OCD Awareness Week is promoted each October, and is a collaboration of charities around the world all working together to focus their efforts on raising awareness and changing perceptions about the impact Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) can have on those that suffer. This year OCD Awareness Week takes place during the week of 8th-14th October 2012.
The first memory I have of OCD is as a five year old sitting in school assembly finding an inner urge to suddenly shout out; exactly what my brain was telling me to shout out I do not recall, but what I do remember is that I had to fight hard to resist the urge and felt that my words may just suddenly spill over out of my mouth and enter the room. I was a shy child in public situations so to shout anything out would have at that time been tantamount to committing a crime. My OCD has manifested itself in many ways over the years and my obsessions and compulsions wax and wane, but in one way or another some form of swallowing obsession or compulsion has always featured. Swallowing rituals, such as swallowing a set number of times has been a biggie, this always presented a problem if I got it ‘wrong’ and had to repeat my swallowing ritual over and over, you soon run out of saliva! I am currently suffering in the form of an obsession relating to swallowing food, it is not borne out of a fear of choking but literally an obsession with the bodily function of swallowing, but I fight against it.
The most severe manifestation of my OCD however came after I had my daughter Mia who was 5 months old at the time, nearly 7 years ago, in the form of intrusive sexual thoughts and a fear that my mind would taunt me long and hard enough that I could end up abusing her. I had experienced a disturbing dream and this lead me to intrusive and unwanted sexual thoughts, the problem with OCD is once you think something once and you don’t like it, you can bet you’ll be made to think it over and over again until you’re thinking about trying not to think it.
For me, OCD is like a broken record. A broken record that gets stuck on the same section and keeps repeating the same thing over and over again in my head. Making me anxious about doing everyday things and asking constant 'what if' questions. What if someone gets injured as a result of my actions? What if I, or someone around me falls ill because I haven't washed my hands again? Everything around me becomes a danger zone and I feel compelled to carry out the tasks that, in my mind, will stop the constant questions in my head and stop these awful events from occurring. But of course the questions don't stop. No doubt something else will happen that will start the whole cycle of questions again, this time much stronger than before.
As anyone with OCD will testify, living with and coping with OCD can be incredibly difficult, and talking about our experiences can be both challenging and emotional.
We have reposted this audio recording from one of our 2011 OCD Awareness Week 'Understanding OCD' lectures because of its incredibly emotional and moving impact that offers a fascinating insight into a little talked about form of OCD, Intrusive Thoughts. We were fortunate to be supported by some incredible individuals across our lecture series last year, all of whom bravely, candidly and honestly shared their experiences of the impact that OCD had on them. This is one such person, OCD-UK forum user, Legend, bravely sharing his experiences.
OCD-UK patron, the writer and actor, Ian Puleston-Davies (pictured 4th from the left) and members of the Coronation Street cast are supporting OCD Awareness Week, are you?
Ian, has suffered with OCD since childhood, but for Ian, OCD goes far beyond the stereo-typical hand washing, instead Ian sufferers with a form of intrusive thought OCD, and it is so severe he has to go through a draining mental checklist to help him cope before he sets foot on set. Last year he spoke to the Mirror and told them, "I worry I'm going to cut my lip or chip my teeth on the glass, so that damn pint glass in the Rovers is always going to leave me susceptible to an OCD attack.
"I have to check the lip of the glass with my finger first to make sure that it's not chipped and then practise taking a sip and a swallow before we even rehearse. If I waited until we began filming, my OCD - my little evil voice in my head - would say 'it's stained' or 'you've just chipped your teeth'.
Whilst the collaboration of OCD Charities are doing what they can to host events aimed at increasing awareness of OCD, we really need everybody to get involved to make a real difference. There are lots of ways people can become involved, and if everybody with OCD highlighted their OCD to just 10 of their family and friends over the next week, then OCD Awareness Week will have the potential to have reached millions of people! Even simply updating your Facebook image or status will have the potential to highlight the illness and change perceptions.