I talk a lot on this blog about what it is like to live with various mental health problems, often waffling on about how exhausting, traumatic, frustrating and upsetting it is to have a brain that doesn’t want to co-operate with your goals in life. What I rarely talk about though, is that sometimes, as well as being all those serious things, living with mental health problems can just simply be damn embarrassing and leave you in awkward situations that you later look back on and feel like a fool.
Indeed, every time I have played one of those truth or dare games and the question has been “what has been your most embarrassing moment?” the first answer that has sprung to mind has been something related to mental health. It is also a question that often comes up when playing getting to know you games in any team building exercise you have found yourself roped into, yet every time I am asked such a question I never feel able to be honest because admitting to some of the nonsense you can get into when battling a mental illness, to a bunch of people who don’t understand such things, can sometimes be more embarrassing than the situation you are meaning to describe.
When it comes to picking an embarrassing mental health situation I have a bag full of examples to chose from (the one with the fireman or the “box of soggy kale in the cinema” incident are particular gems), but for today I think I am going to go with one of my more recent exploits that occurred during what I thought would be an innocent little trip to the supermarket.
As always mum and I were doing the food shop together and I was, as always, sticking right by her side, the childhood lesson that you should never run off on your own in a supermarket still burned into my brain as well as the fear of such a thing happening (when I was younger I lived in terror of the idea that one day I would have to have my name read out by some lady on a tannoy as the idiot who got lost and was found sobbing in an aisle of loo rolls. The shame of it!)
There is, however, one aisle in the supermarket that I am not a fan of, that being the meat aisle, so when my mum wheels her trolley down there I often hang out in the adjacent aisle and wait very patiently without panicking about my name being read to the entire shop over any tannoys. As I was waiting in the next aisle during this particular expedition, I noticed a woman enter from the other end, her arms extended out wide to carry a large pile of groceries.
To be honest, this woman (lets call her Bertha), really should have had a basket, but I think she was doing one of those whip rounds where you only plan on popping in to get a pint of milk and end up leaving with some Bombay mix, three jars of pickled onions, and a birthday cake in the shape of a caterpillar. I ignored dear Bertha in the beginning, and each of us continued along our merry ways without taking much notice of each other…
Then it happened.
Bertha, dropped her yoghurt. *Clashes cymbals for dramatic effect*
It was like watching a car crash in slow motion only with fewer screeching tyres and more rapidly descending low fat dairy products. Now, Bertha, aka dropper of the yoghurt, would have probably liked to have reached down to retrieve her shopping herself, but as I mentioned, Bertha was carrying a lot of groceries and in her defence was rather incapacitated (again, this woman really needed a basket). Had she bent down to retrieve the yoghurt herself, she would have risked an overflow of all of the other food items she had clasped to her chest, smashed jars, broken Bombay mix, wonky caterpillars, aka, total disaster.
As I looked at her carrying those groceries and saw the yoghurt fall to the floor, I instantly knew what was going to happen next. I was the only other person in the aisle. Bertha was going to ask me to pick up the yoghurt. *Clashes cymbals again as a blood curdling scream is heard over some hidden speaker system*
To most “normal” people/sane people, the idea of being asked to pick up a yoghurt is probably not that terrifying, but to someone with OCD who fears touching anything that has been on or near the floor, it was a nightmare. If I had to explain it, someone asking me to pick something off the floor gives me the anxiety someone would feel were they asked to pick up a rattlesnake carrying a machete…in its non existent hand…(note to self, next time when trying to think up an analogy, think of an animal with hands…)
The second that yoghurt hit the floor, I immediately set about looking like the busiest person ever to exist, in the hopes that Bertha would not ask me for assistance out of awareness that I was on a very important mission of my own. I snapped my head away from the yoghurt to the shelves and feigned a deep interest in a bottle of olive oil (rookie error, nobody is ever interested in olive oil. I should have gone for pasta but alas, retrospect is a wonderful thing). I stared at this bottle of olive oil and peered at it so closely you would have thought the meaning of life was inscribed in tiny letters along the side of the label, as if this olive oil was the most fascinating and wonderful thing I had ever seen. My acting was impeccable, several people from the frozen section even applauded despite their distance from my performance, and sent fan mail which I received a few days later. Bertha however, did not take the hint. Despite my acting performance, Bertha saw me and my bottle of olive oil and said in a voice that sent shivers down my very spine “excuse me can you please pick up my yoghurt?” *clashes cymbals so violently that they break into a million pieces and the very centre of the earth explodes*
Looking back, you may ask me why I didn’t just say that I had OCD and couldn’t help, before venturing off to find someone better suited to the needs of someone who needs their yoghurt risen from the ground like some 21st century Lazarus. If I had had a leg disease or something, I would have had no problem in saying “sorry I am currently disabled because of my leg disease” yet for some reason it seemed unacceptable to say “I am currently disabled because my brain is broken”. It doesn’t make any sense, both are a disability and both physical and mental illnesses impact and interfere with your life, but still I couldn’t be honest because saying I had OCD felt a million times more embarrassing than saying I had a leg disease. This sounds especially weird for someone who is able to speak openly about their mental health problems online without shame, but then again I think that is because I don’t really believe that anyone is reading my blog and if they are (hello you), I know they can’t see me hiding behind a cushion in the corner as they do so. For some reason I found that I couldn’t tell Bertha the truth, provide her with an explanation as to why I was scared to pick up her yoghurt, so instead I did the next best thing. I ran away. As I sprinted off into the distance I didn’t look back, but in my mind I can still see the imagined image of Bertha standing there over her yoghurt, Bombay mix tucked under her chin, staring after me and wondering what on earth was going on.
