How To Be A Good Friend To Someone Suffering With Mental Illness

 

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As someone who has suffered with Depression, Anxiety and OCD, I feel like I can safely say this has led to some detachment, from my friends over the years. Especially when things were really tough for me. Getting ready to go out whilst suffering with depression, and feeling as if I had no energy for the smallest of things. Pair that with the added struggle of it taking me hours to get ready due to my OCD, it was just all too much. Too much to do the normal things and also too much to do the fun things, for example go out with friends like a normal teenager/ young adult would have. So what did I do? I just stopped. I stopped saying yes to things and I detached myself from people. Unfortunately at the age I was I felt not many people understood what I was going through, but that feeling is something everyone going through a hard time can experience at any age.

Can I really blame people for giving up on me when I’d said no to going out again and AGAIN. I understand how frustrating it must feel to constantly be trying with someone who doesn’t seem to want to do anything especially if they don’t explain and you don’t understand. At the same time that person needs someone more than ever even if they push you away and only want you from a far. So I thought I would try to write a list of a few things, that I think are good ideas to help you feel as if you are being a good friend to someone you may know is struggling.  You can feel so useless when its a matter of the mind, no plaster, tablet or trip to the doctors is going to fix it. That doesn’t mean there aren’t things that can be done to make that person feel loved and supported, it’s just a little trickier. This can also relate to family and partners to.

 ♥ Talk to them. Let them know that you are always there to talk to and you’re not just saying it. Check in on them if you’ve not heard from them or they’ve gone quiet and you know they’re going through some stuff. This will let them know that there not a burden and you really do care and want to listen. It sounds obvious but sometimes they won’t come to you, from fear that you won’t understand or you’ll be dragged down with their problems.

♥  Invite them places but don’t be too pushy. Don’t just give up on them after they’ve said no. Try to understand where they’re coming from, and even ask whats making them not want to go out. Ask if there is anything that they would be comfortable doing if it’s not the thing you’ve suggested. I know it may feel pointless but still inviting them out even if you are expecting a no shows you’re still here when they’re ready. Perhaps they don’t want to go to that party or group event but would prefer a smaller social setting with just you and them. Keep trying but give them space too, find the balance of caring but not making them feel forced.

 ♥  So they don’t want to go out? Suggest a cosy night in, in your favourite comfies with films, face masks and comfort food. That kind of evening doesn’t require much energy or preparation and is the perfect time for you both to vent to each other and have a laugh.

♥  Confide in them about your own personal struggles if you have any that relate. Just hearing someone around you has had similar struggles, thoughts and feelings can be such a comfort when you feel alone.

♥  Talk to them about getting help if they aren’t. If you think your friend is suffering with a mental health problem, and they’re not talking to anyone about it or receiving help, you should encourage them to. If you also think that person is in danger of hurting themselves or isn’t able to see they need it desperately, it’s best to confide in someone close to them like a parent or teacher.

♥  Let them know you’re thinking of them by popping round their house spontaneously, you could even take some flowers as a little pick me up. A lovely thing I recently came across is something called a buddy box, you can send them to someone who’s going through a rough time or even buy them for yourself. There full of little cute and comforting things, which they call a hug in a box. You can find out more about that here (https://www.blurtitout.org/). Sometimes when your feeling low and happiness seems a distant memory a little thing like that can mean so much. Even if it’s just for a moment, they will feel so grateful and happy to have you in their life.

♥  Send them a positive quote, I love a good quote and they’re everywhere on the internet. It sounds cheesy I know, but I could really relate to some of them when I was struggling. It can help you see things in a positive light for a change and give someone a different way of thinking about their situation.

At the end of the day you aren’t that persons carer and they don’t expect you to dedicate all your time and self to making them better. Only they can do that. I think some of these are a lovely way to make a gesture to show your there for them in that time of need.

