Comic by Natalie Dee
We talk about body acceptance a lot in the lingerie community, which is so important to me. We also talk about equality of gender, race, age, sexuality, and disability. These are all things that I believe in strongly, and try to showcase as often on the blog as I can (though I’m hoping to do better in the future and showcase even more). One thing I haven’t brought up on the blog, though, is mental health. It’s taken me a long time to write this post, so I type this with an open heart, mind, and hope that you will read it as such. Mental health isn’t something we talk about as often as we should. There is a stigma, or a taboo, that’s it’s something to sweep beneath the rug or shroud in shame. Yet, so much of the population at one time in their life, will suffer with, or know and love someone who suffers with, a mental illness. So this is my official mental health “coming out”, and I’ll explain to you why I decided to do so, on a lingerie blog of all places.
I was on Twitter, and saw this being retweeted, and it really made me nearly cry:
Tweeted on Twitter
I almost cried because, I suffer from anxiety disorder and often feel weak and ashamed. And this small little blurb that some kind hearted person wrote just really made me feel compassion for myself for once in my life, instead of anger towards myself. Whoever wrote this…thank you. You inspired me to write this blog post.
OCD. Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. I’ve suffered from this internal mental war since I was 3 years old. Back then, in the 80’s, things like mental health were even more so less talked about, and not many people knew what OCD was. So I grew up thinking I was very wrong, or crazy. My life consisted of a lot of playing by myself and being a loner, because it felt safe and I didn’t worry so much. First off; let’s have a quick OCD lesson, shall we? You can’t “be so OCD” about something. You can’t be “OCD when it comes to organization”. The term itself makes no sense. Obessive Compulsive Disorder is something you have or you don’t, it’s not something you are. These types of sayings undermine the mental health issues that people who truly suffer with OCD have. Not to mention, it perpetuates rumors and stereotypes about the disorder. Can people who suffer from OCD be very neat and like organization? Sure! But that is only a very small part of it. Somehow it’s become cute and quirky (OCD is Not a Quirk article by The Atlantic) to say you “are OCD”, which diminishes sufferers as a people. OCD consists of two things: obsessions and compulsions.
An obsession is something, that I like to explain as a thought or fear that gets stuck in your head, like a broken record. For example, “I’m afraid my family will die”, or “What if I have a stroke?”. It’s a thought that you know is irrational, but your mind obsesses over it. OCD feeds on what scares you and what is important to you. Generally, for most people, their health and family, are two things they wouldn’t want messed with, and so those some of the things that OCD can use against you. It’s a bastard of a thing. It’s the boogie man. So that thought begins to make you anxious, it makes you uncomfortable, it could make you cry, or make you hyperventilate, or make you very depressed and scared. It can even give you a panic attack (i.e. one of the worst things I’ve ever experienced in 32 years of life). So to combat that fear, we do a compulsion, something that will temporarily relieve that fear, even if only for a moment. A compulsion could consist of washing your hands several times in a row, tapping a steering wheel, walking up the stairs a certain way, checking the lock on the door over and over again. It’s exhausting and never ending, the world and everything in it becomes a danger; your worst enemy. A eager bully always waiting to pounce. The hardest part is, this bully that is ruining your life, lives in your head…it’s your brain.
You can’t truly comprehend how wonderful peace of mind is, unless you’ve never had to live your life without it. I am so jealous of you, and you don’t even realize it. I’m jealous that you don’t have to question your own thoughts. Or, maybe you do? Have you been diagnosed with OCD? If so, I’m also writing this post for you. You’re not alone, even though this illness is a very lonely one.
OCD also consists of “intrusive thoughts”, oh boy, those are fun. Note the sarcasm. They can consist of violent thoughts, deviant sexual thoughts, scary thoughts, etc. Basically anything you wouldn’t want to think about. These thoughts will pop into your head and torture you slowly. “Why am I thinking this? Am I crazy?” For example, you could have an intrusive thought about going into the kitchen and cutting your wrist. Or, a horrible sexual thought about a family member that you love very much. It is torture. It makes you want to die. It makes you question yourself. “Why would I think that? I must secretly want it.” No, you don’t. It’s upsetting you. That is the difference. The thoughts are causing you distress, not pleasure. That is why it’s an intrusive thought. It is actual hell on earth, and it’s never talked about. No, instead, it’s mocked. OCD is the butt of a joke, or the plot of a silly tv comedy, or on hundreds of quirky meme’s that don’t understand the illness at all, but instead perpetuate the stereotype.
Stereotypes are damaging and hurtful
Please please read this article and this article to give you the true facts on OCD, no stereotypes needed.
