Mental Health Awareness Week: Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder: What You Don’t See

TW: Mental Health, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, 

As part of Mental Health Awareness Week we have a blog  post submitted to Women of Keele Educate, the writer wished to remain anonymous.  

 

‘That’s a little OCD’ she says, as, out of boredom, I arrange my spare change in size order of coin.

‘Not really’ I think, whilst laughing and saying: ‘Perhaps.’

 

 

Given that the topic of the month is Mental Health Awareness, I felt my story was one that needed sharing.

In recent years, media discourse surrounding mental health conditions has taken drastic leaps forwards, though there are still areas of misunderstanding.

OCD is a disorder often misunderstood, and frequently used as a colloquialism for ‘a little fussy.’

For those of you unfamiliar with the ins and outs of the condition, what I am about to reveal may blow your mind:

I am both ‘a little fussy,’ and have OCD.

The fussiness is not a part of my condition.

The fussiness is a part of my personality, and something I would never want to get rid of.

The condition is extremely frustrating, anxiety-inducing, and something I would get rid of in a heartbeat given the choice.

The difference? Momentary satisfaction, vs momentary anxiety reduction.

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Putting the money in my purse in size order, or re-ordering a pack of cards, is something satisfying to do when I’m extremely bored and waiting for my food to arrive in the pub.

I may enjoy creating the order, but if just leave it be, I’ll think no more about it and be able to enjoy my chips just the same.

 

Extensive lock and switch-checking however, is another matter entirely.

 

I have lost count of the amount of times my family have shouted at me in frustration to ‘just go to bed’ after I’ve left my room and gone downstairs to check that all the switches are off and doors are locked yet again.

The amount of times I’ve been exhausted and just wanted to crawl into bed and fall asleep.

But when I get in bed, all I can think is: ‘did I leave that charger on a heat-proof mat? Should I have done? Or will it be alright?’

Nine times out of ten, I decide that it’ll definitely be alright…but that I should probably go and put it on a heat-proof mat, just to be on the safe side.

I have been told I have what is referred to as ‘harm-focused OCD.’

This means that, when I get told ‘just stay in your room and go to sleep,’ I am incredibly unlikely to actually fall asleep until my brain is satisfied that nobody is going to come into the house and kill my family whilst we sleep, and that the house is also not going to blow up whilst we sleep.

My brain sees it as protection.

Others see it as selfish, unnecessary midnight noise-making.

It is because of my OCD that, as much as I might like to, I have not been able to agree to sharing a house with my friends whilst at university.

Living on campus, I have the comfort of knowing I can check the door is locked as much as my brain likes before going to bed, without frustrating anyone but myself.

Girls at school would talk about how much fun they had at their sleepover at the weekend; the sleepover I avoided due to extreme anxiety.

Eventually, they stopped inviting me.

 

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Germs are also an issue.

I guess they too fall under the bracket of ‘potentially harmful.’

Nobody likes to accidentally touch chewing gum underneath the table, but, in my experience, most people pull some kind of weird face, say ‘eww,’ and then get on with their day.

The people sitting next to me when that happens however, suddenly notice it smelling like a dental surgery, as I attempt to discreetly sanitize my hands under the table (I’ve tried the whole ‘pull a face then get on with your day’ thing: I could focus on nothing but the crawling feeling on my hands until the bell signaled the end of class and I could go and wash them).

 

The severe fear of being sick makes me avoid family and friends when they have any illness more severe than a minor cold, making me seem, again, selfish and uncaring.

 

Safe to say, I will not, at any stage of my life, be having children.

Having people rely on you puts on a whole new level of pressure with this type of OCD: a mental condition which constantly makes images of danger flash through your mind, and makes you wonder whether something you do or don’t do may possibly cause death or long-lasting injury to the person in your care forever.

 

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‘She could babysit!’ a family member says to a friend, as I quickly have to come up with 101 trivial reasons as to why this wouldn’t work out.

