The bell rung at 3:30, I’d grab my bag and wave goodbye to my classmates, thankful the day at school was over. I skipped home from school, with my wonky pigtails and baggy pinafore dress, jumping over each crack in the pavement. One crack, two crack, three crack, four. It was a fun game I liked to play on my journeys to and from school. But this game had a dangerous twist. If I didn’t get to the lampost at the end of the street, and tap it twice, within five seconds, then I’d die…right??
Wrong. Although my 10 year old self didn’t know this was the case.
I eventually grew out of these rituals. I could actually walk home without people wondering who that scruffy, wide eyed school girl was who pelted her way down the street.
However recently, things started to get weird again. So here we are, that naive, confused and innocent young girl is before you now, ten years on…embracing my mental illness.
There’s still often such a stigma around mentally ill people. I know a lot of people (including myself) struggle admitting that we might not be as mentally healthy as people might think we are. But why? Why can’t we shout it out to the world?! I know with myself, I’m frightened that people think I’m seeking for attention. Apart from close family, friends and my boyfriend, not many people know. But telling people about mental health should be as normal as telling someone you have the flu. So that’s what I’m doing today, I’m shouting it out to the world from the top of my lungs. I should be proud of every single part of me, because if I didn’t have struggles with mental health, I wouldn’t be me. And I’m god damn fabulous, so not being me would be highly disappointing.
Here is a picture of me being fabulous.
So this is my story. (God, so dramatic Claire, as always.) *rolls eyes*
I can’t pin point the moment where it started. It had been going on for a while. But at the age of 19, intrusive thoughts were controlling my life. Awful thoughts. Anxieties. Obsessions. Jealousy. Things that are actually quite hard to write about. It often makes me into a vile person to be around. I’m usually a nice person to be around (I hope?!) but when my mental illness takes over, within a heartbeat my personality changes completely. So after numerous chats with my sister and boyfriend, I finally plucked up the courage to visit my doctor. Within filling in a questionnaire, having a long chat with the doctor about my feelings *bleugh* I was diagnosed with anxiety, OCD and mild depression. I mean, wow. That was a lot to take in within such a short space of time. I’d walked into the room feeling like my normal self, and I walked out with a diagnosis, some medication and a phone number for a recommended therapist. I wanted to projectile vomit across my doctors face. But I didn’t, because he’s a pleasant man and he was wearing a very smart shirt at the time.
But let me tell you a few facts about me.
- I am extremely messy. If you walked into my bedroom you’d think you had stepped into the “out of bounds cave” of a thirteen year old boy.
- I don’t like to clean. In fact, I hate it. Those week old dominos pizza boxes can wait in my kitchen for a few more days thankyou very much.
- I don’t constantly wash my hands.
- I have never appeared, and never will appear, on the program “Obsessive Compulsive Cleaners.”
So if all of those facts are true, then how can I have OCD? Good question.
A lot of people don’t know that there are a LOT of different types of OCD. Pure OCD, Relationship OCD, Intrusive thoughts, Checking and so on.
“Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is an anxiety disorder in which people have unwanted and repeated thoughts, feelings, ideas, sensations (obsessions), or behaviors that make them feel driven to do something (compulsions).Often the person carries out the behaviors to get rid of the obsessive thoughts, but this only provides temporary relief. “
Basically, to sum it all up, it sucks. Nearly every day I think I’m going to die. Or I need to plan every single minute detail to a day out. If someone taps my face, I need to tap the other side so it feels even. I am obsessed.
Compulsive thoughts can be as follows:
What if this washing line falls on me and wraps itself around my neck until I can’t breathe?
What if I drown in this shower and nobody finds me for weeks?
The guy behind me is going to shoot me.
I have a driving lesson tomorrow, I’m going to crash.
My friends hate me, my boyfriend hates me, everyone hates me.
I’m holding this baby too tightly, am I going to kill it?
What if I stab myself whilst chopping these carrots?
What if I accidentally push this person onto the road and they get run over?
Ha. So irrational right? When I think about all of the thoughts I have, it makes me laugh. But at the time, it’s all you can think about. The thoughts run around and push against your mind until the words become engraved into your brain. And because of this, you have compulsions that you need to follow out:
Hang the washing up as quickly as possible.
Get out the shower, now. And wipe your feet twice as you do so.
Do not turn around and look at the man, if you do, he will shoot you.
Cancel your driving lesson. Quick.
Ask your boyfriend for reassurance. Ask him again. Ask one more time.
Blink ten times and the baby will be fine.
Hide the knife. Hide it in a place you won’t remember.
Going through that, mixed with my anxiety disorder, on a daily basis is pretty exhausting.
This video called “This is what it’s like to be in my mind for 3 minutes” explains it better than I ever could. It’s so worth the watch.
I’m so incredibly lucky to have supportive, open minded and understanding people that surround me in my life. OCD and anxieties want to be heard. So I’m giving them exactly what they want, I’m hearing what they’re saying, I’m making them known, I’m wrapping my arms around them, but I won’t let them control me. I’m recognizing that they are intrusive thoughts that ARE NOT REAL.
I just wanted to write this post to show anyone else suffering with mental health that YOU ARE NOT ALONE. Don’t be embarrassed, ashamed or scared about admitting it. Telling people might be the best thing that you ever did. My friends are the most accepting and loving girls I know, but I was still reluctant to tell them. But when I did, I was swarmed with support and it makes it a whole lot better. Support from your loved ones is the equivalent of getting handed a freshly made hot chocolate, with extra whipped cream and a flake (alongside a cuddle of course). Pretty god damn amazing huh. (Sorry friends, I just compared you to a hot chocolate.)
I hope in writing and sharing this post with you all (which is a very hard thing for me to do), that other people feel comfortable in doing the same. It’s not something to be ashamed about. That’s how your mental illness wants you to feel, so prove it wrong!
Let’s raise awareness and remove stigma together – it’s so so so important!
All my love,