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Wow. What a busy week it’s been here over at OCD Youth.

The OCD Action National Conference on Saturday was an incredibly inspiring, emotive and educational affair, prompting great discussions and insight from world leading experts as well as people who live with OCD and their carers, parents, guardians and supporters. This week was also mental health awareness week in the UK, too. The theme for this year focused on body image, and already there have been so many stories, posts and videos uploaded on social media and various websites, so I won’t keep repeating what’s already been said.

However, I do feel that I want to touch upon some issues that I’ve faced personally around this theme, and I’d like to talk about how that co-exists with my experiences of OCD and the thoughts and behaviours. I feel it’s really important to talk about body image, especially from a male perspective at the moment, because it is an issue that’s seemingly becoming more common, although this might just be down to more men feeling able to share their problems.

Over the last 2 years or so, I’ve been gaining more weight due to poor food choices, a real lack of motivation to change my habits (thanks for that one, depression) and the tablets I’ve been on for my OCD and depression. It’s really been a struggle to look at my body and so vehemently dislike what I see starting back at me. It’s an experience shared by many, I’m sure, but when it’s combined with OCD, the negative thoughts already have a fast track ticket to the front of the queue and they can become all encompassing.

I’ve had to work incredibly hard to ensure that I don’t let the thoughts take over, which is a practice that I’ve learnt to develop and manage over the years with OCD. Finding ways to try and change my perspective about my body image has been a process of trial and error, and some things work for me whereas others make things worse. One thing I will say is that the support that’s been given to me has made such a difference, and even writing this article is helping me to accept what’s going on in my head.

If you’re struggling with anything to do with the theme of this week’s mental health awareness week, then please reach out to the relevant services such as the BDD Foundation, BEAT and Mind, or talk to people in your life that you feel you can trust.

As I always like to say to people when I’m giving talks or writing articles, please don’t give up hope. Have faith in yourself, reach out to people when and if you feel able, and remember that you’re not alone.

We will continue to support campaigns and awareness weeks like this one, and our campaigns officer, Terry, is working hard behind the scenes with other charities and organisations on future campaigns.

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Disclaimer: This article contains language that some readers may find offensive

Mental health, and the issues that we all face on a daily basis, is a constant, unavoidable part of our day-to-day lives. While events like Stress Awareness Month, Mental Health Awareness Week and World Suicide Prevention Day play a vital role in promoting discussion and bringing mental health to the forefront, it can be easy to forget that OCD, anxiety disorders and a variety of mental health problems are ever-present battles, not simply wheeled out like grandma’s priceless crockery for special occasions.

OCD has been there at pivotal moments in my life, but has similarly still been present at the boring, mundane bits. From family weddings to taking the bins out, from birthday parties to buying toilet paper, OCD can often effect aspects you’d not previously considered, such as relationships and the world of work.

Since my diagnosis, I’ve had two full-time jobs. In the first, my condition remained a secret. While this was no reflection on the working atmosphere of the organisation or the comradery between staff, something about “coming out”, for lack of a better phrase, as an OCD sufferer to my colleagues didn’t feel right. After six months of working there, and inevitably the odd compulsion observed by my colleagues, something was still bugging me. Even when one of the young people who volunteered with the company was brave enough to address their own struggles with mental illness openly and unashamedly, it still felt like the wrong time, an inconvenient moment, for me to do the same. I encourage everybody to, above all, trust your gut instinct; after a year of working there, I heard an individual in a position of power refer to people with mental health problems by inappropriate, derogatory language. Needless to say that I handed in my notice a fortnight later.

With my next job, I decided to take a different approach. I made my experience with OCD apparent at as early a stage as when I submitted my CV, making it clear that this is who I was – my qualifications, my experience, my personality and my obsessive compulsive – and that, as with any other candidate, they were welcome to take me or leave me at their own discretion. Sometimes, all you need is the balls to not care what other people think of you, even if they don’t think you’re capable of doing the job, as you know better, and you have the confidence to prove them wrong if they give you the chance. Not only have the organisation been deeply supportive of my day-to-day encounters with OCD, and have actively encouraged my activism and determination to have these issues discussed, but they also consider how organisational decisions (eg. our team moving offices to a different building) may effect myself and other OCD sufferers in the company.

