This week hasn’t been a good one for me. I’ve been very stressed, overwhelmed and have not felt a part of the real world for days. It’s only now that towards the end of the week I have actually done something about it that I’ve felt better. And that something was actually talking to somebody and emptying my ruthless mind by opening up. It’s made me think, why didn’t I do that sooner when I know how much I struggle and how challenging I find things? Why didn’t I practice the very thing I preach to others? Well, in answer to that, I’ve gone and made a list to try help others who don’t struggle understand why it may be difficult for those of us who do.
1. A normal reaction or a symptom of my mental illness?
This week I have been very (EXTREMELY) anxious and worrying about things pretty much non-stop. Now, the very small part of my brain, my rational part, has told me that the things I am worrying about are understandable and probably things that everyone in the same position would worry about too. But there’s another part of my brain, a much bigger part called anxiety that takes complete control and won’t let me think of anything else but those worries. This part I know isn’t normal. So then because I have these two parts battling, I can’t decipher whether this worrying is because of my mental illness or not. And because I can’t decipher this, I choose not to share with people the tornado in my mind. Which leads me nicely onto my next point…
Telling other people how I’m feeling- particularly when I myself feel like the endless worrying about every little thing is mad- makes me really concerned about how I’m going to appear to other people. Explaining to people the thoughts that are going on up there is a really difficult task. As I’m saying them out loud, I can hear that I sound totally irrational and silly so what are the people I’m telling thinking as these words stumble out my mouth?
3. Being misunderstood
I have realised this week that a big fear of mine is opening up about the OCD thoughts to someone and being left feeling totally misunderstood. It really frightens me. When you have a mental illness, it can already be quite isolating and lonely to deal with. If I open up and the person doesn’t get it or disregards what I say, it’s like I have been denied of how I’m feeling and that I’m basically being silly. If I’m met with that response, it makes me feel even more lonely and isolated in dealing with this horrible illness.
4. Not looking like I can cope
Even though I struggle more than people realise, I think that I hold myself together quite well! I don’t let OCD dictate my life and I still try to do everything I want to. I think because I have this level of control over my illness, I don’t come across as someone who is in turmoil inside and I like that. I don’t like admitting to people that I’m not coping because then I feel like I have let it get the better of me and I don’t ever want that to happen. I could write so much about this, a fear that I really feel is core to my OCD but then this would be the longest blog post in history.
When I’m obsessively worrying about something that really, in the big scheme of things is not ‘the end of the world’, a sense of guilt and even shame can seep in. This can be (and has been) intensified when I have opened up to people and been told: “Things could be worse, think about those people in the world who are worse off than you” or been met with the question: “What do you have to be anxious about though really?”. When you experience something like this, it can make being honest about your true feelings so much harder because it’s joined by the thought that you don’t deserve to feel that way, that you should just snap out of it. But it’s really not that easy. It’s really not.
I wrote this post so that those of you who feel this same way realise that you are not alone. We are not alone. And for those of you who don’t have a mental health illness, I wrote this for you to perhaps understand a little bit more about this constant internal battle. Even though I can find opening up to my loved ones about my illness difficult for all the above reasons, when I actually do open up and let others know what’s going on, it makes SO much difference. It feels like I have been able to lift the weight of my heavy thoughts and remind myself that even though my thoughts tell me I’m alone, I’m not.
A problem shared is a problem halved after all.