At OCD Action, we love discovering new blogs which raise awareness of mental health conditions as they can help to reduce stigma, encourage others who are struggling to feel less alone and inform those who may not understand. We were recently approached by blogger Riley Turner, who has set up her website 'We don't talk about that', which features a series of interviews and articles about mental health conditions. Riley recently wrote two posts about OCD, so we thought we 'd ask her some questions about why she chose to write about OCD and what she learnt from the experience...
Hey Riley! So firstly, what is your blog about, and what was your inspiration for setting it up?
We Don't Talk About That (WDTAT) , was originally created with the main goal of increasing awareness; I wanted to focus more on the issues which either aren't openly discussed, or that are widely misunderstood. The name actually came from a story a friend told me, after returning from a psychiatric ward, they were instructed not to mention their mental illness to anyone as ‘they just didn't talk about those things’ I thought that phrase summed up the problems I wanted to explore. Although other topics are covered on WDTAT, mental illness has definitely become a massive part of my site, for the simple reason so many facets of mental health are simply ignored, or are only recognized through misinformation and often harmful stereotypes. I wanted to create a platform for people with these issues to speak. A chance to hear about their experiences, but for the focus not being on X disorder or Y condition, but on the people themselves, and I believed the best way to do this was to create a site built from the interviews and words of others.
How did you come to conduct and write an interview about OCD?
While anxiety disorders such as Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD) and Social Anxiety (SA) thankfully becoming more recognized and accepted, there still seemed to be a large stigma surrounding OCD. Despite how often I've heard it being used in a sentence - ‘oh I'm so OCD’ - few seemed to really understand what the condition entailed, myself included. I was hoping I could connect with someone who lived with this condition, and who would be willing to talk about their experiences to perhaps illustrate to others the reality of obsessive compulsive disorder. I was fortunate enough to meet an incredible man online who was eager to spread a greater awareness, and who himself found the stereotypes surrounding OCD to be not just annoying, but harmful.
Did you know much about the condition before carrying out the interview? What did you learn from the interview?
Through academic study I had a good idea on the ‘technical side’ for example the diagnostic criteria, and even had a rough outline of the types of treatment usually offered to those with OCD, although I didn't fully understand the severity of the condition, nor how it could impact upon so many areas of a person’s life. Speaking to him, I really gained a far more emotive understanding of OCD, it's far more moving to hear about the experiences of a person than it is to read from a textbook. I also didn't fully grasp the extensive ways OCD can present itself, terms such as Pure-O for example, and the distress caused by intrusive thoughts.
What would you say to anyone who is concerned about speaking out about their mental health issues?
I can completely understand your concern and your hesitation, opening up can be difficult, but even more so when discussing mental health. I can't say whether it would help you or not, however from those I've been fortunate enough to talk with so far, many have said how empowering it felt to have their own voice on the subject, and how they were keen to chip away at not just the stigma surrounding their issue, but the greater taboo status of mental health as a whole. I did wonder, prior to creating WDTAT, whether people would feel comfortable talking to a stranger, and it was this thought that promoted me to keep all interviews anonymous.
We have really enjoyed speaking with Riley and reading her articles. If you want to take a look at her work, visit the We Don't Talk About That website.