OCD Awareness Week: Things NOT to say to someone with OCD

*This post first appeared on MentalMutha.com

My name is Kate. I’m 31. I come from Brighton. I’m a Lesbian. My pronouns are she/her. I’m married. I’m a mother. A sister. A daughter. I’m allergic to Dioralyte (that my mum found out the hard way) and I despise Frogs and Moths.

I also have OCD.

Diagnosed in my teens, I was given a name for the crippling anxiety that often left me feeling nauseous, scared, or wanting to go home to check the oven or taps for the third time. Delving deeper into my OCD, I have 3 of the 5 main OCD compulsions; Checking, Symmetry & Order, and Contamination. I have been known to experience intrusive thoughts, but these are often on the back of something that’s just happened or is going to happen – like public speaking, for example.

Over time I’ve managed to overcome some my OCD and control my anxiety and deep-routed thoughts but it never really goes away – you’re just controlling your OCD as opposed to it controlling you. You learn to distract yourself.

Continue reading

Our Favourite Children’s Books about Mental Health and Wellbeing

Today is World Mental Health Day, a day I often like to reflect and think about how far I’ve come in regards to my own mental health. Since coming to terms with it, and understanding that just like any visible or physical injury; where you need to make adjustments due a sudden change, mental health needs to be treated exactly the same way.

On good days I don’t pick my arms, I don’t feel nauseous, and tasks around the home are streamline and effortless. On bad days, well, you get the drift. Over the past few years I’ve been more open and honest about how I’m feeling, and likewise I’ve stopped and really listened to the signs of my mind telling me it’s struggling.

Not only that, one of the other benefits to addressing and taking control of my own mental health is now being able to recognise when others are struggling – primarily friends, but especially my family. Sharon and I haven’t always been the best at expressing, but now that we have a child we’ve become a lot better at expressing ourselves as well as inviting T to express how he’s feeling. This is now amplified now that T has started school which often comes with waves of emotions and awkward social situations.

Continue reading

Mental Health Awareness Week: My OCD and Me

Ever since I started talking about my OCD the effect has been cathartic. I’ve felt less isolated and I started to feel like I was controlling my mental health as opposed to it controlling me. Equally, by not hiding my mental health or making excuses for things such as the regular hand washing and cleaning, or the reoccurring scars on my arms from constant picking, I’ve allowed myself to “come out” more than once to people who had no idea what real OCD was, let alone that I have it.

But, what comes with talking about it a lot more is the constant reminder that you have it. You would have thought that by talking about why I’m washing my hands again I would eventually teach myself to stop washing my hands as much – seeing as I was aware of it – but this is not the case.

I have OCD, and there is nothing I can do to stop it from being there. I am allowed good days where I haven’t felt the constant niggles, but it will always remain – no matter what I do. I’ve now learnt that fighting it just makes it ten times worse.

This is my OCD

Continue reading

Time To Talk: We Are Not Machines.

The other day, I had to sort out an issue with my phone. The battery life wasn’t quite as it was in comparison to a few months ago and I wasn’t happy. I sat in a queue waiting for the next technician, a queue that lasted several minutes, and over a period of around 20-30 minutes, answering several questions and trying out different solutions, the issue was eventually resolved.

If you’re interested, it was some third party apps that were draining the battery. But you didn’t come here to read about my mobile phone woes, no. So what’s the point, I hear you ask?

After I ended the online chat with the technician it got me thinking, imagine if we looked after ourselves, our minds, the way we look after our technology.

Continue reading

My Mental Health and Me

I’ve written before, albeit very briefly, about my mental health, but looking back I feel ashamed that I haven’t expanded on it further since or gone into greater detail. Especially as it’s such a huge part of my life. In fact, I’ve contemplated deleting all previous posts and starting again – but no matter how poor my previous posts are, they’re still a piece of my puzzle.

My biggest regret is not talking so openly about it with friends and family. I think not talking about Mental Health has a detrimental effect mentally and physically, and this needs to change. Not just for me, but within society.

Last week, my friend Natasha invited me to take park in her ‘Mental Mutha Meets…’ series and it gave me the kick up the backside that I’ve needed for so long. I need to, no, should talk about this: My Mental Health.

So let’s get started.

I have OCD

When I say OCD, it’s not the type of OCD that mean’s you’re especially clean or tidy, or simply like things in certain places (although I really do). It’s the OCD that means I can sometimes wash my hands raw because I don’t think they’re clean enough. It’s worse in the winter as the cold has already dried my hands out so that they’re already cracked and painful. When T is really sick (think D&V) my personal cleaning regime can sometimes double in time and effort. I don’t want to get sick. I don’t want to pass it on to others. I feel dirty.

I have the kind of OCD where I can spend a good 20 minutes of the morning, before leaving for nursery drop off, checking that all the plugs and oven knobs are switched off. If I’m already stressed about something, or particularly tired or hormonal, my OCD can worsen to a degree that I’ve driven back whilst on the way to work some days just to triple check everything is locked or turned off – even though I would have checked it several times before allowing myself to leave the house!

If I don’t do all these checks, I worry something bad will happen.

Knowing I do this means that when someone says “they’re a little bit OCD” I can’t help but scream and shout “you’re really not”. I would kill to not feel like this every day or not do these things. I feel like a freak.

On top of this, I also suffer from anxiety.

For me, the two go hand in hand, but if one kicks off first, the next is sure to follow. If you have anxiety, you don’t always have OCD, but I don’t know anyone who has OCD that doesn’t have anxiety as well. The two kinda work together to create this cocktail of hell.

I don’t really know what hurts the most. The anxiety or the OCD? I think the anxiety. As much as OCD exhausts me, my anxiety hits me in places and causes issues that I never knew existed. It causes self-doubt, a lack of confidence, and low energy. It’s caused headaches, eye twitching, and nausea on the worst days.

Of course, you can have all these things without suffering from anxiety, and a high majority of people already suffer from a form of anxiety, but there’s a difference between the anxiety that makes you worry or puts you in a fight of flight situation, and the anxiety that makes you pick at your own skin.

You heard me. I pick my own skin when I get overly anxious. I can show you the scars. It started when I was in my early twenties – maybe even earlier – and at first I would think it was a form of self harm, but when I read into it more and spoke to people about it I understood it was something else. It was a separate thing entirely. I didn’t want to cause harm, hurt, or punish myself, but the instant relief I would get from removing a blemish would sometimes be euphoric.

Ironically, I picked less, if at all, when I was pregnant, but since becoming a parent I’ve started doing it every now and again when I’m overly tired and/or stressed – although oddly, not as much as I used to. But on the bad days. Oh the bad days. It can be a struggle not to disappear by myself and have a little pick.

As I write this, I feel sick. I worry how people will react to me now that they know my secrets.

But then I realise I need to talk about this. That this isn’t my problem, it’s society’s. Why is there this stigma against mental health? Why are we not talking about it?

In a world where we can talk about sex and toilet humour so freely, why can we not still talk about our mental health?

With this in mind, I’ve decided that I’m going to write more about this topic every now and again. I need to. I want to be open about Mental Health. My Mental Health.

I want people to know that they’re not alone. That it comes in waves and that you can still be happy whilst maintaining crippling mental health. I want people to know that my smiles are always genuine in photos so that when I’m not smiling in some, people are invited to open that door of conversation.