For me, OCD has the biggest effect on my working life and my relationships. Much like my mantra towards work, having the confidence in your convictions to maintain a “sod it, take me or leave me as I am” attitude always works out for the best. My partner at the time of my diagnosis was caring, supportive and went above and beyond to do what had to be done to make me feel comfortable, despite not having signed up to this. My next partner, and the first with whom I needed to, again, “come out” about my OCD, didn’t know what to expect. I waited until a few dates in to tell her what OCD was, and how it effected me. After a few awkward questions and a long Google search when she got home, she felt confident that this revelation changed nothing.

Without a shadow of a doubt, my decision to tell my current partner about my OCD from Date #1 was the best decision I could have made. It was a conversation starter, she knew what challenges would face us in the long run, and it opened a forum for us to bare all, and for her to discuss the nitty gritty of her own problems before we’d even ordered our starter. Not only is she deeply supportive of how OCD effects me, she understands the often difficult dynamic of how OCD effects us as a couple. For example, I couldn’t have her come to my house for the first few months of our relationship, as the idea of another person entering my highly controlled, pedantic organised personal space was too much to deal with. A year later, she’s as involved in this community as I am, having worked with performing arts group The Secret Illness on their OCD projects.

In summary, while I obviously thoroughly encourage you to seek the proper therapy and engage with CBT, OCD is inevitably going to keep playing a key part in the lives of those living with the condition. However, it does not, and should not, be the defining part. Do your best to facilitate a “sod it” attitude, to navigate every important and unimportant facet of your life with the confidence to talk honestly about your struggles, as I can assure you that people – both professionally and personally – will respect you with the same confidence that you put across to the rest of the world.

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The OCD Action conference will always have a special place in my heart, not just because it’s attended by world-leading experts and inspirational people, but it’s where I found my tribe, my people, those who understand me.

Living with OCD is incredibly tough, and if you’re reading this then you’re probably well aware of that already. When you find people who are able to understand what you’re going through without even necessarily talking to you about your struggles, it’s a magical thing and something that gave me great strength and hope that I will be okay.

At last year’s conference, I was fortunate enough to be able to share my experiences/journey/story, call it what you like, with a room full of people who knew my struggle, who had either lived it themselves or had seen their loved ones endure the pain and heartache. I also was able to attend various workshops and listen to speakers with a wealth of knowledge and insight into life with OCD and the recovery and treatment process. This was invaluable as I picked up tips and tricks to help me manage the thoughts and behaviours.

At this year’s conference in London, you can expect no compromise with regards to expertise, inspirational guest speakers, fun and informative workshops and an atmosphere of hope, compassion and kindness. There will be plenty to do and see for younger attendees, as well as a youth specific workshop which will be facilitated by members of the OCD Youth Advisory Panel. Anyone under the age of 16 will need to be accompanied by a parent/guardian throughout the conference, however under 16s can attend for free with a paying adult.

The day will begin with a screening of a short documentary called OCD Is Not Me and then there will be plenary talks followed by various workshop and breakout sessions throughout the day with breaks for lunch and one in the afternoon, also. It will be a welcoming and friendly atmosphere, and there will be staff from OCD Action on hand around the venue if you need assistance at any time.

You can still get tickets if you haven’t already here, and if you feel so inclined, it would be fantastic if you could share information about the conference on your social media feeds and encourage people to come along! We’re also really excited to announce that there is a live streaming ticket option as well if you are unable to attend in person.

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When I got to the office this morning, the last thing I thought I’d be feeling was utterly broken, emotionally drained and then marvelously uplifted after reading a children’s book about OCD.

