August 9, 2012

Photo of Thea, a Time to Change bloggerMy most recent job was a graduate internship working with students within the Christian Union at my university. Whilst my bosses had always been aware and supportive of my struggle with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, I’ve never really felt like this is something one should share too openly for fear of being regarded as ‘crazy’.

This is clearly a result of my own prejudice or society’s general stigma against mental health issues. “If I tell people”, I think to myself, “that makes me different”, and not different in a cool way. But different in an ‘uh-oh, mental alert’ kind of way.

When I was a teenager (before my official diagnosis but aware that something was not quite right) calling people ‘crazy’ as a joke was totally fine. Being called ‘mad’ now doesn’t bother me: people are generally referring to my loud, outgoing personality.

It’s not cool to admit you’ve been frightened to go outside the house

But telling people you have a recognised mental health issue is quite another matter. It’s not cool to admit you’ve been frightened to go outside the house on your own or that you get overly anxious about what is everyday life for most people.

This is why standing up in front of a group of and openly disclosing that my year had been hard, due to OCD, was not something I imagined that I’d do. However, it dawned on me throughout this year that there’s no point in me talking about ending mental health stigma if I’m not prepared to be open about my own experience.

I’m sure most of us who have struggled with mental health issues would want to end the stigma surrounding it but no one wants to be the first to stand up and admit that everything’s not all rosy for them. Even within Christian circles, people often still do not want to admit that they have problems, that every day isn’t filled with happiness and that we have the same struggles as others.

at some points I’d lost hope because of struggling with OCD

At the end of my internship we had to present our thoughts on the last year to our fellow interns. I felt I couldn’t be honest about the year without admitting what a huge influence OCD had had on it. I talked about the ‘highs’ of my year before stating that it had been really hard and that at some points I’d lost hope because of struggling with OCD. Even that small disclosure, admitting to 70-odd people what I would usually only tell in confidence to good friends, felt huge. Instantly the worry is that people who you don’t know are judging you or making assumptions about how you act.

OCD is so often stereotyped but actually not well understood by the majority so there are worries about the judgements people will make out of ignorance. For instance, I imagine that unless people actually ask me about it, the majority would have thought I repeatedly switch lights on and off or wash my hands. Don’t get me wrong: these are common and hugely destructive forms of OCD. However, as someone who has not struggled with those particular compulsions, it can feel hard to explain what goes on in my head.

[common assumptions about OCD] made explaining my OCD even harder because I feel like I don’t ‘fit the bill’

There’s been many a comical moment when, on disclosing OCD to friends, they’ve commented on my untidy room or the number of mugs that lie around unwashed for days. Whilst these are common and understandable assumptions, it’s made explaining my OCD even harder because I feel like I don’t ‘fit the bill’. When I first went to my doctor and she gave me the diagnosis, I disregarded it: ‘I’m not washing my hands or constantly rearranging the spoons, so it can’t be OCD’.

That’s why I am really grateful for the Channel 4 series ‘4 goes mad’ airing programmes this week on mental health issues and especially for ‘World’s Maddest Job Interview’ which aired last night. It was encouraging for me to see Amy, one of the people from the group selected as ‘most employable’, talking about her experience of OCD as ‘bad invasive thoughts’, which at points rendered her housebound and contemplating suicide.

it was hugely refreshing to hear someone express the same thoughts and feelings as me

My own experience of OCD has been much more similar to that and it was hugely refreshing to hear someone express the same thoughts and feelings as me. Both this and ‘A little bit OCD’ (the night before with comedian Jon Richardson) shed light on a relatively unknown mental disorder which has previously been treated as a quirky and sometimes comical set of ‘odd habits’. Thanks to these programmes, hopefully more people will understand that OCD is a destructive, world-consuming, life-inhibiting issue.

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Comments

OCD

Thea, thank you for posting about OCD. I have had the condition since I was 17, and although it now manifests itself mainly with cleanliness and contamination issues, originally it all started with intrusive thoughts. At the time, I was so terrified what these thoughts meant about me (namely, that I was truly going mad), the only way that I thought I could get rid of them was to do 'the unimaginable' - simply because I could see no other way out and just wanted it all to stop. Clearly, I got over this truly horrendous time in my life and went on to do well at university - albeit, still battling the OCD - and now am fortunate enough to be doing the job of my dreams - but the condition, and its good and bad days, is always there and those thoughts, whilst now understood for what they were, have had a huge impact on my life. Like you, I welcomed this relatively publicly unknown aspect of OCD covered on the recent '4 Goes Mad' series of programmes - to heighten people's awareness of how truly horrendous and debilitating the condition can be - and that it's not all about 'odd' or 'quirky' little behaviours that are all too frequently publicised or thought of whenever OCD is mentioned. I wish you all the very best for your future.

