In 2018 my life significantly changed – my mom died, I came out as queer, lost my job, and started deconstructing my faith. Beyond the normal grief that comes with some of these events, I was overwhelmed with depression. And with that, the underlying mental health issues that had been manageable (aka ignorable or justified as being “a sensitive person”) became unmanageable. Certain “issues’ started to flare up more and more, impacting my relationships and daily life.
In the 6 years leading up to that, I had been denying my true self and becoming increasingly disgusted with myself for being attracted to the same sex. Those years stitched self disgust into the fabric of my heart and weights of depression continued to be piled on top of me. Religious rhetoric had convinced me I would be single my entire life, and any other way of life was to deny God. At my lowest point I had tried enlisting into conversion therapy, only to be interrupted by a phone call from my Dad (thank God).
With help and encouragement from a few trusted individuals and the looming morality of losing my terminally ill mom, I finally came out. But simply accepting myself and accepting being fully loved by my new partner didn’t immediately erase the damage of the last few years.
All of this came to a peak when my mom died and I lost my job. I became more and more obsessed with life events, saying the right things, and confessing worries to my partner. The depression would keep me in bed until noon and the anxiety of saying goodbye after a weekend of visit from my partner would leave me in a full on panic attack begging her not to leave.
After one particularly bad episode of breaking down in front of my partner, she did some searching. She suggested I watch a Netflix show called “Explained” about mental health and anxiety. In the episode, a comedian talked about her struggle with OCD. That was the turning point. The moment I knew I had a diagnosable issue. I had never heard anyone else talk about their thoughts in a way so relatable. Our struggles weren’t the same, but our patterns of thinking were. The thoughts and compulsions I had been dealing with for over 15 years but didn’t align with the stereotypical “washing your hands” OCD, so I had never considered it as the root issue. But the more I looked into OCD and its symptoms the more I knew I needed professional help. So I got it. And eventually, I got medication to help with my depression and compliment my therapy.
I know medication isn’t for everyone. It needs to be a careful decision you make with your doctor and therapist. But for me, it changed my life. The weight that held me down constantly, the bouts of extreme sobbing until I had migraines, the desire to do nothing, and be nothing; it all lifted from me. The OCD became more manageable, grief became manageable, and I enjoyed being with my loved ones again.
Three years ago I wouldn’t have believed I could have a genuine smile again. One that didn’t feel forced or exhausting to wear. But today I smile while having coffee with friends again. I feel hopeful about the future, not filled with dread. And I breathe lighter with more peace.
I’m still working on learning to love myself every day, unstitching that fabric of disgust I had built up. It’s a gradual hard process, but worth every step. If you’re struggling, know there’s hope. If you know someone who’s struggling, know that they can get help when they’re ready, and things can get better.
Image credit: Rebekka D
Renée Wood is a graphic designer, illustrator, and adventurer. Seeking to invite others into community and authenticity with her work and life. Away from her drawing desk, you can find Renée playing cards with her family, moshing around at a punk rock show, or wandering through the woods.