OCD and the need to confess things

OCD and the need to confess things

I recently posted a poll to Twitter asking people what they most wanted to know about my OCD: The fear of contamination, checking things, health anxiety or obsessions of guilt.

I started writing a post about all, but it turns out people are most interest in the latter; guilt. And so, I thought I’d write a whole post about it.

Believe it or not, guilt is a big part of OCD. I know, it was news to me at first, too.

In an article on BeyondOCD, it explained that doubt and guilt are two of OCD’s main features.

It reads: ‘While it is not understood why this is so, these are considered hallmarks of the disorder.  Unless you understand these, you cannot understand OCD.’

The author adds: ‘In the 19th century, OCD was known as the “doubting disease.”  OCD can make a sufferer doubt even the most basic things about themselves, others, or the world they live in.

‘Doubt is one of OCDs more maddening qualities.  It can override even the keenest intelligence.  It is a doubt that cannot be quenched.  It is doubt raised to the highest power.’

Doubt comes in many forms within OCD, often we just don’t realise this. When it comes to OCD, people have their own ‘thing’. Some people wash their hands multiple times, others check the doors and ovens to make sure no harm comes to their home while they’re out. These aren’t just rituals, they’re doubts. Every time we re-check that door, we’re doubting whether it was really locked. Every time we wash our hands again, we’re doubting they were clean enough the first time we washed.

However, doubt doesn’t have to be about a physical thing – and occur emotionally, too. That’s where the guilt comes in.

A big part of OCD is feelings of intense guilt and the need to confess things. I didn’t realise this until recently. I’ve been struggling with guilt and I came across an OCD forum from people living with the same thing. When I put it all in place now, it makes sense.

When I was around seven or eight, I was on a family holiday and I was in a tent with a male family member – who was a year younger than me – playing mums and dads, as you do when you’re little. Half a year later, I broke down to my dad about it. I felt it was wrong. He was a boy, I was a girl, I was only little but I understood at the time that girls fancy boys. I worried whether playing mums and dads had meant there’d been something sexual in it. Of course, there hadn’t been – I was eight, for god’s sake. But that didn’t make it any better.

Even throughout my teenage years – and now – this is a memory that makes me feel uneasy because it’s one that made me feel so dirty at the time. Like I was bad.

The problem is, this is a memory I’d even as a little girl spent time obsessing over. I realise now that this is a symptom of OCD. We forget this because we spell ‘OCD’ out by its letters. We forget that it stands for Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. ‘Obsessive’ being the most prominent word in this case.

Just recently, at age 22, my guilt has been triggered again. I won’t go into it, but something happened a while ago that was completely out of character for me and I’ve spent the last week playing it over and over in my head, thinking about what I’d done and what I could’ve done differently. I’ve played various scenarios over in my head and it’s got so bad that I’ve actually started to convince myself of things I haven’t actually done.

Seriously, I’ve spent the evening crying because my head is telling me I’ve done something that I have absolutely no recollection of. I know in my rational head it’s not real, but my irrational head says otherwise.

In a study by Italian researchers in the journal Clinical Psychology & Psychotherapy, published in September 2016, it suggests that those with OCD may perceive guilt to be more threatening than most people do – leading them to finding it totally intolerable.

Those who feel intolerable guilt get rid of it the only way they know how: by confessing. OCD confessing is like washing your hands twenty times in a row. It’s a short sense of relief each time.

This is something I’ve been trying to control recently. I’ve been confessing and confessing and confessing to things that make me feel guilty. The guilt goes for a little while, before it hits hard once again with yet another thought to feel guilty about.

It’s a vicious cycle, and one that’s predominant in OCD – it starts with an intrusive thought, it’s followed by a ritual and it’s eased with a short sense of relief.

It’s a cycle that’s not easily broken, either.

I wish I had some advice for others going through these overwhelming feelings of guilt. But the only advice I can offer is not mine – it belongs to some wise woman on an OCD forum.