‘You wouldn’t like my cooking,’ I tell her 11 year old. In fairness, I probably wasn’t wrong. I would be lying if I didn’t admit to having had at least one major argument about whether or not food is properly cooked in my lifetime.

I work with the mantra of: ‘If it’s completely dry and devoid of all taste, at least I know it’s cooked properly.’

There have been occasions where I’ve decided to experiment with leaving food in only slightly beyond its normal time frame, and then panicked about whether or not I was going to get food poisoning.

By this point I think you’re probably getting the idea, so I’m not going to go on for much longer.

Though, as with any illness, everyone’s experiences with OCD will be different, it is important to remember that in all cases, it is not just a matter of being ‘a little bit fussy.’

We are not trying to make ourselves stand out and get attention for our ‘quirky behaviours.’

 

A lot of the time, you probably won’t even notice there’s anything wrong.

 

A person who walks into university visibly exhausted may not have been up all night partying, or writing an essay they should probably have finished three weeks ago.

They may have tried to go to bed at a reasonable hour and ended up staying up for far longer than that trying to reduce a risk of death that the rational half of their brain knew did not exist.

If a friend is avoiding staying over, try not to assume that they simply don’t want to spend time with you: it’s possible that what they want more than anything is to be able to say yes.

 

If any of the above seems familiar to you, I want you to remember that it’s okay, that you’re not alone, and that it’s not going to be as bad as it seems right now forever.

 

Some doctors and mental health professionals are more understanding than others, but with the right treatment: which can comprise of a variety of talking treatments and/or medication, things can start to look up.

Generally, my pre-bed checking doesn’t seem to last as long as it used to.

As with anything, things tend to escalate in times of stress, but it’s not your fault, and you’re not selfish, even if you think your compulsions have a tendency to irritate others.

I strongly encourage anybody with whom my story resonated to consider seeking help: it may be uncomfortable in the moment, but will be likely be invaluable to your life in the long run.

I can’t say I’m completely cured, but, the majority of the time, I’m streets ahead of where I was, and one day, I’m certain that you will be too.

 

And to everybody else: next time you find yourself using the phrase ‘a little bit OCD,’ please take a moment to remember what it is that the condition can actually mean.

 

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If this blog post has impacted you and you need to talk to someone please get in touch with any of the below charities: 

Info about OCD: click here

Contact Details for Help: 

Mind: https://www.mind.org.uk

Samaritans: https://www.samaritans.org

CALM: https://www.thecalmzone.net

You should also be able to get help by talking to your GP.

Mental Health Awareness Week: Why Suicide as a Topic Should be De-stigmatized

TW: Mental Health, Suicide, Loss

Support contact details at the bottom of this post

As part of mental health awareness week I have written this blog, to share what life is like with borderline personality disorder and to explain why we need to be more frank when talking about suicide. 

Suicide is the hardest thing to accept as an answer as to why someone has died.

People always try to evade this topic, even though everyone is blaring out to everyone as to how we should all normalize mental health issues and yet the main killer of mental health sufferers is suicide.

Of course, mental health illnesses are the reason why so many sufferers resort to suicide. I suffer from borderline personality disorder and my daily symptom is constantly wanting to hurt and kill myself. It’s just a fact of my life.

It’s quite hard to understand why people struggle to accept this. A lot of people find it hard to believe that even though I don’t want to die, there’s always a voice in my head that constantly reminds me that I, in fact, do.

Although I’ve now learned how to deal with this symptom, it’s a lie to say that it’s easy to ignore. BPD sufferers take at least 40% of those who die via suicide. We are most likely to attempt suicide within the general population of suicide attempts, and those who do die via suicide are 50 times more than those who attempt suicide due to other reasons.

So as hard as it is a pill to swallow, this is why I talk about suicide just like how I would about the weather.

It took a while for my friends to get used to me constantly talking about my wanting to die, but that is just my way of being honest about what is currently on my mind.

They have now come to realize that if I don’t randomly start talking about death and suicide – that is when I’m more likely to hurt myself.

