If you asked my friends and family, they’d probably tell you I was a little bit quirky, I say things that others possibly wouldn’t and I spend longer than is required, washing my hands. If I was to think back to a time this began, I’d say I was around 10.
It was just part of me, a big ball of something, that came along with me everywhere I went. I had no name for it, to be honest I thought everyone carried this ball of something. It would tell me I couldn’t touch certain things or make me think horrible thoughts and to get control of this, I had to touch things a specific number or times or turn a switch on and off whilst counting.
Seven years ago, my big ball of something exploded. It wasn’t just mine anymore. My trigger was an event where I got stuck in a warehouse lift. I panic to have severe panic attacks and couldn’t leave the house without it causing me distress.
My big ball of something was finally given a name. OCD, or to use it’s full title, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. I was given some leaflets about my condition and refered for CBT (Cognitive Behaviour Therapy). Due to shortages, I wasn’t able to have one on one CBT.
I attended group meetings at my local hospital, where people from all walks of life joined me in a cream walled room, to discuss their big balls of something. The first day I attended a meeting, I took a look around the room. Regular faces looked back at me. People I could walk past in the street and never know that inside they were fighting the urge to carry out some compulsive behaviour to help dilute the irrational thoughts they were having. All we had in common was our diagnosis of our invisible illness.
When people I knew started to ask why I was off work, they began to share little tails of their own “OCD”. They questioned if they could carry on with their day-to-day business, why couldn’t I. Thankfully due to my CBT, I had learnt that everyone had irrational thoughts, it’s how you dealt with them. How I dealt with them lead to my diagnosis. My invisible illness was here to stay, it wasn’t something I could switch off.
Several weeks after my group CBT, my OCD reached a unmanagible level. Each hour of the day was a challenge. My thoughts became much bigger and began to consume me. I feared I was going mad. Yet on the outside, I was still just this somewhat quirky person.
I met Clara whilst I was at my worst. She thankfully accepted me for who I was. Big ball of something was just a part of me that she learned to love too. I know that living with me is difficult, so I have so much respect for how she puts up with me.
After some more one on one CBT and a lot of learning about my condition, I have learnt how to control my OCD on my own. I know my triggers and I can manage them very well.
When I share with people that I have OCD, many are suprised. I am happy to talk about my OCD and paint it’s picture. It may be invisible, but it shouldn’t be kept in the shadows. I believe taboos surrounding mental health, should be smashed. Mental health can effect anyone. Someone you love could be silently suffering.
The stigma attached to mental health can only be removed if people begin to understand that carrying this invisible illness doesn’t make you any less of a person.
Has mental health or OCD affected your life? I would love you to share your story.