When you have an awful sense of guilt over an uncontrollable thought, ask yourself these questions:

What do you have to feel guilty about?

Is the guilt ‘real’ or is it your anxiety talking? AKA, is this a new sense of guilt that’s come out of nowhere, or have you actually done physical wrong?

Why do you feel guilty?

Assess the guilt. It’s likely you feel guilty because you have OCD and you are giving importance to your intrusive thoughts.

Who benefits from you confessing?

It may seem like a relief to you to get it all out, but it’s only temporary. Is confessing going to help you, or the person you’re confessing to, long-term?

Remember, you have OCD. OCD does crazy things, and the only way we can control it is learning to cope. Coping with guilt is hard, but it can be done. At least, that’s what I’ve heard – and what I’m hoping.

January 2018 has been the worst time for my mental health

January 2018 has been the worst time for my mental health

I’ve had a really shitty start to 2018.

I started it in A&E. I spent New Year’s Day there in crisis after struggling with health anxiety for a couple of weeks.

Long story short, I was convincing myself I was going get really sick. I was panicking about blood clots and meningitis and other illness that could have really serious consequences.

It sounds daft, I know it does. But that’s health anxiety for you. You manage to convince yourself something really bad is going to happen to you. And then you spend hours of every day checking your body for symptoms and Googling anything you come across.

I know where my health anxiety comes from. Twice I’ve been left in critical condition due to medical negligence, and so now I don’t trust anyone when I feel I’m getting sick – and I worry about the consequences.

In the past couple of weeks I’ve been to the doctors six times and had three sets of blood tests. I had an infection for a little while and I worried about sepsis. I was having nightmares every night about it, waking up shaking in cold sweats, having intrusive thoughts and visions I can’t even begin to describe because they’re too terrifying.

I was under the Crisis team for three weeks, had all of my medication upped and I spend every evening feeling like a zombie because of how much I’m taking at the moment.

Things got so bad the other night that I was in A&E because I accidentally overdosed – aka I took too much medication. I didn’t want to die, I just wanted my head to shut up.

I don’t know why or how, but my health anxiety has been pretty non-existent over the past couple days. This is because now my worries have shifted to guilt over things I’ve done in the past. I have this horrendous feeling in my stomach that won’t go. It’s making me feel sick and want to cry all of the time because I feel so horrendously guilty. I’ve been confessing things over and over to my partner, things that don’t even need to be said simply because I need to get them out of my system.

Regardless of my health anxiety or guilt, I know that they’re both part of another condition I live with: OCD. Health anxiety falls under the OCD spectrum due to its obsessive tendencies – and guilt and the obsession to confess does too. So really, over all, it’s my OCD I’m struggling with at the moment.

There’s no end to this story. It’s not even a story, really. It’s just an update as to where I’m at.

This is it.

Mental illness f*cking sucks

Mental illness f*cking sucks

I just cried for five minutes because I’m exhausted.

I only cried for five minutes because I  am tired of crying. It makes me even more tired, and I’m tired of that, too. I haven’t admitted it properly to anyone just yet, only voicing my feelings here and there in short tweets, but the last three weeks have been hell. I have struggled to cope. I’m still struggling to cope.

In fact, I’m struggling so much that I have questioned whether there’s any point continuing if things don’t get better. The scary thing is that right now, it feels like things won’t get better. The even scarier thing, however, is that for once, telling myself that nothing would be better than this was the first time I really meant it.

There’s been many a time where I’ve said ‘I don’t want to be here’ when my emotions got too much. But there was always a small fraction of me that didn’t mean it. 10% of me was just crying out for help. But that 10% has now turned to 5% and even that can feel a struggle to hold onto.

For the past three weeks, I have been suffering with health anxiety. I usually hate that word, suffering. But this time I mean it. I have suffered. Deeply.