 Keep smiling,

Anna

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If OCD Was A Person

If OCD Was A Person Blog Post

I have been struggling with my OCD recently, which means I have been talking to people around me about it and explaining how I feel a lot. Which is a positive thing to do, bottling up your feelings won’t do you any good. Sometimes however people don’t understand how something mental inside your head, can cause someone so much distress and control them so much. It was then I decided to explain what OCD would be like as a person. This gave me the idea for today’s blog post. I thought it might help people who don’t understand the mental struggles  we go through, or can’t quite see why we can’t just ignore it. Maybe putting it into a human form of what OCD is like to us, inside our heads will help them picture it. Of course OCD isn’t another being. It is apart of our brains but it can really feel like there’s an evil being in our heads controlling us. OCD can be so dark it can feel as if it couldn’t possibly be apart of your own brain. Which is why thinking of it as a being who is causing you to suffer, can help you and others see it for what it is. A bully.

OCD makes people believe they are in constant danger, and need to perform mental or physical compulsions, if they don’t something awful will happen. E.g ‘if I don’t do such and such, someone I love will die’. Eventually someones whole day can be filled with unwanted compulsions, because the thoughts that something will happen are so strong. It can also twist someones thoughts and emotions so much so, that they don’t even know who they are anymore. If they stop questioning the thoughts how will they ever know if they mean something about their core self, or if they are real thoughts they enjoy. E.g A gory image pops into their head, it terrifies them and makes them question what if I could do that said image to someone’. This fills them with such distress, they won’t stop analysing and running over the thoughts in their head for hours a day. They believe these thoughts that most people don’t even notice, mean there a murder or psychopath. They live in fear of themselves when they have always been a good person.

So what would OCD be like if it was a human….

Picture a tall, dark person, the kind of person or being that would intimidate even the strongest and bravest of people. At the start of meeting them it would almost be as if they are there to keep you safe, ‘If you do what I say, nothing bad will happen’. Why wouldn’t you listen to them when they tell you it’s for yours and everyone elses benefit, there, there to help you see danger. They are also really good at convincing you, that YOU are the bad person here, not them. You NEED them. They are so good at twisting things, and making you believe you truly are an awful human being or that you never really knew who you were without them.

After a while, you realise your being controlled and manipulated, the person is just trying to break you down and control your every being, it started out small and now you can’t do anything without them interfering. They are stripping you of your life, you’re their prisoner. They are so good at manipulating you and torturing you with vivid scenarios of what will happen if you don’t do what they say or if they leave your life, its impossible not to listen. Picture the evil kind of person who feeds of people’s distress and lives for the control they have over someone. When you try to go against them and leave, the manipulating gets worse, they are so good at guilt tripping you and the fear they make you feel is so strong. They have the power to make you feel so hopeless, worthless, alone, controlled, scared and depressed.

That’s OCD.

Happy New Year to you all,

Anna

 

 

 

 

A Day In The Life Of Someone With OCD

OCD Blog PostYesterday it felt as if my world suddenly stopped as I was putting some washing on. I mean my mind is always full of little anxiety attacks of “Don’t do that or (blank) will happen” “Do this or (blank) will happen” but I’ve learnt to shrug them off. This felt different, this felt HUGE, it felt so real I can’t even begin to explain, it felt so certain. “If you put this washing on, you won’t be safe” the OCD part of my brain whispered. I thought to myself “I know this isn’t real, its OCD Anna, don’t listen” I went to put some more washing into the washing machine. OCD whispered louder this time “What if its real, what if this terrible thing really will happen Anna?” I stopped, my heart pumping harder now, OCD took over my brain and filled it with terrifying images of what felt like was my fate if I didn’t listen to it. It happens so fast its uncontrollable, it’s like I’m looking into a crystal ball of my future. I felt as if my whole body and mind were consumed with fear. I was frozen to the spot. I started to barter with my rational self and my OCD “Shall I listen or shall I not?” “NO ANNA, STOP IT, THIS IS OCD” my own conscious self shouted within my brain. “How can washing possibly make something bad happen, it can’t, you know it can’t” I carried on thinking to myself,  “but what if” OCD would reply.

