• Fiona Martha

2020: a year of beginning again

Dear readers,

What a while it has been. It's been nearly six months since the last time I wrote a post on here. I would say I regret it, but there's a good reason for it.

2020 has been, as I've said to a few of my nearest and dearest, simultaneously the best and worst year of my life. And funnily enough, the pandemic had barely anything to do with it - which goes to show how privileged I am. Not that it didn't have an influence, just that other things had a lot more of one. But more of that later.

I've always found it important to reflect back on the year before the new one rolls around. And this year was a rollercoaster...

At the beginning of this year I ended a toxic relationship after far too long, worked through the mental repercussions it left with me, and started to focus on myself.

When the pandemic closed down our schools, I thrived in online classes. But the pandemic brought around a great deal of friction between myself and the people close to me. The way the new rules imposed were interpreted, the way people were choosing to live, did not sit right with me. I've had more arguments on the topic than I can count, and I still stand firmly by the opinion that people need to sacrifice their own enjoyment in order to not...well, kill other people. Especially as someone in the risk group, it has been both terrifying and infuriating to see how ridiculously unaware people are of the fact that their selfishness might end a life.

During the pandemic, the person I had been deeply, but secretly and repressedly in love with since I met them, developed feelings for me. We entered into a relationship: the happiest, healthiest, most mature and real relationship I have ever had. I recently moved in with them, and I have never felt so safe and understood - a huge juxtaposition to my last relationship, and proof to me that with the right person, even the most difficult things in life become manageable. I won't mention that person by name, but I know they'll read this. And to them, I say: thank you, and I love you.

The summer brought with it a mental storm that is only now beginning to clear. Freshly in my new relationship, intrusive thoughts began to plague me, day and night. Torturously gnawing at my sanity, keeping me in a permanent state of misery. I no longer knew who I was, what I thought, what was real, and what was not. My intrusive thoughts, and compulsive actions to get rid of them, were a living nightmare, and I thought I was going 'insane'. One night in July, I woke up in the middle of the night with an intrusion in my head. For the first time in my life, I seriously wanted to end my life. It was the scariest thing I have ever experienced, and I went to my therapist to tell her what had been going on.

I was diagnosed with OCD. I have never openly admitted this to anyone except three of my closest friends, and my partner.

I cried when my torture was given a name: I wasn't a bad person, or 'crazy' - it was a condition that was diagnosable, treatable. The blame for the horrible thoughts I was having was not on me. Therapy began to take a more intense direction: cognitive drills to 'reprogram' my brain.

But it wasn't enough, and in a session together with my mother and my psychologist, I broke down, and said I didn't think I could keep going.

So I went to a psychiatrist, who started me on medication.

Starting on medication for my OCD was the biggest decision I feel I have ever made. The list of side-effects was endless, all rather severe. I felt like I had failed, if I needed to rely on pills to keep me going. For some reason, the injections I take for my chronically inflamed joints/bones were not the same thing: that was physical, I wasn't 'weak' for that. But taking medication for something mental? It took me weeks to stop blaming myself for being weak, or pathetic. To realize that my mental health was hurting me even more than my physical health - and was just as (if not more) serious.

It was the best decision I ever made. Now that I've been on the medication long enough, I've started to feel like 'myself' again. Something I had lost in the deep, dark of my mind. The adverse side-effects stayed at bay, and I can honestly say that it has changed my life.

I started at my first job towards the end of the summer - waitressing at a British restaurant/ café. The people I work for and with have become great friends, and the job itself has given me a structure and confidence I was certainly lacking beforehand. Even though the pandemic has forced the place to close for the time being, I am itching to go back. During the worst phases of my OCD, the job kept me partway sane: it was something productive, something fun, and above all, something I cared about. Those hours of work at the weekend were the highlight of my weeks, and I can't wait to go back.

I finished with therapy a week or so ago. At the beginning of the year, I was going once a week. When things got bad, I was going twice a week (for those who have no reference, that is a LOT). I then went back down to once a week, and now I have finished what was a very intense, two-year course of cognitive behavioral therapy. My quality of life has improved massively, and even though I often wanted to quit, and found it incredibly hard, I am incredibly grateful for having had access to it, and all it has given me.

A month ago, I applied early to my dream university, in the hopes of studying International Crisis Management. I got in.

I'm sitting here writing this in my new apartment, with the love of my life a few feet away. I feel safe, and happy. I feel stable.

Who knows what the new year will bring?

All I can say is, I'm ready.

- Fiona

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