As someone who has hidden backstage all her life, stepping into the spotlight is not a naturally comfortable thing for me to do. So, when a production company approached me to appear on a new documentary show – ‘My Extreme OCD Life,’ I was initially sceptical. Why should I be on this programme? There are so many people who’s OCD is much worse than mine; would I appear like a fraud? Some kind of neurotic fake looking for 15 minutes of fame? I was wrapped up in my own anxiety and paranoia, I lost sight of the purpose of the show, and why I blog to raise awareness for mental health.
‘My Extreme OCD Life’ is a new two-part Channel 5 series that follows the lives of eight young people who suffer with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. It explores the different ways the illness can manifest itself and proves OCD is not simply about being clean and tidy. As part of the first episode, I do my best to explain my tapping and counting rituals, and the extent of the intrusive thoughts that affect my daily life.
The reality of this show didn’t really hit me until I was indulging in my weekly fix of ‘Can’t Pay? We’ll Take It Away!’ and suddenly my face appeared in one of the ad breaks. It was such a weird experience. My first thought was, “OH GOOD GOD WHY HAS NO ONE EVER TOLD ME I’VE GOT A DOUBLE CHIN?!” Once that self-conscious observation had passed, I felt a mixture of anxiety and accomplishment.
Someone told me my picture was in Closer magazine, and sure enough, there I was staring back at myself. The worry kicked in again. Compared to another woman on the show, Serin, who in a press article admitted to washing her hair 72 times in a day, what right did I have to appear alongside her? As my ‘Pure-O’ is the strongest element of my OCD, I was unsure how to show it to a camera. I felt I almost had to prove I had this illness and the hell it gives me.
However, after over-thinking it for a while and having seen my ten-chinned crying face looking out of the TV, I realised that’s exactly what the point in this documentary was. The eight individuals who appear may show a catalogue of varying symptoms and compulsions driven by their OCD that seem to contrast in levels of severity and complexity. But, the reason why we feel we have to do these things is for the same reason. Whether it’s tapping, counting, cleaning or checking, every compulsion, physical or cognitive is driven by an anxiety-inducing doubt that convinces us we can stop bad things happening.
I guess the reason I’m sharing my thought process with you is because I spent a long time thinking I wasn’t worthy of help. Due to widespread stigma and lack of understanding, “other people have it worse” is a phrase that is chucked around carelessly a lot. What ‘My Extreme OCD Life’ has taught me is that if you have a diagnosed illness that affects your life in a negative way, then you DO deserve support. Unfortunately, criticism and comparison is inevitable. There is always someone who is worse off than you or in more distress. However, just because I have fought through the debilitating years where my OCD locked me away from the outside world and now I am more high-functioning, does NOT mean I am not sick and deserving of continued treatment. The same goes for you too!
Catch ‘My Extreme OCD Life’ 10pm on Tuesday 22nd & 29th August on Channel 5.
P.S. If you’re reading this after the show is aired, what are you waiting for?! Find it on catch up!