OCD

OCD for me,is when i do find myself turning the taps tight... tapping the fridge door to convince myself its shut allways leaving my car in gear! when its parked,i even try different gear positions!!! i am not sure about intrusive thoughts i do dwell on things if anyone makes a remark about me, i do sometimes feel a compulsion to do something silly like shouting abuse at a perfect stranger but it never goes beyond the thought!!!. I live within a great shell of order,hate the thoughts of to much change,i allso find my OCD swings about a bit sometimes i can say sod the taps stuff like that,but i am never free of it and like another person on here i am quite untidy i have to make a lot of effort to clear stuff away but i do think some people have it worse than me but who knows with this condition??

ocd

I too suffer the intrusive thoughts that ocd brings. Whilst upon reflection I realise this is something I have suffered at varying degrees throughout my life, nothing could have prepared me for how this illness affected me following giving birth to my daughter. Thoughts of harming my daughter (common post natally) left me too frightened to be in the house by myself in case i did something. Things are better but ocd remains in my life, and the guilt from intrusive thoughts is hard to manage. Check out compassionate mind therapy and meditation a big help for dealing with intrusive thoughts :-)

A little bit OCD

Thank you for posting this, and firstly may I take this time to wish you well - whatever that means for you. I watched "Jon Richardson: A little bit OCD" last night after recording it. I really related to it, and also enjoyed the slight comic element that was included in it. I already knew that I had OCD, but it shed a lot of light on how severe it could be in some people, and actually when I started watching the documentary, I predicted that I would come out as "a lot OCD". Compared to those who were in the in patient unit, and the young man who had so tragically taken his own life, I felt I was "moderate", but need to be mindful as there were some concerning trends. So at the moment, I find it frustrating and have the odd moment where I get angry at the level of the intrusive thoughts, but I realise it could be a lot worse. Thanks to campaigns such as this, and Channel 4's series, I'm finding it increasingly easy (well, lets go with a little less terrifying) to speak to people about my battles with anxiety.

OCD or is it GAD or is it Social Anxiety Disorder

HI All, I have struggled with this since I was 10. Mine started with intrusive thoughts of harming myself but then progressed throughout the years and now is as little as making a noise. the thought of doing a twitch or soething with my face sends me into panic. Its not like OCD where i have a compulsion to do something that brings the anxiety down, it's about me being 'mad' because its 'ile am scaring myself. ive had numerous diagnosis and everyone seems to think its something different. What I'm learning is that it is about the anxiety attacks it brings not the actual act of doing something. it has moved into worrying about not beng able to eat so i'll die, or just generally feeling this fearful all the time taht I would do something to stop it all. Has anybody else had it in this way. I feel like a frak with no hope of treatment. Do i 'feel the fear and do it anyway' or resist teh urge like OCD therapy would say. I cannot gelt hep on the NHS so running from doctor to private therapist again and again. Can anyone identify with this please?

Thea, thankyou so much for

Thea, thankyou so much for placing your post - I don't know what your experience has been whilst working in a Christian context, but what I've found extremely difficult is the attitude that 'you can't be a good Christian if you're feeling like this' or 'if you had enough faith you'd have been healed'. Whilst in my healthier state I can bat these comments off as contrary to the Gospel of Christ and completely lacking in understanding of mental health issues they are really difficult to contend with and make me retreat in an enviroment where you would expect to feel accepted. Unfortunately, the same statements have arisen time and time again in a wide range of different contexts to the point now where not only do I retreat from talking about my mental health problems, but more generally too - thus heightening the isolating nature of depression and anxiety. Really good to read your post and all the very best x

OCD

I am glad I stumbled upon this post. I have recently been diagnosed by a professional therapist as having OCD, after being told by a GP "you can't have OCD - you don't fit the bill" as I am not obsessed with routine or cleanliness. It is surprising how far the misunderstandings go. Now I am getting help to deal with the anxieties and intrusive thoughts that, when they started 6 months ago, made me feel like my mind wasn't my own. I just wish I had found this organisation and read this post back then. I wish you all the best, Joanna.

