Of course, the first thing that comes into play is the stigma. The number of times I’ve heard someone say, “I’m so OCD!” the pop culture meme for explaining away control issues. At this point I’m aware of how social stigma functions, so I won’t be letting it get me down. Still, it’s out there in spades, pushing the self-stigma triggers ever more so, prompting mindful response over knee-jerk reaction. Dealing with another diagnosis is challenging enough without letting stigma derail my quality of life.
The staff on our wing had their work cut out for them, with twenty-four patients to attend to. Community therapy concentrated on setting and achieving goals. Occupational therapy focused on creatively integrating right- and left-brained processes. Twenty-four individual viewpoints on life; twenty-four souls needing to communicate, each in their own unique way. A microcosm of the very world we longed to be a part of, treating one another with respect when someone went off the rails, supporting one another when life’s lessons got too hard to shoulder alone.
When I choose to agree with the shame I feel, I am the one giving power to stigma. I am the only one who has the power to break this internal stigma because I get to choose what I believe about myself. So for me breaking stigma requires intentionally breaking out of the mindset my childhood gave me. It requires me to talk back to my mental tapes that tell me I am not enough.
I knew my confession was motivated by the hope that I could change the trajectory of my life. I wanted to find a way out of depression more than I wanted to keep hiding my compulsive self-injury. I wanted an end to secrets, an end to shame. I wanted my classmates to look me in the eye and accept me for who I was, not for girl who I pretended to be.
Change is often an agonizingly slow process, but from this side I can say it truly is worth it. While I continued to struggle with self-harm for three more years eventually I developed a support system that helped me to achieve my goal of sobriety—11 years now.
To this day I live with reoccurring episodes of depression, but even that has changed. I am quicker to recognize the downward spiral, quicker to seek the help I need. I have learned to say on the good days and on the bad, “I am lucky to be alive. “
It is normal to be sad, we are human. A little sadness is what keeps us balanced. The thing is I was sad most of the time. I was sad starting at such a young age. You’re not supposed to feel that way from your earliest memories. I stopped speaking up about it because I was constantly told it was the way I was supposed to feel.