One Thing I Want People to Know About my Mental Illness

It’s been a long time since I was last here! (I have an excuse for my absence in the form of my A-level exams, which are now behind me. Yay, freedom!)

So, for my first post in 6 months I’m starting with the Time to Change Summer Storytelling Challenge. I’m a bit late to the party (it’s now week three, oops!) but I had to think about this post for longer than I thought I would. In all honesty I could go on for hours and hours about what people don’t know about the specifics of suffering with OCD, and I’m sure I will in later posts, but what I want to discuss today is slightly more abstract.

Today, I’ve decided that the thing I want people to know about my mental illness is this: it never stops.

When I actually stop to think about my OCD, this is something I’ve come to realise. The obsessions I have pop up all the time. It’s not just the odd thought, but a nearly constant stream with no off-switch to press. There are times when I get overwhelmed and break down in tears, and I’m not ashamed to admit that. Sometimes my thoughts get scary for one reason or another, and sometimes new ones will come and take me by surprise. My OCD has been there for pretty much as long as I remember, and it just doesn’t go away.

There is a bright side here though. Because it’s been with me for so long, the things I do and think have become second nature to me. Instead of being anxious constantly, I’ve learned to live with them. I’ve had friends say to me “I can’t imagine what it’s like”, and all I say to them is “it’s just my life, I’m used to it”.

Realistically I don’t think my OCD will ever leave me, but it doesn’t cause me the same distress as it used to because I know what to expect. Recovery isn’t impossible; I have shown myself that the things that I can manage. I can be (and am) happy, even if I have a mental illness interfering in the background.

-Amy

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4 Mental Health Lessons from 2018

Happy New Year everyone! First post of 2019 coming at you. In the spirit of new beginnings, I thought that this time I might write about some wisdom (if you can call it that) I’ve gathered over the previous year.

2018 was a rough year for me. It was the year when I came closer than I ever have before to making an attempt on my life, and a year where I spent a lot of time wondering if I was worth the effort it would take to recover. It was, however, also a year of learning. My experiences over this horrendous year have taught me so much about the person I am, and the person I will strive to be in the future. So, without any more commentary, here are some of the things that I’ve learned.

Lesson 1: you are enough.

Let’s start with the hardest to accept. In 2018, I spent so much time reflecting on my own inadequacies, but to what end? I am what I am; it’s not something I can just change because I want to. I’m not perfect, but neither is anyone else. It doesn’t mean we’re in any way flawed or worthless. Be it mental health problems, negative occurrences in life, it doesn’t matter. You’re who you are, and that is enough.

Lesson 2: there isn’t a person alive who is worth your mental health.

If I could, I’d highlight this. Or stick arrows around it to make sure your attention is drawn to it. Or add audio of me screaming these words at you. Nobody is worth your mental health. Literally no one. It’s a lesson I had to learn the hard way in 2018. Putting aside your own mental health in order to be around someone is just not worth it. If being around someone is pulling you down, cut them out. I’m speaking in retrospect here; I wish with all of my heart that I’d had the strength to do it back when I needed to, and I recognise that it’s ridiculously hard to do. But believe me, it’s worth it. If someone cares about you, they will not ask you to sacrifice your mental health for them. If they do ask that of you, then they’re not worthy of your attention.

Lesson 3: it doesn’t matter if someone doesn’t like you.

Here’s another one I think is seriously important. In 2018 I was criticised for speaking out loud about mental health by other students at my college. However, it wasn’t my fault that these others decided to dislike me for what I was saying. The fault in these cases lies with the person doing the disliking. I also discovered that it really makes no odds to me if someone doesn’t like me. As my mother, in all her wisdom, told me a while ago: “hate only hurts the one doing the hating”. It’s not got anything to do with you if someone decides to dislike you, and it’s certainly not worth destroying your self esteem over. Sure, that’s easier said than done, but in the long run it’s a thought that’s finally helping me to get over social anxieties which have been with me since childhood.

Lesson 4: it won’t last forever.

Ominous-sounding, I know. Actually, what I want to say here is quite the opposite. At risk of repeating myself, I spent a lot of time in severe depressive episodes last year. Every single time I wondered whether I could ever recover. Flash forward a couple of months, and I’m back on the up. I haven’t recovered, not by a long shot, but I no longer think it’s impossible. Like the subheading says, it doesn’t last forever. Everything changes, and none of us can predict the future. Recovery is an option, and if it’s one that’s viable to us then we shouldn’t feel fraudulent or guilty about it.

So, there it is. Sure, it won’t be applicable in every case, but I still wanted to share this. Here’s to hoping that 2019 will be a good year for everyone – I know that I’m certainly going to try and make it a better one for me.

–Amy

Why Knowing That I Don’t Have Depression Is Helping Me Recover

So it’s been a while since I’ve posted, and basically the reason for that is that I’ve had a lot of stuff going on with my mental health and otherwise with just life in general.

The biggest thing that happened since the last post was that I was referred to the crisis team after nearly making an attempt on my life. When I saw them, they told me something that really threw me: I don’t have depression, just low mood. When I heard this, I was really deflated. Were they telling me that I don’t have a problem, and that my self-destructive tendencies were an overreaction to normal stress? Thankfully no.