Ocd

I myself do not suffer with ocd but find living with my boyfriend with ocd a huge challenge. Despite being sectioned 10 years ago, his ocd was only diagnosed when he discussed the possibility of suffering with ocd with his gp a couple of years ago. Listening to my boyfriend, ocd has been present throughout his life, carrying his bike to school in the rain so i doesn't get dirty, washing his own white socks at a very young age and more recently struggling to cope in a windy day because the garden becomes messy with leaves. I see his torment and frustration and wish i could help him but he refuses to seek help. I understand this plays part of the ocd, change causes anxiety and there is a fear of losing control, but how do you get past that? We all need a little encouragement to face our demons and sometimes a bigger push is needed but i want to help and support not nag. Can anyone who has experienced cbt or other therapies offer any words or tips i can give as encouragement? I'm not being narrow sighted expecting to "fix it" but if i can help making one area of his life less debilitating i will do what i can. Thank you x

Hi thea

A year ago i was diagnosed with the disorder and it made my life so hard at the time especially with a young daughter i didn't know what was the matter with me i have always been a bubbly happy go lucky kind of girl so when i was a teenager & started suffering from anxiety and panic attacks i couldn't understand it and overtime it got worse but i just dealt with it until it got so bad and i was constantly worried i was always looking for reassurance to know i was ok luckily with the help of amazing family and the determination to beat the ocd i managed to pull myself out of one of the hardest times of my life. I enjoy my life now and say to myself it's just a thought it will pass or yes i know i have checked the plugs i don't need to again and get on with my day its not always easy but it is achievable, ocd doesn't control my life anymore of course i get down days but that's mainly if i'm stressed i believe a positive outlook, not taking life too serious and self-help such as meditation, being healthy and keeping myself occupied helps a lot :)

Pure-O OCD

Hi Thea, It sounds as though you suffer like me with what is commonly referred to as Pure-O OCD. With Pure-O OCD there are no obvious external symptoms such as hand washing, checking etc...but there are nonetheless compulsions which are performed mentally which is why calling it Pure-O is somewhat of a contradiction. It's our way of dealing with the nasty intrusive thoughts such as harming ourselves or others, blasphemous, incestuous etc all of which we find repulsive but are unable to completely stop/control. It's our OCD that jumps on these thoughts and makes us obsess about them which in turn triggers more and more of them. Most articles I have read about these thoughts confirm that everyone has them but the Non-OCD mind dismisses them instantly. The good news is there are many articles that detail this condition online and it does bring re-assurance that you are not the only one with this condition. When I discussed my condition with my GP he was very off hand and refused to accept my self diagnosis but what he did do was refer me to a local mental health consultant who was very well informed and he more or less confirmed my diagnosis. I wish you all the very best with your future and always remember you are not crazy, mad, weird.....you are just someone who has a mental disorder which whilst at times can be debilitating is also what makes you the strong person you are xx

OCD

Have had OCD for about 27 years. Bad times and not so bad times, been through behavioural therapy, anti-depressants, counselling, phychologists etc, etc.........Still have OCD and still a constant fight every day - some worse than others. Have realised that OCD is with me for 'life' and have to cope the best way I can.........................

It is such a relief to hear

It is such a relief to hear that other people have gone through the same things as me. I struggled with OCD from an early age n thought my life was normal until it got out of hand. It started as handwashing, rituals, and tidying things, whereas now its more about intrusive thoughts - not what is stereotypical of OCD. I agree with Thea if people just assume what OCD is, it creates a barrier when wanting to explain. I too want to break down the stigma n feel passionately about it after having a nervous breakdown, which was brought on by my OCD.

You're not alone...

When I first got this, 30 years ago now, I'd never heard of OCD, I just thought I was going mad! Now half the 'celebs' in the world purport to have some form of it - I guess that's progress of a sort... I'm hoping that one day a cure will be found, either chemically or thru therapy (I never found the latter much use tbh)... Good luck to all those afflicted! I'm one of the millions...

