'When I speak about my fears I become less fearful of them'
Nursing student Matty Laycock reveals the techniques he uses to help him to deal with his OCD
Nursing student Matty Laycock reveals the techniques he uses to help him deal with his OCD
I have obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD).
During my pre-registration nursing studies, I discussed this personal area of my life in public, most recently during a keynote speech I gave at the University of York 2018 pre-registration nursing conference. Our patients and the public can see they have nothing to be ashamed of if they see their nurses proudly and visibly looking after their own mental health.
Standing in front of an audience made up of my peers and lecturers, telling them how for years I used to have repeated obsessional thoughts about killing my loved ones, I certainly had a ‘is this my life?’ moment.
I felt anxiety swirling around inside me. My mind threw thoughts at me like: ‘They may think I’m weird, they may hate me, or maybe they think I am actually dangerous.’
‘In any situation, by simply bringing my attention back to my breath, I know I can anchor my senses to the here and now’
However, recovering from OCD has taught me how to handle such an experience. Looking after and improving my mental health has in fact been an enriching experience, which has equipped me with all sorts of skills.
My experiences in recovery have taught me that attempting to get rid of my negative thoughts would only have increased their ferocity.
So, what did I do with all those challenging feelings and nasty thoughts while I delivered my keynote speech?
Anchor my senses
First, I welcomed them with open arms and let them accompany me while I spoke.
Second, I faced my fears head on.
Third, I called out my fear. Through recovery, I have learned that when I speak about my fears I become less fearful of them.
Fourth, I stayed present. In any situation, by simply bringing my attention back to my breath, I know I can anchor my senses to the here and now.
Finally, I connected throughout the process with my values. I knew I valued breaking down mental health stigma and sharing a story about positive change.
‘As nurses we have a unique opportunity to lead this movement’
For many people, mental health is regularly associated with weakness and struggle. But my own experience, which is similar those of others I have met, has also involved learning and strength.
Break down stigma
Some people with difficult mental health experiences have incredible skills to deal with whatever they encounter in life. It is important that we share these stories. This approach can break down stigma, because most people can relate to wanting to feel happy and strong. This can be true whether you have a diagnosis or not.
Everyone can start to have conversations about how they look after their mental health.
As nurses we have a unique opportunity to lead this movement. We are healthcare professionals who have the privilege of displaying an example to the people we care for. This is why it is important to become acquainted with what works.
‘To avoid burnout and to maximise our effectiveness we can lead the way in building excellent mental health for all to see’
Challenging our fears, beginning a meditation practice and speaking about our experiences with no shame are all great places to start.
These tools can enable us to look after ourselves effectively in our careers. As nurses, we can come under intense pressures, including funding constraints, staffing levels and challenging work environments.
To avoid burnout and to maximise our effectiveness we can lead the way in building excellent mental health for all to see.
Matty Laycock is a nursing student at the University of York in the Department of Health Sciences