January 2020 Contributor: Dani Kennedy

Heavy burdens keep close company…

(lyrics by Kelsey Sprague)

To those of you who know me, some of these things might come as a surprise. But maybe it will all make sense…

To those who don’t know me, hi! I swear I’m okay. I’m working on things. That’s what’s so great about what Ali is doing here. We need to work together in order to break all of the stigmas of mental health.

Back in September (2019), I felt like I had finally hit my bottom (little did I know that that wasn’t my bottom at all). I decided to seek out therapy for the first time. See, about 3 years ago, I went to my primary care doctor for anxiety. Sure she helped, but she just put me on Zoloft and that was it. I went to see her monthly to make sure everything was fine. And for the most part it was. My anxiety levels were lower, I wasn’t letting the little things get to me, it was all looking good. I ended up moving across the country, and ended up going cold turkey (DON’T DO THIS) from Zoloft. I then let my anxiety get in the way from me going to a doctor again. It wasn’t until September that I learned that my anxiety and depression were just symptoms of something bigger.

When I found Timi (my awesome therapist), I told her straight out that I was afraid that if I said the wrong thing to her that she would hospitalize me. She reassured me that she had no intentions of doing so unless I became a threat to myself or others. We then started talking. If you’ve never gone to therapy and you wonder what it’s like, let me paint a picture for you.

Timi’s office is warm and cozy. I sit down on this cozy couch and we start talking. It’s like talking to a friend, but a friend who doesn’t know any of the people I’m talking about. A friend who notes tiny things I say and tells me what’s going on in my brain. I feel safe and I know that whatever I tell her she won’t run and tell someone else. She is a great sounding board.

Timi brought to my attention some things that I do, and diagnosed me with OCPD (Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder). What does that even mean? I asked her exactly that question. Was this something I would have to explain to people? Was this something I needed to take pills for? Would I ever be normal? She sent me to some articles, and it all clicked.

OCPD is one of the most manageable personality disorders (THANKFULLY). My symptoms that I suffer from are as follows:

  • Perfectionism – to the point of being a problem
  • An overwhelming need to be on time, causing me to get upset when others aren’t
  • An extreme attention to detail
  • Not being able to delegate, because I know that people won’t do the task right
  • A rigid adherence to rules and regulations
  • An overwhelming need for order

Because of these things, I have also developed some “ticks” for when I’m anxious, including picking at my skin to the point of sores on my arms and scalp, twisting and counting my fingers, and pinching myself to the point of sores.

As I sat there and listened to her list the symptoms, I just started crying. It was like I finally had a name for what was going on. And it wasn’t just me being uptight. What became even harder was when we started diving deeper into how I developed this personality disorder and how it affected by relationships with people close to me.

OCPD develops in late childhood, early adolescence stemming from a few different things. One of the major theories suggest that people with OCPD may be have been raised by parents who were unavailable and either overly controlling. Also as children, they were harshly punished for not being perfect. OCPD traits develop as a sort of coping mechanism to avoid punishment. This got me. This was all something that could have been avoided.

What prompted me to seek professional help was separating from my husband. We were together for 11 years, married 5, when we decided that we had just grown apart. We weren’t the same people we were when we were 17, shocking I know. But all of sudden my world was broken. My world was turned upside down. I went from owning a home to renting a room in a house with 6 other people. I didn’t know how to be me without him. I’m working on finding me. And learning that I had this underlying personality disorder that could have caused some rifts in my relationship tore me apart. I’ve thus learned that I can’t live in the what if’s: What if I knew about my OCPD? What if I would have learned how to better communicate earlier? What if this had never happened? What if I never developed OCPD? What if, what if, what if… I was driving myself crazy.

I’ve now been seeing Timi every week for 3 months. I have learned how to properly communicate is what is bothering me instead of getting angry or anxious. I still have my depressive episodes, but I’m learning ways to help with that. I have learned to throw a muzzle on that anger voice in my head that tells me how “not good enough” I am. I’ve done some major work on myself. Therapy is the best decision I’ve ever made, and I also got extremely lucky that my first therapist was a good fit. That’s usually not the case, and that’s okay. I still get anxious and I still internalize a lot of my anger, but I’m human and I make mistakes.

If you ever thought about going to therapy, but you were worried about what people would say, let me tell you what Timi told me. She said this on our very first session and it stuck with me. She said, “It takes a strong person to realize that they need help, and an even stronger person to want to do the work to make yourself better.” I had never, ever felt strong before. But each milestone I mark with Timi, I feel stronger and more empowered. I feel like I’m finally realizing who Dani really is. And that’s an awesome feeling.

