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Is YOUR Attitude Worth Catching?!?

“Attitudes are contagious. Are yours worth catching?” ~Dennis and Wendy Mannering

Mental health is something that normally has a negative meaning attached to it. I don’t believe this has to be the case. My own mental health issues in some ways have been positive for me. Before I begin, I want to explain that I have Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder and Bipolar Disorder.

Ever since I was a child, my obsessiveness was there. I was a perfectionist. I got good grades and did well in school. I remember one time in sixth grade when I got a B in Math; I cried and had a panic attack. Shockingly, I even LIKED school. I got a scholarship to a good college and did well. My OCD seemed to be working to my advantage. It wasn’t until I got a “real” job that OCD got in the way. I was a very good employee and very well-respected. I always went above and beyond what I was supposed to do. At some point, I could not handle the pressure any longer and snapped.

I began doing destructive things, mainly drinking to self-medicate the racing thoughts out of my head and to calm the panic. There were times that I would drink on my lunch break. Meanwhile, my work performance began to suffer. I had had so much of always saying yes to everything and not setting limits. Drinking became the only way for me to stop my mind from racing, so I began drinking too much at after work events.

One night I was driving home from an after-hours social function and was arrested for a DUI. This was not the me I know. The me I know doesn’t do reckless things and put her own or someone else’s life in danger. But I did. I thought that was my “rock bottom”. It wasn’t. I lost my job because of the DUI two weeks later, and within a week I got a second DUI. You must be thinking, “How is this affecting her positively?” That comes much later.

A year of self-pity and low self-esteem followed. I didn’t recognize the person I had become. The driven, motivated me was gone and was replaced by someone who pretended that problems would just go away. I did nothing but feel sorry for myself and how I had messed up my life. During this time, I had pushed aside the thought that I must finish my DUI classes and just didn’t do them. It was simple avoidance. Meanwhile, I got arrested AGAIN for violating the terms of my probation—twice (because there were two cases and I didn’t do the class).

One night in April 2010 after another episode, my brother came to get me to bring me to a mental health hospital. They would not take me that night as I had been drinking. The following day we went for an evaluation and it led to the end of my destructive life. After an evaluation in which I sugar-coated everything, the psychologist recommended me for a daily outpatient program instead of being hospitalized as an in-patient. Even though my family felt I needed to be hospitalized in-patient, I stuck by this decision. It was the first decision I had made on my own in a long time.

I was there for three weeks. I flourished. To me it was like school all over again where I could excel. I began to keep a journal, which turned into a blog. I learned coping skills and more about my illness. I met other people that share many of the same anxieties and fears as me. Two of the girls and I will remain lifelong friends. I began to feel good about myself again.

I have signed up for the required DUI classes and am going this weekend. The court will drop the charges of the violation as long as I do what I’m supposed to do. For the first time in a long time, I am doing what’s best for me.

So much good has come from understanding my mental health issues. My blog has done very well, which makes me happy that I can be a voice and speak out so that others know they’re not alone. I had always dreamed of becoming a speechwriter, so my dream of writing is coming true. I also get to help people, which makes me feel fulfilled. If just one person reads my story, sees there is hope out there and that you can turn your life around, then I’ve done my job.

Please know that you are not alone—many people struggle with the same problems as you. It’s what we do with them that counts. I am dedicating my life to becoming an advocate for mental health awareness and helping to eliminate the bad name that it has. We are strong people, just like everyone else. We just happen to have thoughts and quirks that are unique to us. That is what makes us special.