Unraveling Rose focuses on (you guessed it), Rose, a stuffed bunny who absolutely loves spending time with the little boy who hugs her at bedtime. Her duty is not only to play with him in the park, but at nighttime, she is the official page turner when stories are read.

Everything seems to be wonderful until one day, Rose finds a loose piece of red thread in the stitching on the underside of her left arm. She becomes unable to concentrate on anything else, and the thoughts stop her from doing all of the things she loves to do, even making her feel like she doesn’t want to read stories and turn pages anymore.

What author, Brian Wray, and illustrator, Shiloh Penfield, have been able to capture in this cute, short and poignant children’s book is a painfully accurate portrayal of what living with OCD is like and the negative effects it can have. Without spoiling anymore for the avid readers out there, I would encourage anyone of any age to read this book. Although it really is aimed at young children, the impact it had on me was profound, and I don’t say that lightly.

It talks about OCD in a way that young children would be able to understand with relative ease and the illustration is so easy on the eye and delightfully charming that joy can be found by child and adult alike. Although the explanation of OCD and the process of recovery/managing the thoughts is short and sweet, I appreciate that this is to cater for a younger audience with possibly shorter attention spans.

I personally think that this book should be on the curriculum for schools all over the world. It would it help those children living with OCD understand it better and accept themselves as the imperfect, amazing kids that they are. Furthermore, it could be an invaluable educational tool for the vast majority who live in freedom from the thoughts and fears that often coincide with OCD.

In summary,  this book is essential reading for anyone who is interested in OCD, from a sufferer or carer’s perspective. I believe, like the author, that imagination and storytelling has magic powers, and Unraveling Rose is a shining example of that.

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When I was diagnosed at 15 with OCD and depression, I thought recovery would be simple. Oh how naïve of me!

I genuinely thought that, just like with a physical ailment, I would go to see someone who would make it all better, whether that was pills or therapy, I assumed it would all be much simpler. And yet, here I am, 12 years later (god I feel ancient) and I am still learning that there isn’t a path that’s set in stone for what recovery looks like. It is bloody hard, it takes a lot of constant hard work and is something that, at times, feels impossible to walk down.

One thing I know for certain, though, is that the good times make it all worth it. Yes, it can feel like walking on hot coals, but when you’ve put the work in and listened to the rational side of your brain (which is a lot harder to do than it is for me to say), you really feel like you’re flying. Now I know I know, I’m sitting here talking about this from a place far removed from where I was at my worst, but the difficult times are still there, bubbling under the surface.

I think a big part of the battle is coming to terms with the fact that they might always be there, just on the peripherals, walking in your shadow. Accepting that (again, easy to say, hard to do), is something that’s taken me many years to accomplish, but it really helps to lift the weight off of your shoulders when you’re in the ebb and flow of a tough time.

Fleabag, a marvellous show that you absolutely have to watch (on BBC iPlayer, if you’re old enough), perfectly encapsulates the general messiness of life and the difficult and complex emotions that are thrown up in everyday situations. The titular character finds dealing with her own emotions difficult, and doesn’t always seem to express what’s going on in her head in a very practical way, to say the least. However, over the two seasons of the show (which ended this week and I can’t believe it’s over *insert sad emoji here*), she comes to terms with the fact that some aspects of her life will just be what they are; messy.

This is a fantastic piece of work, and it definitely helped me be more kind to myself and accept the fact that my life isn’t this perfect journey, viewed through a filter on Instagram, edited to be seen exactly as I want it to be. Life uh, finds a way (there is never a bad time to insert a Jurassic Park reference).

So basically, what I’m trying to say in a roundabout way, is that life, mental health and everything else that can, does and will happen, is more often than not a messy affair. It will be so much easier to cope with and your recovery will be a lot more manageable if you’re able to tune in to the frequency of messiness, and learn to ride the waves (gotta love a cliché).

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I was first diagnosed with OCD in my second year of university. Even five years on, I’m hesitant to
use the word “diagnosed” – It makes me, and many others, feel like we need a signed, ratified
certificate, with a posh seal dipped in red wax and stamped into our passports for it to be official.

