“Despite My Diagnosis…” Stigma Story by CCM Features Editor Michelle Walsh

The Youngtown Edition (the school newspaper of the County College of Morris) is working with two other CCM clubs this semester, Active Minds and Writers Club, on a series about students in the process of recovery. This series is called “Despite My Diagnosis.” Read one of these stories, by CCM Features Editor Michelle Walsh:

Michelle WalshAs a child, I yanked my shoelaces until the aglets broke, and couldn’t tolerate wearing anything with buttons, zippers, etc. Doctors were clueless that I was struggling with anxiety.

OCD has accompanied me for as long as I can remember. As a child, I would look at road signs and add the digits to make an even number. Early on, I learned I could find control in the law abiding, unwavering solidity that is math.

After starting middle school, I quickly inherited different forms of eating disorders and self-harm, ultimately leading me to spiral. Whatever I tried, these different vices only gave the illusion of control.

One of the most disastrous coping skills I inherited was dissociation. Dissociation was a coping skill brought on by the introduction of the heaviest antidepressant I was on. Being on a near toxic dose made me feel as if I was a voyeur to my own life. Alongside this, I was involved in several car accidents, one including the totaling of 2 cars and several visits to court.

Cycling out of centers and hospitals, a vast array of labels and corresponding medications were given to me like candy. From Attention Deficit, Borderline Personality, Generalized Anxiety, Unipolar and Bipolar, I was medicated with anything they thought could give me relief.

It wasn’t until I reached Princeton House wherein they correctly diagnosed me with CPTSD and OCD, and therefore placed me into a trauma-based program. I quickly learned that trauma was the root of all my suffering.

I was also placed on medication that saved my life. Currently, I am still searching for the ideal combination of therapy and medication.

Struggling with mental illness has led to me becoming an advocate for others and myself. I found myself recently within a group that hushed me when I spoke of my traumas. From this, I unearthed that silence begets silence and that we are losing if we choose to stay silent in the face of egregious action. I continued following my passion, and have cultivated a life I am proud is mine.

Irregardless of my achievements, my OCD is never satiated. I still struggle with an achievement equals worth mindset, despite countless therapies and medications. I’ve made peace that my mental illness and I must coexist for me to exist.

The scars left behind are representative of a battle I choose to fight every day, and show that relentless hope overpowers relentless mental illness.

Break the Stigma – Start a Conversation!

From Life Center Stage:

Help us Break the Stigma and inspire hope! Please share this video and start a conversation!

On June 22, 2019, a festival dedicated to “Breaking the Stigma” was held on the Morristown Green. The festival was aimed at inspiring hope through the sharing of personal stories of recovery from substance use disorder and/or mental health. The community members performed original songs and cover songs related to their stories to raise awareness. Alternative community activities such as drumming, yoga, and interactive art, mask-making and a “I AM” photo shoot were available inviting the community to connect with one another. Six courageous and amazingly talented people shared their stories of recovery from substance use disorders, depression, boarderline personality, postpartum depression, eating disorders, and anxiety to help break the stigma that prevents far too many from seeking help. There is hope! Don’t give up!