My daughter and OCD

Last year was a horrendous year for myself but absolutely a million times worse for my 11 year old daughter . From an early age she was an anxious little girl,she would worry if we went out in the car that we knew where we were going in fear of getting lost. She would wash her hands at every moment she could but I just use to say don't wash them as much as they were so sore. On a visit to our doctor for a sore throat I asked her to show her hands and was told it was eczema and prescribed some cream. I was relieved that it was diagnosed as this but deep down I knew it wasn't . One day out of the blue last year she suddenly said"mum I've had a thought that I'm going to hurt you and it won't go away" I was took back but told her we all sometimes get nasty thoughts ,it wasn't mentioned again until the following week. I started to notice she didn't want to spend time with me then one afternoon I asked her for a cuddle to which she told me she couldn't as she was scared she was going to hurt me again. This time I delved deeper and asked her why she had this thought again . My beautiful little girl completely broke down and said she didn't know but this thought was in her head all the time and she was scared she was going to hurt me. I tried to reassure her ,but this was just the beginning. In the coming days she would tell me how she had a feeling that she was scared she was going to push me down the stairs,stab me and even kill me. I got so sick of hearing these terrible things and told her to stop,if she couldn't say any thing nice I didn't want to hear. She told me she couldn't because if she didn't she was scared she would do these things. So distressed she sobbed her way through everything and said she couldn't live anymore with these thoughts about me. An emergency appointment at the doctors was booked. She was referred to CAMHS and OCD was diagnosed . Through weekly and distressing CBT sessions with a brilliant psychologist we learnt how to deal with these intrusive thoughts and rituals . It was hard work and at times very upsetting but it all paid off in the end. My daughter has now been discharged.She now understands that a thought is just a thought and really no harm can come by having a thought. She tells me that occasionally she gets them but now she rides them out. She was taught to reach the anxiety level at which she would have to tell me and just let it go and realise nothing bad has happened. These thoughts have no significance anymore.

I really appreciate this post

I really appreciate this post. I've been looking all over for this! Thank goodness I found it on Bing. You've made my day! Thanks again! kkkgdcgcaebg

My daughter and OCD

So pleased to hear my post has made your day. I spent hours trying to "work out" what was happening to my daughter before her OCD was diagnosed. I remember so clearly one night in her bedroom when she told me she wanted to stab me,that I actually thought she was being possessed by something. It was so frightening ,but that was the only way I could explain it. The distress she went through was heartbreaking and we were both terrified. I would have appreciated anything at the time to help ,so if I can be of any more help to you please don't hesitate in asking me. OCD is frightening !

There is help available, keep trying!

I'm glad to hear that your little girl is a bit better now Chris, it must have been heartbreaking to encounter such a thing without understanding the cause (not that anyone *does* really understand the brain)! I've been put on Lamotrigine (Lamictal) and Venlaflaxine to help my OCD, anxiety and depression but other therapies like 'mindfulness', yoga, CBT, CAT etc are available and I'd advise people to try any and all of them - it's such a distressing condition and painfully embarrassing to admit to, tho public awareness has grown exponentially in the last few years at least...

My daughter and OCD

Hi Tesseract ,so pleased that you are getting help. OCD,anxiety and depression can be such a debilitating illness. My daughter is still coping extremely well,although sometimes the "worry bug"(as we call it)does occasionally reappear . With the help and understanding of CBT,which we both worked very hard at last year,my daughter can now reduce the anxiety when the worry bug tries to take control. I don't think she will ever be completely free of OCD,or will I. The day it showed it's controlling head will always be there for me. It still makes me shudder at the thought of it.Even to this day I still go to bed wondering if my daughter is having an intrusive thought about me. Something that will always stay in my mind was a poster on the wall at CAMHS . It simply said"The brain can be a scary place". How true those words are. I sincerely hope you get better soon and keep improving everyday. I hope that by knowing you are not alone with this will also help. I do believe people are beginning to try and understand more about mental health,although it can be extremely hard to explain. All the very best to you.

Sorry I only just read your

Sorry I only just read your message after 9 months, must've missed the notification! Thank you so much for your support and I hope you are all getting the help you need too. My meds are keeping the OCD under control but the depression that came with it is still there, unfortunately. Don't think it's something that can be healed, as life was effectively ruined from the time I first 'contracted' OCD. I had no support at that time and tbh not really getting any now. Only thing to do is keep on keeping on I guess. One day there may be a cure, you never know!

Pure-O COD

I am black in a country which does not understand this illness. Let alone my family. I am now taking initiative to take control of my life instead of explaining to everybody this confusing mental illness or that I have one to begin with despite the continuous consultations with doctors . I am still impatient with myself as I am my biggest critic. I have hope but it's hard when you know that medication and taking initiative should hurry the process to appreciate and take advantage of the opportunity I have to have hope again. I am grateful for the blog and hope to be patient with myself for the medication to take effect. I am undergoing worse pressure and criticizing thoughts of I should do better. Having the anxiety to fail again. I need help and support. I need to support myself and be my own best friend. Hearing positive remarks have been alien to me. I am desperate to free myself from the guilt of causing commotion externally and internally. I want to defeat the thin line between defeat and success. The rational and reasonable ways of therapy. Thank you

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