Hey guys -
This week's blog is a guest blog from Jessica Lee.
I know I haven't done a personal blog for a few weeks now - things are incredibly busy at the moment - I have an upcoming show I'm performing in at the end of July so am struggling for time to write!
Thank God for you guest bloggers who are all fabulous!
Anyone interested in guest blogging please get in touch! -
Twitter - @letstalkmhealth
Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/letstalkaboutmentalhealth
Jessica Lee is a 21 year old business management student experiencing anxiety and OCD.
First of all I’d like to say how grateful I am to be able to share my experiences of anxiety and OCD on this fantastic blog, and hopefully I can provide some comfort to anyone struggling with similar issues to me.
As a person I am an open book and totally wear my heart on my sleeve, however when it comes to discussing my mental health I find that other people are scared of the subject, causing me to hold back. This frustrates me because talking about it helps endless amounts, and none of us should feel ashamed, which is why we need to get rid of the stigma!
Mental health problems run in my family and my dad, who passed away when I was quite young, suffered from severe depression. I feel that my dad was a victim of the judgement that society holds over people with mental illness, particularly being a man and having to conform to the strong male stereotype. I think that for this reason he did not get the help he needed, and I am so passionate about raising awareness in order to change this.
It’s difficult to pinpoint when I first experienced anxiety or OCD as it only became a major problem around a year and a half ago.
However looking back, I know that it has always been there, lurking in my brain. For instance when I was younger I remember that if I had a negative thought, i.e. that something bad was going to happen, I’d have to say a little phrase in my head to stop it from happening. I’m not sure if I ever wholeheartedly believed that the bad thing would happen, but I simply couldn’t take the risk. I grew out of this particular compulsion, but sure enough other ones have come into play.
The anxiety side of things began about a year and a half ago, when I changed university course. I went to university as an incredibly confident and sociable individual, and spent a year making wonderful friends so starting again really freaked me out. I would be sitting in lectures and all of a sudden I felt like I wasn’t really there, as if I was in a dream. This is a common sensation amongst those who have anxiety known as depersonalisation, but at the time I didn’t understand it at all. I then started having strange episodes in nightclubs where I felt very claustrophobic and uneasy, and I had to go outside to be calmed down by my friends. Obviously I now know that these were panic attacks, but at the time I was just confused about what was happening to me.
Around Christmas time the same year I was diagnosed with a heart condition, and this really knocked me for six because I had never had any sort of physical health problem before, nor expected I ever would. This led to extreme worries about my physical health, and I was constantly googling my “symptoms” hoping for reassurance, but of course this made things worse. The overwhelming feeling of anxiety soon became constant and relentless. Anxiety feels different for everyone but for me it was like when you trip over and get that horrible flip in your stomach, only the feeling never went away. At this point I honestly thought I was going mad, I felt that I couldn’t control my own thoughts and that I was completely losing who I was as a person. It felt like my brain had been removed and rewired, and then put back in. Everything escalated over the course of 6 months, which doesn’t seem very long at all considering the contrast between how happy I was before, and how low I was in my darkest times.
In order to get myself out of the relentless downwards spiral, I tried various types of treatment from counselling to hypnotherapy. However I felt that what I was experiencing was an emotion that I couldn’t control no matter how hard I tried to change my thinking. I therefore decided to go on anti-depressants, something that I was very apprehensive about because of the huge stigma attached, but I am so happy that I did because they put me in a position where I was able to fight my illness rather than be swallowed by it. I became proactive in getting better and took up meditation (the Headspace app is incredible!), which calms me down no end, and also adult colouring books are so therapeutic and pose as a great distraction when I’m having racing thoughts. Finally, I am very lucky to have a wonderful support system made up of my family, friends and boyfriend with whom I have always been very honest. Even though sometimes they have been taken aback by what I have said, and may not have known what to say themselves, I am always guaranteed a listening ear and a cuddle which is simply invaluable.
I still experience obsessive thoughts and feelings of anxiety, and I probably always will because that’s just how I am wired, but I am no longer debilitated by it and I have come to accept it. In a strange way I also feel closer to my dad because I at least partially understand what he went through, and I take great comfort from that.