A year ago I wouldn’t have imagined I would be talking so freely about my mental health.
Throughout my life, only a few people have known about my problems and not all of them have known the full extent.
At a Christmas party last year I was having an open discussion with a friend about her supporting Mind, the mental health charity. She was so full of encouragement that within a split second, I was talking about my own problems. To my surprise, a couple of other friends then joined in and started sharing their experiences too.
This is where it started for me. For years I hadn't wanted to talk openly about the issues I'd faced, but within five minutes that had changed, and changed for others too. It seemed to me that all I needed to do was talk.
I was around 9 years old when I first experienced symptoms of OCD. At the time I don’t remember being too badly affected by it, but looking back now I realise how much of an impact my obsessions and compulsions had on my childhood.
My mum recognised the symptoms and helped me understand and cope with them, but it wasn’t until I was 19 and working at an airport that my compulsions came to a head. I could no longer cope with the continuous hand washing, the worry of picking up infections and not being able to function without treatment.
At 29, I knew it was the time I should talk, to encourage others to discuss their own problems, to show people that there was help available to them and to help them understand they are not alone and shouldn't feel ashamed.
I did my research and found details on the Time to Change event, ordering a kit to help me for the day I left leaflets on everyone’s desks in my workplace and in our tea room and I organised with my manager that I would do a short talk about mental health. On February the 5th 2015, along with thousands of others around the UK, I stood up at my desk and I opened up to my entire office about my problems, I explained why it was important for me to be open and I encouraged others to talk to each other.
One of the managers who had been listening into the conversation asked me to do a few other talks around the building to other members of staff which I completed over the following two weeks. I was overwhelmed with the comments of support, more specifically with the people who came forward and mentioned their own struggles with mental health, and even someone who had come to realise during my talk that a family member may be suffering in silence. I was extremely humbled that five minutes of me talking about my experiences had immediately encouraged others to do the same.
Two months later, after I thought my efforts had long been forgotten, I was given a company award for my efforts in raising awareness of mental health in our workplace. It means a great deal to me to know that I have raised such an important subject in our company and that it took such an effect. I continue to make those efforts within our company as best I can, to provide members of staff with information on mental health, to inform them that help is available and to keep raising awareness.
Outside of work, I no longer keep things to myself, I am open about my life, about what I have been through and I have had others come forward to me since. I hope hearing of my own experiences will encourage them to get the help they need and I hope that others will know they can talk to me if they need to or talk to others if they feel they know somebody who may be suffering with similar issues.
I have come to realise over the last year that hiding my problems wasn't working for me, if I had spoken up sooner, how many people could I have helped? It is good to talk, and I will be standing by that forever, even if it was to only to help one more person, in my opinion, it will most definitely be worth it.