I think it’s that sense of being “diagnosed”, your condition having a medical title, that makes so
many people living with a mental health problem scared to talk about their emotional well-being
with a doctor. Perhaps it’s this fear that by naming it, it somehow becomes more real. I myself know
a handful of close friends who – while I add the disclaimer that I’m not a doctor, and have no
qualifications to give anyone a diagnosis – I would bet good money are living with OCD, and have
expressed their concerns about their own mental health with me, but the thought of being handed
that painful little acronym “OCD” in a formal setting by a medical professional is too much of an
intense prospect.

I can understand being told that you potentially have obsessive compulsive disorder, or any mental
health problem, is terrifying. However, I’d say that half of that fear lies in the thought that you’re
somehow obscure, outside of the normal sphere or that something is “wrong” with you.

Not true – 16 million people in the UK will experience a mental health issue at some point this year;
the mental health community is enormous, inclusive and bold. The OCD community, as a sub group
of this family, are just as numerous; we are 1.3% of the British population. We are sadly growing in
number, but happily our voices are becoming much, much louder.

I think the other half of the fear that surrounds essentially being branded with this disorder is how
your peers will or won’t understand your condition, especially as a young person. During university,
the only person I told about my OCD was my girlfriend at the time; these days, I try my best to
discuss my problems openly and be an activist in my own small way on behalf of those who are not
yet in a position to do the same. Being open about your daily personal battles doesn’t happen
overnight, it takes time. Even when I spent a year working with a theatre company creating art
based around mental health, self-harm and self-worth, I was still a world away from sharing, letting
alone flying the flag for, my OCD.

At the same time, by giving something a name, you take away it’s power. I’ve only been openly
talking about OCD with my friends, family, colleagues and anyone in the Twitter-sphere who will
listen for around six or seven months now, and yet the impact has been tremendous. After openly
explaining my situation to my line manager at work, a colleague had the confidence to tell me about
their own OCD diagnosis, something that they were yet to freely talk about with anyone else. After
explaining to my parents what the disorder was, what it means and how it effects me, my father in
turn discussed it with a colleague, who then contacted me because their son is living with OCD, and
had had very little – if any – interaction with other sufferers of his age.

We can all help remove the stigma which surrounds this and related disorders, to help raise
awareness about obsessive compulsive and even fundraise to enable this work to continue in small,
simple ways. You don’t have to run a marathon, become an activist or scream your agenda from the
rooftops, however as we start this year’s Week of Action from Monday 18th February, I encourage
everyone to take the smallest step in simply talking about your own difficulties. It will honestly
make a much bigger impact than you might believe.

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When I first heard about Channel 4’s new drama “Pure”, I felt a peculiar mixture of excitement and unease. Having battled OCD throughout my childhood and teens, this show promised to be the reference point for my illness that my younger self had lacked. After years spent recycling fears and obsessions, I was desperately seeking proof that somewhere, anywhere, there were other people like me.

When “Pure” arrived, I had clung onto this hope for so long that the reality of a OCD narrative felt intimidating. What if I was disappointed? What if it simply poked fun at the illness, disregarding entirely the agonising potency of ruminations?

I approached the programme with a degree of caution – but much to my relief, it did not disappoint. Instead, I was a met with a story that brought my own to life. “Pure” deftly manages to make light of its topic without trivialising it, spying the humour in the absurdity of OCD thoughts while never undermining their destructive power. There is something oddly comic about the sudden flashes of perverse imagery, yet they still serve the purpose of unsettling their audience. The visuals simulate the nature of obsession, forcing you to look when you want to look away.

I instantly recognise Marnie as a woman tipping the balance between coping and dysfunction. She is well enough to find her way from Scotland to London, but ill enough that her ruminations infringe on her abilities to converse and perform sexually. She is well enough to have completed her degree, but ill enough to have found herself back in her hometown, disillusioned by her former dreams of being a writer. The unnerving lack of stability feels incredibly genuine to me, having spent years on the same seesaw between sick and well.

