I had the opportunity to talk with a great friend who also deals with mental illness yesterday. I am the veteran. She’s the newbie.
I told her about my new obsession with locked doors and my subsequent compulsion to lock and unlock and then lock them again three times in a row. I told her I know it is stupid and it is frustrating and it is time wasting and it is worry wasting.
But I can’t help it. I have OCD.
She asked me how I get over feeling bad about my compulsions or the things I do when I am depressed or manic. The answer was simple enough – I accept that I am sick. I know that there will be bad days and when they come I roll with the punches. I know when I am manic I will do things I regret, but I forgive myself. I know that there are tiny – and big – compulsions I act out to alleviate my anxiety, and I know it isn’t my fault.
You see, I accept that I am mentally ill. Not a well taken title, but a label for me for the world, nonetheless. My mind doesn’t work “normally,” whatever that means. I consider it a bit of bad wiring. Too many chemicals in my brain. Not enough. I don’t know. I just know that sometimes I do things that make no sense. Why cut my wrist? As humans we are built to self-preserve. Fight or flight is our foundation. So why would I think about guns and knives and pills as a way out of this life?
Because I am sick.
Don’t get me wrong, as I told her, “I am no saint.” I still stew over decisions I’ve made or the way I’ve acted, but what is perhaps different between she and I is that I have the ability to let it go. Maybe it is because of the magical sentence said by one of my favorite psychiatrists, “Elaina, you don’t have to apologize for being sick.”
What a burden lifted so I will say it to you – you don’t have to apologize for being sick. Yes, apologize for mistakes. Yes, apologize when you hurt someone. But don’t apologize for being you, for being a sick version of you. There is no shame in that.
I can’t worry about labels -I have too many. Rapid cycling bipolar 1, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD),anxiety disorder, and a former disordered eater. See even now, some of you are thinking, “That Elaina J, man, she is crazy.” That does not hurt me. Crazy is a nice soft black hoodie that I can put over all those labels. I do not mind saying anything about my disorders, but I really love that hoodie.
Previously I told you that you do not need to wait for the other shoe to drop. We can live in the now. Now, I shared that you don’t have to be sorry for being sick. Tell me you do not feel lighter after that. You are cool. You will get through. Forget about labels.