I’ve suffered with anxiety and OCD for well over ten years. I didn’t know for a long time what was “wrong” with me – it gradually got worse and consumed more and more of my life. For most my teenage years leading into early twenties I thought I was just a bit “weird” and it was just who I was as a person – awkward, unlikeable and a clean freak terrified of germs.
Eventually it got unbearable and I became depressed. I’d started avoiding seeing my friends which resulted in me losing a lot of them from constantly cancelling plans, I avoided family gatherings and I became a recluse at work.
My mind was constantly riddled with negative thoughts about what people thought of me and would over analyse any social interactions I did have until I was burnt out. The friends I did have left I would presume only spoke to me as last resort. I was so desperate to stop feeling like this. Eventually I was diagnosed with OCD and social anxiety. Being able to put a name to these feelings I’d had all these years made me feel so much better.
The next struggle was opening up and talking to people about it. I was desperate to do this but found it extremely difficult. Talking to people was already a huge challenge – even a simple hello or goodbye would be a struggle for me sometimes, so opening up about something so personal that I’d kept in for so many years was hard. I worried that people would think I was odd, over sensitive or over reacting.
Some people have been really supportive – most people, unless you’ve suffered with it yourself, do not understand at all – but this is okay.
I don’t need people to understand it, having support and just somebody who will stand by you and listen to you when you need it is invaluable.
My boyfriend for example, will tell me he doesn’t understand it but he listens and asks questions. If he thinks I’m struggling he’ll ask me if I want to talk about anything because he knows that sometimes I really don’t – I just want to work through it myself. He’s even researched anxiety and OCD to help him understand me better which has made our relationship so much more solid. I couldn’t really ask for more from him.
I have recently told my boss at work about my anxiety – I had a period of time off work as my dad was very unwell which heightened my OCD and anxiety. She really surprised me – she was so understanding and as I was opening up to her she shared experiences with me and gave examples of things that matched my anxiety perfectly. This was a huge relief and I’m so pleased I took the plunge in telling her. It has made work less daunting knowing that I can go and grab her for a chat if needed and that she understands completely.
Not all my experiences have been positive. The worst responses are when people try to argue and reason with your anxiety and OCD by saying things such as “everybody feels like that sometimes” or “germs won’t hurt you” or when they suggest things that might help you – that’s the worst one, and they’re never helpful suggestions. Or even when they just simply looking at you like you’ve got an extra head.
I have noticed a positive change over the years however with people’s attitudes to mental health. I’m so pleased that it is not such a taboo subject anymore and people are encouraged more and more to talk about it.
If you think somebody might be suffering – I urge you to ask them how they are or just simply let them know that you are there if they want to talk, and that you won’t judge.
The thing with mental health is it doesn’t always make sense – in fact it rarely makes sense to anybody else and it’s rarely logical thinking – I have made up my own rules in my head for my OCD and anxiety that don’t even make sense to me but that’s the way it is for me.
I have been having CBT sessions for a little while now and it has helped a great deal. I still suffer with both my anxiety and OCD but I can cope better with them and I’m more comfortable about talking to people about them. I’m in a much more positive place in my life now and I want to encourage people to be able to open up more and get the help and support they need.