Marnie’s confusion – that her intrusive thoughts must signify something deeper about her own psyche – epitomises the ultimate OCD struggle: “I think this, so it must mean something.” Watching her constantly second guess herself reminds me of many days spent turning over the same questions. Why am I thinking this? Do I think it because I believe it?

“Pure” is the first time I have ever seen my likeness on screen. Though my own intrusive thoughts are rarely of a sexual nature, I feel an overwhelming amount of empathy for Marnie’s story. After all, it is never the content of the thoughts themselves that matter, but the levels of distress, self-loathing and despair that they cause.

It is rare that we encounter a story where mental illness is not sensationalised for shock factor, or simply a diluted subplot. Characters with mental health problems are not expected to make for good protagonists, because rather than seeing the strength in their stories, we are constantly highlighting their weaknesses. This symbolic annihilation contributes to a persistent stigma – that people with mental illness are inherently flawed, existing only on the fringes of ordinary society.

But this is not a story where mental illness is exiled to attics and asylums. It exists in bedrooms and bathrooms and clubs and coaches. It exists in the same city where I grew up. This is a story where OCD not only occupies, but dominates, the foreground of the narrative. It’s every bit as awkward and graphic as the illness itself.

“Pure” demands that you feel discomfort, but for me it provides the opposite. Knowing that this show will open up conversations about OCD, I am able to shed the shame that, in Marnie’s words, “there’s something wrong with me.”

___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

You can catch the “Pure” boxset on All4. Please be aware that the programme contains graphic, sexual images and adult language which may not be suitable for younger viewers.

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From first hand experience I know that the vast majority of people think OCD means cleanliness or having your pens lined up colour by colour so it looks all ‘pretty’. I want to tell those people that it is absolutely NOTHING like that whatsoever.

From the NHS Website:
Obsessive compulsive disorder; a mental health disorder in which an individual can experience obsessive/intrusive thought’s and a need to carry out compulsions. This pattern has 4 main steps:
1. Obsession – where an unwanted, intrusive and often distressing thought, image or urge repeatedly enters your mind.
2. Anxiety – the obsession provokes a feeling of intense anxiety or distress.
3. Compulsion – repetitive behaviours or mental acts that you feel driven to perform as a result of the anxiety and distress caused by the obsession.
4. Temporary relief – the compulsive behaviour temporarily relieves the anxiety, but the obsession and anxiety soon returns, causing the cycle to begin again.

Now generally speaking people who just use OCD as a ‘phrase’ have no idea about any of this due to lack of research. My therapist had even told me that people who she works alongside with (other ‘therapists’) use OCD as a phrase to explain how they like everything to be ‘neat’. Mention a intrusive thought to someone who has no idea what OCD really is and they’ll be completely baffled.

A few weeks ago I sat down at the dinner table with my Aunt who had used OCD as a phrase, I explained to her in full the best I could what Obsessive Compulsive Disorder really is and what it can entail. I went into some deep detail to try and get it across because I thought if I did that perhaps it would help to try and explain it more. I left that dinner table with my Aunt knowing more about OCD than what she did before and she was also incredibly supportive about me having the mental health disorder.

For this post I decided to ask my Mum what she thought OCD was before she started to attend therapy sessions with me to understand what it really was, here’s what she said:

“Attending the therapy sessions definitely helped me understand what my daughter was going through as a person, and I learned to understand that it was the thought’s that was leading to her carrying out these compulsions. I didn’t even know what compulsions or intrusive thought’s were until I went to therapy and had Jady speak to me about it in detail. Attending the therapy sessions and have Jady open up to me has helped me as a Mum to support my daughter with her mental health disorder. Even though I don’t know exactly what it is like first hand, I’ve seen what it can do to a person and it’s absolutely heartbreaking. If there is any advice I can give to other parents who may not know how to support their children with OCD, If you are given the chance to attend therapy with them go for it. Do be patient with them, it is hard enough for them as it is and telling a parent what they are going through can be terrifying.”

