By Michelle Lemme

Approaching the one year anniversary of my “descent into hell”; and where am I today?  I am pleased to say that I am healthy and, for the most part, happy.   I’ve learned enough to mostly manage (live with) my troublesome anxiety and obsessive/compulsive behaviors.  Frankly I can’t really wrap my head around how my “OCD behaviors” are linked to my depression, having said that, I do find that doing the behavior is soothing, I guess because the act of performing certain behaviors consumes all of my focus and attention, which is sometimes a huge relief.   My compulsive cleaning is under control (most of the time), but, I simply cannot leave my face alone, touching, picking and making a mess of my skin – who wouldn’t pick at their face if they were always peering into a 15X magnifying mirror!!  Obviously, I still struggle and know that I still have things to work on, which is why I continue to see my therapist.

I continue to struggle with the whole “not working” thing, which I was thrust into when I got sick.  If I am honest, I know that I have allowed myself to believe that my “value” is and has been defined by my career.  I have even considered going back to working fulltime with an organization, rather than maintain my consulting business.  I have had a couple of interesting interviews, however, nothing has panned out, which leaves me filled with self doubt and loathing.  I never once consider any other reason for my lack of success in landing something – must be that I’m a loser (core belief).   In any case, the more time that passes, the more I am enjoying not working.  Although, I struggle with the “guilt” that I feel as a result of not doing something of value (as I define it).

I have always believed in the adage that what will be will be, and that all of us are exactly where we are supposed to be at any given moment in time, whether we understand why or not.  Honestly, had I not gotten ill last year, I am certain that I would still be spinning out of control in every aspect of my life.  Being forced to stop spinning allowed me to develop and utilize skills and tools to manage my OCD behaviors and thinking patterns, which are so disruptive and debilitating.  This is especially true when my thoughts concern my daughter.  I still get flashes of gut wrenching fear/panic that she will never get it together, which leaves me feeling helpless and sometimes hopeless.   I have been seeing her regularly for the last couple of months – post visit, I am always exhausted and emotionally drained, but, I am managing.  I will always struggle with setting boundaries (in every aspect of my life), however, at least I can have her in my life, after all, she is my child and I love her.  Just seeing her name flash across my blackberry causes my heart to palpitate and my breathing to become erratic –my fallback therapy and answer to everything is BREATHING.  Who knew that something so simple could be so impactful?  The single most important thing that I learned at Day Treatment, was how to control myself through belly breathing, I literally, do it whenever the thought pops into my head or when I feel anxious.  Works for me almost every time.

I have gained and lost the same two pounds at least 6 times over the last year.  When I was switched from Zyprexa  to Abilify,  I foolishly thought I would be able to lose the 25 lbs that I gained from taking the Zyprexa.  NOT.  However, I must say that I am healthier than I have been in a very long time.  I am acutely aware of every morsel of food that goes into my mouth and I usually make good choices.  I am also back into my fitness routine, which I know is good for me regardless of my inability to lose weight.  I still despise conflict and do everything in my power to avoid or prevent it …this is exhausting and ineffective.  I firmly believe that if I never had to leave my home, I wouldn’t.  But, I force myself to go out when invited and meet my friend at least once a week to walk the dogs in the woods.  I shop compulsively (online) and feel remorse after every order I place, and then, turn around and inevitably repeat the pattern.  At the heart of everything I do or feel are my core beliefs, which are predominated by “I’m not good enough”.  I’m OK with this, as just knowing that this is one of my core beliefs gives me the ability to challenge it and makes me a stronger person.  My hope in the immediate future is to get agreement from my physician to stop taking the Abilify, with the full commitment to going back on the medication, if required.  Does the thought of a reoccurrence scare me?  Of course, but I know that in many ways I am no longer the same person I was before I got so sick.  I am stronger, both emotionally and physically and am ready to take the “risk”.

You never know how strong you are until being strong is the only choice you have.

 – Anonymous.