On paper, I’m a 22 year old Psychology graduate with a lovely boyfriend and a supportive family. I spend about 90% of the time in fleecy PJ bottoms, have very high maintenance eyebrows and am very fond of cake. However, what many people don’t know about me is that I face a daily battle with obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD).
The term OCD gets thrown around a lot: for those of you who don’t know, OCD is an anxiety disorder made up of obsessional thoughts. These obsessional thoughts cause the individual to carry out compulsions in an attempt to reduce the uneasy feeling. For example, with myself, I have a constant dread something awful is going to happen. When this unwelcome and, quite frankly, terrifying thought pops into my head, I find it far too difficult to just ignore. My brain tricks me into thinking if I don’t want this awful thing to happen, I must complete a routine to prevent it. It seems irrational even writing this down but the OCD makes it seem so real.
As you can imagine, it is exhausting being on constant alert. I feel that I am in a constant brace position waiting for the bad news to hit me from all directions. I convince myself that it’s not really a case of “what if?” this bad thing happening but “when?” is this bad thing happening. I almost feel like I want this bad thing to happen to me now because I “know” it’s coming and I want to get it over and done with. Like an embarrassing doctor’s appointment or a presentation in front of 30 people.
In my final year of university, the anxiety became too much for me to cope with. It spiralled into depression and I faced a really difficult few months. I find it fascinating when people can recall their experiences with depression through blog posts and autobiographies etc because I really cannot reflect nor can I vividly remember my own. When I look back on this period of my life, I see an empty, dark tunnel where time crept by slowly. Until, I eventually did find the exit. It is my recovery from depression that I can remember. My family were the ones who encouraged me to seek help which I am so grateful for. At a time I wasn’t present myself, they were there to recognise this. I ended up being prescribed medication and received regular counselling, both of which helped me immensely.
However, I do still have good and bad days. I don’t think my OCD will ever completely go, it’s something that will forever accompany me through life. But I’m still pushing on and I will not let it stop me. So take that OCD. It feels that now is the right time for me to write a blog about how I have dealt with mental health being such a massive part of my life. The help I have received for both depression and OCD has driven me to help others who are also struggling and I hope that I will be able to do that through writing about my experiences. Alongside this, I have recently started training to be a Counsellor on a Masters course!
Writing about OCD is also incredibly important because I think it is quite possibly one of the most misunderstood mental illnesses. People often tell me that I shouldn't feel the way I do because I don't really have anything to be anxious about. Although it may seem like you have yourself sorted on the outside, it's impossible for others to know what's going on on the inside. What happens on the inside is that my OCD creates things for me to be worried about. Imagine agonising over everything that could ever possibly go wrong, ignoring the likeliness of whether or not it could actually happen and completely dismissing any rational protests you try to challenge your thoughts with. This is what OCD is like, not alphabetically ordering your CDs or making sure your room is kept tidy.
It's important that we think before we make assumptions; we need to make sure we are a little bit more aware and open minded to what people may be coping with under the surface. And remember, just because you can't see it doesn't mean it's not there.
I hope to use my own personal blog to share my journey of being an individual with mental health difficulties to being a qualified Counsellor with mental health difficulties. Please follow me on this journey at www.memyselfnmentalhealth.wordpress.com