Eleanor: When I was six I was first diagnosed with OCD. I was waking up in the middle of the night to clean the bathroom. I got the diagnosis and I remember going to a few therapy sessions for it, but I wasn’t put on medication or anything like that. I was already pretty heavily medicated because I had a lot of health issues when I was young, so I think my parents didn’t want to add anything else on to it, which is fair looking back on it, but I think it should have been more of a warning sign than what they took it for. They told me to quit cleaning the bathroom so I did. But I just became very controlling over other parts of my life.
The root of the problem was never really addressed and that’s that I felt insecure in the house because both of my parents are alcoholics. The presence of that being in the house was definitely affecting me. I was a very empathic child. I knew there was a lot going on even if I didn’t know exactly what was going on.
For a long time I tried to keep everything as clean and perfect as possible, so that nobody would get angry. After a while I realized that it wasn’t working, so I started doing other things. I self injured [cut] for a while. I wanted a way to control the kind of abuse that was directed towards me. If I abused myself, at least it was me choosing it.
BW: Do you remember how old you were when you realized your parents were alcoholics?
Eleanor: I think it was when they started involving me physically. I started noticing a pattern of how it depended on how much they had to drink. I ended up just getting caught in between them which was a really shitty place to be.
BW: Have you ever tried to kill yourself?
Eleanor: Yes. It was a few years ago, before I got clean. It was one of the things that led to me thinking that maybe I have a problem.
BW: What was your drug of choice?
Eleanor: Benzos and drinking. I went to my psychiatrist with insomnia and was prescribed a low level of Ativan. Then I had a roommate that had a prescription for Klonopin and they got ninety per month. They only used thirty so I bought the other sixty off them.
BW: How’s recovery going?
Eleanor: You know, it fluctuates a lot with me. I’ll have really good times and harder times. Right now I’m back in the upswing of recovery. I go to meetings. I have a home group. I have service positions.
BW: What do you hope to do with your life?
Eleanor: Hopefully I’ll be a master violin maker.
BW: Oh, that’d be cool. Do you play the violin?
Eleanor: Yes, since the third grade.
BW: Do you think that helps with your mental illness?
Eleanor: Oh yeah. It was kind of the last thing I let go, even in active addiction. I kept it up for a little while and I’m starting to pick it back up now.
BW: I find photography very therapeutic. Ever since I picked up a camera, I always had an idea about doing something with addiction. Have you ever thought about that with the violin? Is there a way to connect those two?
Eleanor: At some point I hope to start some kind of program where I make instruments to give to inner city schools, so that they can start a program without having to worry about the cost of the instruments. All they’d have to do is hire a teacher to give kids, who might be struggling, an option.