Understanding the Invisible
Speaking up about Mental Health
Today I am doing something I have never done before: I am sitting down at my computer and writing about my own personal mental health. This is not something that I ever discuss with the people in my life, in fact it's a topic that I actively avoid. However today, as I type, it is World Mental Health Day and I have decided that today is the day I bite the bullet.
From a very young age I have been living with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and doing so on my own. My earliest memory of my disorder is around the age of 12 but I am certain that my OCD had begun to implement itself into my life long before that.
From my experience of other people's perceptions of OCD, the main assumption is that someone living with this disorder is usually someone who washes their hands 15 times a day, has to flip a light switch a certain amount of times or needs everything to be compulsively clean and tidy. Of course these are some of the symptoms of this disorder but the fact of the matter is that no one person with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is the same. The disorder has many different manifestations and causes.
Personally, my OCD is a part of everything I do. Growing up, the smallest thing was a struggle: climbing into bed, getting dressed, writing, even eating. One of my first jobs growing up was in the kitchen of my parents local pub. I remember one day I was sitting in the staff room and one of the girls came in from a smoke break and threw her cigarette packet on the table next to me. I just stared at the packet. Placing down that packet would have been a ten minute production and fight in my head. It was the first time I had really thought about how my OCD affected me.
As I have grown I have found ways of dealing with my disorder and now the simplest tasks are for the most part just that... simple! I have learnt that my OCD is connected to my anxiety. I had always thought of the two things as separate but I now realise that it is all connected. When I am anxious my OCD flairs up and when my OCD flairs up I get anxious, so as you can imagine it can be a viscous circle.
Please understand, the reason I choose not to discuss this with the people in my life is not because I am ashamed. When I was younger I was of course embarrassed, no kid wants to be different, but it has never been about shame. The truth is I am not sure why I have never spoken about my mental health. It is such a huge part of my life and who I am but I have honestly never felt the need to share my story until now.
Today I feel fortunate that I no longer see my Obsessive Compulsive Disorder as something I suffer from, rather something I live with. I love the person I am today and I know that had I not faced the things I had faced with my OCD that I would be a different version of myself today.
I suppose the reason that I decided to write this article, my story, is not because it is Mental Health Day, but because for some people every day is Mental Health Day. A simple action for one person is another person's nightmare. There is no obvious symptom when someone is struggling, no clear cut sign but that doesn't mean that their struggle is any less real.