Body Image and Masculinity
OCD and Me
Research & Content Coordinator Sally shares her experiences of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.
Like many people, my only understanding of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) was the more common types shown on TV and in movies - obsessions and rituals with symmetry, washing hands and being clean. So for a very long time I didn’t understand that what I was experiencing was actually OCD and I was really scared and embarrassed to talk about a lot of my thoughts and feelings. Thankfully, opening up turned out to be one of the best things I have ever done in my life.
I live with a form called Harm OCD as well as another type called a Body-focused Repetitive Disorder (BFRB). I have lived with them since I was around 10 years old but in my final year of uni, stress made things much more challenging and new thoughts and patterns started to appear. Two of my friends also passed away very unexpectedly while at uni and I started to think if I had done something differently, it might have stopped them dying. That is when it really started impacting my life. What this feels like for me is the feeling that if I complete a task or do an action incorrectly or not to a ‘perfect’ standard, it could really harm myself or others. It seems very irrational, but for the OCD sufferer, the thoughts seem very real and terrifying at the time.
Everyday situations started to become more and more difficult for me. My brain started to make connections between seemingly harmless things and real dangers, and I would get a fight or flight response without warning. To control the feeling, I started ‘avoiding’. I stopped going near high edges, avoided ‘dangerous’ objects and even avoided seeing my friends in case I did something irresponsible that might have harmed them. I started waking myself up at night to check my partner was breathing, and walk around the house at 3am to make sure there were no intruders. I checked the news and became focused on violent or upsetting stories. Eventually I stopped leaving the house or even my bed for days at a time. It was really hard and I started wishing I could just disappear. I was completely exhausted!
Finally I decided I had to go to the doctor. I was offered the chance to do a 12 week course with other people with OCD. This was the first time I had ever met anyone else - it was like things all started clicking into place in my head. I found a strength and motivation in myself I never knew I had. Every day, I get up, and I choose ME - not the illness. If you are struggling with mental health problems, things do get better and there’s light at the end of the tunnel. Let’s support each other by beating the stigma around mental health problems by sharing our stories. You are stronger than you think.