It was the annual World Mental Health Day on Tuesday and it’s also OCD awareness week. Done well awareness events and days help – they allow people to share experiences, aid understanding and encourage open conversations.
However it’s worth considering that WMHD is one day, many people battle to survive 365 days of the year, so don’t stop the conversations, they can save lives. Sadly all the conversations in the world will not solve the support issues across health services which prevents timely intervention and support to people at a very vulnerable point.
Mental illness covers many things and while I can only write about depression I try to read and listen to information about all the illnesses which get labelled under mental health. I have been privileged to learn so much about OCD through a number of social media connections. I have listed a few suggestions later if you want to understand more – and believe me, if you think you know what OCD is like then you could be surprised.
So this post covers the battle between doing what you know will help and the way that depression can fool you with Jedi or more appropriately Sith mind tricks.
Depression: These aren’t the actions you’re looking for
Me: They aren’t ?
Depression: No, you are looking for excuses and procrastination.
Depression: Yes, let’s browse on Instagram – that counts as “research, look at National Geographic, that’s serious …oh hold on, look Instagram have posted a picture of a piglet rubbing it’s back against a wall. Wonder what breed of pig (still research) let’s hit Wikipedia…oh brilliant, they have a featured article on Saturn, fascinating planet, let’s read….
Depression: Wasn’t that fun? Don’t you feel more knowledgeable now about pigs, planets and who knew about the fork-marked lemur…or the spotted green pigeon.
Me: Why did I do that…haven’t done meditation, writing, dog needs walking…..idiot, never going to get better, all the stuff I write about and not doing it (monologue carries on for hours)
And so it begins. The difference between self-destruction and self-care. I know I SHOULD be meditating, exercising, writing, randomly putting paint on canvas, all those things which help. So how does depression stop this?
Firstly there is often a trigger or triggers which feed depression. These can be simple or complex, obvious or subtle. It’s taken a day or two to identify a disconnect which I think has been a key trigger.
Having left work at the end of August, I was advised by the Job Centre to apply for ESA benefit, as their view was that I wasn’t ready to look for work, which my GP supported. As part of that process you complete a health assessment form, explaining why you can’t work. When I completed it a week back I found that hard, but filled it out as best I could. And since then I realise now shame of not being able to work, which I have done all my adult life, has sneaked in. Shame is common with depression, that it’s not real, you are being weak and there are far more people in worse situations than you.
There is also a disconnect having left work, who were very supportive to me. While I had been on long time sick leave, I was still connected to a company that I had worked within for nearly three decades. Now that I don’t have that connection any longer part of me feels lost. Which is where shame comes in again – why do I feel the need to be defined by my employment ? Recently, for the first time since leaving work, I was asked what I did for a living. I can’t remember the answer I gave, I think I mumbled something about not being in work. The story my mind tells me that I said “I don’t work due to depression”…which is another trigger.
I had also “planned” to start reducing my medication from end of September, although my GP had recommended waiting longer. I have left it at the 30mg dose and that feels a failure, allowing the concerns around medication I had (post 14 and 15) to resurface. Am I addicted…why do I need them…it’s weak to rely on them etc.
What does this do to me? I stopped doing the daily MBCT practices (sorry Niki) , didn’t write in my journal for 5 days (I was actually scared to open it to see how long it had been) and basically ignored lots of things I have written about. And once you miss one day of doing these things it spirals. You don’t do them the next day as you are feeling guilty about missing them. You feel tired as the battle in your head creates all the excuses. I feel bad as people have invited me to meet up and I can’t. You become ashamed of weakness and so the Sith mind tricks all build up.
I am still waiting for the amazing moment (post 26) to bring me back out of this low period, but there little things starting to happen. I picked back up the book I had been reading on ACT and the next chapter was on the mind tricks that depression can play, which was coincidently such a well timed reminder. I have restarted the MBCT formal practices. The journal is open. Instead of using the word SHOULD DO replacing with WISH TO.
Self-kindness is the Jedi mind trick to offset the Sith ones. I have managed to continue capturing some daily mindfulness moments, even if I think I haven’t. There are random moments, simple moments, when something reminds you. While walking the dog , my head down, we spotted a butterfly resting on the grass, warming its wings in the autumnal sun. A simple moment of beauty. I did take a picture (I know, before I have said keep the phone away) and shared it, from which I had a supportive and caring response, which reminded me of the kindness of strangers. Thanks Mary.
So I’ve re-read post 26 and I know that at some point the amazing moment will happen, no doubt followed by the hyperactive period which seems to follow low periods. At which point the music will be loud with random body movements which I like to consider dancing. There is already a rock anthem playing as I write- the dog is starting to look nervous.
I write this to share the experience, not for sympathy. As I have learnt from those talking and writing about OCD it can make a difference in understanding, which fundamentally tackles stigma and discrimination.
That is the power of awareness.
If interested in learning more about OCD –
- http://shelterofeachother.blogspot.co.uk/. Fiona’s (@Fi_Contextual) blog , which is one of my favourite blogs to read, due to it’s warmth and evocative style of writing, along with heart wrenching honesty
- http://theocdstories.com/podcast/ashley-fulwood-ocd-uk-recovery-is-possible/…a video podcast featuring Ashley Fulwood (@AshleyFulwood), CEO of OCDUK, whose openness and explanations are remarkably insightful
- https://askashocd.wordpress.com/. Ash (@AshleyCurryOCD) who campaigns and raises awareness, especially on paternal and maternal OCD