As I grew older, I had a defiant personality, and I struggled with my self-image. In middle school, I struggled with anorexia. I was under the doctor’s strict watch and was warned that I’d lose my hair if I didn’t start eating. But still, I’d throw away every meal my mother made. Every now and then I’d nibble on a thin slice of cheese, bread, or a small handful of Rice Krispies—foods that I felt wouldn’t cause me to gain weight.
After graduating high school, I lost my first loved one. My high school boyfriend passed away in a tragic car accident, and my life took another emotional spin. Through all the turmoil, I worked full-time, took college prep classes, danced on a team, bought my first car, and juggled many other responsibilities.
A few months after graduating high school, I attended a concert my cousin’s band was playing in, and I met the band’s bassist—my future husband. I moved in with him, we lived above a garage on his mother’s farm. We had no running water, no basic necessities—we lived like that for six months. Eventually, it was time to find a home that had what we needed.
I purchased my first home at the age of 20 while I was working as a housekeeper at a local hospital. But, while working there, I also started to develop some obsessive traits: endless handwashing, constantly sanitizing my shoes, washing the inside of my car every single day, washing my house each time I walked through it. It all became very debilitating, I had begun fearing germs intensely. OCD became a frequent cause of arguments in my relationship because I set my standards of cleanliness extremely high, both in my house and life in general.
In 2018, I got married, but towards the end of that year I noticed my mental health starting to go downhill, and I had no idea why.
In 2019, I experienced my first visit to a mental health institution—in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. I spent a week there. The whole time, I felt like a lab rat. I was constantly observed. The shower didn’t even have a regular knob—I had to keep pressing a button to release water.
I did meet a few friends there that I still keep in touch with today. I realized that all of us in there were from all walks of life—it made me feel better to know that I wasn’t exactly alone.
At the time, I was working full-time at a doctor’s office. I had to decide to resign because I couldn’t show up without either having a panic attack before my shift or having a panic attack while on shift. I remember calling a family member on the way to work, crying uncontrollably about how I just couldn’t do it—it was at that point I decided to let the job go. I was then placed on disability, but it took a long and complex process before I received any funds. With the panic of my mental illness, and then adding financial anxiety on top of that, I was a complete mess. But I held on for the ride.