Read Dani’s writing here: http://www.evrydaychanges.blogspot.com

 

December 2019 Contributor: Faithe Henry

I previously wrote a blog as a guest for one of my friends about mental health. For those that have read my last writings, I would like to explain a little about a part of one of three diagnoses. I’m going to try a little something new and personal. I am going to tell you about a few things that triggered my depression. Let’s jump right in.

I was twelve years old when I was unofficially diagnosed with depression. The reason it’s unofficial is because it was done by my junior high school counselor. See, I was made to attend grief counseling once to twice a week due to the death of a family member. The pain I faced due to this passing isn’t something any child should have to go through.

My loss was not one of a grandparent, aunt, or uncle. My loss was that of my mother. Now don’t get me wrong… I’m not belittling the death of anyone, especially any of the ones I listed. Please just keep reading.

I lost my mother in the early months of 2004. It was an accident but not one of the usual manner. I won’t get into details, but just know that I thank God every day my siblings and I weren’t there to witness what happened. I found out when I came home from school.

I don’t remember much about that day. I actually don’t remember much about any of the days from her death until her funeral. The grief that I faced that day was like none I had ever dealt with before and still haven’t to this day.

Several months after her death is when I received my unofficial diagnosis, and I was treated with what I think of as a joke. The school board’s idea idea of grief counseling was laughable, to say the least, but I did as requested anyway.

For those of you trying to do the math, she has now been gone for 15 years. As I have gotten older, I have realized how much my mother truly meant to me. She was my rock, my support, my hero. She loved my siblings and I with every breath she had and then some. She was so much more talented than I think I could ever be. She always worked so hard to support us no matter what.

I haven’t had her in my life to witness the most important moments of my life, and that can hit me extremely hard some days. When I think about all of the things she’s missed, all of my heart breaks; my husband, my wedding, but mostly her grandchildren. It tears me up inside.

Every day is a new day; a day for me to live for her, to do all of the things she wanted me to do. I told myself I would do everything in my power to do the things I would have done to make her proud, and I think I do that every day.

Unfortunately in my case, my mother isn’t the only contributing factor to my depression. It wasn’t until late last year that I discovered this. Late last year, I received my first real therapy session, which is where I received my diagnosis of extreme recurring depression. Going into therapy, I thought most to all of my depression was because of the passing of my mother. But I learned something completely unexpected.

My past medical conditions (two types of cancer) and my father were a huge factors in my depression as well. Before my mother passed, before my mother and father divorced, I was afraid of my father. He was physically and mentally abusing. He has, and I believe will always, deny this until the day he dies. Where my memories of certain things are foggy, these memories certainly are not. I discovered I didn’t just fear my father, but I resented him, hated him, and was down right angry at him for mistreating his family, for not being the father he needed to be, not being being there for me, and now most of all, not being a grandfather to his grandchildren, the very grandchildren my mother would have loved with every fiber of her being like she loved her children. For not being the father I know in my heart he could have been and chose not to be. Not being the man my mother believed in and loved at one time in her life so deeply, it hurt.

I’ve come so very far since I’ve started therapy, but I know there are other people in this world that are where I have been and let me tell you first hand, it can and will get better.

The first step is to stop putting yourself down and believe, even if you don’t see it, that someone is there for you. The second step is to always remember and love the person even if they are gone. The third step is to take every day one step at a time and live like that person is still with you cheering you on. The person you lost wouldn’t want to see you down, depressed, and sad. If you have a person trying to hold you down, forgive them then let them go. Lastly, live. Live every day because you never know what you might find in yourself one day. The person you may want to be is just beneath the surface waiting to be set free, and you’re the only person that can make that happen. You’re the only person that can make that choice for you.

If you find it difficult to find that person, remember there is someone that already loves you for you, and will be there to encourage you along the way.

Faithe Henry

These Shoes

These shoes have taken me to the place where I would get the diagnoses that would change my life. They have taken me to the place where I have met people that didn’t want the best for me; they wanted to take advantage of me, to see me fail.

These shoes have taken me to places I never want to go again. They have taken me to places where I’ve felt pain, where I’ve felt anxiety, where I’ve felt stuck.

These shoes have taken me to places where I would have to share my feelings with complete strangers and hope that they didn’t judge me. They have taken me to places where I’ve waited and waited to feel whole again, to feel something, anything at all.

But…

These shoes have taken me to places that I recover and try my best to feel significant. They have taken me to the place where I can speak my soul and help it to heal. They have taken me to the place where I can feel free, where I can feel whole, where I can feel human.

People can judge us. They can slander our name. They can look down on us because we’re different than them… but they can’t take our soul. They can’t take our voice. They don’t know our lives or how we live, why we do the things we do. What we have fought for up until this very moment.

These shoes are dirty, beat down, worn out… but nobody can take away what they’ve been through. What I have been through.

Keep fighting for you and I’ll keep fighting for me.