Sick Days

I have OCD. I’ve had it for 10years this summer. For me it’s very much like a rollercoaster. Sometimes, it’s at a nice low level, so although I have to still do all my rituals, it’s manageable – particularly in my head. However, there are times when it spirals out of control. Most of the time there’s a specific trigger for this, but there are times when there isn’t and I put it down to stress or overtiredness. There are times when I’ve been up pretty much all night fretting, trying to fight off the compulsions, but inevitably dragging myself out of bed to perform them. I wake in the morning to go to work and I’m just so mentally and physically exhausted that I can’t face it. But to this day, I’ve never had a day off sick because of my OCD.
In a way I’m proud of this (and know I’m lucky), that I won’t let it beat me but in a way I wish I could just have the odd day off just to regroup. I know a lot of people at work take time off when they’re feeling under the weather – be it because they’ve eaten something or because they have a bit of a cold, or even a migraine. That’s perfectly accepted by them and by others. No one other than immediate family, a couple of medical practitioners and the occupational health advisor at work know about my OCD and at the moment it’s going to stay that way. It shouldn’t, but it does take bravery to open up about a mental health problem, and I’m just not there yet. Therefore I would end up lying about why I’ve been ill and that’s not going to work. I sit next to my housemate at work so she would know instantly whether or not I’d been coughing all night or throwing up. I’m not that good an actor that I can pull that sort of thing off just to take a day off to help me catch my breath during a particularly bad phase.
That’s why I think it’s so important to have days like World Mental Health Day, where mental health can come to the front for a bit and be spoken about. Education is the most important part of dealing with it. How mental health conditions are not someone’s choice, any more than it would be for them to choose to have epilepsy or asthma. How it can turn someone’s life upside down. My life would be so much easier if I could choose not to have OCD. I would be able to go out with friends without constantly checking the cutlery at dinner or the glasses in the pub. I would be able to sit on a train without my anxiety levels soaring. I would be able to go to the park and sit on the grass and I might even be able to walk about bare foot again. I wouldn’t be up half the night worrying about whether I’ve checked doors and windows and whether my family are okay. I wouldn’t dread going to bed because of the thoughts that will wash over me and I wouldn’t hate going on a holiday. If I could choose not to have had OCD and all these worries about ‘what’s out there to get me’ then I would. Now I’ve had those thoughts though, I know the ‘dangers’ and I can never go back. OCD is all about the ‘what ifs’ and they play in my mind like a broken record. All I can hope is that I can manage my OCD through relaxation, meditation, distraction and medication. I’m much more aware of it now and that it is the OCD causing me a problem and that I can fight it. Social media has helped me learn I’m not alone and together we can fight this. If you’ve got OCD I urge you to talk about it with someone who understands – even if, like me, you do it anonymously. It really does help.
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World Mental Health Day

It’s odd looking round the office this morning – everyone’s acting ‘normally’, however with the statistics and the numbers in the office, it’s more than likely that someone (other than me) has a mental health problem &/or has a relative with one too. Yet, there is no sign or mention of World Mental Health Day – or even any mental health issues at all. Anyone out there with a condition is keeping it tightly to themselves (like me). I don’t expect people to be running around shouting ‘I have OCD, I have Depression, I have GAD’ or anything, but I certainly know all about it if they’ve got a cold.

That’s why days such as this are so important. Too long has mental health been misunderstood, feared and swept into the shadows. It needs a voice and organisations such as Mind UK and Time to Change are campaigning to get this voice, but it’s a slow process. People need to be educated about mental health conditions – either because they’re going to run into someone with one, a friend, relative, employer/employee or they’re going to be one of the ¼ and suffer from one themselves. What we need to do it to make mental health conditions acceptable, so that people aren’t scared or embarrassed about going to the doctor for help; that they see it just as they would see going to a doctor for a chest infection or sprained ankle.

It’s the 21st Century yet the preconceptions surrounding mental illness – that Depression is just being a bit blue, that OCD is being a little bit tidy – are still common place.

Therefore I urge everyone who can, to speak out, to share their story, to educate. You don’t need to do this face to face, it can be anonymous if you like. Although I know I should speak out to my close friends and my manager, particularly so I get help when times are tough, but I just can’t do it yet. Their understanding of mental health is shockingly poor (even for the one who did Psychology 20years ago), despite me trying to explain things when they come up in conversation. That’s why I started this blog – so I can share and educate both those with OCD and those without.

I hope you can find the strength too and take that step.