I have been panicking every day about becoming seriously sick. I have worried all throughout the day, my body filled with nerves and adrenaline, my heart beating fast, my stomach in knots. I’ve tried to drown out the feelings with medication, but the intrusive thoughts and the images are still there.

For a while I just couldn’t get them out of my head. Normally, when my head gets too loud, I escape in my dreams. But I can’t even do that now, because every dream is replaced with a nightmare. Each night a different dream, with similar themes. They’re terrifying. I have broken sleep, waking up and falling back into a nightmare over and over again. I just want it to stop.

The problem is that no matter how many times I tell myself I’m okay, a voice in my head tells me I’m not. And I feel these false physical symptoms that confuse the hell out of me. If Google tells me a certain illness will make me feel a certain way, I’ll start to feel these symptoms. It’s hard to tell what’s real and what’s not.

I know deep down where my fears stem from. I’ve had bad health a couple of times, and both times have lead me to critical condition because symptoms had gone dismissed, unrealised and ignored. And now, when my mind is at its worst, I panic that I’m getting sick but nobody’s seeing it, and that nobody will realise until I’m at my worst. This is terrifying.

It’s fucking awful spending every day worrying about bad things happening.

I have bipolar disorder, borderline personality disorder, OCD and health anxiety. The last two are somewhat the same thing. Obsessive, intrusive thoughts. I’ve felt all kinds of emotions due to my mental illnesses, but nothing like I feel with health anxiety.

I don’t know why I’m writing this. Perhaps I want to get across that health anxiety is a real thing. I do. But perhaps I also want to get things out of my system because I feel it’s what I need.

Regardless of the reason, all I know right now is that mental illness fucking sucks.

What I wish people knew about mental illness

What I wish people knew about mental illness

According to Mind, one in four people in the UK suffer with mental illness. I am one of those one in four.

I live with a number of mental illnesses. Bipolar disorder, borderline personality disorder, OCD and health anxiety. And so, as you can probably guess, I’ve experienced mental illness from a number of angles. I know what it’s like to be high and what it’s like to be low. I know what it’s like to be psychotic, obsessional and anxious. But most prominently: I know what it feels to feel like there’s no way out.

I’ve recently been so mentally unwell that I’ve really struggled to cope. To be honest, I haven’t wanted to. I’m terrified of admitting this to the outside world but for the first time in my life, I said that I didn’t want to be here anymore and I meant it. The words themselves felt threatening. I was scared. I’d never felt this way before, and the fact I was actually feeling it, like, really feeling it, made me realise just how much help I needed.

Luckily for me, I’ve felt these feelings while being under the care of the Crisis team, who are currently coming out to my house every other day to check on me and carry out risk assessments. I am not a risk to myself. But other people aren’t so lucky.

Other people don’t have the support. Instead, they suffer in silence. I know, it’s an over-used phrase, but it’s one that rings true. So many people living with mental illness don’t have anyone to talk to. They feel nobody will understand; that nobody will care. They worry they won’t be believed if they speak out. Some people simply don’t have the energy to do so. And this is devastating. People in a time of crisis should not feel as though they have to deal with it alone.

But some feel like they must do so – and I feel a big part of this is because there is still such a stigma attached to mental illness. So many people who haven’t lived with it don’t understand, and this is still so obvious when people suggest things like going for a run, drinking more water or just ‘getting over’ the likes of depression and mood disorders. I just wish the people without mental illnesses would attempt to understand the people with. In fact, there’s so much I wish for in regards to mental illness.

I wish people saw mental illness like they would a broken leg. No doctor would turn around and dismiss a broken leg or expect it to get better on its own. They’d treat it immediately, they’d take it seriously. And mental illness deserves the same treatment.

I wish people would acknowledge mental illness for what it is – an illness. It’s not a personality trait or a lifestyle choice. It’s something that affects and consumes the lives of millions.

I wish people would stop offering unhelpful remedies for mental illness. That they’d realise that while they can be beneficial, healthy diet and exercise is not a cure.

