I’ve had a lot of struggles in my life, but none ever come close to what it was like in the height of my mental illness.
I have obsessive compulsive disorder, you may know it abbreviated as OCD. I had it really really badly, having been diagnosed at the ripe old age of ten. I’m 18 now, here is what the experience has been like and how it has impacted me.
It isn’t what you may think at first glance, I don’t just prefer things to be ordered or want an extra clean space. That is a really common misconception. It’s more akin to hell on Earth – constant intrusive thoughts about things that terrify you, threats from your own mind that if you don’t do this everyone will die. It brings absolutely crushing mental exhaustion.
To put it lightly, it isn’t fun.
I’m at a point where where I’d consider to be recovered, but in the height of it my compulsions were very strange due to the type of OCD I have – magical thinking. Essentially, nothing was out of bounds, my condition came for anything and everything.
Some highlights are that I couldn’t write the letter ‘e’ at the end of a sentence, couldn’t look at the colour yellow (oh my that one was annoying) and I had to hold my breath and look up before leaving rooms. These habits and random things had the power to influence my thoughts. I would genuinely feel like people would die because of me and my actions.
As you can imagine this made it very hard to focus in school…
My English classroom had yellow desks, yellow chairs and this poster of The Woman in Black that would cause a barrage of compulsions if I looked at it. I don’t think anyone noticed how badly I was suffering. By some miracle, my grades didn’t suffer much, but that didn’t make school any less agonising.
I couldn’t talk to people much, if I said something that felt wrong more compulsions would come. It was an open field of potential triggers and it was so so very tiring. Once in PE, I had to leave in the middle of a game to run up to the skirting board so I could touch wood because I said something my OCD decided wasn’t right.
I came home every day so exhausted I couldn’t do anything else, just wanted to sleep. My homework suffered, always being rushed just so I could have a break. Teachers commented on this but when you’re living with something that real and that hard, you honestly couldn’t care less.
Of course whenever I told people about what was going on with me, I got the usual responses of “oh me too I’m so OCD” or its somehow worse cousin of “does this bother you?” followed by them knocking over some pencils or the like. No that doesn’t bother me but if it did that would be a horrid thing to do.
I feel like mental illnesses have been taken so far out of contexts, so simplified and misunderstood that the general public has very little idea of the reality of living with one.
I think that should change, because others like me will be out there, amongst your family and friends even. Suffering so much and feeling like if they talk about it the responses they’ll get would be “mood” or “same”. If like me, this happens in their school years, it’s important that they get the right support and understanding from staff.
To those who are struggling, know that you are not alone and it can get better. It happens slowly, and you only notice your improvement in hindsight, but one day you’ll get to the point where the illness doesn’t rule you anymore. You can live your life.
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