“I loved sport when I was young, I played volleyball from eight years old, I felt like it helped me manage my always busy head and it allowed me to focus on one thing.
“I had to stop at 17 when I was injured badly, I felt like I’d lost something major in my life, something that had helped me cope up until this point and gave me my sense of self.
“From an early age I remember having random intrusive thoughts popping in my head but I never paid too much attention to them. After I had to give up volleyball, my mental health got worse, it felt like my thoughts were getting on top of me and things were becoming unmanageable. I had continual doubts about my then long-term relationship and started to experience intrusive, unwanted thoughts about self-harm.
“In 2012, I moved to Scotland with my current partner (I am from Greece, originally), and over the course of the next four years, things became really bad to a point where I had a mental breakdown and I had intrusive thoughts of suicide.
“I was really scared of my suicidal thoughts, so I reached out for professional support. The waiting lists to see a psychologist were months long so I took out a loan and sought private treatment with a clinical psychologist.
“When I was eventually diagnosed with depression and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), it hit me like a ton of bricks. I didn’t fully understand what OCD was at that time, I thought: ‘But I don’t wash my hands 100 times a day!’ as that’s how misinterpreted OCD can be. For me, I basically have the obsessions, but not necessarily the compulsions, which is why my mind was so busy.
“I was prescribed medication from my GP, which I was nervous about starting, as coming from Greece there’s a big stigma around psychiatric medication. OCD had made me depressed, and I was now also experiencing tremendous anxiety and real suicidal thoughts. I realised I just wanted an escape from the thoughts of my head. It felt that taking medication was the only way to get better, so I went for it.
“At first the medication didn’t really work out, so I was referred to a psychiatrist. I was really nervous as I wasn’t sure what would happen. But it turned out to be a friendly and warm conversation with lots of questions. I went away reassured and with a different prescription.
“Things have steadily improved since then. I’ve gone back to the gym, started CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) and exposure therapy which have really helped, along with the right medication.
“My OCD never really goes away, it’s been there when I was a child and it is here now in my thirties. The crucial thing is that I am getting much better at controlling it and living my life.
“In 2018 I adopted my sweet cat Izzy and she has helped so much. My partner and mum were with me every step of the way as well, and I feel so grateful.
“Most importantly I am proud of myself asking for help when I couldn’t cope anymore, and of sharing my story. I am not ashamed to say that yes, I did struggle. We all have our demons…but we are never alone.”