I lived twenty-five years of my life in resignation.
In high school, I was told that I had clinical depression and obsessive compulsive disorder. My reaction to my diagnoses was to give up. What was the use in fighting them? They felt crushing, inevitable, unbeatable.
My therapist was an unrelatable older man who talked to me in a condescending tone. I admit I was a difficult, obstinate teenager; I was never given the tools to deal with the intense emotions and anxiety I faced, so I acted out in hurtful ways. I couldn’t find a medication that would solve it for me. Most produced nasty side effects. Some even made me suicidal.
Even the closest people in my life rejected my situation. One of my best friends told me she didn’t believe OCD was a real malady. She said that I was making it up to get attention. I felt like the people around me more or less gave up, and so I did, too.
I stopped talking about it. I resigned myself to the fact that no one wanted to help, and I was determined to grit my teeth and bear my pain in silence.
Despite my best intentions, however, the struggle wouldn’t stay quiet. In my classes, I regularly had profanity-laced outbursts. Any stressor triggered a soul-crushing breakdown. One night a police officer even took me to the hospital because he asked me what was wrong and I replied, “F–k off.”
I didn’t think I was worthy of being cared about, so I gave up caring about myself. I thought maybe I could escape the pain when I went to college, but it only got worse. I moved to New York City and then to L.A., and my symptoms grew until I reached my all-time low, landing in a psych ward under suicide watch.
For years after my release, I knew a change needed to happen, but I was waiting for someone to come along and change me. I wanted a miracle or a magic pill. When those didn’t materialize, I began to self-medicate.
I numbed my depression and anxiety with drugs, alcohol and food. I searched for the love I couldn’t find for myself in unhealthy relationships. These choices dragged me further into the darkness, cementing my sense of resignation and my certainty that nothing would ever work.
After a particularly horrible breakup, I felt lower than I ever had before. I made a plan to take my own life and I didn’t tell any of my friends or family, because I didn’t want them to talk me out of it this time.
Thankfully, a friend sensed that I wasn’t in a good place, so he asked me to have lunch. He sat down and asked me what was going on, trying to get me to open up to him — something I was terribly uncomfortable with because of past rejection.
While he gently and lovingly pried, something in me finally broke. I began crying, and I felt the truth bubble up out of my throat unhindered.
“I’m just so tired of being the victim,” I sobbed.
While he was rendered speechless, I realized that what I’d said was the raw, unspoken truth I’d never faced. I had been a victim of my disorders for my entire life. I had been living in hopelessness and helplessness for years, placing Band-Aids on top of the pain instead of healing the wound itself.
Hearing it out loud shook me. I couldn’t believe how powerless I sounded. After mulling it over for hours afterward, I finally realized the story I’d created and been living was just that: a story.
The “reality” of my situation was based in anger of being misunderstood and the frustration that I had these disorders to deal with while all these “normal” people around me went about their lives without this torment inside. I felt cheated, and so I gave up my power; I submitted to a life without color. I victimized myself into being a “disordered person” who would never get better … because I never considered that maybe I could.
That’s when it hit me: I was playing the victim. I was resigned to that part in my story.
To change it, maybe all I had to do was accept another role.
What if I chose to play a hero instead? What if I decided that I could heal? What if I could live this life in spite of struggle?
I had wasted years waiting for my disorder-relieving prince to come and heal me, but I’d never tried to rescue myself. I was so angry that I had to carry this mental and emotional heaviness. And refusing to simply accept that this was the way I was only added to that weight.
That night, I consciously decided to be my own hero. In a matter of hours, I shifted my lifelong resignation into acceptance. I accepted the fact that my brain worked differently. I committed to living my life fully no matter what my medical record said.
When I shifted my focus from resignation to empowerment, I was able to commit to the practices that would become my new way of life: consistent exercise, constant self-development work, and therapy — lots of therapy.
I took responsibility for my life, even if I couldn’t control all of it. I realized no one was coming to save me, so I saved myself.
Many of us with mental illness don’t get the appropriate support when we’re diagnosed, and so we let hurt and anger guide us into resignation. We give up. We let our diagnoses define us.
To heal, we must realize that giving the pain all our power only hurts us. @StrongInsideOut
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It won’t change the past or make people understand what we’re going through. It only keeps us from living the life we’re capable of, no matter what diagnoses we receive.
We can’t control much of what we’re given in life, but we can control whether we live our lives in spite of it. We always have that choice.
With distance, I can see now that these disorders were gifts. I am stronger than ever now that I’ve learned to live despite my struggles. I know how to reach out to the right people for help and how to cope when the disorders gain power.
Now I tell my story to help others heal. I’m hoping that you find a bit of yourself in this one so that you can shift from resignation to acceptance, too. It’s all a choice. What role will you play?
Amy Clover is the force behind Strong Inside Out, a site that inspires you to overcome any kind of struggle through fitness and positive action. After struggling with depression and suicide, Amy turned it all around with the help of consistent movement and adopting a proactive mindset. She created the Strong Inside Out Bootcamp workout program to help people with depression and/or anxiety get — and keep — moving in a struggle-specific, supportive environment. To learn more about Strong Inside Out and get a FREE 10-minute workout to lift your spirit and your butt, click here! You can connect with Amy on Twitter & FB.
Image courtesy of Jocelyn Maloney.December 29, 2015