At 16 years old I sat in my first therapy session and was told that I “had no real reason for having depression”. I was doing well in school, I had plenty of friends and there was no single particular traumatic event that had triggered the decline of my mental health. According to my therapist this made it impossible for me to feel anxious or depressed. After two more sessions I was totally convinced that I’d manifested these feelings myself and actually had perfect mental health, so I left.
OCD tends to be viewed as excessive handwashing and a fear of contamination. But for the first 6 years of having diagnosed OCD, I don’t think there was ever an instance of me considering germs any more than the average human.
Having anxiety has impacted a lot of areas of my life, but it has especially affected my ability to cope with tasks that are, to many people, mundane and every day. Phone calls are an area of everyday life that I find particularly difficult to mange my anxiety around. They can often be unpredictable and without facial cues from the other person, I find it difficult to comprehend how they are reacting to what I am saying.
I’ve experienced mental health problems for many years now, but apart from a few close friends and family members, I found it hard to talk about. I felt that no one around me could understand what I was going through just trying to get through day-to-day life, at work and generally.
In 2018 I had a particularly negative experience in my workplace at the time. I disclosed my generalised anxiety disorder and social anxiety to my line manager. She gave a dismissive response and an unfortunate, repeated stigmatising attitude.
I have bipolar schizoaffective disorder. I’ve had it since as long as I can remember, it first rearing up in lesser form when I was a child. Of course, the older I get the stronger it becomes, so my actual diagnosis was when I was thirty one. That was for bipolar disorder, which became easier to deal with once I learnt Carrie Fisher aka Princess Leia had it; the schizoaffective bit was added on later. What did he say? Schizo? Hell no! Run for the hills!