OCD wasn’t letting up it felt as if it was to forcing waves of anxiety over me every time I tried to rationalize my thoughts. I managed to switch the washing machine on and for a little bit I almost felt like I’d made the right choice but OCD was about to give me an ultimatum. It was going to try barter with me now, I hadn’t abided by it and lets just say OCD gets really angry when I don’t. More anxiety flooded over me, more images and more thoughts about this terrible thing happening. I was in panic mode. “Re wash your clothes and maybe you’ll be safe” OCD said as if it was doing me a favour.I sat down where I was stood in the kitchen, I needed to sit down and try to work out what to do, try to sort through all the thoughts rushing around my brain. “Shall I re wash the washing?” “What if the thoughts come true?” “No Anna this is OCD, don’t give in it only makes it worse!!”. All these thoughts bumping into to each other one after the other in my head. The thing is with OCD it wants you to suffer really, it makes out it wants to keep you safe but really it wants to make us prisoners in our own minds, it wants us to live in fear.

It was about to corner me so there was nowhere to run or hide, I was going to be stuck. “If you re-wash the clothes, something bad will happen to someone else, if you don’t it will happen to you'” I began to cry, there was no way out of this. Either way I turned filled me with anxiety if I left the clothes I felt terrified for myself, If I re washed them I felt terrified for a loved one. My heart sank as I felt tears rolling down my cheeks, still sitting on the kitchen floor. I felt so scared and frustrated but also complete and utter hate towards my own brain. I kept reminding myself I was being stupid that nothing could happen because I didn’t partake in a compulsion but all I’d do is doubt that statement. I sat for a couple of hours in the same spot running over the events in my mind, trying to work out whether to re-wash some clothes or leave them. “How can something so insignificant create so much pain, I’m so pathetic” I thought, my heart sank even further, so far it felt as if it was in my stomach.

“Do what you’d do if you didn’t have OCD Anna, you wouldn’t re wash the clothes, you’d wash them once and not even give it a second thought” I tried to reassure myself, but the anxiety wasn’t letting up I thought about the consequences of not re washing it. “Maybe I should just re wash them, what’s the harm if it makes you feel better” my mind turned to the other consequences of my loved ones. I felt as if anything I done at this point until I’d decided about the clothes would also be bad, I didn’t want to take a shower because if I decided to re wash the clothes, I’d also have to take another shower, some how this felt right in my head. I knew it wasn’t logical or didn’t make any sense if I was to say it out loud or try to explain. I was now in OCD’s bubble, prisoned in my own brain, thinking over and over and over about what to do for best but also trying so hard to rationalize the fear and thoughts I was experiencing.

I managed to get up and take a bath crying as I did because it felt so wrong not having made a decision about the clothes, but I had to get ready to go to my dads. I was dressed, I had my make-up on this had sort of taken me out of the bubble and more into reality. Messaging someone on my phone and being in another environment (my dads house) also seemed be taking my mind off it a little, I could feel the fear and thoughts lurking in the back of my mind but I didn’t feel so distressed. I debated throughout the evening whether to text my mum asking her to put my clothes on for a re-wash. Every time I typed it out, I deleted it again as anxiety would stop me and thoughts about me being selfish for re washing the clothes when the consequences would be directed towards my family.  I  flitted back and forth “Do I, don’t I?”. It had been almost 7 hours and I was still thinking about it all and I was still scared.

I arrived home and I had the idea in my head that I’d leave the decision until the morning, maybe then my mind would be clearer or maybe I would wake up and the anxiety would have decreased. Even though I’d sort of made this decision I still did’t stop thinking about if I should or shouldn’t re-wash the clothes, OCD wasn’t about to let up just because I’d decided to wait until the morning. I was right, OCD wasn’t going to stop there, it decided to throw another curve ball to torture me some more ‘You HAVE to make you decision before tomorrow, after that re-washing the clothes wouldn’t even count’. OCD always tries to match your intelligence, it will always find a way to catch your rational mind out, just when you think you’ve found an answer to the problem, it comes and creates a new problem.

