As part of our focus on mental health we have invited our members to discuss their experiences with us, in the hope that it will help others.
Today, our mental health spokesman, Danny Bowman bravely talks about his struggles with Obsessional Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD).
When I started thinking about writing about my own mental health experience I knew it would involve me having to delve back on some pretty painful memories from more than eleven years ago.
It was then that I started my journey through the vast unforeseen future that lay ahead of me.The process would involve me outlining key experiences that have made me who I am today. With all that said I think it has been an important part of my recovery, to be able to reflect on my previous experiences and be open to others about this. The only way to shine a light on the true horrors of mental illness is for people to share their experience and maybe help create a level of empathy and compassion towards others who suffer.
Looking back to when I was eleven I was a happy, mischievous child who enjoyed playing Rugby and hanging out with friends. Unfortunately from that age I started to experience Obsessional Compulsive Disorder (OCD) which led me to some pretty dark places. At the same time I was constantly trying to be a normal child and I hid what was happening to me from family and friends.
The thoughts I had were excruciating and the loneliness of the experience was immense. Travelling to the Maudsley Hospital in London every week to receive treatment for my mental illness nearly 300 miles away, trying to keep up with my education and maintain a level of normality to all those around me was my new reality. I could see clearly the troubling effect all of this was having on my family who worried about me constantly. The sense of guilt when suffering from a mental illness can sometimes be as bad as the mental illness itself.
When I turned 15 I started suffering from another mental illness (as if one wasn’t enough.) This was Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD) a disorder which can be closely linked to OCD. The sheer frustration of suffering from yet another mental illness had a major effect on how I acted as a person, struggling to form friendships with others. My education suffered due to this illness with me dropping out of my school for a period of time at the age of 15,withdrawing into my childhood home for six months, spending 10 hours a day scrutinising my appearance. I used my mobile to take 200 selfies a day which served the purpose of allowing me to check my appearance or flaws in my appearance more closely. Experiencing this was extremely distressing for myself and my family and led me to attempt to take my own life. After many months of experiencing the agonising pain of my mental illness; I was eventually able to access the support and help I needed. Yet again this specialist help came from the Maudsley Hospital in London allowing me to start to recover.
After these experiences I decided I wanted to help others and started campaigning for change. This led to my story going global appearing in Time Magazine, international business times and many other outlets across the world. I went over to New York to appear on ABC 20/20 and since then have appeared in multiple documentaries.
I am now proud to be the mental health spokesperson for Parliament Street leading their campaign on mental health, trying to help implement key policies that will allow people with mental illness to live a happy and fulfilling life.
Mental health is one of the biggest challenges of our generation and we need to unite all political parties behind a common goal of helping everyone who suffers from mental illness.
My story exemplifies the key struggles people with mental health problems face, the lack of treatment available, and the effect on a young person’s education, the reduced life chances and general life expectancy for someone who suffers from a mental illness. The often overwhelming agony for them and their family that so often comes with the turmoil of mental illness can sometimes go unrecognised.
It is time to finally address this critical issue and I am proud of all the work we are doing at Parliament Street including a paper we’re writing with key policy ideas to be released in August.
Going through or having gone through a mental illness is not a weakness or something to be ashamed of but in my personal experience builds a level of resilience that not everyone canhave.
It is important to never give up and join us in creating positive change for one of the biggest issues of our generation not just for this generation but for all generations to come.