*Disclaimer*: This post discusses OCD and intrusive thoughts that include death. If you are affected by this post then please seek professional support and advice as I am not a trained medical professional.
Mental health problems affect me. They affect many of us either through personal experience ourselves or through knowing someone who has a mental health problem. Now you may have heard about It Affects Me – a campaign to raise awareness of mental health problems – because you aren’t alone. But before I share my selfie (you’ll find out more about this in a moment), I wanted to let you know a little bit about the campaign and the person behind it – Laura Darrall.
Tell me more about #ItAffectsMe.
I have asked people all over the world to take a selfie with a post-it note on their head, that says #itaffectsme, upload it to social media, donate to a mental health charity of their choice and then share, share, share!
#Itaffectsme is simply the statement the mental illness affects every single one of us, whether directly or indirectly and the selfie is to put faces to it, to stop people being embarrassed or afraid to ask for help. Mental illness has no prejudices about who it affects, so we should have no prejudices about it.
How and why did it come about?
The idea for #itaffectsme first came to me after I came out the other side of a mental breakdown, a year of panic attacks, anxiety, OCD and depression. I was sat on the edge of my bed and for the first time in months I felt clarity of thought and a fire in my belly and I knew that I had to use it to make a change, to make people unafraid to speak out and to put an end to stigma.
But I had no idea how, so I said a prayer, looked over at my desk, spotted the post-its and then it was like a light bulb switched on in my brain! A real Eureka moment, and it has snowballed from there.
You have personal experience of mental health problems – if you don’t mind could you tell me a little bit more about your experience.
When I was nineteen I suffered from horrendous OCD, intrusive thoughts inside my head telling me that if I didn’t do or say or think certain things then those that I loved would die and that it would all be my fault.
Since that first attack, I have suffered on and off from anxiety, depression, panic attacks and more OCD than you could sink a battle ship with.
It has affected my family, my life and my relationships. I say I “have suffered from” not as a victim but as a strong, confident young woman who never understood mental illness until she had it and suffered.
If you could say anything to anyone about mental health problems what would you say? Why?
I would say, never judge.
Never judge anyone who is struggling as you have no idea of the battles they are fighting everyday.
If anyone is suffering and is too afraid to speak out, I would say this: Take it ten seconds at a time and do not fear. Help is out there and only by talking and sharing can we find it. And you will come out the other side. You don’t know who else you may help by sharing your own sufferings and surely the one good thing that can come out of suffering is to help someone else when they experience it too.
If we share our mental illnesses with people, they can be strong for us when we can not. And people want to help, they want to hold your hand if you give them the chance. So do, talk to them and give them that chance.
If I could say one thing to my pre-treatment self it would be, “This is temporary”. Because when you are in the pits of mental illness, in a panic attack, an OCD spike, a black hole of depression, it feels like it will never end. But it will, and if you speak out and seek help you will find tools to help you combat it if and when it returns.
I know that one day I may find myself attacked by mental illness again but I know that when and if that day comes I will be ready for it, fully armed and unafraid.
Part 2 will be coming next week so look out where you can find out more about the campaign and about something big that’s being planned for the campaign!