I have a mental illness. It’s only a short sentence, just five simple words, but put in that order, is life changing for me. Because although my diagnosis of OCD, anxiety and depression is new, this is an illness I’ve been living with for the past 15 years.
15 years of being told I was over emotional; 15 years of being told I was just a worrier; 15 years of thinking this pain was normal, that everyone worried as much as I did and that I should just ‘get over it’ as I was so often told, by myself. 15 years of feeling alone. I now know that this inner voice is in fact my OCD and anxiety and that this illness isn’t something you can just get over. It needs time and medication to heal, just like a physical ailment. I’ve finally begun my journey to getting better, and I know that becoming a mother has helped me to do this. Raising two young girls, who I try daily to teach to be strong, kind and brave, helped me practice what I preach; to be brave and to ask for help.
My turning point was when I found myself being comforted by my 4 year old. And it wasn’t the first time. As I sat at the bottom of the stairs, crying silent tears, trying to keep a panic attack at bay, my eldest holding my hand, stroking my hair and gently telling me ‘I’ll look after you mummy, you’ll be ok’, I knew. I needed help. But even then my OCD controlled me. It told me I didn’t deserve my daughters; I didn’t deserve my wonderful husband or our happy life. I was a complete burden to them and this crying, pathetic behavior was proof of that.
The OCD I suffer from isn’t the type people often associate the diagnosis with, in that I compulsively clean or have certain physical rituals. Mine is a series of intrusive thoughts, which constantly spiral and lead me to believe that I do not deserve the life I have, I’m living on pure luck and that when it is inevitably taken away from me, it will be for a good reason; that I am not good enough.
When I visited my doctor, he asked me outright ‘What do you want from this appointment?’ and it really hit home. I have to do this myself. I can ask for help, get help and be supplied with tools to do so (medication, CBT therapy) but the desire and effort to get better has to come from me. I have to defeat this inner OCD voice, which has ruled me for so long.
I’ve since learnt to view this OCD voice as a separate entity, a huge boulder in my happy life and happy mind. I’ve accepted that it’s been there for so long that it’s impossible to move, it’s cemented in. Too heavy to lift, too deep to dig out. The only way to remove it, it to use my positive, strong thoughts as water. Let them continue to wash over my OCD boulder; keep washing away, trickles, streams, waves, tides until this rock is a tiny, smooth pebble that is effortless to lift and toss away.
And I am getting there. I know there’s no quick fix and this definitely isn’t a linear journey, but one full of good days and bad days. After seeing my GP, I’m on some excellent medication, awaiting CBT therapy, being supported by my family and talking. Talking to anyone who will listen and trying to shake off the stigma that hangs around the words ‘mental illness’.
The more mothers I talk to, the more apparent it becomes that I’m not the only one. That people suffer with their mental health day in and day out but we still don’t consider it to be as important as our physical health. That’s why I wanted to write this piece, so that any other women who have these thoughts and feelings, who suffer with their mental health, know that they’re not alone. That they too deserve to feel better and to get the help that they need. That they are enough.
A Guest Blog from Louisa Jones
Louisa is mum to four year old Beatrice and 16 month old Wren and lives in Cheltenham with her husband Alex. When she’s not stitching for her sewing business, she’s waffling away on Instastrories.
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