An indefinite lull of mental clarity

1 in 10 children and young people aged 5-16 suffer from a diagnosable mental health disorder. In this blog, our young writer Caitlin talks about her own experience of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.

Many of us have experienced some kind of troubling mental health condition in recent years, and the timescale in which we experience these dark and often terrifying feelings varies greatly depending on the individual. But no matter the permanency of your mental state, each and every case deserves rightful acknowledgement, and hopefully, accompanying that, wide spread social awareness. So in light of Children’s Mental Health Week 2017, I thought I’d participate by sharing my own story of a disorder that plagues me.

For what, I’m guessing, is the majority of my adolescence, I have had OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder). It is a monster that controls and defines me— an indefinite lull of mental clarity. But despite my deep harboured terror, I hadn’t a clue anything was wrong with me until far too recently.

As a young child, I had lots of little rituals that I performed to make me feel okay and comfortable in my own skin; I thought it was perfectly normal to have to position my pillows in an exact fashion before I could fall asleep. If I didn’t do it the way my – I now know to be OCD– brain wanted I’d lay there with a constant nag or a itch in my skull until it was done to my little monster’s satisfaction.

I’m my experience, OCD is manic and irrational, accompanied by constant worry— how much time do I need to schedule in before I can actually get out the door today? I find that the more anxious I am, the more my OCD tends to flare and burn. Although, even without the trigger, it may decide to just tackle me out of nowhere, and sometimes with a new ritual. That, I have to tell you, is not very convenient. It’s all one big hassle, and even just placing down something at an angle my monster decides isn’t right causes a whole new kerfuffle over sensibility.

Until I found out my disorder wasn’t just a personality quirk, I have to say I had fallen to society’s pressures of presumption. A lot of the time, the phrase ‘OCD’ is thrown around as a personal descriptive for nothing more than a pet peeve, and to be frank this in itself has started to become my own pet peeve! Like many mental illnesses, OCD is often overlooked and misunderstood. What a lot of people don’t seem to understand is how truly uncontrollable the urge to fulfil our compulsions are—no matter how ridiculous they may seem. If we don’t satisfy the grip on our mind then, honest to god, I tell you it drives even the most composed being into a puddle of crippling desperation.

Every case of mental illness is wholly unique to the individual experiencing it, and I want people to know that empathy and compassion have a key role to play in having a supportive environment for those with a mental health disorder. Nobody can ever understand what another person goes through, it’s simply impossible. Unless you know how to swap bodies—Freaky Friday anyone?

I think it’s important to constantly be aware of the social stigmas in our society; even with the recent boost in mental health awareness, having a disorder is much like having a childhood tantrum: “it’ll pass”, they say, or “get over it”. Having a mental health disorder is no less real than any physical injury. The mind marks who we are and how we define ourselves; it may all be in our head but, after all, is the brain not the most important organ?