Men Tell Their Stories

The Schoolyard Bullies

The thing about mental illness is you can’t see it. You can see a broken leg, but you can’t see depression. You can look at a ruptured spleen (if you’re a Doctor obviously), but not anxiety. All that is visible are the facts of mental illness, and even then it's not always obvious.

Fighting the illness is like trying to plait smoke, it's hard to fashion it into something tangible. It's because of this lack of physical presence that lead me to start thinking, what would my illness look like?

After all, this is a monster that I myself have conjured up and only i can “see”, so what does OCD look like? What form would depression take?

It got me thinking, mental illnesses are basically bullies; twisted malevolent forms that exist to push around, demean and break those that they see as weaker than them.

In my head I see them as a gang of three. These gits love to hang around together, egging each other on to torment you in different ways. Apart they are dangerous and spiteful, together they form a deadly vicious circle.

Depression can lead to OCD which can lead to anxiety, anxiety can lead to depression which can lead to OCD, OCD can lead to… well, you get my point.

I see depression as the classic alpha-male bully; big, strong, merciless, he loves to put you down, make you feel worthless and weak.

Anxiety is a scrawny, jittery, rat-like creature, always shaking and shifting and telling you everything is wrong, everything is something to fear, each touch of his bony finger on your arm makes you jump with terror.

OCD, this guy is horrendous because he looks normal enough, quite slick and approachable really, he will put his arm around you and befriend you and tell you that he is on your side whilst whispering in your ear “if you just do this everything will be ok…” or “you have to do that or else…..”.

He’s a manipulative puppet master who has you doing everything he asks because you are too terrified not to because 'what if? what if? what if?,' whilst he goes back to the other two and laughs at how easily tricked you are.

I hated school, I did. I was short, dumpy, wore big glasses and was poor. I was a prime target, and got bullied a lot, and I hated it, i was so relieved to get out of school.

However, since school, I’ve seen the people who bullied me or those who wouldn’t give me the time of day back then. They try to befriend me on Facebook, or say 'hello' in the street.  When i ran bars, they would come in and act like we were best mates, needless to say that these people get a short shrift from me.

Because when you look at those who were bullies in school, they grew up to be pretty pitiful people, who made nothing of themselves. In the cold light of day you don’t hate them, you pity them.

People bully because often there is something not quite right with them and they don’t know how to process it, so they lash out to try to validate themselves somehow.

I try to look at mental illness the same way. I look at depression and see a bloated, sad creature desperate to push me down, anxiety as a lonely nervous wreck determined to make me share his pain, and OCD as a greasy insurance salesman whispering in my ear i just need to wash my hands one more time.

When I’m able to do this it does help, to be able visualise the enemy and psychologically give him a slap and walk away. It doesn’t always work but something that works a third of the time is better than nothing right?

Remember, you can turn around and slap these guys whenever you want, the power is yours.


A really interesting look at how mental health manifests itself from Martin. Has it helped you in how you look at your own mental health Do you visualise them a different way? Is it something you would try? Let us know in the comments below.

You can read more from Martin on his own blog right here.