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April 19, 2018 marked the start of a nightmare dressed as the light of freedom from the prison of being at home locked in my room every day. As a person who suffers from a debilitating anxiety disorder, I was desperate to get help by going almost anywhere just so I can control my anxiety. As I was about to board the plane at the gate in Harlingen, Texas, I hugged my mom and cried. I remembered all the times I told her how, if it weren’t for my crippling anxiety, I’d run for the hills and go to a big city and live the life I so desperately want to live. This was my opportunity. I was flying to Fort Lauderdale, Florida to seek treatment for my OCD. I was so excited.
I will never forget my tears of joy as the plane took off and I saw Rio Grande Valley, Texas become smaller and smaller and smaller until it was just a speck to my far left.
When I got to Fort Lauderdale, I detoxed from Valium for a couple of days and then I started treatment. Unfortunately, the treatment center was nothing like they said it’d be over the phone. I begged them to let me go back home but they wouldn’t hand me my belongings for 72 hours if I walked out on them. That is to say that without my phone, I can’t make any plans. Without my wallet, I can’t go very far and without my meds, my anxiety will relapse and I’ll probably hurt myself. I wanted to leave so horribly. I remember crying myself to sleep several nights but they ruthlessly didn’t care. They didn’t give me access to a phone so I was basically forced to conform and stay at a place where they weren’t helping my OCD at all.
I spoke to my “therapist” about leaving but she didn’t care about how I felt at all. I once asked her if she could stay after 5 PM to help me call my mom since making a phone call had to get approved from your therapist, and she didn’t let me. She told me, “Oh honey, no. My day ends at 5.” Eventually, after much prayer, God answered them and my “therapist” said I could leave with all my belongings and go back home. I’m now back home and I’m still working tirelessly to treat my OCD just to live my life free from being in the cage OCD holds me.
I never give up. I never stop. I keep moving.
I don’t have a choice but to do this.
On one of the days where I walked out on the program in Fort Lauderdale, I ran fast as they were chasing me. I ran so fast. My heart was beating out of my chest like crazy. I was so scared. I was petrified that they would catch me and lock me inside a windowless room and that I would be in big trouble.
I somehow managed to get ahold of a stranger's phone and I called my mom crying telling her I wanted to go back home. I was shaking so badly with dread since I was out in public and my mom was in Texas while I was in the streets of Fort Lauderdale, Florida in an unknown place while guards were out looking for me. She cried several times because she was so worried fro me. She felt so alone. So powerless. So sacred. In retrospect, I shouldn’t have called her panicking about the program. I should have just asked her to demand that they let me go. If I could go back in time and change what I did so that I could save my mom the pain of being worried sick about me, I would. God bless my family and my beloved mom who never gave up on me.
“Go back to the center, Ivan. They will kick you out into the streets if you keep walking out on them and leave you without anything and you will go through an even harder hell. This experience will make you stronger. You’ll make it out alive. I love you. I just want you to come back home.”
I LOVE YOU, MOM. YOU ARE SO STRONG AND I TAKE YOU FOR GRANTED. GOD IS BY OUR SIDE ALWAYS. DON’T EVER FORGET HOW MUCH I LOVE YOU. STAY STRONG, MOM.
(The picture of the airplane’s wing is of that wing from me flying back home the day they released me from the treatment center.)