When I was first diagnosed with OCD, the last thing I wanted to do was talk about it. I didn’t want to have therapy or reach out to charities or go to public conferences or meet other people with OCD. I wanted to be at home under blankets and not be with anyone, I didn’t even want to be with myself.
However, talking about it has been the best decision I ever made. I’ve met some incredible people, had some really good coping mechanisms mentioned to me, realised I truly am not alone in any of this and been given amazing opportunities that I never could have even for a second imagined of.

As i’m writing this, I’m remembering that i’m still not ideally where I want to be. My ideal ‘recovery’ would be holding down a job, being in a stable relationship, going out with friends and being confident in myself and not letting my Social Anxiety or OCD stop me from doing things, but that’s okay because I am still better off than what I was 6 months ago and that for me, is such a huge achievement.

I’m not sitting here and telling you to go out and shout about your mental health disorder, but what I am saying is you never know what could help you until you try it. If you feel that you want to go to a conference to meet other people going through what you are and nothing is stopping you then do it, it could make a huge difference to you and you may help others by sharing your story to them.

I remember I use to see myself just being surrounded by these grey miserable clouds and I could not see a way out of it at all, whereas now I still see those clouds they just are not as grey as they once were. It took me a long time to get to here and I wouldn’t want somebody to read this and think “Wow! All I have to go and do is talk about it and i’ll feel fantastic!”. No, talk about it but also think about getting therapy or something along those lines because just talking about it won’t help, talking about it while getting professional help could. Perhaps start by sitting down with your best friend (or someone you trust) slowly mention what you feel comfortable with.

I think the one thing to remember is that not everyone is going to understand no matter how much you may want them to. It took me awhile to get my Mum to understand, it wasn’t something that happened overnight. It does help when someone is willing to help you and research what you’re going through. If you feel that reaching out to a charity would be the way forward, do that! There is some really amazing people involved with mental health charities and they could give you some really good advice on what road to go down.

You’re not alone, there are people willing to be by your side. There is help out there if you need it. If you know someone who may be fighting demons right now and you know they need someone, be there for them, take them for a cup of tea if they’re willing to go and just try to make them feel safe and not alone.

Mental health is so so important and I am so glad that I have a platform to speak about it on. Take care of yourself, you are loved.

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Trigger warning: this post contains some content about suicide which some readers may find upsetting

My name is Jady I’m 19 years old and at the age of 16 I was diagnosed with OCD. So to start off I’ll tell you what my compulsions/intrusive thought’s involve. I have contamination OCD so for the most part my brain is constantly worrying about being contaminated or contaminating someone/something. I remember when I was around 8 years old, I was constantly washing my hands to the point they were red and raw, my teacher pointed it out to me and asked ‘’Why are your hands so red and sore looking?’’ if I remember correctly I didn’t quite know how to answer that question. I’m not entirely sure if I was washing them due to contamination or if I was just constantly washing them because I just felt like I needed to. At the time it was passed off as just ‘child’s behaviour’ and it didn’t really come to anyone’s attention (not even my own) until my teacher had said about it, I knew they were sore and painful but that’s about all. After a while however the hand washing did disappear out of the blue just like how it arrived and from then on it was never mentioned again.

Through-out the time I was at school I was always incredibly unsettled and very unhappy to be in the environment I was in. When I was at nursery I used to cry and scream about how I wanted to go home and be with my Mum. When I was in infant school and junior school I was almost seen as the ‘troublesome’ kid. I never really had any friends because people simply didn’t like me for whatever reason and I was always quiet. I got blamed for a lot of things I didn’t do, and people would sometimes try to get me in trouble for the sake of it. When I went to secondary school that’s where things took a even bigger turn for the worst. I was bullied and manipulated, made to be incredibly unhappy and it got to the point where I could cry almost everyday and it was a big struggle for my mum to try and get me through the gates. Myself and my parents were always trying to talk to the school staff about what was going in while I was in school however they always tried to brush it off and the best thing they could do were take me out of lessons. They said I always looked happy in school but I am very good at wearing a mask and making everyone believe that I’m happy when I’m not.

