I first started showing the signs around nine years ago, when I was just 10.
Washing my hands, checking my school bag, worrying about contamination – I became caught in these repetitive behaviours in an attempt to relieve my anxiety. The monster-slug that is OCD, (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) took hold of me.
My OCD got progressively more severe during high school and developed into intrusive thoughts. After reading a teen flick novel which featured a mother character who was unwell, I began to have terrifying thoughts that my family would get ill by my actions.
After leaving school I started doing spoken compulsions and prayers to correct the frightening thoughts, asking for them to be safe in specific actions I did.
I over-thought everything I did; and felt guilty, depressed and scared. The intensity of fear and the sheer rate and number of compulsions I did daily meant my weight dropped drastically. I found myself house-bound, and started to self-harm.
I would stay at home all day, unable to eat, drink, or move; or get to and from my bed, or out of the shower.
I’ve come to think of OCD as a monster-slug – a nasty illness that makes you doubt everything and that lies, lies and lies again.
None of my recovery would have been possible had I not been admitted to hospital. I was referred by an excellent and understanding psychiatrist who knew I needed intense treatment as previous therapy and hypnotherapy had not worked.
Now, I am home from hospital, my weight has improved greatly and I'm still receiving therapy.
I’m so grateful to have received good therapy – CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy); Compassion Focused Therapy (CFT); psychologist sessions practising thought-challenging; and one-to-one Exposure Therapy sessions during my time in hospital.
I would urge anyone with OCD or any other kind of mental illness to get the correct help before it interferes with your ability to function in daily life.
It's imperative that we as a society can break the stigma and difficulty surrounding this idea of getting help. The prospect of going to see a Psychiatrist is often perceived as being extremely severe and frightening. But with a good psychiatrist, you can finally get a medical, professional and coherent opinion about your mental health.
And therapy is often viewed as 'fluffy' or 'self-indulgent' – but it’s not, it’s just like physiotherapy for the mind.
There is no shame in telling someone you have a mental health issue. There’s a perceived stereotype that is you have a mental problem you are 'weak'; but this is a world away from the reality of mental health sufferers who are strong having to live with their illness and battle debilitating thoughts everyday.
What helped to give me strength and make the reality of my own time in hospital a bit brighter was using my humour.
I was recently telling a nurse about my struggles with over-washing. She was shocked and sympathetic that I’d once got stuck in the shower for four hours.
"When I came oot, I looked like a burnt flamingo!" I told her.
And ever since then, flamingos have become a symbol of strength and a reminder of my ability to laugh and make light after all I've been through.
I identify as a flamingo, just attempting to move me and my flock into recovery, and keep stamping on that OCD monster-slug.
And please know, you can fight it too.