Kicking off OCD Awareness Week, regular CALM contributor, Ant Meads, discusses his own OCD and why it’s no laughing matter…
Hi, my name’s Ant and I suffer from OCD. One year ago I wrote this piece for OCD UK and I thought it may be worth looking to see what’s changed in the last 12 months. Well, sadly it’s not too much. Amazon is still selling an OCD Chopping Board and despite a petition to stop them the best that has happened is that they’ve renamed the product. Sadly, in my opinion the fact the pictures show it just says ‘Fred The OCD Chef’ on it implies it’s ok because now it’s just a fictional chef with OCD. Hardly a win for the OCD community.
I’ve recently removed a couple of ‘friends’ from facebook as they seemed utterly unable to grasp why I was so offended that Victoria Coren made a pathetic OCD joke on BBC4’s Only Connect. I was told to ‘lighten up’ and ‘it’s just a joke,’ plus my personal favourite ‘we all have to laugh at ourselves sometimes.’ That’s what we are dealing with, people thinking our illness is a punchline. Sure, I should laugh at myself, remember that time I forgot to take the label out of my shirt before wearing it, that was funny, or the time I was making food and dropped the plate, haha, those were funny times to laugh at myself. What about that time I tried to kill myself because I could no longer live with the intrusive thoughts and the devastating impact of my illness? Come on, lighten up, we all have to laugh at ourselves sometimes.
On a personal level some progress has been made. I’ve continued to stand up for my position on OCD, refusing to accept people’s jokes and losing friendships over it where necessary, as a result I’ve found myself with people in my life that genuinely do understand the difficulties faced by OCD sufferers. My family better understand the illness which helps on the days where I am unable to see or speak to them.
Sadly, OCD Awareness Week also comes at a time when I’ve never been more aware of my own illness. It has got to the point where I’m increasingly unable to leave the house. I talked last year about some of the ways it affects me but 12 months on my symptoms have increased dramatically. The intrusive thoughts monopolise my time. It’s near impossible to close my eyes, even to sleep, without seeing graphic images of death and murder in my mind.
If you aren’t familiar with intrusive thoughts, imagine watching a news story about a war zone, one of those where they show graphic images of bodies and have to warn you that ‘the following report contains distressing scenes.’ Now imagine that report being on every single channel. Every time you try to turn over you are confronted with the same images. You get really distressed and try to switch the TV off but there isn’t a button for that. You can’t turn the volume down. The images bombard you at every turn. You can’t sleep, you can’t work, you can’t concentrate. That’s my life.
Death dominates my life, I think I must be a bad person because I can’t stop thinking about it. I try to change my behaviours, if I have a day where I don’t feel so bad I try to replicate everything I did on subsequent days. This can involve eating the same food every day, at the same times, whilst wearing the same clothes. I daren’t leave the house in case something bad happens. In truth, when I do make it out I am often so sleep deprived and pre-occupied I’m a danger to myself. It’s not uncommon for me to almost step out in front of traffic. Of course the OCD has also meant my depression is much worse. How could it not be when you wake up and your first thought is that a loved one may be dead.
I’m on new medication now, one that I’ve been prescribed specifically with the OCD in mind, however it only works at quite a high dose and it will take me around 6 months of gradual increases to even reach that dose. Then maybe another 6 months of adjusting to it before we can reasonably assess how well it’s working. Then, after all of that, it may not work and we need to try the next medication on the list. And I’ll have lost another whole year of my life to Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Still, you have to laugh at yourself don’t you? Don’t you?
I was hoping to be able to see a new therapist, an OCD Specialist but sadly government cuts have meant this is no longer an option as my local psychiatric unit has had their funding cut. Instead I now have another 9 month waiting list just to see a regular therapist. I’m left feeling like this government couldn’t care less about people like me. And here’s why, because OCD still isn’t taken seriously. People need to understand, that every time they joke about the illness they further devalue it. Ask a random stranger about OCD and I almost guarantee they will know more jokes about it than actual facts. An illness that leads people to suicide and a company like Amazon thinks it’s ok to sell a product that makes fun of it and a BBC presenter thinks its acceptable to perpetuate the myth that it’s a mostly harmless illness that it’s ok to laugh at.
I don’t know what else can be done, all I can personally do is continue to share my story and hope that one day people start to listen and make more effort to better understand it. So please, I beg of you, for OCD Awareness Week, just talk to one other person about the illness. Even if you don’t suffer, perhaps share this blog on Twitter or Facebook, Email a friend, please just help us to educate others about OCD, before more people are driven to suicide attempts by the evil effects of it.
You can read more from Ant on his blog.
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