Monday, 5 September 2016

Lets talk about mental health #3: OCD


With my "Lets talk about mental health series" I've asked bloggers to share their personal experiences with mental health, in order to raise awareness of what it's like living/ experiencing mental health problems.

*Trigger warning: OCD*

Lets talk about mental health #3: Nicole's experience with OCD

Nicole is one of my very good blogger friends and I'm a regular reader of her blog. Nicole does a brilliant job of raising awareness of mental health and OCD on her own blog (NICOLE'S BLOG: Nicole is such a lovely, friendly and incredibly strong person and I'm so proud of her with everything that she does (especially having the courage to talk openly about OCD on her blog).

Here's how Nicole has experienced OCD and how it's affected her:

If I asked you if you had heard of OCD, most people would say yes. If I asked you to explain it to me, this is where most of you would trip up. Due to the way that media portrays OCD most people who have not experienced OCD first-hand have very stereotypical and misinformed ideas of what OCD actually is.

"Oh, it's that thing where people like to wash their hands a lot." Or " Oh yeah I am heard of OCD, it's about being super neat and tidy, yeah I know lots of people who have it."

Or even “I’m so OCD because I have to double check my door before I leave the house" NO! Just no! None of these things correctly identifies what OCD really is. Instead of boring you to death with a list of examples and facts about OCD, here is my OCD experience. Which will hopefully give you a more realistic understanding of what living with OCD is really like. 

*photo from Google Images*
Although I was only officially diagnosed with OCD in June this year, I have performed compulsive behaviour ever since I was a child. I used to ask my mum every night if the smoke detector was turned on and if the doors were locked. I went around obsessively checking for cracks and mould in the house in the fear if I didn't the house would fall down, and it would be my fault. I compulsively kept my fingers and toes crossed at all times in fear that if I didn't bad things would happen. This was not the normal kind of Behaviour for an 8, 9 or 10-year-old. I managed to grow out of it eventually, but it never went away really.

I have always been a highly anxious child, I worried about everything and everyone. But this year, I took this worrying to a whole new level. A lot happened all at once. And when I say a lot, I mean a lot. At the end of March and beginning of April, I had the worst few weeks of my life, and I had no idea how to cope. The nursery I worked at, had an outbreak of norovirus which if you have Emetophobia (an intense fear of being sick) is pretty stressful. My mum then became very ill and spent a week or so in the hospital. I went back to college after the Easter break to find that we went from having four teachers down to one. Two left, and one was looking after her ill husband.

The whole course just went into meltdown. I had no idea how to cope. On the outside, I was actually seemingly doing very well. I was up to date with my assignments, knew all the due dates and seemed pretty calm. The rest of class didn't share my apparent relaxed attitude to the crisis. They realised that I was doing okay, and they weren't. They all turned against me. They made me feel alone, isolated, segregated, frightened and very lonely. They intimidated me and went against me. I started to work outside the class, but I just needed to be at home so I finished the rest of the year studying at home.

While this was going on, I didn't react how I would normally do. I didn't cry. I didn't make it out to be a big deal. Instead, I took all the emotion out on my hands; I started performing compulsive hand washing. I became obsessed with contamination, germs and bacteria. I started avoiding touching door handles or any kind of surface for that matter. I always wore long sleeves even if it was hot to cover my hands. I washed my hands over and over again even if I hadn't touched anything. I burnt, Scratched and scrubbed at my hands till they were bleeding, dry and very sore.

I used hand sanitizer excessively. I stopped touching people around me. I wouldn't hug or kiss my mum anymore. I started to wash my hands in diluted bleach and then I used neat bleach. Multiple times a day. I hoarded empty hand sanitizers in the fear that if I throw one away, I will be sick. I started to eat all my meals with a plastic knife, fork and spoon.

I've been to the doctors and seen therapists numerous times already. I was put on antidepressants and signed up to an OCD group therapy six-week course. OCD affects so many areas of my life which most people wouldn't even think of. Do you know how embarrassing it is to eat crisps with a spoon in public? Or to have people stare at you in the bathroom as you wash your hands over and over again? Or how annoying it is to ruin your clothes because of this overwhelming urge to pour neat bleach over your hands?

OCD is a horrible beast. And people still want to claim to have it, to say they are neat? OCD leaves me exhausted every day, stressed and lonely. I can't do the things I want to. I can't learn to drive, make lots of friends and go out to parties. I'm a recluse in my bedroom. Hiding away from the world, praying for the day when I can face the world without these bullying voices in my head.

You may be wondering why this is the last paragraph. Where is the happy ending? The optimistic conclusion? Well, there isn't one! I'm very sorry. You see the thing with OCD or any mental illness for that matter, is the true unpredictably of it. You can have the best few days of your life, making so much progress and then you crash. I can't tell you that I'm in a good place right now because well I'm not. My mental health is very unstable. Actually, as I write this OCD made me have two showers in a row today all because I didn't turn the taps off with a flannel. I'm looking forward to starting my OCD course; I hope it will be very helpful for me. At the moment I just take every day as it comes. I don't know if my OCD is going to get better or worse. I don't know what sort of day I am going to have tomorrow let alone in a months’ time.

OCD won't beat me. OCD won't define me. I am strong, and I will come out on top! Thank you so much Sev for letting me be part of her mental health series, it was a privilege.

I hope Nicole's story has given you an insight and taught you what it's like to live with OCD.

Whilst I'm on the subject of mental health, the lovely Hannah from Little Thoughts has recently started a twitter chat about mental health, which I'm so proud of her for doing. The twitter chat is called #TalkMH and is every thursday evening at 8:30pm. I really recommend you join in with the chat.

Thank you for reading this post! If you want to talk part in my "Lets talk about mental health project" then please let me know! 

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