April 5, 2016

I remember when the grips of depression, anxiety and intrusive thoughts first gripped me. I was 15 at the time and it was the first day or first week of year 11 and I was terrified.

I had always suffered from bouts of low self esteem, thoughts of suicide and bulimia, but here came a dark cloud that was persistent, aggressive and increasingly debilitating. I knew that it was different. After months of crying in the rain (yes, I did that), waking up with anxiety and constant rumination, I decided that I needed to go to the GP to tell her that I was “crazy”. What really happened is that I burst into tears and said that I felt really sad and was seeing things (what I later learned were called intrusive images), she referred me to see a local therapist who when I got there informed me that this was the last day the service she ran would be operating. How. Unfortunate.

After some time, I went back to my GP and was referred to a psychiatrist, who later gave me a provisional diagnosis of schizophrenia (I had only seen him twice and then I probably missed an appointment and ran away to uni). After a year on anti-psychotics, incredible weight gain, not feeling any better and wondering about my diagnosis, I started to read self help books and decided to do some more research of my own.

I didn't realise how many forms OCD could take

What I found astounded me. There were so many people out there who had the same symptoms as me and were talking about it being called obsessive compulsive disorder. I knew that I had already suffered from OCD, the TV kind. The one where you repeatedly wash your hands and have to have things looking or facing a certain way unless your insides twist and knot or you’re hurting yourself or other people. I hadn’t realised that OCD came in many forms and that there were a wide range of symptoms. At university I was prescribed anti-depressants which took the edge off bulimia, depression and symptoms of OCD. At the same time, I began regularly seeing the university counsellor. I became less ashamed about speaking to mental health professionals about my symptoms and how I felt. It was never easy and it took years to get there, but I did it and a psychologist finally let me know that which I knew all along: I didn’t have schizophrenia.

When I look back, the thing that took me so long to get the help that I needed was my shame in speaking about what I was going through. Doctor or no doctor, therapist or no therapist, psychiatrist or no psychiatrist, I didn’t want even them to think that I was “crazy”. That I would inevitably end up violent and aggressive and would therefore meet a sad and pitiful end, so I did and said the bare minimum. I took medication and let the GP know how I was feeling, but I didn’t explain my intrusive thoughts and I certainly didn’t explain my intrusive images. Then there were friends that knew that I was on anti-depressants, but the word depression seemed like something people would understand more than intrusive thoughts or images in relation to OCD. Nobody understood that the reason why I didn’t want to go out was for fear of being triggered or because I felt so alone whether I was amongst my peers or not. I was harbouring a secret that I was ashamed of and shame is not conducive to self esteem or change.

The shame around mental illness isn't worth it

My shame was still ever present but it began to decrease and after 10 years I found myself less ashamed, and more willing to speak about mental health openly. Not necessarily my mental health, because I can be a private person, but mental health in general to the point where I decided that I would begin sharing mental health links via Facebook, Twitter and my blog. Now that I’m older (and therefore wiser- ha!), I think that the price of shame surrounding having or even knowing someone with mental health problems is too high a price to pay. Shame is why symptoms escalate, shame is why people don’t go to therapy, it’s the reason why people don’t tell their family and friends, shame costs lives, it leads to suicide and strange behaviours that others don’t or won’t understand, shame is what causes isolation and keeps a person harbouring a secret that should not be their sole burden to bear when professional help is available.

It has taken me so long to realise that the shame isn’t worth it. I look forward to the day where someone saying that they are going to see a psychiatrist or therapist won’t make us want to shut down the conversation, where talking and addressing the serious issue of mental health head on will feel like the rule and not the exception.

What do you think of the issues raised in Remi's blog? Tell us in the comments.

Share your story

Too many people are made to feel ashamed. By sharing your story, you can help spread knowledge and perspective about mental illness that could change the way people think about it.

Comments

Stigma

Schizophrenia is not any more crazy than ocd, there are degrees of stigma within stigma, please be wary of this

A fascinating insight into

A fascinating insight into the true horror of OCD when it is left untreated and misdiagnosed. I have nothing but admiration for Remi and everyone who shares their story. Thank you Remi xxxFYW6

Stress and mental health

I really don't know what to say right now as my thoughts are jumbled about this subject, I will hand right something and do another post soon. I find it difficult to catalogue things right now. Need to straighten things out to make some sense. Bell

Hey, I know that

Hey, I know that schizophrenia is not anymore crazy than OCD. However, the medication and treatment are VERY different. Another thing to bear in mind is that it's a heavier diagnosis to carry if you're already ashamed of not feeling in control of your mind. Furthermore, everyone wants the right diagnosis so they know what's going on with them-I knew that I didn't have it. If you're referring to the part where I didn't want professionals to think that I would end up violent, well that has been before and after my correct diagnosis. As long as you have a mental illness people think you're not in control.

misdiagnosis

I had 4 misdiagnosis including one for scitzophrenia before the health board admitted they were wrong. That whole time I was without my appropriate medication which is my anti depressants, it drove me to suicide attempts. They were mistreating me with forced anti psycotics which has ruined my looks and made me unhealthy. I was a prisoner in my home for twelve months because of muscle spasums from a different anti psycotic also and the horror of forced pointless treatment and other abuse from staff will never leave me. Misdiagnosis should be talked about more often.

I am sure that schizophrenia can be treated

I am sure that schizophrenia can be treated and I am agree with guys that schizophrenia is not any more crazy than ocd. A lot of information about schizophrenia I found here schizohelp.info

Compassion and support is needed across the board.

mental ill health gets worse if not treated, it also gets worse when those around you, sometimes those closest harass you about it ! How can an ill person get better or manage their illness if those around them are trying to convince them that there is nothing wrong - that is STIGMA. The social care in Edinburgh are to blame too. They leave you to rot in a care home with very little benefit income, which leaves you excluded and alone. Appointments and treatment plans are discussed, but never come to fruition ! ...so those with health problems are left to ROT for months - when you are struggling with mental health issues months can seem LIKE YEARS!!! Edinburgh should be ashamed of itself. I could tell you some terrible stories of what exactly is going on still in the year 2017 right here in Edinburgh. People are not getting the treatment plans they need, and even when they do - they never ever happen, or it is too late.

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