In actuality, they said, what I experience is something called emotional dysregulation. In normal English, that’s a fancy term for not really being able to manage emotions too well. So I can feel perfectly okay one day, then something will trigger a period of low mood. Not just feeling a bit sad, that is, but real depressive episodes as I’ve probably mentioned in previous posts.

Naturally I googled this when I got home, and pretty much the first result that came up was the NHS page for borderline personality disorder. When I opened it and had a read, something suddenly clicked. It was like the page was written about me; not just the emotional side but troubles maintaining relationships too. A couple of weeks later, I was referred to the mental health service for a BPD diagnostic assessment (and I’m still waiting for that to happen).

So, the title of this post is about recovery, and that’s basically exactly what’s happening. I’m not depressed, and knowing that is seriously helping me understand how and why my mood is fluctuating. I no longer feel like I have to be down all the time; now I feel like I’m allowed to be happy on my good days, whereas before I felt like a liar and a fraud if I smiled or laughed.

So, yeah. Niche post, and probably not particularly helpful to change the opinions of the general populace regarding mental health, but this has been a big turning point in my experience with mental health so far. In all, I’m glad I ended up at the crisis team even if I did have to go through a particularly scary time to get there. Recovery isn’t linear, as I’ve heard it said before, but hopefully that squiggly line will end up straightening itself out a bit from here.

–Amy

Small Victories

Whoa it’s been a long time since I’ve posted, oops.

So, currently I’m just getting over relapses in OCD and low mood. I’m having some pretty disturbing intrusive thoughts, and a couple of weeks ago I spent the day in bed refusing to eat. Basically it’s been a pretty shitty time.

Despite my illnesses, there are things I’ve done in this period of time that I can be proud of myself for.  I’m not talking huge achievements, I mean small things: getting out of bed, doing my makeup in the mornings, completing work to meet deadlines, for example.

Sure, these things might not seem like huge achievements to a lot of people. They tend to be things that can be done without a second thought for many, but suffering with a mental illness makes things so much harder.  Small victories like this mean so much when life becomes a daily struggle.

Even these tiny things should be celebrated, because they’re progress. To me, it’s a sign that even though I’m suffering, I’m strong enough overcome it even to a slight degree. It shows me that even though I’m sick now, I am capable of recovery, and it gives me hope.

So, my message here basically this: don’t invalidate your small victories, and be proud of yourself when you achieve things! When you stop to think of it, you will see that small victories add up into larger ones.

Super short post, but it’s all I’ve got time for with my studies taking up so much of my time. Until next time.

–Amy

I’m Not Lazy, I’m Sick

For this post I’ve decided to write about something that’s worrying me, and that’s the link between mental illness and laziness. It comes on the back of my most recent and arguably most severe depressive episode yet, which, for the first time, has left me feeling really anxious about how others view me when I’m very symptomatic.

I spent Sunday in bed. I didn’t get up until 6 pm, and during that time I didn’t eat or drink. None of the work I was supposed to do that day got done either. I didn’t have the energy to move; I just lay there, curled up, staring at my bedroom wall.

I suppose to someone who’s never experienced depressive symptoms, this would sound silly. I can imagine the response would be “but depression is all in your head, it’s just laziness to stay in bed for that long”. My answer to that? Sure, depressive moods come from your head, but since your head controls so many other processes, it’s pretty unreasonable to assume that none of them would be affected too.

It’s really well documented that depressive disorders can cause behavioural symptoms as well as emotional and cognitive symptoms. Lack of energy is one of these, and I feel like it’s often missed out in discussions even though it tends to be up there with the hardest symptoms to cope with. Using my case as an example, not being able to get out of bed for so many hours wasn’t a pleasant experience; I was incredibly hungry and stressed, feeling sick from not standing up, but I literally couldn’t move.

So, with that in mind, is it laziness? Quite simply, no. Depressive disorders are illnesses. I always use the analogy that you wouldn’t call a person with a broken leg lazy for not being able to walk. It’s the same thing; even though it’s not visible like a broken leg is, there’s something biological that’s gone wrong to cause the symptoms. As the title of the post suggests, I’m not lazy, I’m sick, and my symptoms are out of my control.

There’s a huge stigma around this area that I’ve come up against time and time again, and I guess to people with no personal experience, it seems like the illness is something that you can just think yourself out of. Admittedly, it’d be nice if it was, but it isn’t. It’s something that takes tonnes of hard work to overcome, and even when you do it’s so easy to relapse.

I guess to the MH community this preaching to the choir, but I think that sometimes we’re all a little bit too hard on ourselves for not being able to do things. So, let me say: it’s fine to work at your own pace. If you’re feeling out of energy, allow yourself to rest up because at the end of the day your mental health comes first.

–Amy

Why Are We Ashamed to Talk About Suicide?

I’m not ashamed of saying that I was suicidal, but there are so many reasons why I think people still are.

Trigger warning: mentions of suicide and other topics which could trigger depression.

I mean it. There are a lot of mentions. Post starts after the continue reading tag.

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