*TW: The following entry has elements of anxiety*
Before the beginning of the pandemic, I was fortunate enough to have never experienced real mental difficulty.
Of course, I experienced anxiety and low moods from time to time, but it never seriously impacted my daily functioning.
When lockdown hit, I was nervous about being fenced in but excited about the opportunity to spend time with my family and catch up on some Netflix shows. The reality of lockdown was, for me, quite pleasant. I got into a great routine of morning walks, afternoon naps and baking and I enjoyed the relative peace and solitude.
My biggest personal challenge actually came when lockdown was eased and we began to return to normality. The bubble of safety and comfort I had built around myself was shattered and I found it very difficult to handle. The biggest struggle I had was with my personal relationships and returning to the level of ease and comfort I had around people previously. I went from being relaxed and carefree to having 7, 8 panic attacks a day. I couldn’t sleep, I couldn’t eat and I had no idea what was happening to my mind as it felt like I had lost all sense of myself. It was absolutely terrifying. Eventually, after being referred around the block, I found a therapist that had availability for me and began to explore what had gone wrong. I was quite quickly diagnosed with OCD and GAD and put on medication to alleviate my severe anxiety.
Being diagnosed with not one, but two, mental health disorders was actually very validating for me. Like many others, I had a perception of OCD as excessive cleanliness or fear of germs and I didn’t see how this could possibly translate to my experience. But, as I began to learn more about other aspects of OCD, things started falling into place and a lot of my previous behaviours began to make sense. As someone who had never struggled with my mental health so much in the past, adjusting to my new diagnoses was challenging but it validated a lot of what I was feeling and helped me realise that I was not alone in my struggles.
The next few months were especially challenging and it required a lot of personal strength for me to get through it. I was fortunate enough to be matched with a therapist that really understood me and helped me work through all of my underlying issues, as well as the most incredible support network of family and friends. As we all know, the journey to recovery is not linear but I am working on it.
I would love to tell you that I am completely recovered today and back to my old self, but that would be untrue. There are still many days that I struggle with my OCD and I am still going to regular therapy sessions to deal with this, as well as continuing to take medication to manage my anxiety. The hardest thing for me has been to accept my new normal. I so badly wanted to go back to the way I used to be and to rid myself of all anxiety forever, but I am now instead learning to live with my illness and loving myself for it.
Back when I was in my worst state, I could never have imagined that I would end up where I am today. It was difficult for me to leave the house some days, let alone run a national campaign or represent 8,500 Jewish students on a national level. But I made it through and I am in a vastly better place today. I am so grateful to those who helped me get to this place and for those who continue to support me every day.
The point of all this isn’t for me to laud my achievements over you but rather to show you that it really does get better. I recognise my immense privilege in having the support system and access to therapy that I do but I am still very proud of the journey I have been on.
Please reach out and tell us your stories; we want to hear them so we can create a community of voices and support each other through the hard times. As always, if you are struggling, please know that you are not alone and take a look at our resources for support or help dealing with a mental health crisis.