Monday 26 January 2015

Ellen White on OCD

Ellen White at the 2014 Mind Media Awards
Our new feature is a series of posts by experts by experience to be published on the last Monday of each month. Last month we had Roberta Payne who wrote about schizophrenia and "outsider art".

This month, we are delighted to host Ellen White who was recently awarded the 2014 Mind Media Award as Top Blogger. In her influential and inspirational blog, Ellen writes about the positive and negative effects of OCD and depression on her life, and challenges public attitudes towards mental illness. You can also follow her on Twitter.

Suffering from a mental health condition can be for the most part extremely distressing. An everyday battle with our minds. Not knowing what to believe, what not to believe, feeling like your own mind is working against you. However, living with a mental health condition can often go hand in hand with educating ourselves about the conditions we are suffering with and mental health in general. To recover from a mental illness, we first must understand our condition. This can often lead to people with mental health conditions being a lot more understanding of other people’s struggles. Whether that be struggling with the same mental health condition, or just struggling in general. We can almost put ourselves in the positions of others more easily.

I suffer from Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder and depression. They have both impacted my daily life since about the age of 9. Whilst this has brought about many hardships in my life, it has also allowed me to grow tremendously as a person. In knowledge and in strength, particularly surrounding the topic of mental health. Through CBT I have learnt about tackling intrusive thoughts, irrational beliefs and controlling anxiety. All at the time directed at battling my OCD, but I’ve found, benefiting me in everyday life too. Even when I have intrusive thoughts not even regarding OCD beliefs (as I have found out also through CBT, that everyone experiences intrusive thoughts. It’s a common thing! It’s how you handle the thoughts that matter) I now know how to cope with them. For example around exam time, when commonly stress levels are high and intrusive thoughts can arise. Instead of, like previous years, letting myself become prisoner to the intrusive thoughts; “I’m going to fail this exam”   or “I’m never going to get anywhere in life”. Instead I am able to recognise them as negative and unhelpful and use the techniques I have learnt, to just let them pass. They’re just intrusive thoughts, not fact. This in turn has definitely made exam time a lot less stressful.

Also, during the process of recovering from OCD and depression, I have been investigating different ways of keeping myself active and engaged. As I know that if I just sit around the house, my mood can seriously drop. Often, with the constant anxiety that OCD gives me every day, I often need to find a way to let it out. Sport has been a healthy way of doing that. I’ve found, because I have added anxiety that I hate and just want to get rid of, I’m a lot more motivated during my running and cycling. I almost feel like having suffered from depression to the point where I wasn’t going out or doing any of the sporting activities that I used to love and now finally beginning to enjoy them and participate in them again, has really given me so much more motivation than I ever thought I had the potential of having. I feel like without having gone through the struggle of OCD and depression, I would've never gained this true motivation for sports and also being able to gain so many necessary life skills that I may not have learnt until later on in life.

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