I went into the utility room and sat down by the washing machine and cried. “A whole day ruined by putting some washing on, you’re stupid Anna, you’re pathetic” I told myself. My mum came in and tried to reason with me and help me, she’s seen me this way many of times. It wasn’t working, by this point  rationalizing with me wasn’t going to work, I was terrified and frantically trying to work out what to do in my head. I was well and truly in OCD’s bubble. “Come on Anna, go to bed and figure it out in morning, you can’t sit down here all night or at least relax in bed whilst trying to work out what to do” My mum said comfortingly. I responded angrily, I was so stuck in my brain that there was going to be no getting through to me.

I was alone now and it was 11 pm, sitting by a washing machine crying like a crazy person. I had to do something, I had to. I grabbed the washed and dried clothes and stuffed them into the washing machine, I poured out the washing powder and shut the washing machine door. I felt sick, “Is this the right thing to do” I questioned myself. I stopped. OCD whispered “What if it’s a test, what if you selfishly re-wash your clothes to feel less scared for yourself, which will put your loved ones in danger, but doing this will cause you to be at harm for being selfish and looking after yourself”. I broke down in more floods of tears. “Your selfish Anna” I thought to myself. I couldn’t do it I couldn’t re wash the clothes no matter how scared I was. Although I had made my decision the fear didn’t go away and neither did the thoughts.

Its 8.30 pm the next day and I’m here writing this still in fear of yesterdays decision. I’ve had moments of clarity where I feel ok and moments where I’m crying, but I am still fighting even though I am mentally exhausted and if you have OCD, you have to as well, we can’t let OCD win, your not alone in what your facing.

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This is what its like to suffer with OCD.

Disclaimer: This is all real events told exactly when and how it was. Not all OCD sufferers face the same symptoms and types but this gives you an insight to the thought process and how distressing OCD can be.

Stay Strong,

Anna

What Not To Say To Someone Suffering With OCD, Anxiety & Depression And Why

When suffering with a mental illness it can sometimes feel very lonely as if no one understands what you’re going through. Added to that there’s still a slight stigma when it comes to mental health problems and a ton of misconceptions surrounding different mental illnesses. Being a sufferer of OCD, Anxiety and Depression there’s nothing more frustrating than knowing what suffering with one of these illnesses is like, then having people making jokes or comments regarding your mental illness, that are far from helpful or factual.

I thought for this blog post I’d share some of the worst things to say to someone suffering with OCD, Anxiety and Depression. I took to a OCD forum to ask for people’s examples to add to my own, of things they’ve had said to them and the comments came flooding in. A lot of the time due to misconceptions people don’t even realise what there saying is factually incorrect and offensive to a sufferer. Not only will this spread awareness on this subject, but I think a lot of people will relate to this and realise they’re not the only person who experience this. It’s not about treading on eggshells when it comes to someone suffering it’s about making sure that comment you don’t give a second thought is not only factually correct but helpful and not hurtful to someone.

‘You know it’s all in your head so just stop!!’

This is one that’s quite often said to OCD sufferers when struggling with OCD’s symptoms, such as when a sufferer is resisting to perform a certain compulsion, because they think something terrible will happen. No matter if you know what you’re experiencing is OCD or know it sounds silly, it’s not as simple as just stopping. People with OCD have vivid thoughts, questions, feelings and images followed by a great deal of fear and doubt. No one would ever suffer with mental illness if it was as simple as just stopping. Trust me if we could just stop, we would.

‘Oh you have OCD? I bet your house is tidy!!’

This is a very big misconception about OCD. Yes people with OCD can have really tidy houses, but many people with OCD have normal, untidy and disorganised houses. OCD is not just a cleaning disorder, there’s many symptoms and types.

‘But you’re so pretty/handsome and you have so much going for you and so much to live for, you shouldn’t be depressed!’

The thing is you don’t choose to be depressed, you can be the best looking, richest and most successful human being ever and depression can take a hold of you. It’s a chemical imbalance in the brain, being pretty or having so many great things going for you, doesn’t equal happiness unfortunately. Thanks to life events, lack of self-worth and brain chemistry, depression can grip anyone.

‘I think everyone has a little bit of OCD’

No, not everybody has a bit of OCD, OCD is a diagnosed disorder which you either have or don’t. People might be perfectionists, habitual or like to do things or have things in a certain way but this doesn’t mean someone has a little bit of OCD. Unless you have thoughts and feelings that make you feel the NEED to certain things to prevent something bad from happening, it’s probably not OCD.