OCD is an anxiety disorder, it’s based in fear, it’s based in the part of the mind where you’ll also find our “fight or flight” mode. So a lot of people with OCD, have some form of anxiety disorder too. Usually generalized anxiety. Anxiety is like a watchdog in your head that barks incessantly, and without need. “Did I turn the stove off? Did I unplug my curling iron? Why is everyone staring at me, are they judging me? My arm hurts, am I having a heart attack?? Oh god, now I can’t breathe..I’m going to die.” Then comes the panic attack. If you’ve never had a panic attack, I don’t think I could ever fully explain to you how scary they are. Your mind becomes so afraid, that is tricks your body into thinking you’re in a “fight or flight” situation, that you’re in real danger, so your body pumps extra adrenaline to help you “fight” or “escape”. But, the problem is, it’s just a panic attack, you’re not really in danger! You’re okay. You’re just scared. But now your body is convinced that you’re in real danger, so the symptoms of that rush of adrenaline kick in: trouble breathing, numb limbs, sometimes my lips or part of my face go numb, jelly legs, heart palpitations, mania, hot/cold flashes, having to go to pee a lot, not to mention your body and mind believe you’re going to die, that the end is near, that this is fatal. And even though deep down, in your mind, you logically KNOW that you’re fine, you’re just afraid, your anxiety just won’t listen. Reason does not apply.
If you have many panic attacks a month, or the fear of panic attacks causes you to have panic attacks, then you have panic disorder. Which is what I have too. I’m so afraid of fear and having a panic attack, that the fear sometimes causes me to have one! If I was in Harry Potter, my boggart would be a dementor. I often wonder if JK Rowling knew a little something about anxiety/OCD when she wrote the dementor and boggart characters. As Lupin said to Harry, when his boggart was a dementor…
“That suggests that what you fear most of all is fear. Very wise, Harry.”
One of the only accurate OCD memes I could find
So, how does this all effect my life? In every way possible. I’m very loving, I am empathic, caring, intelligent, funny, and a bit nerdy too. Does my OCD and anxiety make me any less of that? No, but it is a part of my life. It’s just as constant in my life as breathing or eating. I’ve dealt with it for almost 30 years (wow!) and truly, I never thought I’d make it this long. As a child, before I knew what my OCD was, I wanted to die a lot, and tried to kill myself a few times when I was a teenager because I just couldn’t take the mess inside of my head. If you’ve seen the great movie/book The Green Mile, when the amazing John Coffey says…
“I’m tired, boss. It’s like pieces of glass in my head, all the time. Can you understand?”
There are claims that point to genetics, that OCD and anxiety are often passed on down the line, like most mental health issues. If you suffer from mental illness, go down your family line if you can, and track it. I also suggest reading this great book on doing just that, called A Lethal Inheritance: A Mother Uncovers the Science Behind Three Generations of Mental Illness by Victoria Costello.
OCD/Anxiety lives in the Amygdala part of the brain
If you suffer from OCD or anxiety, I can recommend you some breathing exercises (Email me if you want! Even if you just need someone to listen), and I also suggest therapy (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) and there is also medication if you need it, which you can get if you seek help from a psychologist who will refer you to a psychiatrist (who dispenses mental health prescriptions). Look, OCD and anxiety are a bitch, and they can rule your life, I know it’s stolen many years from me that I’ll never get back, so please, don’t let it do the same to you. Even though there isn’t a “cure” for these disorders, the best course of action is to seek the help so you can learn to cope with the disorder. Please trust me. As a 32 year old woman who doesn’t even remember a life without OCD, ignoring it will only hurt you, and I don’t want that for you. I want you to have an easier life than I’ve had. I hope my sacrifice and pain I’ve gone through my whole life, and all of the research I’ve done and learned about these disorders can help you, in that I too might feel some solace in knowing my experience had helped you.
One last note. I don’t want to preach, but if you use terms like “I’m so OCD”, because you like your desk to be neat or color coded, etc, Please stop. Right now. Please be the change. It belittles our illness and makes a joke of it. I wish OCD was only organizing my desk! I’d gladly have that instead. Unfortunately that’s not it. Washing your hands 50 times just to “do it right” so that “your parent won’t die of cancer” and having raw chapped bloody hands? That is more of the reality. OCD isn’t “wanting” things to be “neat”. OCD is needing things to be a certain way or else you’ll have very high levels of anxiety, so much so that it stops your day/life right in it’s tracks and abuses your mind until whatever ritual you are doing gives you a nod of approval, you know, for like 30 seconds or so. It’s a vicious cycle. This also goes for other mental health issues. Please don’t add to the stigma. Don’t call someone “bipolar” because they have quick changing moods sometimes, don’t call someone “psychotic” because you think they’re acting “crazy”. Not only are these things horrible to say, but they’re just not true. Use Google, read a book, educate yourself, and if you can, educate others in turn, so maybe someday I won’t have to feel sad or feel my cheeks get red when I see a Facebook MEME being shared that says something like this…
I often think my OCD/anxiety is a very big part of why I often don’t showcase photos of myself wearing lingerie on my blog posts/reviews and choose to do lay-flat photos instead. I feel like a shitty lingerie blogger, and I’m sorry, but I have to do what I can…
I also hope that if you’re reading this blog post right now and you’re a reader or fellow blogger that liked me before, this won’t change your mind about me. I’m still me 🙂
So…Thank you for reading this blog post even if you don’t have mental health issues. Your attention and understanding means a lot 🙂
If you’re reading this and you do have OCD/anxiety…You’re okay (even if you feel like you aren’t). You’re not alone (there are more of us than you think!). And please get help (it’s hard at first, but it’s so essential to coping!). Also, check out this great video that Mara Wilson did recently (she suffers from OCD/anxiety too). Please don’t give up. I won’t if you won’t.