“D’you ever get that irritable feeling, you know the one I’m talking about; that itch you just can’t scratch, or that piece of information dangling on the tip of your tongue, that bug bite that you know you should leave well alone but you can’t stop rubbing through your clothes? For me, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a lot like having this feeling, multiplied by a 100 gazillion, and round the clock, 24/7, 365 days a year (366 on the leap ones).
The early years
When I was diagnosed at the age of 15, I finally had a name for what was wrong with me. The maleficent force that had been controlling my thoughts and actions for years.
Unlike many people I know, my process of receiving a diagnosis and gaining access to initial treatment was very quick and was expedited because OCD was affecting my GCSEs, and I was skipping school as a result. For a period of around a year and a half after my diagnosis, things began to improve after I started talking therapy including Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and some minor Exposure Response Prevention (ERP) therapy.
The darkest time
However, after contracting a serious case of chicken pox a month or two before my A-Levels which involved multiple trips to the hospital, my OCD flared up once again.
This was the beginning of the worst period in my life. In the following couple of years, I was housebound on two separate occasions. After watching my dad break down and tell me that he couldn’t do any more to help me and asking if it would be better if we just ended our lives together, I felt completely empty but I knew something needed to change. Not only did I now need to save myself, but I needed to save my dad, too. I broke down in the middle of the street outside Greenwich Park in London and confessed everything to him, all the reasons why I thought the things I did and why my OCD was as bad as it was.
Through many difficult conversations, it was decided that it would be in my best interest to move to Blackpool, where I had family members that I could stay with.
In my mind, the only way to stay alive was a fresh start.
Although it was tough, Blackpool was exactly where I needed to be to tackle my inner demons. I must admit that the copious nights out getting absolutely trashed in nightclubs with sticky floors, cheap booze and people dressed as all sorts on their stag/hen dos went a long way in helping me cope. And my God is it cheap up North to live!
Going back to college to study music also breathed new life into me and reignited my creative brain. This kick- started me talking about my mental health with the help and support of Time To Change. I finally had the confidence to open up to people about my struggles, and this lead to appearing on BBC Radio Lancashire multiple times. I also started writing about my life with mental illness and then the ball was well and truly rolling. I couldn’t shut up about my OCD, and I tried to share my story as much as possible. All I wanted to do was help one fifteen-year-old kid.
Two television documentaries, more radio interviews, social media campaigns, newspaper interviews and having my writing published in a national newspaper later, I can safely say that based on the feedback I get, I am truly helping people.
It makes all the pain and suffering count for something. Okay, it’s been incredibly tough for me, but now I’m using my experience to help others cope and get on with their lives. Hope is the most important weapon you have when fighting mental illness, and I want to give that gift to all those who need it most. I’m currently writing a book and continuing with my YouTube channel and blog as well as other projects, so keep your eyes peeled and remember, where there’s a will, there’s a way, and hope and recovery are always possible!”