This is a blog of immense gratitude. This is a blog where I sing the praises of two special young women who have entered my life via Twitter. This is a blog where I say I am no longer ashamed or embarrassed to tell people that I suffer with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder!
Many moons ago when I was a student at University in Liverpool, I would joking tell people how all the black cab drivers in this city knew all about the workings of the male prostate gland due to me. You see, I’ve always been able to talk for England and so ended up telling loads of taxi drivers about my heartbreaking struggles with my prostate illness. Yes, it did involve talking about my ‘man bits’, but my attitude has always been that men shouldn’t feel embarrassed about discussing such a topic.
As I battled my physical health at Uni, I was also battling with severe OCD on a daily basis. My main issue back then was a fear of standing in dog dirt. The difference here though was that only my tutors, close friends and close family knew about this. I guess looking back then, there were definite feelings of shame and embarrassment linked to my mental suffering. For instance, I remember fancying this girl for ages and was worried that if she ever found out about my OCD, then she would run a mile and no way be interested in me.
There was one time though where I felt relaxed and emboldened enough to tell a black cabbie about my OCD. The driver was moaning about how a neighbour was letting his dog foul his front door step and not pick it up afterwards. I agreed with him that this was disgusting behaviour. Subsequently, this then led me on to talking about my OCD and my phobia about excrement in general. As soon as I mentioned it, he immediately went quiet on me. I wasn’t overthinking the situation, me mentioning that I was a man with a mental health condition definitely cut the conversation stone dead. Me being so open about my mental suffering had well and truly backfired!
Fast forward a few years and I remember saying to a psychologist who I was seeing at the time, that I was thinking about doing my first ever blog about my mental health but felt too embarrassed to do so. I guess this embarrassment stemmed from the mental health stigma that existed back then, as well as me being a massive perfectionist, i.e I want everything including myself to be perfect. Nevertheless, my therapist encouraged me do a blog though and so eventually I did(still however feeling ashamed and embarrassed).
As time progressed, I blogged here and there about my mental health but still felt extremely self-conscious just before I pressed the ‘publish’ button. Just before I pressed that button my mind would be racing with a million of negative thoughts, e.g. What will my old school mates on Facebook think about me now? Will my followers on Twitter think differently of me now?? What about those girls that I fancy, how are they ever going to fancy me now I’ve told the world about how bad my mental health is???? I still pressed the publish button much to my credit I suppose, however I felt really uneasy doing so.
Step forward two young women who don’t know this as I write this blog, but they have helped change my life sooooo much for the better. I give you Angela(aka @_unapologetica) and Hannah(aka @hannahrainey_). Angela is the creator of a mental health Twitter chat called #MHchathour, and Hannah is the creator behind the mental health Twitter chat named #TalkMH. I started to join in with these chats and was instantly made to feel welcome. It was so comforting to come across and have informal mental health chats with other mental health sufferers out there.
I joined in with with these weekly chats again and again because I got so much out of them. The support and comradeship between suffers was such a lovely thing to feel part of, it still is I should add. As the weeks went by, I can remember it slowly dawning on me that I no longer felt ashamed or embarrassed to talk about my mental health issues anymore. This was because I was talking about them so openly in these chats. These two young women in Angela and Hannah, are therefore the main reason as to why I have now lost my fear in openly talking about my mental health. Girls, you’ll never fully realise what you’ve done for me. Not only have you given me a support network but you’ve also given me a sense of freedom, I now feel liberated with regards to me and mental health suffering.
Am I more than my mental health? The answer to this is, of course I am. However, these mental health Twitter chats have and still are aiding my recovery. I just needed to get this blog off my chest and to tell these two special young women what I thought of them. Social media gets a lot of criticism these days and quite rightly so in some circumstances. Nonetheless, the supportive mental health community as a whole on Twitter, with these two girls at the very heart of it deserves so much praise. I guess I wanted to write a sort of friendship love letter of sorts about these two special girls. I no longer feel ashamed of my OCD and it’s thanks largely to Angela and Hannah!