About two years ago, I stopped writing.

Writing has always been a large part of my life, and it continues to be the one thing that, without fail, helps me through my roughest patches and my toughest decisions.  I’ve been doing it since before I could spell the word “mom”, and something tells me I’ll be doing it until the day I die.  So why did I stop?

When I was around eight years old, I began showing signs of a little something called OCD, or Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.  OCD is rather self-explanatory; it is a mental illness, at one point placed under the anxiety spectrum (though it now stands alone as a unique illness), characterized by detrimental cycles of thoughts and behaviors, or obsessions and compulsions.  It’s one of the most common mental disorders, with 2.3% of the United States population alone suffering from it.  It also happens to be one of the most socially accepted and romanticized mental illnesses (a topic which I will save for another time, seeing as I could go on for days about it).

It started out innocently enough, with little rituals here and there which I could easily hide.  Over the years, however, encounters with other mental disorders and a very perfectionistic personality helped it to snowball into countless rituals and obsessions which were constantly interfering with my daily life, to the point where I would barely leave the house and didn’t do things with friends, and had a much more difficult time at school.  

Fast forward to my eighth grade year (when I was thirteen years old), and everything became so much that I simply fell apart.  A few months later I found myself in a treatment facility, and I thought that my life - and any chance I had at a career in writing - was over. I would never become an author: writing was simply too much.  I’d tear up notebook after notebook until I couldn’t take it anymore and just like that, I stopped writing.  Sure, I’d scribble a few words here and there, but I couldn’t even write a proper journal entry let alone a poem or an essay.

This went on for about a month, and that month could easily be considered my darkest month yet.  I had lost the thing that was always there for me to an illness I thought I couldn’t control.  I remember hearing all of these stories about people who have learned to control their OCD, but I never thought that would be me.  After all, how can you win a fight against your own mind?  The idea itself was enough to send me spiraling into yet another cycle of self-deprecating behaviors.  I had run out of hope, and I was ready to give up: until, in a spur-of-the-moment decision, I sat down and wrote a poem.

I wrote a poem and, to commemorate the event which inspired the other girls in the unit to create their own works - and for those who didn’t write, to find an existing poem which inspired them - we began hosting weekly Sunday night poetry slams featuring the residents and staff of the facility.  The first poetry slam was one of the most memorable nights of my life.  It was the first time I had ever read my poetry to other people, and they actually enjoyed it.  It was so freeing.

After that, it was like all of the writing I had refused to do for that period of time spilled out of me.  My body was a river and the pen opened the floodgates, with words pouring out in every direction.  I would write at least one poem a day (though it was usually two or three in one day).  I was unstoppable.

Don’t get me wrong - I still struggle with these obsessions and compulsions on a daily basis, and it sometimes still prevents me from writing.  I couldn’t even tell you how many notebooks I’ve destroyed since treatment.  But, if there’s one thing I can tell you, it’s that I am finally living out the very dream I thought would never come true: and I couldn’t be happier.  OCD - and mental illnesses in general - are crippling things and have a way of making you feel completely hopeless.  However, it is completely possible to take back your mind and your life, especially with the correct help.  So please, if you or someone you know shows symptoms of OCD or any other mental disorder, speak up.  Don’t suffer in silence.

In case you are interested, here is the poem I wrote on the very day which inspired me to follow my dreams once again:

 

A Life Led By Us, And Only Ourselves

There’s a knife in my hands,

and blood in my eyes,

but it’s not death I’m after;

it’s life.

A life without pain,

a life without misery;

a life led by me, and only myself.

 

I’m sick of being told that it can’t be done,

that me and my mental illnesses,

we are all one.

But I’ve realized myself, that I really can live

I can live a meaningful life,

a life that includes happiness,

a life that I love;

a life led by me, and only myself.

 

I’m becoming myself,

and I’m shedding my old skin.

I’m finding my interests, my values, my sins.

It’s nice to meet the person I am,

and say goodbye to all I am not,

to stop pretending and playing a sick game;

to live a life led by me, and only myself.

 

The blood and tears have only just begun,

but I know that the wound inflicted on myself,

is one that can heal.

It will be messy -

don’t get me wrong.

I may scar, but it won’t ruin me - I can finally live;

live a life led by me, and only myself.

 

It won’t be me that dies -

no, it will be my illnesses, my mistakes, and all of my bad memories.

And when they’re on their way to the hospital, fighting to live,

to have one more breath of life,

I will throw at them all I can lift.

So that finally, I can be the one to live;

a life led by me, and only myself.



 

Sometimes, goodbye means opportunities,

it means another chance.

And sometimes, we’re allowed more than a second chance.

Sometimes it takes more than one goodbye to escape,

to escape from the ropes that bound your hands together for so long.

But I have the knife to cut off the ropes, and the tools to make it out of my cell,

to live a life led by me, and only myself.

 

It sure won’t be easy,

and I might lose the key a time or two, or even more.

But that’s okay -

you don’t gain the skills to break out of prison in one day.

It will take logic, and emotions, and sometimes just action.

But it will be worth it to live;

to live a life led by me, and only myself.

 

I may miss the place I once was in -

it provided safety, security, privacy, control, and numbness to life.

But I want to feel,

whatever that may be,

whether it’s good, bad, or anywhere in between.

I’m ready to live;

a life led by me, and only myself.

 

So suit up,

grab your sword.

The only way out is to fight.

It’s okay to lose a battle,

and you might even fall out of the ring.

But in the end, I can live, and so can you,

a life led by you, and only yourself.

 

And when we come out on the other side of this mountain,

the mountain we never thought we could climb,

the mountain we fell down a few times,

the mountain that, in the beginning, didn’t even seem worth it,

we will be strong,

and we will be ready,

to live a life led by us, and only ourselves.

Image from:  Bere, Zurich. OCD Art. 2012. Ebaum's World. 16 Jan. 2014. Web. 27 Aug. 2016. <http://www.ebaumsworld.com/pictures/ocd-art/83805476/>.

Published by Jasmine Uitto