However I couldn’t think nothing of it as these odd behaviours continued to persist and they were becoming more frequent and more invasive, it was now starting to impact my daily life as well as my school life which was scary when you’re this innocent little child in a school with over 2,000 pupils!
At the point when I knew I needed help I was in a bad place, I was carrying every single book and resource to school every day even though I didn’t need all of it, all because of the fear of forgetting something and getting in trouble with my school teachers. As well as that I was getting in to school early in the morning so I could plan the day in my head and avoid being late (even though 1 hour early bares no risk of being late). I was also staying behind for around 2 hours after school, cleaning my classroom because of this immense and growing fear of contamination. It had to stop.
I kept putting off speaking to my teachers about it and was panicking myself after taking all the possible online symptom checkers but after seeing a poster in one of the corridors encouraging students to speak out about any issues they have, I finally built up the courage to get the help I needed.
The same day as I reported my concerns, I was reassured by my student manager that I would get the help I needed, and I did. I was able to speak about my problems and how they affected me which led to a referral to CAMHS, the NHS mental health service for young people. I finally knew that the support was there and it was incredibly reassuring to know.
Over the coming months, the OCD started to impact me almost all the time and learning in a typical classroom environment was getting harder and harder, my rituals were becoming impossible to handle and slowly over the course of the following weeks, I was losing the ability to cope with the classroom environment.
I was struggling daily with an incredible fear of contamination and repeating all of my rituals in multiples of 4, it was so debilitating and mentally draining. Some of the rituals didn’t take that much out of me, however others were depressing. Having to make and re-make my bed 4 times before I could get in it was a tough one, especially when I was so very tired at nights. My hands were in a shocking condition from constantly washing them every day, and so was my hair, washing it every time I felt it wasn’t clean, even though it was always clean!
My tapping rituals meant just walking around the house or out and about became difficult, I was tapping with my feet and hands on every threshold on the floor or objects around the house, I just wasn’t in control and was getting seriously ill with it all. Everything was being cleaned all the time, I was going through antibacterial gel like it was water and everything around me had to be clean. I was sad 🙁
I was lucky that I attended a school which had fantastic support for all needs and I was able to continue my education (studying for my GCSEs at the time) in a quiet and supported learning environment. It was just what I needed, the barriers to my education were removed, allowing me to focus on learning and study for my GCSEs.
After I took my GCSE exams and achieved the grades I had aimed for, I left school in 2015 and focussed on my passion for coding which I had been learning in my spare time. I was a keen plane spotter and was one of very few activities that my OCD didn’t stop me from doing and I had incorporated my love for planes for my passion for coding. And so I launched ‘Plane Spotting Manchester’, a digital magazine for aviation enthusiasts around Manchester Airport.
After I left school, I was in a bad place, I had an immense fear of people and busy place and leaving the house became a lot harder over time, despite how irrational it sounds. However I was able to continue working on my little plane spotting venture from the comfort of my home.
Within the first 3 months of its launch, I had seen over 25,000 users of the website and this spurred me on to grow my little business even further. I decided to expand the magazine from local airport coverage to a national offering, ‘Plane Spotting UK’ was born. Instead of just being a magazine, the business had become a go-to resource for plane spotters around the country, allowing them to log spotted aircraft on our website or app in their own portal. It was becoming a real hub for plane spotters to become part of and at the point when I decided to close down the project to focus on my web development and marketing consultancy, the website was seeing monthly user rates of 65,000+.
I didn’t really see it as a business or enterprise, despite the income it generated from advertising placements, however it was a therapeutic project for me where my OCD didn’t get in the way or cause me serious problems.
Whilst running the venture, I was able to continue treatment for the disorder and recover from it massively. I was later discharged from the mental health services in 2017 and at that point, was leading an independent life with a growing client base for my marketing consultancy.
Around this time last year I was contacted by a researcher for a two part Channel 5 documentary called ‘My Extreme OCD Life’. They had found me from some PR my plane spotting website had received from being able to launch a business in the face of adversity.
I was really interested and agreed to be on the show as OCD is something that really needs more awareness on and there had only previously been one documentary exploring OCD before and I was very passionate to hopefully help others in a similar position from sharing my story.
And so the filming began! I was filmed in my hometown of Wilmslow and how my OCD affects my daily life and the restrictions it burdens me with. I was also filmed on a canal boat talking about how relaxing it is and that someday I aim to buy a little narrowboat! I was one of eight suffers of ‘Extreme OCD’ in the two part feature length documentary which received fantastic ratings and more importantly, encouraged a lot of people to talk openly about their difficulties with OCD. It was a great privilege to be able to be on a national television documentary and share my experiences with the incredible debilitating mental health disorder.
Jumping forward to today and I am now able to live a life where I feel happy once again after years of suffering and am able to work 6/7 days per week at our office for the company I co-founded at the start of the year, DogsBollocks.com, a digital marketing agency, passionate about helping small businesses get online for the first time. I’m proud to be working in an environment where most of my rituals are easy to manage and can crack on with work for our customers needing a website. It’s also reassuring to have business partners that fully understand my problems and panic attacks.
It is so important to talk, nobody should suffer in silence which only lets the issue fester and become more debilitating and harder to overcome. If you had hurt your arm in a game of cricket you wouldn’t ignore it, so it’s time to speak out about mental health. I was scared about speaking out and starting treatment, but it gets easier and is the key to a happier life.
I hope the brief story of my journey with OCD made an impact or was just a good read, it’s Mental Health Awareness Week 2018, so share your experiences and you might help someone somewhere out there!