Obsessive Compulsive Disorder – Sophie’s story
Updated: May 1, 2022
Sophie is a 26-year-old mental health advocate who has lived with OCD for 11 years. She won a Bill Pringle Award with Rethink Mental Illness for her poem on managing OCD in 2019 and has spoken publicly about her experience on radio and on social media. She is open and vocal about mental health and mental illness because she knows first-hand how isolating and scary it can be in the beginning.
“I just felt guilty all the time about every small thing that, before OCD, wouldn’t really have bothered me at all, and I needed people to tell me I was a good person.” – Sophie
Obsessive compulsive disorder
OCD is a chronic and potentially debilitating mental health condition in which an individual has uncontrollable (“obsessive”) thoughts or images and compulsive behaviours that can be distressing, frightening and upsetting.
The myths that annoy me – and the truth about them
OCD is characterized by the desire to keep yourself and/or your space clean.
False. While the compulsion to clean isn’t unheard of among individuals with OCD, cleanliness and OCD aren’t mutually exclusive and the compulsion to clean shouldn’t be considered a choice or desire. Instead, they may feel that it is mandatory in order to find relief.
Everyone is “a little bit OCD.”
False. You cannot be a “little bit” OCD. OCD isn’t an adjective – it’s a complex disorder that affects only 1-2% of people and can be incredibly difficult to manage without the appropriate treatment and care.
OCD can be cured.
False. While this may sound daunting, OCD can be effectively controlled and managed with treatment that suits the individual, allowing them to live a healthy, happy life.
My symptoms When my OCD first started I thought it was simply anxiety, but after doing some research into mental health I realised it was OCD. I felt guilty and paranoid for most of the day with very little relief, overthinking every little bit of whatever thought or image was in my head at the time. I would wake up with palpitations and struggle sleeping because I couldn’t stop ruminating. Logical thought takes a back seat with OCD. When your brain wants to convince you that you’re a bad person, it will give you lots of evidence to try and support it. When you don’t know how to fight back, it can be truly terrifying – you’re defenceless.
My lowest moments I began to worry about leaving the house because I couldn’t determine what situation might trigger another intrusive thought, and that lack of control over your own thought process can completely take over your daily life. When I did leave the house, I would avoid the people or things that were involved in my thoughts, otherwise I struggled to cope. I would experience the same recurring intrusive thought or image for months at a time and would only find (albeit short-lived) peace when I was completely distracted.
I haven’t experienced many compulsions, but my primary one was reassurance-seeking or “confessing.” I constantly felt guilty for my thoughts and at my lowest point, when it became overwhelming, I would find myself asking my mum or partner to remind me that I am a good person, but my brain didn’t seem to want to believe it. It was a terrifying circle – an intrusive thought would come in, I’d panic and ruminate, find someone to “confess” to and the process would start all over again. This lasted for a number of years before I discovered that it was only making my OCD worse.
My way forward After two failed attempts at seeking help via public and private mental health services, I admittedly haven’t been very lucky with professional help and so had to learn to manage my OCD on my own, with the additional support of a select few trusted friends and family. As such, I trained in mental health first aid and undertook a lot of personal research, not only to help myself but to help others like me. I’m the nominated mental health champion at my place of work, though I generally remain a passionate advocate for mental health in all aspects of my life, and I will continue to help others for as long as I possibly can. I also love to write and have found solace in writing about my OCD via reflective poetry.
Why I’m sharing my story When I felt my lowest, when I felt there was no escape, it wasn’t professional help that ultimately helped me but the experiences of others with OCD or who know about OCD. It was the advice of mental health charities, the blog pages of people with lived experience and the never-ending stream of support I had that helped me to help myself. I’m very proud that I can now manage my OCD successfully and, if I ever find myself feeling low or overwhelmed, I know that I can overcome it. I see my OCD as an enduring and experienced reflection of myself – it is no longer a threat.