Mind And What Matters


Obertament  is a new Catalan umbrella organisation for just about everyone involved in the field of mental health, from psychologists, psychiatrists and psychiatric nurses through to patients and patients' families. As its name (which means 'openly') suggests, Obertament is dedicated to removing the stigma still so often attached to mental illness. Last month, two members of the organisation set up a meeting in a café to see if I could contribute to their new media campaign (presumably tipped off by one of the half dozen or so readers of my autobiography, in which I mentioned that I'd been classified as mentally ill myself). As we talked, the period leading up to my diagnosis came back to me with disarming clarity: at age 14, I became convinced that a series of events at once disgusting, dreadful and terrifying (albeit thoroughly unlikely) were about to happen to me at any moment. I woke up - and went to sleep - with these fears for the next six years, taking care to hide them from friends and family, convinced that I was the only person on the planet who could possibly be plagued by such weird and persistent fearfulness (relieved only by regular doses of alcohol, the one medication available to me, and which I even began to consume on the walk to school). To cut a long purgatory short, one night, at age 20, an unwonted hallucination (of hooded figures about to kill me) finally made me realise that this particular party had to stop. For the first time in my life I asked to see a psychiatrist, who, after our interview, promptly informed me that I had an obsessive neurosis (now called an obsessive-compulsive disorder). He could have knocked me down with a feather: for years I had been needlessly hiding something perfectly diagnosticable. Indeed, all that occultation had made the disorder more difficult to dislodge than usual, to the extent that even today, though I've rid myself of the symptoms for decades, I still occasionally take anxiolytics. Which were rattling around in my pocket as I told the visitors from Obertament that I would be only too happy to help them to prevent other people from being as ashamed as I had been about whatever mental disorder they might be suffering. We shook hands and they left the café. The past being still very much present after our talk, I immediately ordered myself a large glass of white wine. And a second one after that.

Matthew Tree, Catalonia Today, març de 2014

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