In turn, I wish people would respect those who need medication for their mental illness. That those who don’t get it would stop dismissing people for taking it, as though it makes them weak or something. Taking medication isn’t weak. It shows strength in that you’re doing what you can to cope.

Most importantly, I wish everyone with a mental illness felt comfortable enough to speak out about it to a family member or friend. I wish these people didn’t worry they were going to be judged or not believed. I wish these people realised themselves that their illness is worthy of help. That they are worthy of help. That there are people out there who do care and will support them through a dark time.

But the people who are meant to be there as a support need to prove this themselves.

Whether you know someone with a mental illness or not, be kind, always. Be the person others can reach out to in a time of need, and never turn your back on someone who does so.

You never know you’ll be helping – or just how much.

If you are currently struggling in silence – don’t. Reach out to Samaritans, on 116 123 or by email,  jo@samaritans.org.

What it’s really like to live with real OCD

What it’s really like to live with real OCD

I have lived with OCD for years.

It first started when I was a lot younger, and I became obsessed with the number four.

There was something about the number for that made me feel at ease. Comfortable. Like if I did everything four times, things would be okay.

My obsession with the number 4  occurred because of my fear of the number three.

I was so used to hearing people say ‘Third time lucky’ that something in my head said ‘But what if it’s actually unlucky?’ and alas, every time I did something in threes – be that wash my hands, turning off a light switch or something as minuscule as brushing past something, I felt unnerved. I had to escape this feeling by repeating whatever I’d done a fourth time – to know I’d escaped my imaginary curse of the number three.

As I grew older, my OCD worsened. I started having intrusive thoughts.

They were awful. They left me feeling like the worst person in the world. They made me feel evil.

My intrusive thoughts included awful things about my loved ones. Thoughts about them being hurt, attacked, abused. Disturbing images of mutilated people. Wishing it on others.

Even writing this now terrifies me, as though putting my thoughts to paper makes them even more real than they already feel in my head.

Of course, these thoughts aren’t real. I would never wish bad on anyone – let alone my family. But the thoughts can be so much that they leave you feeling like the most horrendous person in the world.

These intrusive thoughts are the ‘O’ in OCD. The obsession. They’re unwanted, debilitating thoughts or images that trigger intensely distressed feelings.

That’s how they make me feel, distressed. Angry. Frustrated. And often, they trigger further outbursts because they make me feel so awful. As though I’m a disgusting person; a bad person.

The only way I can combat these thoughts is with compulsions. And that’s where the ‘C’ of OCD comes in.

Compulsions are acts you play out in attempt to rid yourself of the obsession – aka the intrusive thoughts.

Often, these compulsions are acted out in fear.

‘If you don’t wash your hands four times, you are going to get sick from contamination. And then whoever you go near will be contaminated too. And then you’ll get sick. They’ll get sick. So sick that they’ll develop an infection, which will lead to septicaemia and they will lose all of their limbs’, is one of my most frequent, horrendous thoughts.

When I read it back I know my thoughts are irrational. I know that someone can’t develop septicaemia from me not washing my hands more than once. But the thoughts are so overwhelming that at the time, it’s a struggle to believe they won’t do harm to anyone else.

And so you act out the compulsions until you finally feel at ease.

And you can feel at ease, for a while. Say if you’re sitting in front of a film for an hour, distracted. But there’s no escaping them coming back when you’re put in a situation where you feel you need to wash your hands again.

Perhaps I flick a light switch that someone’s touched beforehand. How do I know their hands aren’t dirty? How do I know they’re not contaminated? How do I know it won’t make me sick? And so I wash, and wash again.

Sometimes I wash so much that my hands bleed from the rawness. They sting and they’re dry, but it’s often worth it to know I’m not hurting anyone in the process.

But my obsessions don’t just come in terms of washing my hands.

In fact, all in all, they take up a lot of my time.

When I go to leave my car, I will walk back and check, and check, and check over, and over again that my doors are locked. Because if they aren’t, someone could break in and steal my belongings.

