Saturday, October 31, 2015

A Fearless Fighter of OCD, ADHD, Anxiety, and Depression - #IAMSTIGMAFREE

Last Saturday I had the incredible opportunity of being part of the #IAMSTIGMAFREE campaign that was started by Ashley from - Ashley is a rockstar in every single way and I'm so thankful we are friends. This girl is changing the world!

She had us tell our stories in such a small amount of time and there was so much more of my story I wanted to share, so I decided to blog about it.

Here's the story that was filmed:

And here's the music video:

My whole story:

I have lived with OCD for seven years, I grew up watching my mom battle OCD every single day, but I never suspected that I was then going to develop it as well. My mom is a fighter, oh I just love her for all that she is! Her life isn't easy and yet she is so strong! OCD comes in so many different patterns, often when people think of OCD, they think of a neat freak. They think of someone as a very orderly person, their home is always clean; well that sure sounds nice, but that's not my story. I actually wish people wouldn't use the word OCD as just some cute little quirk that they have for being organized and particular, because it is REAL. It is a battle every single day for those that haven't been given a choice that this is the way they want to live their life. 

My OCD first started out by being terrified of germs, just constant intrusive thoughts of "You're going to get sick if you do that, if you go there, if you touch that." OCD is intrusive, unwanted thoughts and they only way you take control is by doing your routine, for me that was a lot of hand washing. It was a matter of constantly feeling like I wasn't clean and a fear to live the way I saw ordinary people living. I tried so hard to deny that I had OCD because I saw how hard it was for my mom and dad to get along because of this illness, I didn't want to carry this into a marriage I didn't yet even have. I didn't go get help because I was in denial about the truth of what I was facing, and I never saw my mom go get help and treatment for hers, so I guess part of me felt as if it was untreatable. 

As time went on, it progressively got worse. I was constantly worrying about being around anyone, for fear that I would then get sick because I had no idea who had been sick earlier that week. I despised finger food, hospitals terrified me, and even while watching TV shows I would panic if they ate food without washing their hands before. It was bad, so extreme. It was exhausting to live life this way and finally after four years of this, in 2012 I just broke. I couldn't handle it anymore, I wasn't sleeping at night, I became very familiar with anxiety attacks, and I honestly wanted to die. This fear that was taking every single space in my mind and had made it so I just didn't to want to deal with it or even life ever again. 

I want to take a moment to say something, it is possible to wish you weren't alive while still never having thoughts of suicide. Our society has a huge stigma on mental illness and suicide, and guess what, I choose to BREAK that! It's okay to yearn for Heaven at times. It's okay to be so broken that your Spirit becomes homesick for Heavenly Father. As a society, we have the tendency to look at suicide attempts and these pleas for Heaven and never really see the strength behind the person or the battle that was faught. We have the choice to get to know these individuals better, and to look beyond what only the eye can see, so often we don't take the time to do just that. The strength that these individuals have is incredible, they are fighting to save their life because they know it's the right thing to do. I want to make clear, I am NOT condoning suicide in any way, shape, or form, but behind every single person who has ever had the thought they are tired of this world and it's just too hard, there is strength and a warrior, please choose to see it! Sorry I just went on a rant there, I just know too many people who have felt weak and looked down upon by society, when they are using all the strength they have to get help and just keep pushing on. 

I started to go to a therapist as my life became unmanageable, I would go visit her in her home downtown and she was the nicest lady ever. She was an angel that came into my life because she would tell me that OCD and anxiety are gifts that come from Heaven and there is good in it if we will just look to find it. 

Can we pause and have a mental illness lesson for a moment? It sure helped me to understand it better, so I'm hoping it can help just one other person. 1 in 4 people have a mental illness. It is a chemical imbalance in the brain. So what? What does that mean? Well, it means that it is treatable, but not curable. It's a battle that the individual will face their entire life, but they can manage it and it can become controlled to a point where it almost seems as if it doesn't even exist. However, there will be triggers and life events that will bring it back as well. There are four very important "happy" chemicals in the brain; Dopamine, Serotonin, Oxytocin, and Endorphin. All four of these are vital to keep you happy and living a normal, if not almost normal life. Now, most likely every single person on this planet is going to experience sadness and feelings of depression at some point in their life depending on events that occur. Those that fight with a mental illness are up against a battle of imbalanced chemicals every single day of their life, and there are certain practices that need to be done to keep these chemicals in order. The foods you eat, the exercise you participate in, finding ways to make personal connections such as hugging, and even activities that bring peace and serenity into your life are vital and help to balance out these chemicals. When the happy chemicals are missing, that's when depression enters in. Sometimes a mental illness can be so bad that only certain medications can fix the problem and that can be different for every individual as well. 

