Nothing is Supposed to be Wrong. And yet..

While I have written at great lengths about personal feelings & thoughts, this topic comes nowhere near that other stuff. That's exactly how private I consider this topic. It is in its own damn category of private. Please keep this in mind as you read on. 
During the past three and a half years I have been undergoing mental health treatment for severe depression. Next month this blog turns two years-old; whether you have realized it or not you have seen me go from a very unstable place, to a place of contentment and greater stability. No, this blog was not a suggestion by my therapist or psychiatrist. (It was a suggestion by a friend from high school.) I never meant or planned to tell you about any of what I am about to say. But there are far too many young people & teens who emailed or messaged me about their mental health concerns, this is for them.

"What?! No. NOT YOU! I don't believe it. Seriously?" Some variation of that is what I got from close friends when I told them I was seeking help.
The shock from my friends was understandable because on the surface I am not someone you would think struggles with depression, suicidal thoughts, and a compulsive urge to cutting. Many of my friends had some disbelief in the idea that I, Sandy, was ever anything but happily enthusiastic, sarcastic without constraint, witty with no apologies, and always eager to engage with the community around me. I have always been the student who could hold her own, I joined all the "right" (geeky) after school clubs, my resume is something that reeks of idealism in the pursuit of taking-over-the-world, I often have too much fun with friends who love me for who I am...On the surface nothing is supposed to be wrong. And yet as a fresh college grad gunning towards a future of public service, I was being treated with antidepressants and weekly therapy appointments.
During an annual physical exam, while in a state of undress in an overly large hospital gown, my primary care doctor asked me what the dozens of scars and cuts on my arms were from. That was how I got help, someone else took that initial half-step for me. By doing so she also helped me realize there is more to managing my health than O.I. I think including the PERSON'S health into the overall "disability health care management" can be forgotten, or just slipped in like an after thought. If you take away nothing else from this post, remember to not forget the individual.

The rest of that first step was in the way that I dragged myself, every week, to my therapists' office and struggled for 45min to talk. That Sandy who is otherwise verbose struggled to convey the differences between "I think I feel sad..." "I think I am angry.." ".. I don't know how I feel.." "When I cut myself I don't feel anything.." Every sentence I stumbled over in therapy was a little nugget of clarity that I gained for myself. I kept going every week.
My physician helped me make the first step but eventually I recognized that I had to help myself. No one was around at home to make sure I was going, no one at school was checking in with me, and while my closest pals knew what was going on - they also knew I would never talk about it with them. (Many of them spent afternoons & nights with me to make sure I would not lose myself in the echoes of my own thoughts, lost in my ginormous brain.) There came a time when I said I want to continue getting help because I know myself to be a better person than the thoughts going through my headI know I am capable of offering so much more to society than whatever-the-fuck-is-going-thru-my-mind; the things I have already accomplished is evidence enough. But at the same time those things I had accomplished were also clearly not enough. Several years of therapy helped me to realize what instead is enough.

Can I pin my depression on the fact that I have O.I.? No. That would be wholly inaccurate. The source of my depression, like for so many, is complex and long-winded. But I can condense it to a feeling of worthlessness. I saw no value in just who I am without it being tied to school work, my resume, or any other external achievement. Every time the compulsion to cut stormed in my head it brought with it a hatred for myself that was smothered in: "I am worthless!" "I am useless!" "I will always be inadequate! Nothing I do will change that!" "I do not matter!" And for several years it was all that I heard so that everything else I was doing - no matter how amazing - was lost in those sound bytes. For years I followed through with that hatred. For more than a year I always wore long sleeved shirts in public. More accurately though, I was depressed not because I have O.I. but because I have me. All of me. And it wasn't until I began to understand who I am, and learned why I can love that person could I begin to quiet those other echoes.

Through therapy there came a time when I was recently able to say "I haven't thought about cutting myself for a week!" "...For a month!" "...For two months!" And then "I don't remember how many months it has been since I last hurt myself." "I have not had thoughts of rolling off of the skyscrapers in the city, or jumping out of windows." "And I am happy with myself because of this.. this.. this.. although sometimes I still get angry because of that..that..and that." There is value that I have created for myself by being who I am. I can express it in a conversation. A piece of that value has been expressed in 390+ posts, a blog that has brought 400+ people together, an area of professional work I never thought I'd ever have anything to do with!
While I have plans with my therapist and psychiatrist to conclude my mental health treatments by the end of this summer, that doesn't mean my problems will go away. Even today, sometimes those urges of leaping and plunging lurk around. Deciding to wrap up mental health treatment just means I now know myself better, enough to know that I have the ability to react to situations in a healthier way. To think of myself, and for myself more positively. And that I can do all of those things because I value myself to warrant treating, loving, respecting, and helping myself continue to be more than who I was yesterday. Because I am enough. 

*If you are a young person reading this and you have further questions about my own experience, please don't hesitate to send me an email. I am BY NO MEANS QUALIFIED to give professional advice, I can only speak to my own experiences. If you are looking for professional mental health help I would start with your primary care doctor..or perhaps a guidance counselor at your school.* 

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4 Responses to Nothing is Supposed to be Wrong. And yet..

  1. Oh Sandy! Love you all the more for writing this! And I would say - If my friend could see herself through my eyes, the way I see her, she would know that she is enough. That she is beautiful and perfect, just the way she is, in all her imperfection. That those thoughts she has, those things she thinks are so important....are not important at all. All that is important is that she is who she is. And she is loved by many just so. And that is perfect. And that is enough. Sara Mitchell

    1. Thank you Sara!! I'm getting better every day at clearing my head from the muddled clutter. I really appreciate having supports from all over remind me of this. Also.. today's post I *try* to answer your question re how to decline explaining OI to strangers! - Sandy

  2. Sandy, Thank you so much for sharing your story, and even though I don't know you personally, I am so proud of you, for so many reasons. Putting yourself out there is hard, I know, and there is no doubt in my mind you are making a difference in many lives, just through this post. And I am so glad you now realize that you are enough. You have always been enough, and you are amazing.

    1. I hope that someday we will bump into each other somehow! But thank you for believing in me!! - Sandy


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