I have to take a memorised photo in my head of my bedroom before leaving it, to know I haven’t left any plugs plugged in, that none of my medication has fallen on the floor or that my straighteners – which I haven’t touched in days – aren’t plugged in. It doesn’t matter that I know in my heart I don’t want to cause a fire. I haven’t even used my straighteners – there’s the risk that maybe I have used them, and I’ve just forgotten.

I can’t leave my house without running back to the door several times to check it’s locked. Going back in to check the oven’s off, that the taps aren’t running or that the windows aren’t wide open. Sometimes I end up not leaving the house at all, cancelling plans because the fear is simply too much.

OCD makes me feel on edge at all times. It’s like I’m constantly waiting for something bad to happen. And even if nothing bad does end up happening, my thoughts will tell me otherwise. I spend a good few hours a day just trying to do everything I can to escape my thoughts, because more often than not they’re intensely overwhelming.

I wish people knew how debilitating OCD can be. It has caused me to self-harm, hurting myself, feeling as though I deserve it because of how disgusting my thoughts can be. it has triggered awful episodes of anxiety and of the bipolar disorder I’m also diagnosed with. It has left me spending evenings crying because the thoughts and images in my head are terrifying. It prevents me from going about my normal day-to-day life without panicking and avoiding situations simply in hopes of not worsening the thoughts any more so.

I wish people understood how serious OCD is. That it’s not arranging your cupboards or liking things colour-coordinated. That choosing a colour-scheme for your entire house does not make you ‘OCD’.

If people knew this, and stopped using the term to describe their everyday personality traits, I feel it would be taken more seriously – as the serious mental health condition it is.

In fact, it’s so serious that the World Health Organisation once ranked it in the top ten of the most disabling illnesses of any kind, in terms of loss earnings and diminished quality of life.

I love that it’s 2017 and people are becoming more aware of mental illness, reducing the inevitable stigma surrounding it.

But I feel we still have a long way to go in terms of understanding OCD. And this is because we have this silly misconception that OCD is an organised personality trait, and not a real mental health condition.

I hope this posts starts the conversation, and spells out to people who don’t understand just how severe an illness it really is.

Because hopefully by just educating a few, they can go onto educate others.

It’s important that we do so, not just in terms of exposing the condition, but to show other sufferers of it that what they’re living with is very real. That it’s very serious, and that they’re not bad people. They’re just ill people, who with the right support, can learn to control and stable it.

But to tell them this, first we need to understand. We need to listen. Starting now.

How I ended up being diagnosed with bipolar disorder

How I ended up being diagnosed with bipolar disorder

I’m much more open when it comes to writing about inflammatory bowel disease and living with a stoma than I am about my mental health.

I think this is namely because my stoma was something you could see, and my mental health is something you cannot – and therefore I felt more comfortable speaking out about it. As it was there, it was on my body. Nobody could say I was lying about what had happened (though I hope nobody would think like that anyway).

But with my mental health, it’s different. You have to take my word for it. And with the amount of stigma already attached to the likes of mental health, it feels very difficult to open up about it.

However, in this post, I’m going to do so. I started this blog to highlight both the effects of IBD and mental health and living with both – and so I wouldn’t really be sticking to my aim if I didn’t write about both.

I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder type 1 a-year-and-a-half ago. Bipolar disorder is a mood disorder that consists of both manic episodes and depressive episodes – and type 1 means that I have more of the former than the latter.

It wasn’t an easy diagnosis and it was one that took a while to be given to me.

My moods had always been erratic. I’d always been easily annoyed and confrontational. But as I reached my late teens, my temper worsened. I’d become angry by the slightest thing which would lead me to having complete meltdowns, crying and screaming.

But then after that meltdown, it was like a switch – I’d often have no memory of getting so distraught, imagining it in my head as if I’d only got a little upset.

