World Mental Health Day

This week I am sharing a really personal story. It is quite intense and talks about OCD and Mental ill health…

So yesterday it was World Mental Health Day and I came across this interview with Mara Wilson (AKA the actress who played Matilda).

As I was reading I was reminded of my own struggles, from the ages of about 11-16, with the often highly misunderstood OCD. OCD is a form of intense anxiety that manifests as obsessive and compulsive behaviour. For me, the anxiety came because I was petrified that people around me would die, or that I would offend or hurt someone. I don’t know where those fears came from, but for some strange reason, it lead me to believe that if I stepped off the pavement in the ‘right’ way, or turned off my radio at just the ‘right’ time then it would mean everything would be ok.

I remember New Years Eve in 1999, I had all sorts of fears about Y2K and the whole world coming to an end that I became obsessed with doing everything in the ‘right’ way. I dropped an envelope off at a neighbours house and grazed the letterbox with my hand in a way that didn’t feel ‘right’ (I can’t explain it with any more clarity than that) so I spent ages going back to that letterbox and trying to touch it ‘correctly’. It was embarrassing and soul destroying and robbed me of all sense of self-respect. It made no sense, and yet I was still compelled, forced by my own mind, to keep doing it.

Now I have done a tonne of self-reflection training and work, I can see it was my gremlins playing havoc. They were steering the ship and putting my brain into overdrive – making up stories about what was going to happen in the future. And they were then feeding me these highly unrelated ideas about how to control the situation.

It feels incredibly vulnerable sharing this on the blog. Even writing about it twenty years later I feel ashamed. And it reminds me about how much shame is still tied up in mental health. Because there is shame there is isolation. You already feel bad enough, why would you expose yourself and risk feeling even worse by telling everyone.

For me, I can see now, that I knew consciously what I was doing didn’t make any sense, but it was my unconscious mind that was driving me to do things I didn’t want to. When we don’t shine a light on our unconscious minds they are left to run the show.

However, I think times are changing. We are becoming so much more emotionally agile and able to articulate and reflect on our unconscious emotions and thoughts. There are more spaces to explore what’s going on for us, and organisations and communities are looking at preventative measures to ensure folks catch and tackle what’s coming up for them before it becomes more serious. My OCD didn’t just come on overnight, it crept up, and if I had had the language to talk about it at the time it might not have been with me for so long.

So if you feel called to share your stories of mental ill health with me, please know I am open and available to hear them.

With love, Hannah

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