don’t have to be perfect to be normal.
I feel like I’m going to be okay.