I grabbed my mum and dashed us out of the shop before we could buy anything (we were all very hungry that week), and by the time we got home I felt terrible. Ok I was embarrassed but I also felt incredibly guilty. Here was this poor woman asking me for yoghurt help, and I ran away.
It just makes me wish that there was less shame and less embarrassment over disabilities caused by mental illness, so that people could be honest in that kind of situation. I truly dream to live in a world where one day it will be possible to say “I am scared to pick up your yoghurt because I have OCD” without looking like a lunatic and whilst being taken as seriously as anyone with a physical and more visible impairment. Maybe I am underestimating Bertha and maybe she would have been understanding, but still you have to admit it is more likely she would have raised an eyebrow at the mental illness excuse as oppose to the leg disease thing.
If any of you out there have found yourselves in similar embarrassing situations in which your mental health problem made you feel like a fool, I hope you see this post as a comfort. Remember you are not alone in feeling like a bit of an idiot because there is someone out there who left a woman with her yoghurt on the floor, but more importantly, remember that when in the supermarket, one should always remember to pick up a basket before heading for the yoghurt.
Take care everyone x
10 thoughts on “Embarrassing Incidents Caused By Mental Health Problems”
If it helps, I would run away right after the yogurt fell on the floor so the woman wouldn’t have had a chance to ask me for help (that was the first thing that came to my mind :D). But I feel the same most of the time like I have these types of embarrassing moments almost every day (I “must” eat at certain times which most of the time brings me to weird situations like eating at places and situations I’m not supposed to eat). It almost feels like my whole life is one long embarrassing moment.
Oh I can very much relate! I have eaten weird things in a bunch of bizarre locations over my time all because of my rules so you are not alone in that! I once ate raw garlic in the bathroom of my local cinema! Glad to know I have someone who can relate to me and make me feel comforted. I hope I can be the same for you ❤ We will be embarrassed together! xxx
Well I started eating my snack in the middle of workshop at my work (there were like 10 people in total). It was my time to eat the snack. It was pretty embarrassing, but luckily for me it was my last day at work, so I don’t have to see the people every day.
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That’s always good! I prefer to be embarrassed in front of people I rarely see!
Please don’t feel guilty! If I were you, I would have done the same. And I know how you feel. I have lost count of all the embarrassing moments caused by my mental health problems. Well, something funny happened to me not so long ago. My aunt introduced me to a friend of her and the lady was talking to me and she was being really nice until she noticed my self-harm scars. She immediately asked, “are you playing the blue whale game?”. Guess what I did? I ran away.
I hope you’re feeling better now xx
Kisses from Portugal ❤
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Ahh we are so similar! When in doubt run away I say 😂 Thank you for making me feel less alone. Love and kisses from England ❤️ xxxxx
In my nearly 54 years I have had more embarrassing moments that I would care to think about! None of them compare to watching my children experience the same things though; that is more heart breaking for me. I have learned a couple of things over time though. One is that with 6 children I have found that those same embarrassing moments come, for different reasons, but always with the same reaction and feelings of inadequacy, to my children with mental health problems and the ones without. The other thing that I have realized (and hopefully my children hear when I tell them this) is that me/they are thinking about that embarrassing moment far longer then the person witnessing it. We are kind of like the news headlines; something always comes along rather quickly to call attention away from the latest scandal. That said, I have had more than my share of embarrassing moments with some related to OCD (shhh…….I have it too) and can completely relate. The reality is that the lady with the yoghurt has long since moved on, a bit confused perhaps, but not starving! It is us OCD sufferers that can’t get the needle to move to another spot on the record.
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This is such a good point! This yoghurt situation happened weeks ago and I still think about it every day but I doubt that lady would even remember it if you asked her about it in a year! And like you said, I doubt my inability to pick up a yoghurt meant she was left starving! Thank you for this comment, it was really reassuring and also comforting to know I am not alone! You are the best 🙂 Sending love to you and the family ❤ xxx P.s Thank you for being honest with me about your OCD! I promise your secret is safe with me! SHHH!
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Hello girls here on this blog :-)! First, I really like the way you, Katie, have written about that incident. Even though all this OCD-stuff isn’t funny at all, you have humour between your lines and I find it can be a good way to cope with OCD. Next, I like and appreciate Christina’s point about the other people having long since moved on from those ‘accidents’ (I’ll keep that in mind!). I have also been in those embarrassing moments, several times (once had to leap behind some bushes; once with a therapist in a supermarket when she did some CBT with me but I refused to touch what she wanted me to [the staff got involved: “Can I help you?” My therapist: “Err, no, we’re just arguing over the wine gums – I want these and she wants those.” I was sobbing all over and the staff lady probably thought: “Well, that’s not a real reason to cry at your age, is it…!?).
Oh and now this is funny: I have a character in my story who is called Bertha!!! She’s my step grandmother in there who actually causes embarrassment! What a coincidence.
Take care everyone,
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That is so funny! So good to have someone else who relates to this! Xxx