I thought for a long time about whether to talk about mental health on here. I finally decided that since I talk such a big game about ending the stigma that surrounds mental illnesses, I should be part of the fight for transparency.
I hate that mental illnesses and physical illnesses are treated so differently. So, I’m going to speak a little bit about what I’ve been going through in terms of my mental health.
I was diagnosed at the beginning of this year with GAD and OCD. Respectively this stands for Generalised Anxiety Disorder and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. The two often come hand in hand because both have a very similar, chaotic effect on the brain. OCD is probably more well known, however, I would say it is entirely misconstrued in the media. My form of OCD doesn’t result in me compulsively turning light switches on and off or cleaning my house to within an inch of its life. In fact, even though I’m organised, I’m a pretty untidy person when it comes to my bedroom etc.
My OCD manifests in compulsive, negative thoughts which overwhelm me. For example, my brain will immediately jump to an irrational thought which most people would simply be able to dismiss. For me, though, the thought repeats over and over and festers for hours. I also find myself setting irrational challenges for myself. For example, if I don’t manage to wash and dry my hands and run back to my bedroom by the time the toilet cistern has stopped making a noise, someone I know will get hurt or I’ll have to do something I don’t want to do. I know these thoughts are irrational, but they are compulsive and overwhelming.
GAD has a similar effect. The thoughts merely revolve around everyday things in my life. So I would feel nauseated and panicked at the idea of meeting a friend for a coffee. It’s not that I don’t want to do the thing, it’s that my brain comes up with hundreds of negative ‘what if’ questions which leave me feeling unbelievably anxious and scared to leave the house. The amount of people who have said ‘Oh well everyone gets anxious!’ to me is infuriating. It’s not that I’m a bit fucking nervous. It’s that my brain is telling me there’ll be a shooting at the fucking cafe and we’ll both be brutally murdered if I meet up with my mate. It isn’t reasonable anxiety. It can’t be fixed by someone telling me ‘don’t worry’ or ‘but there’s nothing to worry about?’ ‘That won’t happen!’ I know. I seriously know. But my brain is fucked. Deep breath.
Anyway, the combination of GAD and OCD is exhausting: physically and emotionally. Biologically, the brain is working so unbelievably hard to process all these different possibilities and argue with itself and try to process everyday tasks and deal with unexpected issues and patronising people who think they’re suddenly licensed psychologists… It’s an overload. It also often results in a lot of restless energy, which is why I’m a compulsive leg twitcher – sorry anyone who has ever sat near me!
The reason I feel able to lay all of this out in the open now is because I recently asked for help. I turned up in my GP’s office back in January and basically sobbed in his office asking to just medicate me. After a few trials with different medications and dosages, I finally felt like I was on top of my own anxiety. However, I still had the negative and unrelenting thoughts. Plus, I don’t think medication alone can ‘fix’ someone, it can just deal with some difficult symptoms. I reached out to a service which my big sister told me about. It’s basically a self-referral therapy service in the Midlands. I was approved and started CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) in July. Over the past few months I have been seeing Liz every week and working to re-order my thinking. It’s basically a hands-on way to attack your poor, damaged brain. I wasn’t bothered about why I have OCD & GAD, I don’t really care, I just wanted to do something proactive to be able to control it. Counselling is about looking back, and for me that was useless (tried it, thought it was a piece of piss in all honesty… probably didn’t help that I wasn’t a very open teenager and just refused to be honest with my counsellor…..)
ANYWAY. Wow this is gonna be a long one, congrats if you’ve made it this far! CBT has massively helped me. I still obviously have my issues, but CBT has given me the tools to deal with them. I would seriously recommend trying it if you are experiencing any mental difficulties. I would also recommend talking to the people around you. I’m really lucky because I have an incredible older sister and a partner who both take an active role in making sure they understand the ‘illness’ and just generally being fab and supportive. I don’t know if you’re reading this, Tig, but I really, really appreciate you and all the support you give me.
If you’re struggling, please understand that as you start to open up to people there will 100% be some patronising shits who won’t understand and who will probably tell you some groundbreaking method to just get over it and stop being ill. Wow! So easy! I’m cured! (WOULD YOU SAY THAT IF IT WAS MY LEG THAT WAS BROKEN????) But also, you will realise that you have some incredible people around you that will do their best to understand and support you through your journey. If not, fuck ’em, come and chat to me. I’d be more than happy to literally just listen to you rant for an hour about how useless your friends/family are. I’m here.
Okay, I’ve probably missed a load of things out so if you have any questions please feel free to get in touch. I won’t be offended by any questions you ask (unless they’re rude, obviously haha) and I’d love to discuss mental illnesses much more openly. Ask away. Fill in a contact form if you’re not confident enough to leave a comment.
All the best, loves. I hope this has helped someone.
Here’s the link to the service which helped me so much. It’s self-referral & you can fill in the form online so it’s not too intimidating. Look after yourself.