Monday, 14 October 2019

Facing my fears

Krishna writes about one of the biggest challenges of her OCD - telling the people close to her.
- Krishna

I vividly remember when I first told my parents about my OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder). It wasn’t out of choice, I didn’t plan to sit down with them and explain how I had been experiencing something so utterly confusing and debilitating. I told them because I physically couldn’t hide it any longer… My mom had asked me to mop the floor, a typical task on a Friday. The problem was, the kettle needed filling and she was handling raw meat by the sink. Raw meat was the thing at the top of my list of fears and triggers for my contamination OCD at the time. I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t move. I must have stood there for at least an hour trying to fill that damn kettle. I just wanted to cry and scream and escape. We both got frustrated because of course, she didn’t know why I couldn’t just mop the floor. So I tried, I really did, but I physically couldn’t. Every fibre of my being was telling me to stay away from the danger, going near the meat felt like my whole body was burning. I cried, I screamed, I ran away. What followed was nothing short of a few hours of uncontrollable blubbering as I shut myself off in the bathroom.

I couldn’t really brush that off as a bit of PMS (I thought about it). No, I was forced to explain why something as simple as filling a kettle caused me to have such an extreme emotional reaction.

You see, it isn’t just scary living with a debilitating illness. It isn’t just scary trying to get through university when you can’t physically leave the house. It’s also terrifying trying to explain this to the people you care about. Its scary imagining what they will say, what they will think, if they will treat you differently. It's even scary writing this to share with the world.

We all know that fear is a useful response, but when that fear takes over your life, it takes away pieces of your life. For a long time I wasn’t honest with my parents and the people around me. It was easier to hide, lie and pretend that everything was fine than trying to explain something even I didn’t fully understand. Looking back, that behaviour fuelled the shame and stigma of what I was experiencing. Opening up wasn't always easy, I learnt that not everyone will understand, and that’s okay.

But I also learnt that it is so very valuable. Opening up to my parents was one of the most challenging moments of my illness, but I can honestly say that I wouldn’t of been able to get through the most difficult years of my life and treatment for my OCD, without my parents' support. And what followed was a passion for OCD awareness that changed my life.

-

Do you ever avoid walking under a ladder? What do you do if a black cat crosses your path? What do you feel is going to happen? The answer, probably something bad. So we avoid those situations. When I talk about OCD I often liken the feeling to superstitions as I see so many parallels, the worry we know is irrational, the avoidance or neutralising behaviours.

If you want to imagine a fraction of what it is like to undergo treatment for OCD, walk under that ladder. Let the black cat cross your path. Step on that crack in the pavement. And don’t just pretend it never happened to make yourself feel better, no, you have to experience it. You have to feel the worry and the stress, until that feeling reduces. Over and over again.

Since my recovery there are many days that I am forced to continue to face my fears. Whether I notice that my hands are feeling more dry and chapped than usual, or I see OCD behaviours manifesting in different ways. Now that I understand the illness and how it can dictate your life, I try to continue to put myself in difficult situations and do the things that terrify me.

My one ask this #OCDweek is that you do one thing that scares you. However big or small it may seem on the outside, it doesn’t matter. Whatever makes your skin crawl. Perhaps something that you have always avoided, maybe you want to open up to someone about your own experiences. Because this is the biggest lesson I could ever give you on what it is like to live with OCD. And what it feels like to battle OCD.

You aren’t alone, so do it with me. Together, we can face our fears.

If you want tips on understanding OCD or want to seek support visit OCD Action or Student Minds.



Hi I’m Krishna, the Design and Office Manager at Student Minds. I setup my first OCD awareness campaign back in 2013 which led me to the Student Minds group at Sheffield Hallam University. I then joined the Student Minds staff team in early 2016. As a graphic designer I am passionate about using design to raise understanding of mental health difficulties, inspire conversations and help to show people that they are not alone.

3 comments:

  1. Krish,you are inspiration to others that are facing OCD but find it hard to talk about it . Must've been so difficult for you, so proud of you.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Such an inspiring story, so proud of you for sharing!

    ReplyDelete
  3. You are so brave Krishna. What you have been through and achieved takes so much courage. I am sure your story and your work has helped so many people. So proud of you.Thank you for sharing. Foi

    ReplyDelete