What I've Learned 3 Years Since the First Time I Went to the ER for Mental Illness

Three years ago to the day, I went to the ER for mental illness the first time. Here’s what I’ve learned since then.

1. Take prescribed medications exactly as directed.

My mental illnesses had been gradually getting worse for a while, but after I stopped taking one of my medicines without telling anybody, I went downhill, fast, ending up at the ER only 15 days after I took my last dose. I haven’t gone off any of my medicines for more than a day since then — and only then when I forget to pick it up at the pharmacy or fell asleep before taking it. People are prescribed medications for a reason; it’s best to follow the doctor’s directions.

2. OCD is the biggest liar in the world.

When you’re caught up in an obsessive moment, when intrusive thoughts are flying at you and you can’t breathe, it is extremely hard to tell OCD, “You’re lying, and I don’t need to listen to you.” Three years ago, I gave into the OCD every time. Each time I had an intrusive thought (sometimes more than 400 a day), I would panic and ritualize, therefore making OCD stronger. But with cognitive behavioral therapy and an adjusted medication regimen, I learned how to fight back and tell OCD it was a liar.

3. It actually does get better.

It’s hard work, and it takes time, but recovery is possible. The International OCD Foundation (IOCDF)  has a database of treatment providers, support groups and information about OCD for professionals, individuals with OCD and related disorders, family members, teachers and friends.

So what’s changed since that day three years ago?

I found effective treatment and implemented strategies I learned in therapy into my daily life.

I met other people with OCD and went to the 23rd annual conference sponsored by the IOCDF, where I met some of my best friends.

I found hope.

This doesn’t mean I’m “cured” — I still have bad days and take multiple medications daily. But I’m still alive and my good days outnumber my bad ones. Recovery is possible.

I didn’t know how much better it would get.

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