I used to write all these little thoughts down in instagram, but now that I don't have that anymore, I've found coming here to be just as important. Part of me wants to keep all of these little things tucked far, far away in a little external hard drive that nobody will ever see, but then the other part is like, no. No more hiding.
So, about a year ago I was diagnosed with OCD. At first I was shocked because I don't check door knobs and I don't count anything, and I basically live in dirt and mud. I don't wash my hands a lot (heck, I barely shower!) and I don't fixate on hurtful fantasies. These were all the things I thought I knew about OCD. I didn't fit into that picture, so I thought I just had silly quirks that had gotten out of hand.
But, nope. I have a very specific and rare form of it that deals with contamination of things I put into my body. Food, drinks, medications, vitamins. Even shampoo, creams, lotions, nail polishes... Basically anything that could possibly get into my system comes with an unending list of potential dangers. My form of OCD stems from PTSD avoidance behaviors gone bananas.
In high school I was drugged. So, I slowly began avoiding any situations where there might be a chance of it happening again, and then, before I knew it, I was checking my apples for evidence of syringe marks because what if someone walked into Whole Foods and injected my fruit with drugs.
I have kept this a huge secret because I thought that if I told, someone would read this blog and then find out where I live and come and drug my morning vitamins. Writing this, is actually part of my homework to face this one, specific, fear.
I wish I was kidding.
Living with this anxiety disorder has been exhausting and embarrassing at levels I never even knew were possible. It fucking sucks. No way around that.
I refuse to back down. Refuse. And I have made HUGE strides since I began treatment last year. And I love myself with this mental illness. And I value myself with this mental illness. And having this mental illness only makes me more badass because it's just one more thing I am surviving. I am a better mother for having this because I am showing my children what it means to be a human being who can do hard things.
And those statements are important to say out loud publicly, and they need to be said more.
There is no shame in my warrior game.
I remember when Thomas broke his collarbone mountain biking while we were on the Airstream trip. He continued traveling for months until finally, when he could not move his arm at all, looked me in the eyes and told me we needed to stop so that he could take care of it. I remember how terrible he felt. How his face was cradled in his hands as he sobbed. He didn't want to stop our adventure, he didn't want to seek help, but he knew he needed to.
I'd pick him up from his physical therapy appointments and he'd come out all sweaty and pissed off. "That guy is an asshole! He hurts me so much! I know I need it but still!" He'd yell as he slammed the door.
And I know that experience so well. Going through pain to be painfree. Admitting you need help when all you want to do is ignore it all. My therapy is the fucking worst. I have to force myself to the point of almost passing out with anxiety in order to get rid of anxiety. That's the only way to beat the OCD monster. So I eat things that might have been laced, and I put hemp cream on my arms and I sweat and I shake and I leave my body to float somewhere, anywhere, that isn't inside my crawling skin. I cry and I curse my clinicians and I want it to all just go away.
And it is. Little by little, it is.
But, the big difference is, after his physical therapy, he'd change back into his work clothes and I'd drop him off to the office and he'd chat with his friends about another grueling day trying to move his shoulder. He didn't feel the heavy burden of shame pushing down on his shoulders. Because that'd be silly. Instead, they'd all laugh and talk about how awesome it will be once it's all over with.
Nobody thought less of his ability to do his job. Nobody worried that he was a risk to the company. Nobody demoted him. Nobody whispered behind his back.
And that is why I am writing these words today. To maybe be 1/10,000th of the change that I would love to see in the way we view mental illness. If I can stand up and say hey, sure, I have this thing that makes me not able to eat in restaurants (yet!) but/AND I'm doing what I need to do and I'm building my muscles and I'm still living an awesome and happy and productive life, then maybe other people who are suffering in the mud will be able to keep their chins up a little bit more, too. Maybe the mother, brother, husband, sister of someone else who is working so hard to heal from their own battles, will look at them in a new light.
Yes, I have clinical OCD. But it's no biggie. I also have a successful business, and a loving family, and a circle of beautiful friends. I laugh hysterically at QVC clips and buy my groceries at Target and dance in the setting sun daily while setting the dinner table. I'm still Michelle.
I work on my recovery every single day, but it's not all I do every day, and there is SO much more to me than this label slapped across my heart.
I don't drink or abuse drugs to numb out. I don't avoid my issues. I go to therapy every week and I create art daily and I sit my fanny down on my yoga mat and re-teach myself how to breathe, again.
I have a mental illness, and I am beating the odds, and there is absolutely nothing to be ashamed of, there.
In fact, I am proud.
People said not to share this on here. They said it would negatively effect my business and my brand. But everything I have built has been on a foundation of courage and resiliency. They said I wouldn't be able to continue on with this scar made visible. And my response to them, just as it has always been to anyone who has ever doubted me, is, without hesitation,
W A T C H M E.
Photo by Braedon Gardella, 2014