When my therapist told me that I might be experiencing something called OCD, I nearly fell off my chair. Isn't OCD all about washing your hands 100 times a day?
I couldn't believe how much I didn't know about it. My therapist was amazing and took me through everything, then gave me a leaflet to go home and have a read through.
I hid my mental health issues for as long as I can remember. As a child, I was known as “the one who screamed and cried at everything”. I can remember being truly terrified of everything, and as I got older it only got worse. I would see great big headlines in the media about scary events happening around the world and constantly convinced myself that if I didn't do a particular thing in a particular way, something bad would happen to me or my family.
It got worse and worse as the years went on. I told myself that if I sought help then it would only make matters worse. I felt so trapped and scared all the time, but learnt to hide it so well. To others I was a positive, happy, and carefree young woman.
One day, after feeling particularly bad, I opened up to my fiancé. He was so supportive and suggested I seek help. We talked about how I felt every day. He didn't try to fix me, he just listened, hugged and reassured me. He didn't look at me as if I was “nuts”, and that mattered!
Unfortunately, I then began to get obsessive thoughts about my health. I was engaged, had a new home, great job and life was good. Something bad was surely going to happen to me? One day out of nowhere, I broke down to my GP after being told for the 100th time I was fit and well. It all happened so fast, I was desperate for help.
I started to learn so much about mental health and the importance of it. I think it's really sad that there is still stigma attached to mental health - I mean you wouldn't tell someone with a broken bone to just get on with it! Taking medication or needing help to fix any part of your body is important.
I have come such a long way on my road to recovery. It's not over yet, but part of me accepts my OCD as who I am - it's all I've ever known. For me, it's about finding the right balance between having a feeling of Zen around me, and not doing things because I think something bad will happen if I don't.
I have heard people say, “oh I'm so OCD”, because they spent time straightening up a picture frame or arranging ornaments in a certain way. That makes me really cross because, for me, it’s a serious illness.
I wish there was more education around OCD and mental health. Perhaps if it had been talked about at school, I would have recognised it sooner, and realised it wasn't anything to be ashamed of. I used to really hate the idea of telling people “I have OCD” as I was frightened of their reactions. But now, I like to educate people and share my experiences in the hope that someone else will benefit from them.
Now is the time to talk and the time to challenge the stigma surrounding mental health.