As I sit here, head in my hands, eyes closed. All I can hear are the voices of my care team.
Care plan this, care plan that. My mum is softly crying whilst she talks to my psychiatrist.
I can feel my anxiety rising like a volcano within. I desperately want to scream and run outta here.
I want to run away from the god damn tedium of life. It's the same everyday.
I'm woken by the nurse, ringing the bell as she walks the corridors, knocking on doors and peeking in. Ugh here we go again. Another day filled with trying to survive.
I get up and immediately my thoughts turn to Death.
You see I suffer from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.
I basically spend my days trying to avoid, death, AIDS, accidents, germs and causing air disasters.
If I don't do my daily tasks in what my OCD considers the 'right' way and whilst thinking good, positive thoughts, my mum is going to die, so am I and the rest of the human race will be in peril, because I didn't do it right!!
The first awful task is getting dressed and showered.
You know how 'normal' people would just get up, get washed and dressed?
Wow! What's that like?
I can take up to two hours to shower. I must be soooo clean! Right? Well, yes I guess in the real world I'm clean, but in my head I'm covered in germs.
The sponge is most probably harbouring streptococcus or AIDS, the water runs through what I can only imagine are rusty, dirty, insect infested pipes...
I wash myself and then my hair, but as I wash the shampoo from my hair, the dirt is dripping down all over my body.
I'm not clean any more.
I must start washing again. I keep going over and over myself with the soap.
I only stop because a voice calls from the other side of the cubicle. "Lizz, how are you doing sweetheart? You've been in there long enough now, you're going to miss breakfast" I sigh, I can't just stop now I'm NOT CLEAN.
'Please let me do just one more rinse over!" I ask the nurse.
I'm not allowed too.
I'm supposed to be stopping as soon as I'm told, grabbing fear by the horns and sauntering out of the shower like OCD is nothing to me.
Quickly, I turn the shower up to boiling hot, it's so so hot and I stand beneath it for longer than I should.
But germs are killed at over 100 degrees right? So I'm finally getting clean!
The nurse, shouts at me to "stop it, you're going to hurt yourself!"
She reaches around the curtain and turns the shower off.
I'm in agony, the pain is awful, it was only quick but boy did it make me feel better.
Coping with scalding hot water on my skin is sooo much easier to cope with than spending the day in a germ infested body.
With the help of my nurse Nikki, I manage to get dressed in about half an hour.
That's damn good going, considering I put on and take off various items of clothing over and over again because I'd put them on whilst thinking 'bad thoughts' or I'd got my mind straight and then my foot got caught in my trouser leg so I ended up hopping to find my balance.
It needs to be perfect.
So I start again.
Nikki spends the time encouraging me to just do it once, to feel the fear and do it anyway. Um how bout No!
She's lovely and kind, she's only trying to help me.
But I just want her to shut the fuck up and leave me alone!!
Down in the breakfast hall everybody's already eaten and have gone to watch TV, the only people left are the Eating disorders group and me. They've probably been sat here trying to eat a slice of toast for the same amount of time it took me to get here.
They're my friends my confidants, and even though we aren't supposed to sit together whilst they are trying to eat to save their lives, I'm granted permission to sit with them.
I'm paraded as a 'good example' of how to eat normally.
It makes me feel incredibly shitty.
My friends know that they need and should eat, they aren't stupid.
But they are battling demons all of their own.
I sit and talk about the day ahead, anything so we don't have to concentrate on our own minds.
We are trapped in them enough as it is.
My mum is softly crying, I've got my head in my hands and the psychiatrist with the ridiculously sexy thigh high boots is telling my mum, that I'll be a 'Career patient'. I'll spend my life in and out of hospital.
Barely functioning, certainly not living.
My brain is SCREAMING at me to run away, to grab the shoelaces from my shoes and create myself a final farewell.
If this is my life, I don't want it anymore...
Sitting here today, looking out at my garden, the kids are running amok in the house. There's laughter, tears, Love so much Love and laughter again.
When did my life get so good?
Thinking about my childhood feels like another lifetime, a different me.
It's 22 years since the day I was told aged 14 that I was basically a 'write off'.
I often wonder if my psychiatrist, with the thigh high boots (believe me they were super odd attire! Me and the other patients used to call her Dr Sex Kitten!) realises just how much harder she made my life, with a comment, that for her was probably born of frustration. Or maybe she just wasn't a good psychiatrist? I mean, who says that to a Child?!
I wonder if it helped to start a fire inside me? If it did, it kindled in there for another decade, because I still struggled. Every. Single. Day.
I went from hospital, to community house, home for a bit and back again. Until finally I ended up in a home for homeless teenagers. Aged 19 I was living by myself.
That was the beginning of what I call my real life.
Years and years of therapy, step by tiny step I moved toward my future.
It's a lot nicer here, on this side of the fence, even though I wobble on top of it sometimes.
I still fear falling down the black hole.
Maturity despite the rubbish necessities of paying bills and being so called responsible, has undoubtably given me the chance to learn how to live my life with all guns blazing.
I always knew there was more to life than hospitals and medications.
Through the years I've learnt so much about myself and other people.
EVERYBODY has a story to tell. They say never judge a book by its cover. Even though it's quite cliche it's so true it's not funny. Everybody is just hiding some twisted, painful feelings and memories inside them. That's what makes us human.
After all I've been through I've developed a keen sense of when to call people out on their bullshit and am lucky enough to have a few close friends who do the same for me.
I always thought life was supposed to be perfect. That I now know is so far from the truth.
Nothing's perfect all the time. We live, we screw up, we fix it, we move on and around we go again.
I started to fully take responsibility for my own happiness at the age of 20 when I lost a dear friend and fellow patient to Heroin.
I remember the day profoundly when I got the call. My darling friend who had gone to Oxford University to study Philosophy, had been fighting with his illness since the September he started there. By December the 21st he'd relapsed, sought out old coping mechanisms and was gone in a freak overdose.
My heart hurts for the life he lost. For the life he SHOULD'VE HAD.
A realisation came over me. My OCD did not create this, through lack of my doing the correct rituals. It happened because it just did.
I promised him that following New Years Eve, as I looked up at the stars, that I would fight.
I would fight for my life.
I started to stop myself from doing rituals, from saying safe words and bit by teeny tiny bit it got easier. I was finally able to put into practice all of the techniques I had been taught over the years.
Exposure Therapy, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. Using Art Therapy every kind of Therapy!
Journaling my thoughts away.
Setting myself weekly goals. Starting with getting dressed, eventually trying to complete a small University course.
Learning to be mindful of what I needed to function.
Making sure I surrounded myself with good people and support. And being brutally honest with myself when I wasn't and going separate ways.
Now, I'm a mum of two beautiful souls, they fill my day with laughter and pride. I never thought that'd happen, but it did.
I am an actual Artist, I sell my pieces. I never thought I'd do that.
I've completed courses in psychology, mindfulness and understanding children's emotional behaviour.
I got married. Had a baby. Then divorced.
I met a new man. Had a baby.
We've got a house, a car and a dog!
I NEVER thought this normalish life was mine to have.
But it's mine, it's sweet, it's crazy, it's hard, it's busy, it's stressy but by gawd it's mine all mine and I would not change the past in any way. Not one bit.
I would not be me without it.
And I'm doing just fine.
Yours Community Integratedly,
All names have been changed.
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