I was getting more stressed everyday and people in school started to say that I was ‘bunking off’ and nothing was wrong. Little did they know in the time I was taking off at this point was due to the fact I was having horrendous stomach pain and I hadn’t started my periods at this point so we went to the doctors and I had a full examination in which came to the conclusion that I have Irritable Bowel Syndrome and this was down to the stress I was going through and it was only going to get worse the more stressed I got.

Thing’s never got better and I decided that the best way out of this would be to put a knife to my neck and hope it would all end. Fortunately nothing did happen and my mum saw me with the knife and came into the room shouting at me to put it down. After this I was given a school councellor but in my opinion she was no help so I stopped going. I sat down with my parents and I decided I wanted to go for home schooling. I’ll tell you now that this was probably one of the worst decisions I ever made but I did not want to start a new school because I was petrified of being bullied again and nobody liking me. Around this time I started to lose motivation to do anything, had no care in the world about anything and shut myself out from the world, this was something that lasted a while.

I roughly remember being around 14 and I was starting to find interests again and come out of the house a little bit more. On one certain day I decided I needed to use hand sanitiser after something I had touched however once I had used it I felt a sudden urge to use it again, and again, and again. I couldn’t stop. I had no clue what was happening but this urge wouldn’t go away, I thought to myself that i’ll sleep it off and be fine the next day. The next day came around and I still could not stop using the hand sanitiser. All I could think about was these germs were not dying, everything I touched was getting contaminated, I was contaminating myself. Not long after I was asking people to repeat sentences again and again because even though I heard it the first time I still needed to hear it again. I started writing notes on my phone of conversations I was having with people so I could go back and tell my mum otherwise she would die and not know about these conversations I was having. I was having unwanted sexual thought’s along with other thought’s that I don’t feel comfortable with sharing. All of these compulsions were just coming along at such a fast speed and I had no control whatsoever.

I felt alone so I googled things like ‘’I feel contaminated all the time’’ ‘’I can’t stop washing my hands’’ ‘’Do germs ever die?’’ and after some searching I saw ‘’Obsessive Compulsive Disorder’’. I read into it and it suddenly it felt like I was reading a book about myself. I saw people on forums talking about compulsions and intrusive thought’s.

At 16 I went to a doctor that my parents had known since I was very young. I explained to him what I had been feeling. He told me I wasn’t alone, he’d give me a dose of SSRI’S and refer me to a place called CAMHS, however he said there was a long waiting list and he doesn’t know when i’ll be able to see somebody. Some time after my the birthday I saw a psychiatrist and she gave me an official diagnosis of OCD. I then saw my CAMHS therapist who I stayed with shorter than the time I was given because she was not helping me in the slightest. It felt like she was saying ‘’I’m your therapist but you’re going to have to do the majority of this yourself!” She was using a technique called ‘flooding’ and thought it’d be a good idea to get rid of anti bacterial products and soaps in the house. She even said to me she thought my mum was ‘’OCD’’ just because she likes the house to look clean and nice. I was fuming.

While all of this was going on I was still seeing my Psychiatrist so I explained to her that I felt like my Therapist wasn’t doing anything for me and no longer was going to see her. My Psychiatrist told me about a service called IAPT and said it might be worth a try. I agreed to a referral however I was told once again it could be a long wait. Throughout this time I was an incredibly anxious person, never wanted to do something alone and would prefer for people to speak for me. Just the thought of saying ‘’Hi!’’ to someone would terrify me. I met my first IAPT therapist just after my 18th birthday. At this time I was then given a diagnosis of Social Anxiety. This therapist was nice however she was focusing more on my Anxiety rather than my OCD. I wanted to tackle them both together.