After my stoma surgery in 2015, things worsened. I’m not sure if it was the traumatic experience of the surgery and hospital stay that led my moods to worsen, but I’ve never been as bad as I was then.

Me and my partner were in a bad place. A really bad place, in fact. He couldn’t do anything without me becoming angry and aggressive. We would fight and fight and fight until I was left screaming the place down.

But one night things got really bad. I had started an argument out of nowhere – I can’t even remember what the argument was about now – and I was a mess. I was crying, screaming and shouting. I was incredibly aggressive and my partner just couldn’t calm me down no matter what he tried.

I ended up putting myself in the bath tub, screaming until I went lightheaded and slashing my wrists. It sounds extreme, and it was. I’ve never experienced anything quite like it before.

After hurting myself, the pain took all of my focus and eventually I calmed down and I was put to bed.

But the next morning my mum came round unexpectedly. My partner had called her at 1am the night before, feeling helpless.

She told me she was taking me to the doctors, no ifs or buts.

I went to see a GP, and he referred me to a psychiatrist. As my mother also has bipolar disorder, it was easier for me to be referred as the disorder is hereditary. Therefore there was no second-guessing what was going on with me.

Four days later, after an urgent referral, I saw the psychiatrist. He asked me a series of questions about my moods, my life and my relationships. He asked me how I dealt with certain situations and about my emotional capacity.

However, he said it’d take a few sessions to actually diagnose me. He wanted to get to know my moods better first.

At first, he guessed I could be living with borderline personality disorder – a personality disorder in which sees you changing moods dramatically.

But a few sessions later and he’d changed his mind.

You see, my meltdown to you will probably sound like a depressive episode. But it wasn’t. Symptoms of mania don’t necessarily mean you feel elated and high as a kite.

It can also make you erratic, angry and irritated – which can lead to meltdowns such as mine.

Of course, I have experienced other symptoms of mania – which is what led me to my actual diagnosis.

There have been times where I have spent thousands of pounds in a few weeks, on things I didn’t even need.

I’ve gone to get one tattoo after another without even thinking about what I’m putting on my skin in the space of a few weeks (luckily I love all my tattoos, though).

I make snap decisions without thinking of the consequences and I often regret my choices after I become ‘stable’.

All of these things are symptoms of mania that I have lived with on and off for the past 18 months.

While I do have depressive episodes, I don’t have them as much as the manic ones. My depressive episodes can be just as severe, though.

I isolate myself, I stop looking after myself and there have been times where I have questioned taking my own life. But I know that’s the disorder talking and not me, luckily.

Being officially diagnosed with bipolar disorder was scary, but it was also a relief. It was a relief to know that I wasn’t crazy – that I was just ill. I was poorly and I needed help. I needed support and someone to understand, and my psychiatrist did just that.

Since my diagnosis, I have been trialled on various medications. Some good, some bad. One of the worst having made me gain a stone and a half in weight and giving me a chin full of acne. But it was worth it to make me feel better.

Currently, I take five different medications every night including mood stabilisers, anti-psychotics and sleeping pills, as I often suffer with nightmares and lack of sleep during a manic episode.

While some people don’t agree with medication, I can hand on heart say it’s been my life saver. I am currently the most stable I’ve been in a long time and I owe it all to that medication.

After months and months of despair and horrifically intense emotions, I’m able to think clearly and acknowledge situations before putting myself in them. And that to me is everything.

I’m now a very calm person and I don’t actually remember the last time I had a melt down – which is something I’d previously never thought I’d ever be able to say.

I am also very lucky to have such supportive family, friends and a loving partner who has stuck by me through everything, which I’m sure has helped in leading me to my stability now.

Of course, there has been a lot more to my diagnosis than rock bottom and stability – there is the matter of severe manic episodes, medication reviews and a depressive episode that led me to A&E and being seen by a Crisis team.

But I’m going to save all of that for future articles, when I find the courage to write them.

