I’ve started another mini series about what it’s like to spend a day living with different mental health problems.
I don’t normally do this, but I’m putting a content warning on these posts. They might be difficult to read for people who are experiencing or are in recovery from any of the topics I’ll be discussing. However, it’s very important to me that the raw, painful truth of mental illness is exposed. There are many, many examples of mental illness being glamourised in the media, but that’s not the reality we live with day to day. I’m hoping it wont be, but some of the content might be triggering.
This post has been contributed by Lydia, who has her own blog where she also talks about mental health.
I lay there, trying to keep my concentration on the lights of all the cars that pass my window and shine through. “Don’t think about it. Don’t think about it. Don’t think about it”, I repeated to myself over and over again. If I could just keep watching all of the lights it’d be okay. The light from my window grew, so I knew that it was once again morning and I hadn’t managed to get a minute of sleep. I begrudgingly flipped my phone over to check the time.
6:00 am in the morning.
People were just starting their day and all of mine were mashing into one with night after night of restless sleeping.
It was my own fault, part of me was trying to stay awake. I was terrified to sleep. I was scared of dreaming images that were the same themes of the intrusive thoughts I was having. If I dreamt about these awfully violent intrusive thoughts, it would mean that I really was evil and deviant. Dreams come from your subconscious and if my subconscious was filled with that violence it had to mean I was capable of that violence. I didn’t dare close my eye’s for fear of having my worst nightmares confirmed.
Although I gave up on the idea of sleep as it was already morning, I still didn’t get out of bed till hours later. This bed was safe. As long as I stayed within the safety of my bed, my thoughts couldn’t hurt anyone. I couldn’t hurt anyone.
Except, before long, my heads being bombarded by horrible thoughts. Thoughts of my loved one’s being hurt, of great tragedies, thoughts of me hurting people. An endless cycle of thoughts. I never got a break. “What must this say about me?”, I thought to myself. The fact that my mind is full of such awful and despicable thoughts much reflect on me as a person. How horrible of a person must I be to be filled with such horrible and graphic thoughts?
I pushed back tears and force myself out of bed. I walked into my living room and notice the emptiness and quietness of the flat I lived in. I was jealous. Jealous of a building because I wished my head was as quiet as my home.
I switched the TV on to find something suitable that wouldn’t trigger any unwanted thoughts. This was one of my compulsions. My compulsions weren’t putting things in order or cleaning like most people think of when you hear OCD. My compulsions were avoidance. Avoiding anything that could possibly incite any more intrusive thoughts.
I’d avoid certain things on the TV, certain books, I’d avoid situations and objects like knives or anything that could cause harm. My other compulsions were ruminating, going over every detail of my thoughts and feelings, analysing my intrusive thoughts to find meaning and to try and reassure myself that I didn’t want to hurt anyone or that I hadn’t already hurt anyone. Another compulsion would be that I’d repeat certain words over and over in my head, sort of like prayers, to try and counteract my awful thoughts.
In between all of this, all of the thoughts and compulsions, I hadn’t even really watched the TV. I wondered into the kitchen to get something to eat, but I was overcome by my thoughts and the guilt associated with them. I didn’t want to be evil. I just wanted to be a good person. The tears I’d previously fought back came and I found myself on the kitchen floor sobbing.
I eventually pulled myself together and decided to go the library like I had done most days. At the library, I poured through every book on physical and mental health issue’s, trying to find some explanation for what I was feeling. Desperately trying to find an explanation that didn’t involve me being an evil, horrible person. I searched obsessively through all the books, but the funny thing was, I didn’t go through the books on OCD. I thought it was pointless. OCD is where people get anxious over germs and things and that’s nothing like what’s happening with me, so there’s no point in looking at that, right? I had no idea OCD could also look like my experiences.
Having not found the answers I wanted, I went back home. My mum returned home from work and asked me how my day was. I answered that it was fine. I sat on the sofa, my mum was talking about something, but I was inside my own head, intrusive thought after intrusive thought and then more internal compulsions. It never stopped.
My mum flicked the TV onto the news. I saw that news story about that guy who’d orchestrated a mass shooting in an American cinema. Panic started to build. What if I made that happen? What if somehow, I had caused that? Caused innocent people to get hurt? What if I wanted this? What if I caused all that death? I quickly went into my bedroom as panic built into my chest. I didn’t want to hurt people, I didn’t want to be this person.
I tried to convince myself that I couldn’t have possibly caused something that happened in another country, that bad thoughts couldn’t make bad things happen, but it was useless. I spent the rest of the night ruminating over it and then it was time for bed once again.
I lay in bed for hours, scared to sleep, too many thoughts to go asleep anyway.
Don’t think about it. Don’t think about. Don’t think about it. Just concentrate on the lights and everything will be okay.
Thank you so much Lydia for sharing your story. If you haven’t checked out her blog yet, I would highly recommend it!
The purpose of this series is to be real and honest, and I hope we’ve achieved that. I want people to understand that mental illness is real and that battling with your own mind every day is all consuming and frightening. If you have struggled with any of the issues mentioned above, you can find some great resources here. You can also find other posts in this series about anorexia, mania, depression and orthorexia.
Do you have your own story to tell about a day in your life living with a mental health problem? If you’d like to contribute to this series and write your own post, I’d love to hear from you. You can get in touch with me here.