When Crisis is Your Default
I always wonder what it’s like to be “normal.” I’ve never experienced it. Ever since I can remember, I was riddled with anxiety, living in constant worry. When I was a kid, I didn’t understand it, and neither did my parents. I would get so anxious about going to school, even in kindergarten, I would be physically sick. I didn’t know how to express what I was feeling, so I would just tell my parents my stomach hurt and I felt sick. They chalked it up to having a kid who didn’t want to wake up early and wanted to go back to bed, and sent me to school with a “barf bag” and told me I could come home when I filled it up.
I remember in first grade, my best friend had appendecitis, and was in the hospital for about a week after her surgery. When she told me what happened (in true first grade fashion- that her appendix almost “exploded” inside her), I was consumed with the fear that mine would, too. The smallest side cramp sent me into a full blown panic that my insides were going to explode. Again, my parents just chalked it up to having a hypochondriac child. The early signs of my mental illnesses were written off, and honestly, who could blame them? I grew up in the nineties, the mental health movement wasn’t exactly booming.
Things that would send me into full blown panic earned me the labels of being dramatic, lazy, a hypochondriac. I would hoard paper under my bed and have a melt down when my mom would throw my papers away. They weren’t important- literally just scraps. But it was enough to send me into a meltdown. If my brother made a mess in our room, I would have a full blown mental break down and be so overwhelmed I would sit on the floor and scream and cry. I even had a pair of orange shorts that I would strictly only wear with the pockets turned out. God FORBID if my mom tried to tuck them in. These were all labeled as quirks.
It wasn’t until I hit middle school that things started seeming… off. I could sort of express how I was feeling, but wasn’t very educated on what it was.
I began making myself throw up every day after lunch in seventh grade. I’d leave lunch early to go to the bathroom and purge and then head to gym class like nothing happened.
By the end of my freshman year of high school, I was bestowed with a bi polar diagnosis and promptly started on medication. I went from having such violent mood swings, where I would literally go from screaming to laughing to crying to back to screaming within a half an hour, like a broken record of emotion, to being somewhat stable. I stopped purging, but instead just stopped eating almost altogether.
By the time I went to college, I received yet another diagnosis- OCD. At the time, I thought it was ridiculous. I didn’t flip the light switch seven times, or circle the block twice before leaving for class. And that’s when my psychiatrist explained that that wasn’t what OCD really was. It was “anxiety on crack.” Once I learned the ins and outs of the illness, everything clicked. It felt like my whole life was put into perspective. The fear of leaving the house, the constant worry about my health and my parents health (even though we were all relatively healthy), even down to the orange shorts with the pockets turned out. All I’d ever known was anxiety, I just… didn’t know what it was. I didn’t know that’s not how everyone felt all the time.
By my sophomore year of college, the anorexia got out of hand and I was slapped with an official diagnosis for that, as well. I was 5”3 and down to 90lbs, give or take. My period had completely stopped, my hair started to fall out, my teeth had began to deteriorate. And I wasn’t doing it to be skinny—I was doing it to be in control. Just to be in control of something, because my life had always been a constant state of crisis and chaos. I couldn’t control my moods or my thoughts, and a lot of times, even my impulses, but I could control what I ate. Now, six years later, I look back at pictures of me and my friends and I don’t recognize myself. I distinctly remember thinking I was a little chubby, but in reality I was so tiny you could make out my bones. I would wear baggy clothes to hide my “chub” but really just looked like a sickly toddler swimming in a man’s XL t -shirt.
And then, I just started to get better. I was getting professional medical help, I was in therapy, and I was on a solid medication regiment. I had a wonderful support system between my friends, family, and professors. And honestly, college was the best time of my life. Not because of the parties, or the flings, or the fresh taste of freedom. It was so great because I was able to heal. I was able to be genuinely happy and relatively care free. It was like I was reborn. I went from a constant state of flight or fight, constantly worrying about what would go wrong, to enjoying life and truly finding who I was when the illnesses weren’t taking over. And I loved her. She was smart and funny and kind.
I’m twenty-seven now. I lost my job about a year ago, and I just got medical insurance back this month. Im starting my medications again. And in the past year, I regressed a lot. Things are still bad. But I’m looking forward to healing, once again, and finding that girl who had a passion for life.