Only recently has my boyfriend come to terms that it is a topic that he has to get used to.

He always used to tell me that he hates hearing me joke about death and suicide, how I just casually mention my past suicide attempts – and then I attempted to kill myself.

It was only when I heard from your friend that you tried to kill yourself I realized that I should have listened to you more.

 

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What it can look like to be triggered with BPD:

For those who don’t know, BPD sufferers are often labeled as “manipulative” and “toxic” because of how we often end up hurting ourselves when we’re triggered.

What people don’t know is that this is a symptom.

I’m considered a “quiet borderline” within the BPD community, basically means that no one knows I’m suffering with BPD and maybe just think I am a very anxious person – until I act out in tantrums due to being triggered.

It’s only until I start reacting in socially inappropriate ways, such as inappropriate bouts of anger.

I’m so used to being labeled as this, but it’d be a lie to say that it doesn’t hurt.

I know I’m not manipulative.

My friends themselves, get mad at me because I don’t express this enough.

Instead I just end up trying to hurt myself or worse – kill myself.

When I tried to kill myself, I immediately regretted it.

I started to scream and lash out on myself, in front of my best friends.

They tried to calm me down and grabbed my hands away from myself.

I pulled hairs out of my head, leaving me with a slight bald spot. I punched myself repeatedly, leaving bruises on myself.

All because my boyfriend wouldn’t listen to me for five minutes when I asked him to.

Mind you, it wasn’t out of nowhere.

It was building up, the tension and annoyance which I usually am able to control and maintain, it pushed me to the edge.

Why? Because unfortunately, as aforementioned, he just wouldn’t listen to me. In the past I have also done this towards my parents, brother, and friends. I hate it. I hate it more than anything. The fact that I don’t know how to prevent myself from going over the edge.

 

Most people would know me as someone who is very rational and level-headed. They would never expect me to be so emotionally unstable.

 

It pains me to accept that if I’m not able to control myself, I may kill myself just because I feel betrayed by those who I care about the most.

Although now my boyfriend understands and we’re both trying to get professional help for both of us in order to progress, no amount of apologies could get rid of this seeping guilt within me.

I’m terrified that I will betray myself and I will die because of suicide.

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Destigmatization:  Talking About Suicide

But this is why I continually talk about death and suicide as if I am talking about the weather.

I want people to know and understand that this is something that could happen. Something that they must be prepared for, in case it does.

I’m not saying that I’m excusing my want to die, because “well” me doesn’t want to die.

It’s just that if “sick” me takes over, I want people to be prepared for the possibility of me attempting suicide.

It’s a very real thing.

My best friend died this year because of suicide.

The only reason I managed to accept their death due to suicide is because we always talked about it.

The shock of their death via suicide wasn’t as hard as the shock of their death overall.

Everyone kept asking why, why did they kill themselves. My only regret was that I didn’t try to reach out even though I had an inkling they might attempt again.

Other than that, I’m okay with them dying via suicide.

It hurts, it hurts like hell.

But am I mad at them for killing themselves? No, absolutely not. Death is death.

Even though they died young via their own hands, it’s still death. So why can’t we normalize it as another method of dying?

Suicide isn’t just real for BPD sufferers, it can be for everyone who reaches a low point in their life.

So please, talk about suicide. Normalize the talk about death.

There is nothing wrong in talking about it.

 

If we normalize talking about suicide, maybe we can help our friends and family.

Maybe if we talk about suicide more it will allow someone to reach out when they need to.

I love my life now. I have reasons to live for now. I have a lot more coping mechanisms now.

So I hope you all can understand suicide more, from the perspective of someone who constantly thinks about attempting suicide.

Do not feel sorry for me. This is just my life.

If I have accepted this, then why can’t you?

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If this blog post has impacted you and you need to talk to someone please get in touch with any of the below charities: 

Info about BPD: click here

Contact Details for Help: 

Mind: https://www.mind.org.uk

Samaritans: https://www.samaritans.org

CALM: https://www.thecalmzone.net