 ‘I would never go on medication if I had depression, I’d just try to get better by myself’

Everyone is different and you may not need to go on medication and be able to recover from depression with counselling or therapy’s. A lot of people however medication helps a lot. Whether someone does or doesn’t take medication doesn’t make them any stronger or weaker, it also depends on the severity of the depression. If it helps you, then that’s all that matters. People are often afraid to admit they take medication in fear they will be seen as weak, comments like this reinforce this.

‘ Oh I know how you feel when it comes to feeling depressed, last week I was so depressed, I couldn’t stop crying about stuff’

Having a off week or a week where you feel down, low or cry a lot isn’t depression. If that mood persists for weeks and months, to the point your life is being significantly effected, that’s depression.

 ‘I’d love to be OCD then maybe I’d be more organised and my house would be tidy!’

 Trust me, you wouldn’t love OCD, it’s a serious debilitating illness that tears a lives apart. Again the cleaning misconception, there is more to OCD than cleaning. No one with OCD ever enjoys what they do or loves it.

Just get out more, have some fun, chill out then maybe you will feel better and less depressed’

 I know people say this to try be helpful but in all honestly it makes you feel worse. When your suffering with Depression you already don’t understand why you no longer feel like going out and having fun.  Asking yourself questions such as ‘what’s wrong with me?’ or ‘why am i like this?’ Unfortunately it’s not as simple as just getting out more, you feel like you mentally and physically can’t find the motivation to do the smallest things and having fun, no longer feels fun but an effort.

 ‘ All people who self harm are attention seekers’

 Many people who self harm live in silence and hide the fact that they do. It’s hard to understand, I get that. The thing is with self harm its a way of expressing what your feeling on the inside on the outside. There are many reasons people self harm and whether someone is doing it as a cry for help or doing it as a release and then hiding it, it should be taken seriously, the person is clearly in a lot of pain mentally, feels alone and needs help not judgement.

 ‘ You can’t just take days off work all the time, i couldn’t afford to do that!’ or ‘ You have to work, no one wants to but its something you have to do, so get a job’

The problem is when suffering with depression you literally feel as if you CANT find the energy or motivation to do the smallest things or the fun things in life, let alone go to work. If you have severe depression, needing money can’t change how you feel. A sufferer will already feel bad about not holding down a job, ashamed that they can’t and like they’re lazy or pathetic. Which is why saying these things wont help it simply confirms all the negative thoughts and feelings that person is having about themselves.

‘There is people a lot worse of than you and they still work and cope with life’

This sort of response when your suffering with a mental illness is really hard to hear. A lot of people suffering with mental illness already have very low self-worth and saying this sort of thing only makes it worse. They probably know there are people worse off, but it doesn’t make how they feel any less or better, it doesn’t make their problems go away. People  will already feel bad, ashamed and upset about how they feel, this is the last thing they wants to hear.

‘I just organised my DVDs in colour order, I’m so OCD’

Another classic comment when the word OCD is misused. Organising your DVDs in a certain order or whatever it may be, along with wanting to clean and do something a certain way, isn’t OCD. Unless the reason you done it was for things to ‘feel right’ or stop something bad from happening such as a thought coming true.

‘Just snap out of it’ or ‘You need a reality check’

You can tell someone with a mental illness to snap out of it or get a reality check as much as you like, because you care, want them to get better or want to shock them into getting better, but it won’t happen. You cannot snap out of a mental illness, if only you could! People with mental illness such as OCD, Depression and Anxiety are well aware that they’re lives are not like the average person. They are in touch with reality but have a mental illness preventing them to be exactly like the average person, they will be just as upset about it as you are.

I really could go on and on with examples and explanations as to why these comments can be annoying, unhelpful or are not factual. I hope this spreads awareness, and helps people who maybe didn’t understand or realise why it is so frustrating to hear these things be said over and over again.

What are you experiences with this subject?

Stay strong,

Anna