An open letter to the people who’ve made me feel guilty for using the disabled toilets

An open letter to the people who’ve made me feel guilty for using the disabled toilets

To the people who’ve made me feel guilty for using the disabled toilets,

I know what you see as I open the door to leave the disabled toilets. You see a young girl, whose legs and arms work just fine. You see a young girl, who’s dressed well and had time to do her makeup that morning. You see a young girl, who looks just fine.

You see a young girl, who looks healthy.

I know this. I know this from your judging eyes, the way you look me up and down with a sneer. You don’t even need to say anything.

Though sometimes, you do. You’ll tut under your breath in disgust that a young girl has used the disabled toilets when there looks to be no need.

You’ll make a comment on my being physically abled to your friend, as they nod in agreement.

You’ll approach me and tell me off for using something that I’m not in need of, even questioning my need for using it.

Worst case scenario, you won’t even let me explain myself through shouting at me, disgracing me in public in front of a crowd of people who assume I’ve taken something from a person in need.

When I first started using the disabled toilets, I wasn’t worried about it. I’d been diagnosed with ulcerative colitis, a form of inflammatory bowel disease, and after my bowel nearly perforated I was operated on and given a stoma bag – I knew the use of disabled toilets would be something I’d need when out in public.

When I lived with a stoma bag, the disabled toilets were a necessity for me. I needed the space to change the bag – and the changing table to ensure my products had a sanitary place to sit. I was sure people would rather this than watching me change it in the public toilet sinks.

After having my stoma reversed, I continued to use the disabled toilets. Due to the side effects of the operation, I needed to have privacy, and again, a sanitary environment to put aside products I was using for treatment.

I wasn’t just using the disabled toilets for the sake of it. I was using them because it was much easier to sort myself out in a larger room than it was in a tiny cubicle as people huffed outside because I was taking too long.

But the bottom line is, I was allowed to use the disabled toilets. I am both a ‘Can’t Wait’ card holder and I also have a Radar Key – a key that gives me access to thousands of disabled toilets across the UK. I had been given actual permission to use the toilets because I live with an invisible illness.

But unfortunately, some people don’t get that.

Even when I’ve explained my situation to strangers, strangers like you, my needs have been disregarded because I’m not in need of a wheelchair or a walking stick. You disregard my needs because I’m young and therefore assume I’m healthy.

And because of this, I have over time grown weary of using the disabled toilets. I’ve grown fearsome of using them, in fact.

The comments, the stares and the tuts have become too much to bear. I can no longer use a disabled toilet without worrying about who’s going to be on the other side as I come out, what presumptuous comments I’m going to be subjected to and whether I’m going to be shouted at or not.

These experiences have deeply hindered my health progress, both mentally and physically. From being made to feel so embarrassed and so guilty about using the disabled toilets, I’ve developed ‘toilet fear’, which as discussed in a recent blog post, has left me seriously blocked up inside.

But it doesn’t matter how much I try to change this – the awful comments are far too prominent in my mind.

Recently, so many supermarkets have been trying to make it easier on those of us who live with invisible illness, by introducing disabled toilet signs that depict those who are physically able.

But while it’s a start, it’s still not enough.

A real change can only come from you. You who refuses to believe that disability comes in all shapes and forms.

You who’s convinced yourself that it’s okay to shame someone for using a disabled toilet without even knowing their story.

You who believes it’s okay to dictate whether someone needs to use the disabled toilets or not.

The sooner you come to understand that the disabled toilet is a necessity for more than just those who are physically impaired, the sooner those with invisible illness, including myself, will stop feeling scared about – or even guilty for – using them.

Please, if you see a physically-abled person leave the disabled toilets, remember that not all illnesses are visible. Remember that that person is probably terrified of the looks and comments they’re going to receive just for using them.

Be a person who gives them a smile, instead, letting them know that you understand that despite them looking well on the inside, their needs for the disabled toilets are just as important as those who present disability on the outside.

They’ll thank you for it more than you’ll ever know.