My then therapist had to have a operation and the service told me i’ll need a new therapist as they don’t know when she will be back. I will mention that my compulsions have changed throughout time. At this point I was jumping back and forth of constant hand washing and constant use of anti bacterial. I saw my second therapist from IAPT just after I turn 19 and she was great!! She’s managed to get me to where I am today. We worked on my OCD and Social Anxiety, we took a slow pace and nothing was rushed. She taught me how to ‘ride out’ my compulsions. I was discharged from IAPT in August of this year.

Through-out all of this i’ve tried to commit suicide 4 times, my last attempt was last year. I still get anxiety attacks and my compulsions/intrusive thought’s can still be all over the place some days. I still take medication daily, and since being discharged I’ve referred myself to SilverCloud which is run by Mind. I don’t feel entirely secure with-out no help whatsoever so I thought that may be a good route to go down.

Of course typing out every single thing that has happened and is still happening would be a lot to write but I have covered the majority of it and if anyone reading this has experienced what I have experienced or if you’re experiencing it right now, please remember you really are not alone and there is help available out there should you wish to ask for it.

I want to thank Olivia from OCD Action who let me share my story. I’ve recently started volunteering for OCD Action and I can’t wait to get even more involved with this community and spread awareness on OCD.

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University, is a challenging time for anyone. Moving out, meeting people, being faced everyday with new challenges and expectations. Whether you are moving out of your home for the first time or staying at home and commuting this time can be hard for anyone even if you don’t suffer from OCD or any kind of mental health problem for that matter.
I want to share my experience of moving out for the first time and starting university.

OCD has always been a battle for me growing up, from checking everything a certain number of times to obsessively worrying that I might have cancer or something drastic is going to happen to me or my family members. Coming to university was a massive step for me. I held it back for a couple years to improve myself and to find my true self and confidence. I then felt I was more than ready to tackle this challenge. I chose moving out to a different city as appose to staying at home and going to a university near my parents as life is all about challenging those inner demons and I had come so far that I wanted to push myself further than ever before and I was ready!

The first 2 weeks of staying in halls I had to face challenges day in day out, that back at home I wouldn’t of needed to face. From taking the bins out and exposing myself to germs and intrusive thoughts to touching dirty areas of the kitchen. This is still a tricky area a month into university life, however I have gotten to a point where I will carry the bin bag to the rubbish collection outside and that in itself is an achievement. Having to face challenges such as exposing myself to germs is a constant day to day occurrence, but I have found that it helps by taking each step a day at a time, also it helped me if I became friends with my flatmates as I then felt more comfortable and happier in my surroundings even though they have no idea the full extent of my OCD, sometimes this can be a good thing, as it makes you feel like you can have a fresh start in your new surroundings and it doesn’t put the pressure on how they will react to you telling them, and they are new people who you haven’t known for long so there’s no expectation.

Starting my university course, it helped to make the mental health team aware of my condition so I didn’t feel like I was alone if I was going through a bad patch with the OCD and also the anxiety that came along with it. Having that support in place made me feel like there’s someone there if I needed to talk however at university you are surrounded by people who are going through personal struggles and various challenges, so you are never alone. I felt that making friends in the first weeks really helped in your course especially as they have common interests as you and everyone at university wants to make friends because at the end of the day you are all in the same boat and you all don’t know anyone and this helped my confidence grow massively as I went about my first weeks and in therefore helped my anxiety/OCD because I was preoccupied with meeting people and also getting involved in societies really helped because it built up my confidence even more and I feel if you have more confidence you have more strength and fight to tackle OCD and thoughts.

If you are starting uni or thinking about it in the future, even if it seems like a long hard battle some days and going university, some days you might feel alone if you are struggling in particular that day. Remember these feelings aren’t facts and therefore you are not alone there are people, who can help you from student services to friends and family. These days will pass, and as much as OCD can suck! It can also be a driving force to get you to where you want in life. Because you have overcome the biggest obstacle that is yourself and your inner demons then just image what you can achieve in your future!

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