*puts on glasses to look more serious*
The past week has been a weird one, admittedly.
It’s almost 8 months since I stopped getting CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) for OCD, and to be honest, life’s been pretty good. Yes, my OCD is still there, but it became small, and manageable. The ratio of bad to good days dropped from 9:1 to 50-50, and then it was more like 2:8. Life was slowly getting better, and I was very much in control of my own wee head for the first time in what seemed like centuries.
The past week has been a little bit tougher. And I know that this is normal and to be expected- OCD never ‘goes away‘, and often ‘flares up’. I’m used to it being a little bit more difficult around that time of the month; I guess the combination of hormones and mental illness doesn’t go well, eh? But it’s been a while since it’s been bad over a period of a few days, post-period. This week has been hard.
But you want to know what the great thing is? It’ll be better again before I know it.
I think bad weeks are ‘bad weeks’ with OCD because they require a little more work. Bad spells mean you have to look after yourself a bit better– you need to make sure you’re eating well and sleeping enough, drinking more water and less caffeine. They demand that you slow down, do nice things for yourself like reading a good book, or cuddling your dog a bit more. Basically, your self-care has to be a top priority, and that can be hard- my brain often needs a pit stop when I’m working loads, or have a lot on my plate.
The bad weeks mean that you need to fight harder. That means employing those skills you’ve learned from CBT, like facing your fears head on, or resisting compulsions when all you want to do is give in just once (and then another just once, and another…).
It’s hard, and I literally feel dizzy as I sit typing this because my wee head just feels so flustered.
Today though, I wanted to talk about admitting when something’s not right, because I know that many people out there are often too scared to actually tell somebody that they’re struggling, or that they think they might need help. I share my personal experiences with mental health on my blog in the hopes that someone who is going through a similar situation will feel encouraged by my transparency, and feel confident enough to face their own struggles. Today’s blog post is therefore about how I talked to the doctor when my OCD was at its worst.
(I’m already cringing so hard at writing about this, but this is exactly the kind of thing I wish I’d read about 9 months before I finally went to the doctor for help. I think it’s an important one.)
By October 2016, my OCD had become… problematic. And by problematic, I mean that my normal, day-to-day routine had become impossible, as all of my time was taken up with the intrusive thoughts I was having, and my reaction to them. Eating, sleeping and going to classes were out of the question. I was crippled with anxiety, stuck in a deep depression, and I had no idea how to get out. Le boyf was the only one who understood the extent of my sickness, and eventually, I was able to talk to my parents about it too. Deep down I knew that I needed to go to the doctors, but something was stopping me. In fact, a few things were holdiing me back.
There was fear: fear that I’d be put into some kind of asylum? That I was worse than I thought? Or maybe they’d think I was being overdramatic, and be angry with me? I was afraid of them judging me- if they were going to make me talk about the weird, horrible thoughts in my head, wouldn’t they think I was such an awful person? Maybe they’d laugh?
Then there was pride: I’m not that bad. I don’t want to be labelled as being weak. I’m not going to admit defeat.
And there’s the heart of the problem- admitting defeat was not what this was at all. Nor did I have anything to be afraid of.
Eventually, my parents put on an appointment with the doctor for me. Not a wink was slept the night before; I was terrified and excited all at once. Keen to ‘get better’ so I wouldn’t be such a burden to everyone, but afraid and prideful about being ‘ill’.
Millions of scenarios were playing out in my brain- what would I open with? “Hey there, doc. What has two legs and possibly a debilitating mental illness? *points to self* THIS GALLLLL!” The only thing I knew for sure was that I would remain calm and explain things in a matter of fact way.
The minute I sat down in the chair in front of the doctor, who greeted me with a big grin and a cheerful ‘So, what can we do for you today?!’ I burst into tears. Like, I properly erupted into ugly crying, snotters flying, tears dripping all over the place. I’m glad that’s not on video anywhere, because it’s not a scene I’d like to see.
To be perfectly honest, I don’t know what I started with, or what order the words came out in. All I know is, I told her almost everything. I told a little bit about the ‘thoughts’- I didn’t go into detail about what exactly they were, as I wasn’t ready to delve SO deep so soon, but we talked about them, and the lack of sleep, and the anxiety and just everything that was going on in my scattered little brain. She asked me some questions, which were admittedly hard to answer, but as she said herself, they were questions which had to be asked, so she could see how serious the case was. I left that day with a prescription for SSRI’s, a short term dose of sleeping pills, and a handful of snotty tissues.
She’d said “Well done, Amber. You are so brave.”
ME?! The girl who’d not left her bed for the past three weeks, because she was scared of her own thoughts?! The one who couldn’t stop crying all the time? BRAVE? You sure pet? I think you got the wrong patient.
Now that I’m ‘on the other side’ of OCD, though, I understand what she meant. Letting go of your pride, and admitting that you’re weaker than you’d care to admit is brave. It takes courage to say ‘I’m struggling and I need support’. It is not easy to take off a mask you’ve been wearing for a year or more, and let someone else see the ‘real’ you- the weak, sick you.
Coming clean about mental illness is brave, because it’s the first step in a very long journey. You could let your mental health problems control you forever, but the day that you decide ‘enough is enough’, you have to prepare yourself for a long and difficult road ahead. Because it’s hard to break habits and force yourself to do things when you’re trying so hard to give up. You’re brave because you’re making the decision to stop letting your OCD or depression or anxiety or eating disorder be the boss, and it’s hard to seize the control back again.
But that is what’s happening. When you face your problem, you’re not admitting defeat, you’re taking control.
I’m not going to lie- I was praying so hard in the waiting room. I was so afraid to open up and be honest about what was happening to me, and I’m so thankful to God that I was given the courage to speak up that day.
If you’re reading this, and you’re struggling with some kind of MH problem, please know that you’re not alone and getting help and support is aweseome. It takes real guts, and unfortunately there is no magical pill to take all of your troubles away in a flash. I was pretty devastated when the doctor told me that. But what I know from experience is that being brave enough to face the problem and look it right in the eye? That’s the beginning of the road back to health, wellness and normality.
So this has been a bad week. There will be more. But I know that the minute I start bossing OCD around instead of the other way about, things will definitely get easier. I just have to be courageous and take control.
Other posts I’ve written about OCD:
- On some things which helped me
- On getting through the bad days
- On books which are good when facing mental illness
- On using exercise to control it
If you would like to talk about anything relating to this post, or you want advice about chatting to your own doctor, please leave a wee comment!