The birth of a baby is supposed to be one of the happiest days of a mother’s life. When Jo, from Canton, gave birth to her first daughter in 1996, it signified a great decline in her life.
In fact, it nearly cost her her life. Before Jo became pregnant for the first time, she was a successful professional. She had not long graduated from the University of Glamorgan (now University of South Wales) with a degree in Sociology and was as happy as she had ever been for some years.
Yet, along came her daughter and, with her, a severe relapse in Jo’s Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). She exclusively gives The Cardiffian an insight into her personal battle with the mental health condition…
I nearly put a stop to it all two years ago. All the pain, all the misery, all the distress had become too much. The only option, I felt, was to end my own life.
I also considered it 15 years ago. On both occasions, I thought better of it. And I feel all the better for it now.
I am one of 741,500 OCD sufferers in the UK. Like a noose tied tightly around my neck, OCD has played a huge part in my life since I was eight. Coping with such a severe mental health condition is so tough.
People think I am just a clean freak. People think I am crazy. People think I can “just stop it” if I want to. They are wrong. There are so many misconceptions about OCD. OCD is a mental health condition where a person has obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviour. It is a very complex disorder and can take many different forms.
Some people think children cannot suffer OCD. They are also wrong. I knew I had OCD ever since I was eight years old. While it may not have been properly diagnosed until I was 21, I knew, I definitely knew I had the anxiety disorder. My understanding is roughly one third to one half of adults with OCD report a childhood onset of the condition.
My first memories of such anxiety are not happy ones. Most children enjoy their bedtime routines. They would slowly doze off, counting the proverbial sheep, while a parent would read them a fluffy fairytale. They would then tuck them in. It was that which I feared. Every time my mother folded the bed covers over me, I would suddenly become very distressed. I would have to get back out of bed after she had left the room. I would have to remake my whole bed before it felt right. I felt as though she might contaminate them in some way. If I could tell you why I was so anxious, I would. But I can’t. I don’t have all the answers. I never have and I doubt I ever will.
My OCD peaked and troughed during my school and university years. I fell pregnant at 21 and that fear of contamination resurfaced. Things worsened after my daughter’s birth in 1996. I knew I had OCD but I had to get a diagnosis. My GP diagnosed me within five minutes at my appointment. I was right.
I have found OCD is worsened by triggers. Between 1996 and 2011 or so, it was anything to do with my ex-partner. He never understood my OCD. He left; convinced OCD defined who I was. It was psychological thoughts. I underwent a series of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and thought it had all gone.
Worse was to come in 2012. I was 37 and a friend had contracted HIV. My OCD reemerged. Again. I lived in fear of contracting HIV. It got to a point where I wouldn’t leave my house. Often, I would sit in a corner of my living room; teetering back and forth, wishing my problems away. Something dreadful would happen if I left my house. I was in the darkest of dark places. Feeling in the depths of despair, I seriously considered committing suicide. My OCD had become complicated, depressed, exacerbated.
I was in the darkest of dark places. Feeling in the depths of despair, I seriously considered committing suicide.
So many people do not know enough about OCD. No, most of the nation doesn’t quite frankly. So I don’t blame society for their misbeliefs. The media, on the other hand, portray OCD unfairly. They suggest we love cleaning. I hate cleaning. They suggest we are all quirky. I, for one, am not quirky. It is up to filmmakers, documentary makers, journalists and other creative folk to get it right.
If it weren’t for my beloved family and my support group, Support 4 Everything OCD, I would not be here today. It is important as an OCD sufferer not to feel alone. There are other people that feel the same as you and that number is on the rise.