Three months ago I agreed to take part in a documentary for Channel 4 called Ruby Wax's Mad Confessions. The programme itself is revolutionary; it focuses on successful people who have struggled with mental illness. Yes, that's right 'successful', not the jibbering, weak, or indeed murderous, human beings the mass media like to portray! But successful, working, entrepreneurial, family members who do 'normal' things like read, write and even pay tax!
Who am I? Well, I am a mum in wellies taking my son riding. I am a wife in something Victoria wants to keep a secret. I am a businesswoman in a new Versace dress. I'm an author, a painter, a grumpy cow in the mornings, a lover of fast cars, and a girl who should only ever sing when completely alone.
Oh and I also have obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD).
I am certainly not alone, let's face it people, one in four is a darn big statistic, if you haven't faced the edges of your own sanity, then it's your mother, brother, or Gordon from accounts... If you don't know who they are, then you know someone who is unnecessarily hiding the difficulties they are struggling with. That is why I agreed to take part and be candid and open about the struggles I face, when I take off the 'entrepreneurial' mask.
Something I thought would be a walk in the park...
Much of my 'success' has come from my work in the mental health field; I am responsible for launching the UK's first mental health mag to the newsstand and I run Mental Healthy, a web resource and community for people with mental health problems. I am an 'expert' at this stuff... I told myself! I had no idea how much I still hid.
Owning a mental health business meant I have always been open about my illness at work, after all it's what I do. But earlier this year I took on an extra role at a new technology company and found myself in an unusual situation, people did not know my story. They were unaware of why I refused to shake hands, drink their tea, or open doors.
To them I supposed I looked aloof, over professional and stand-offish, alright, I looked like a bitch! But it was easier to look like a bitch than to admit I was scared. In my head, looking at the seemingly innocuous objects was like a scene from a Dettol advert - germs crawling everywhere ready to infect me and kill off my family one by one, in their bid to take over the world.
The programme made me look at that which I try to ignore and remember that which I choose to forget, like the reasons why at the age of 28, I can sell my products to global superstores, help launch fantastic tech products like CubeITz, be responsible for branding and developing companies that are now worth over £4.5million, yet still stand for twenty minutes outside my local petrol station, waiting for someone to come out, to avoid opening that bloody 'pull' door! The reason - control.
Let's just say that at a young age, control was taken away from me and as such I have developed ways to try to regain that sense of order. Put very simply, the OCD I now battle consists of the rituals I put in place to stop my spiralling anxiety. At times the anxiety took over my life and I was unable to leave the house. I would look at people on the telly, people in business and think 'they are so strong', 'they are so normal', and I... I am a failure.
If only I had seen the reality, the flaws that we all carry, the oddities, the secrets, the struggles that everyone faces. If I had seen that I wasn't alone, I wasn't a failure, but someone who had quite simply reacted to seeing TOO much... If I had seen others I viewed as a 'success' admitting they too are 'human', then maybe I would have had more strength to fight those battles that robbed me of too many years.
So today I still struggle, yes I have bad days, but if at my worst I knew there was a life like this waiting for me, I would have donned my latex gloves, and danced for joy at my success, my blessings and all those quirky things that make me peculiar - those things that make me all I am today.
I hope to share more blogs with you, until then please do watch Ruby Wax's Mad Confessions, the programme that shows us 'successful' flawed, mad, crazy, creative and screwed up people, embracing all that we are: click here.