Actually Sort Of Coping
So, it’s been around half a year since I started writing about living with OCD and all the nonsense occasionally hilarious bullshit that comes with it. And thus, I thought now might be a good time to talk about some of the good that’s come from being diagnosed – namely, everything that’s actually worked to make my life a little more liveable now that I know what the heck I’m dealing with.
First and foremost, let me say this: MEDICATION. Medication isn’t the right choice for everyone when it comes to dealing with mental health issues, but for me, it’s been a game-changer. I had some trouble finding the right one for me, but right now I’m on Prozac and it’s made the world of difference in actually functioning day-to-day. I’m not saying that everyone should get on medication, or that you’re making a mistake in your treatment by deciding not to, but I’d be remiss to go into anything else without being open about the pharmaceuticals that I’m currently a-poppin’ (did I make it sound cool? I made it sound cool, didn’t I? Please say I made it sound cool).
I’ve been working with my brilliant therapist for a while now, and one of the things that I’ve found most useful out of our time together has been the ability to allow myself space to actual think about these problems and focus on solutions. Therapy isn’t a viable option for everyone, but for me, in the glorious land of the NHS, it’s been a gift for my overworked/overworking ass to have a few hours a month just to check in with where I am. I have huge trouble slowing down and forcing myself to take time to focus on something as nebulous as How I’m Feeling (does that pay me? Feed me? Fuck me? Then I don’t see a need for it in my life!), and getting into the habit of doing that more, even outside therapy appointments.
For a while, I tried to focus on my triggers – what they were, how they manifested, how they caused me to react. And I’m certain that’s going to be useful in the future once I have a more solid grasp of living with all-consuming anxiety, but for right now, my triggers include: fucking everything. And that means that my main focus is trying to stop anxiety getting out of hand before it explodes into a full-blown attack that can ruin the rest of my day or week. When triggers feel so constant and so consuming, I’ve found it really useful to try and pick up on the physical symptoms of anxiety before it manifests into a giant Lovecraftian hell-beast inside my head: I have a little reminder of my phone to just check how I feel physically every few hours, and if I notice the start of an anxiety attack (tense muscles, feeling sick, headache, blurred vision), then I can stop and try to take some precautionary measures to mitigate the damage.
And probably the biggest thing that has made a difference? Is talking to people about this. And yeah, fuck me, I know how much that sucks; for all that I spunk my oversharing here on the internet, when it comes to real life, I have a habit of hiding myself away as best I can just so I don’t worry everyone. But it’s been way more useful for me to be able to tell a friend “hey, look, I would love to see you today, but I am feeling a little anxious so could we make it somewhere quiet so I don’t freak out?” than it was for me to just ignore their messages and send myself into a spiral of guilty turmoil over it when they just wanted some brunch, dammit. Give yourself some space, and let others know that you’re giving yourself that space. My friends and family are some dope-ass motherfuckers who have been totally accepting of my OCD and have only cracked a few jokes about buying in cleaning supplies for me to scrub the house down as my next Christmas present, and being able to hold my hands up and go “shit, look, actually, I could use some help” has been a game-changer for me.
Even if I still hate doing it because I feel like I’m making a fuss. Because no matter how dedicated I might be to the improvement of my mental health, I am, first and foremost, still British, and that crushing social awkwardness will rule all.
Anyway! What stuff have you found to help with your anxiety, OCD-induced or otherwise? How do you cope with mental illness day-to-day? Hit me up in the comments below. If you liked this article and want to see more stuff like it, please consider supporting me on Patreon, and check out my movie site, No But Listen!