There is a lot that plays into the battle of mental illness but there are two things I want to say about it:

1. Those with mental illness are NOT their mental illness. They are a person and they deserved to be seen and viewed by others for just that, WHO THEY ARE! We have to break these stigmas, we just have to because individuals deserve to be seen for more than the challenges they are fighting against, especially if 25% of our population is facing these battles.

2. If you face a mental illness challenge - THERE IS HOPE!!
This is a HUGE one I want to emphasize because Satan was often feeding me lines of "You're never going to laugh or be happy again, you have depression and that is going to hold you back all of your life." - Can we break that lie right here, right now? Yes, some have a harder time than others to snap out of it, and triggers and life situations play a HUGE role into it! But that doesn't matter, what does matter is that Christ atoned for even those who face these mental challenges and He is going to be there every step of the way as they fight their battles. Don't give up, HOPE is real! Because of Christ, hope lives on forever no matter what you may face! 

So back to my story, as I was fighting OCD in the most extreme ways, it became progressively worse because of the stress I was under, as I was in a very manipulative relationship. It was absolutely horrible and the stress made my OCD come to a point where it was unmanageable. As I was fighting this very real challenge in my life, I started to slip into a deep depression and anxiety. There is no other words for it than a tarring of the soul. I started to feel as if I were drowning and all hope was gone. I remember one day walking around temple square and I got up to the Christus at the top of the visitor's center and I knew without a doubt in my mind that I needed to break up with the boy I was dating and hope was just around the corner. I'm not going to tell you things immediately got better from there, because I still had a long and hard fight of depression ahead, but I will tell you that more light started to shine in my life than I could have ever believed to expect. 

A common misconception we have when we talk about the atonement is that everything becomes healed. I don't think that is quite true, if it is, I haven't experienced it yet. I have had moments in my life where healing from the atonement came so strong, I thought it was a permanent change and I would never fight with mental illness again. I believed that and held onto it so strongly, that when something started to trigger my mental illness once again, I was ashamed. I couldn't figure out what I had done wrong for grace to be taken away and for these battles to start flooding in once again. In reality, I had done nothing wrong and the atonement was still there for me. We have to walk and experience a portion of the journey Christ went through in our personal lives, sometimes more than once. We have to battle our own gethsemane. That doesn't mean we are bad people, that doesn't mean the atonement isn't real, it means we are humans, here for a learning and growing experience and while the atonement brings peace, light, hope, and happiness in, in the most incredible way, it doesn't always mean permanent healing forever in this mortal existence. The atonement brings very real happiness, and I testify of it's strength, but permanent healing isn't always the case and that doesn't mean the church isn't true. In fact, to me it's an even bigger testament of the power of the atonement. 

As I started to seek out Christ more in my personal life, more hope and light started to shine and I felt stronger every single day. I had more faith and more courage to keep pressing on. I started school again and I was getting straight A's. I was so happy and life was good. I was on cloud nine and started to believe everything would be perfectly wonderful from here on out. Things became hard again when heartbreak came into my life. Heartbreak was a trigger on top of a few more stresses of life and I once again slipped back into depression and anxiety, which then triggers my OCD to come out again. It is hard and sometimes feels so unbearable. I wouldn't wish it on anyone in this entire world. It can sometimes leave you feeling as you are less than a grain of sand being washed up by the ocean. 

Add my battles of inattentive ADHD on top of all of this, and it made my struggles even harder. In my life, inattentive ADHD looks like becoming bored quickly, time management battles, struggling in memory, lack of motivation, processing information more slowly. It's just a mess, and I had no idea I had it until I started struggling in school once again. My story isn't over, I'm still fighting every single day. This isn't a story of happily ever after in every single way, it's a story of hope in the day to day life. I don't for a moment think we are given the battles and challenges that we have "just by chance". I believe Heavenly Father knows our hearts perfectly, He loves us, and He stands beside us no matter what we face and because of what we face.

I believe we go through the trials that we face so we can help certain people that will come into our lives at a later time that will face the same trials that we had to overcome.

I believe the trials that we go through soften our hearts, allowing deeper understanding and empathy toward others. 

I believe that no matter how alone you may feel in your trials, YOU ARE NEVER ALONE! So many people are willing to help you and love you! Christ is walking right by your side as well. 

For so long I didn't want to share my story, for so long I felt like hiding from all the challenges I was facing, for so long I believed I didn't even have a story to share. Not anymore Satan, not anymore! I am speaking out, I am standing up, and I am doing something. I am breaking the silence on the taboo subjects, I am breaking the stigmas people choose to place, I am breaking the beliefs that there is no hope and no one else like you. 

We ALL belong, we ALL have a role to play, we ALL matter! 

We ALL face trials, but we all are fighters! Some pain is noticeable to the eye and other times we have no idea what a person is facing. But we all have a voice to speak up and say kind words. I imagine a world where we judge less and love more! And that's what I'm fighting for! 


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