Every Sunday a new story will go up and I've got a wide range of conditions being talked about, both physical and mental health conditions. I'm really excited to introduce everyone to you! Nicole is going to be kicking off the series for me so I'll hand things over to her.
I'm Nicole and I have obsessive compulsive disorder, more commonly known as OCD. I also suffer with health anxiety, emetophobia (which is a serious fear of being sick) and depression. However, today for Shona's fantastic series, I'm going to be sharing my experience of suffering with OCD.
Can you tell us a bit about your condition and how you were diagnosed?
For all those who don't know what OCD is, it's a mental illness, it's an anxiety disorder and it's made up of three parts. The obsessions: which are the intrusive, repetitive and unwanted thoughts which can be about anything from religion, to sex, to germs and contamination. We all get these intrusive thoughts, but someone without the illness will dismiss them and carry on as usual. However, someone with the condition does not dismiss them. Instead they perform compulsive behaviours in order to relieve the anxiety that these intrusive thoughts are causing them. These behaviours can be overt, meaning that you can see them such as repeatedly washing your hands or covert, which you can't see such as repeating numbers in your head. People with OCD also might compulsively avoid certain places or behaviours to avoid intrusive thoughts. And then there is the disorder part; it affects every single thing you do and is NOT a personality trait, but I will go on to this in a bit.
I suffered with OCD throughout my childhood, although it was never officially diagnosed. I was a very anxious child and performed the compulsive action of keeping my fingers crossed at all times in order to stop bad things happen, things which didn't really exist at all. More recently, in June 2016, I was diagnosed with OCD, after I went to the doctor with bleeding, very sore, cracked hands and told him why they were like that. He was very sensitive and understood what I was going through, which was a relief for my little anxious mind.
How does your condition affect you?
A lot of people misuse the term OCD and don't fully understand what obsessive compulsive disorder really is. They think it's about being neat, organised, worried about germs or double checking your door before you've left the house. This isn't true at all. Although these are typical behaviours of someone who has OCD, they are taken to the extreme. When I was really ill, I used to wake up in the night in panics that I wasn't clean enough, I therefore became very tired, emotional and irritable, my hands became so sore from excessive washing and bleaching that they would bleed and bleed, even moving my wrists became painful. It destroyed friendships and relationships; I couldn't touch people or have a hug with my parents. I've damaged my physical health by not eating. Soon enough I became trapped and isolated in this little bubble of mine, stuck listening to the bully inside my head day in and day out.
Do you have any tips for someone who is newly diagnosed?
If you are diagnosed with OCD, it does not mean you are crazy or insane and belong in a mental health hospital. First of all, you should be so proud of yourself. You've got help and spoken up about the issues that were affecting you. You've taken the first step on the very long, rocky road to recovery. But you've made a start and that's the main thing. Don't try and dismiss the doctors diagnosis. I know it can be hard to take especially if you weren't expecting it, but acceptance is the biggest tool in recovery. Once you accept that your ill and are willing to give treatment a go; whether that be medication, CBT or lifestyle changes, you will be able to handle it a little bit better. It doesn't mean that you will be better in a fortnight, this isn't a throat or ear infection. You're fighting the brain, the most complex part of the human anatomy, but you are strong and I'm so proud of you.
What is one thing that you would like people to remember about your condition?
OCD isn't a personality trait. It's not an adjective. It's a serious mental illness, that can destroy people's lives. You wouldn't make a joke about someone with Down syndrome or about someone in a wheelchair, so why do it about mental illness! Why make cards and other tasteless junk, using the term OCD and changing it into obsessive Christmas/ cat or whatever else disorder. It's offensive, it's rude and above all it adds to the stigma that surrounds mental health, which consequently makes it so hard for those suffering with the illness to speak out about it leading them to suffer in silence. Next time you hear someone using the term OCD incorrectly, question them on it, educate them, let them know what OCD really is and the reality of suffering with the illness. The more we do this, the quicker we can end the stigma that surrounds mental illness all together.
You can find Nicole on Twitter and she also has her own blog, Thrifty Vintage Fashion.