Personal Stories

My Lifelong Battle: From Victim to Victor

My story started at nine years old. Plagued with OCD and crippling anxiety, I wasn’t dealt a “normal kid’s life.” Instead of birthday parties and sleepovers, my days and evenings were filled with intensive therapy, lots of tears and relentless fighting with everyone around me. I was captured by disorders that didn’t plan on letting me go without a fight—so that’s what I did. For two years, I endured intensive CBT therapy and my life was forever changed.

I knocked out my obsessive behaviors and my mind latched onto depression and bipolar disorder to take its place. From nine years old and on, I would struggle with things that no child—or person—should ever have to struggle with. My life was taken over and it was up to me how I would proceed.

At 14 years old, I was harassed at my middle school which led to my first (of many) psychiatric hospitalization. But my admission wasn’t because I was sad or depressed, manic or anxious. My admission was due to anorexia nervosa, the new obsession that had taken me over.

My eating disorder was a form of control. I didn’t have a say in what happened at school, the changes going on at home or the transitions happening with my body. I turned toward restriction of meals to claim control of one single thing in my life. I dropped weight like crazy. The funny thing was, no one knew. No one noticed when my pants size went down by two in one month. No one noticed my protruding ribs. They barely noticed the fact that I wasn’t eating. I thought I was good at hiding it because no one said anything to me. I realized only a few years ago, that people did notice but they were just too scared of me to say anything. I was a teen with raging bipolar disorder that could snap at any minute, and I realize that that’s what I found my identity in for the longest time. It was my crutch—my reason for basically everything I did.

After I was discharged from the hospital the first time, I went home to new diagnoses and a handful of tools on how to combat them. Now it was just a matter of whether I would put them into play or not. For the longest time, I did. I used what little common sense I had left and poured it into making myself better. I truly wanted nothing else than to be in control of my chaotic life. But, history does repeat itself, and I went back to my eating disorder. Hesitantly at first, then full speed ahead.

This time, however, my anorexia alone didn’t cut it. I still harbored the feeling of not being in control. A long way back, I remembered seeing something that I thought might help: self-harm. People self-harm for a number of different reasons. My reasoning was that again, I didn’t feel in control and I felt numb to my surroundings. I cut not for the attention or the rush; I cut to control what happened to me and to remind myself that I am still alive and able to release something. That unhealthy habit landed me in the hospital again, and not for the last time, either. Even in the hospital, my addiction grew to new heights and it wasn’t until my extended stay was over that I thought I could live a normal life like I thought I had the previous time I was discharged. 

For the next two years, my eating disorder came back on and off several times. The coping skills I had learned and adapted to grew fainter and fainter until they disappeared altogether. Med change after med change made me even more angsty and upset—which is the opposite effect of what medication is supposed to do for a patient. Due to the changes in medications and the changes I was going through, I was back in the psychiatric hospital three more times in those two years.

After those last three times, life did change for me. I became more stable, more content. Happier, even. But, when I was 19 years old, I was admitted to the hospital twice yet again due to my extreme mood swings and dangerous impulsivity. After a lot of help and a shocking realization of one of my medications, I was discharged again and sent to a rehabilitation facility in central California.

Rehab was never something I thought I would need. My battles were with mental illnesses, not addiction. But, the final time I was in the hospital, it was brought to my attention that I had been on a narcotic psychiatric medication way longer than I should have been. My medication is a fast acting, habit-forming medication given to people to help battle anxiety. Patients should be on this medication no longer than 30 days. I was on it for five years. Realizing that this medication helped me tremendously, psychiatrists kept increasing my dosage without thinking about the “side-effect” that came with it: addiction.

Being on this medication for so long, I realized that it did help me, but sometimes a little too much. Over a year and a half, I started abusing my narcotic, faking anxiety attacks to get some, calling in scripts saying that I really needed it, or even just taking extra because I needed the writing inspiration that came out of me when I was high. That year and a half of abuse turned into a year and a half of addiction and dependency. I finally realized I had a problem after blacking out and fainting after taking a little too much.

Without admitting I needed help and without getting that help, I would not have gotten clean from that additive narcotic medication. Without leaving everything I knew and loved for 40 days, I would not have realized that I needed not only psychiatric changes, but life changes as well. After those 40 days, I came back addiction-free and like a new person.

I’m not saying, by any means, that the rest of my life will be easy—or anywhere close. I know that because of my struggles, I will be in a battle with myself for the rest of my life. I know that because of my past addiction, I will struggle with cravings. But, because of what I’ve been through and how I’ve gone through it, I know that I can take on anything life throws me. I’ve learned that just because I struggle with something doesn’t mean that I am that struggle. I am more than my addiction. I am more than my mental health conditions. I am more than my past. I am a fighter, a warrior and a victor.

 


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