Writing Helped Save my Soul.  

Using writing to manage mental health

When I am writing I feel completely invincible.  When I am writing I feel as free as a bird. When I am writing I know that my ‘Mr Irrational’ will not bully me, he is nowhere to be seen.  This is going to be a blog where I extol the virtues of the creative process of writing on my mental health. You see, writing has been one of the main things that has helped save my soul.  

I am a forty-two-year-old male who was diagnosed with severe Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) at the age of around sixteen or seventeen-years-old.  My OCD is contamination based and when I unknowingly sat in some sick some eight to nine years ago at my local doctors, my entire world almost fell apart.  Due to the fear of it ever happening again to me, I could not go anywhere nor had the desire to do anything. I was perpetually frozen by fear. It was just an existence rather than living a life really.

I am very chatty and an extrovert, yet for some reason I found it impossible to talk openly to people about my mental health suffering.  Undoubtedly, I felt ashamed and embarrassed. I also kept thinking to myself that any woman that I fancied, would run a mile once I told them about the extent of my OCD.  I wanted to be more open with people, but I just did not feel strong enough.

Months later I remember having a session with my psychologist and telling her that I wanted to start blogging about my OCD but that I felt too scared.  However, I have always loved writing and knew there were not enough men out there in society talking about their mental health struggles. I knew there was still a stigma which needed to be tackled.  After my psychologist encouraged me, I finally took the plunge and wrote my first mental health blog.

For the first six months of blogging about my OCD, every time I was just about to press the publish button, I felt this huge wave of high anxiety come all over me.  All my friends on social media would finally discover my secrets I thought. I felt sort of naked and exposed revealing my inner most thoughts and feelings to the outside world.  The positives that I would gain from writing and spreading such awareness is what made me carry on.

At first, I blogged about my suffering.  I can remember writing an early blog about going to the hairdressers which was highly traumatic for me.  The stylist had dropped my hair towel on the floor and then still dried my hair with it. On top of this I almost walked in dog dirt on my way home.  Just unloading all of this onto a page was extremely therapeutic for me. By the time I had finished that blog I was feeling a lot calmer. I had got lost composing all that prose and it felt great.

My mental health blogging continued at a pace.  The more I blogged then the less I felt ashamed or embarrassed to openly admit to people that I had OCD.  I had also decided that I was going to blog for me and nobody else. By this, I mean that I hoped people liked reading them, but my enjoyment of writing them would come first.  I was getting so much from writing about my feelings that it felt like a huge sense of relief to be finally sharing them.

Whenever I thought about self-harming I blogged instead.  I used to ruminate terribly with my OCD, so to limit this I blogged about my mental health and it really worked.  I can still remember an old therapist of mine telling me that mind occupation was key, he was so right.

When I started Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) once again, I made a point of blogging about my success stories too.  I wanted my blogs to be a social document of the progress I was making. I blogged about sitting down on buses, trains and going shopping in supermarkets.  The reaction I got from my blogs on social media was immensely heart-warming. People praised me for sharing my story as well as potentially helping other sufferers.

As much as it is important to carry on blogging about my mental health, I also do not want my OCD to define me as a person.  There is so much more to me than just my OCD. Therefore, as my recovery progressed, I wanted to show this in my writing. I studied Media and Cultural Studies at university and so started blogging about television programmes, doing TV reviews.

I love doing these TV reviews because in order to concentrate, it means that I must box off my ‘Mr Irrational’ side.  Before I start writing, I have this image in my head of me placing him to one side of my brain that I do not let out again until I have finished.  If I get intrusive thoughts whenever I am writing, then I can banish them away straight away. The beauty of this is a bit like when I go to the gym.  Whatever worries I may have before writing about something, usually I have forgotten all about them upon finishing.

It will come as no surprise for you to read that I really like who I am whilst I am being creative and writing stuff. I guess you could say that it feels like a great form of therapy for me. It gives me a productive break from negative thoughts, feelings and emotions.  It cannot be a coincidence that I am at my most vulnerable regarding OCD ruminating, whenever I am anxious or have nothing to do.

Writing makes me feel alive.  The buzz I get from writing makes me feel like I can do anything in my life when I put my mind to it.  

Writing in my view, really is the greatest coping strategy of them all.

You can see more of Andy Lloyd here:

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