OCD needs a clean-up


Obsessive Compulsive Disorder can have a profound effect on the 1 in 50 people who live with the condition - and while most people associate OCD with order and cleanliness, the truth is - it's way more debilitating than that. In this blog Shaun talks about his experiences and discusses how we must look beyond the stereotypes.

For most people when they hear the word OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder), cleaning is the first thing that comes to mind. A regurgitated narrative that to be afflicted with OCD is to simply and only be clean. OCD is more than cleaning and it needs a clean-up mission and constant challenging as it remains one of the most misunderstood mental illnesses.

My life was thrown upside down with my Pure OCD (or ‘Pure O’) diagnosis at 27 years old, after months of obsessive thoughts about my sexual orientation, violence, and suicide. These thoughts tormented me and exhausted me mentally. I finally had an answer after a breakdown where I told my friends “I want to die” after aggressive suicide thoughts.

Pure O refers to Purely Obsessional which “is a term commonly used to refer to a form of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder which people mistakenly believe has no outward compulsions and only features distressing internal intrusive thoughts.” To make it clear PURE O is not a scientific term. It is still OCD.

According to the University and College Union: “OCD affects about 1-2% of the population and is characterised by intense anxiety and by negative, repetitive, and intrusive thoughts (obsessions). To reduce anxiety, the affected person will often engage in repeated actions or behaviours (compulsions).”

My therapist Emma saved my life. Hopeless and dejected encapsulated my existence for weeks. Before her introduction to my life, showering and eating felt like a chore. My existence felt burdensome, and I wanted time to swallow me up. Sleeping was my only escape and being awake felt like my prison. When I called her in a fit of tears, I was in the middle of an onslaught of incessant thoughts that were making me feel as if I should no longer be alive. She explained I had OCD, and it was Pure O.

Because of Emma’s personal experience with postnatal OCD, she was not only able to understand, but overstand my experience. I put my trust in her, I nested in the hope she provided me with that I could recovery and learn to live with OCD, rather than fight it. I made a promise to help others, to tell my story and to reclaim my once lost life. Finding wellness through illness.

Since my diagnosis, I aim to help others with OCD and raise awareness about a mental illness in contemporary society that remains grossly misconstrued. The numbers for OCD are both underwhelming for the research and overwhelming for those who have it.

So many people in the UK have OCD, yet shockingly “89 pence is spent on research each year for every person affected in the UK”, according to MQ. More funding and awareness are required to keep changing the narrative, this will increase research for those who are affected by OCD.

"Despite the hardship, life is hopeful, some days are tough, but the good days allow me to continue pushing through my recovery. I could have never imagined my life where I would be speaking about myself having a mental illness. Continuing to get the help I need whilst in recovery strengthens my resolve."

My favourite saying is "He who has a why can endure any suffering." My suffering has brought out my why and my why is stronger than my why not.

Many individuals with OCD stay hidden which in turn makes the symptoms of OCD exacerbated, hiding never works as it prevents people from accessing the help they need. I speak openly to encourage honest dialogue about a disorder than brings about grave shame. We no longer need to be ashamed; we are not our thoughts. Thoughts say nothing about who we are. It is the brain's job to create thoughts.

I now work with the charity Orchard OCD, where we work towards funding new and better treatments for those with OCD. There will be a cure for OCD, I remain optimistically hopeful because every day is a new day for us to better humanity. Please remember OCD is not an adjective nor is it a desired attainable personality trait.

If you are reading this and are struggling, you are not alone, we are not alone. There are more of us, and you will recover. Rethink what you think about OCD.

If you are concerned you might be experiencing symptoms of OCD, please seek professional support via your GP.