Welcome to our Youth Talk Blog, a section dedicated to youth lived-experiences with mental health and wellbeing, with weekly blog posts from diverse young people’s perspectives. This is a positive, fun and resourceful space, showcasing young people thriving and connecting with healthful activities, resources and support. This post has been written by Jameel, our Community Education intern, who is a 21-year-old psychology student.
Recently I met with a friend who I love but see very seldom. For this article, I am going to call her Sabrina. As Sabrina and I spoke, the discussion went into mental health. Sabrina shared with me that she has been living with OCD. I was surprised to hear that as she had not mentioned anything about it before. Sabrina had gone to a psychologist two years ago and been diagnosed as having OCD. I interviewed her to narrate her experience with OCD.
Firstly a bit about OCD; OCD stands for Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. Mental Health Foundation NZ defines OCD as “having obsessive, uncontrollable thoughts and performing deliberate, repetitive actions (compulsions)”. A lot of people commonly believe that people living with OCD usually have compulsions that things need to be extremely clean or tidy. This can be attributable to the most common representation of OCD in the media. However, engaging in cleanliness behaviour is only a type of compulsion that some may have, but it is not what every person with OCD has. Moreover, not everyone with a preference towards tidiness has OCD.
To understand Sabrina’s experience, I asked her a few questions. I have condensed some of her answers.
When did you first realise you may have OCD?
When I was little, I would go to bed and have a set of things I needed to say before sleeping. If I did not do them, then I felt like something terrible was going to happen. One night I fell asleep while saying the words in my head. I woke up and cried because I had not done it right and tried to do it again. This was when I was about ten years old.
When did you realise you needed help with OCD?
I needed help when it started restricting what I did. I could not leave the house because I thought I was going to have an accident or that something terrible was going to happen. I did not leave my house for four weeks. There was a time where I brushed my teeth 7 or 8 times to the point of bleeding. I was crying because I could not get it right, and it needed to be.
What was it like when you saw a psychologist?
The first time I saw someone, it brought a lot of things out. I was not open in the first session. I was worried I wouldn’t be understood. I thought I was dramatic compared to other people because they are going through worse than me.
The more I went to the sessions, the more I felt relief and validation for my feelings. Seeing a psychologist also brought out things inside that I did not know were there. It made me feel not alone and I received a lot of validation.
I cannot emphasise enough, the positive impact seeing a psychologist had on me. It honestly changed my life. Understanding what was happening was the best thing to come through therapy. There were also breathing exercises that I learnt to help manage how I felt.
Do you have any advice for other people or anything else you would like to say?
I would say to someone to try to understand where your thoughts are coming from. Finding other people you can relate to is huge because I struggled to connect with someone else. I found a very random YouTube video, and that was the only person I shared an experience with. This was the only person that talked about it in a way to relate to. Everything else online was not like what I felt. I could not connect to anything.
A lot of my OCD is linked to anxiety. I worked through a lot of resentment towards my parents for not recognising I had issues. When I was growing up, I would stress about random stuff. My family would assume that I was just like that. I felt as though it was swept under a rug to something being deeper than worrying.
Did you know anything about OCD before seeing a psychologist?
I had no idea about OCD or anxiety until my late teens. It just was not talked about.
Understanding mental illnesses can be a way to provide better support to the people around us that may be living with one. OCD is a mental health illness that perhaps is not very understood by most. Speaking with Sabrina was a great learning moment for me. Although I study psychology, hearing her first-hand experience of living with OCD has shown me that it is not just when someone wants things clean or neat. Sabrina emphasised the importance of understanding as being a building block to learning how to live with OCD. She believed that there was something wrong with her. If there is one crucial takeaway from Sabrina’s story, remember that there is nothing unusual about you if you are feeling obsessions or compulsions, and support can always be received. From Sabrina’s experience, it appears one of the most rewarding things you can do is find a way to get help to manage OCD.
To support people, we can try and be a little kinder and more patient towards certain behaviours. Although it may seem unusual when a person has compulsions, we should treat them with respect and understanding. Living with a mental illness is not something to be shamed for or be ashamed of. Let’s try our best to create an environment where no one feels alienated when learning what they are experiencing.
This website provides a good over view of OCD
This is a great informative video which speaks about myths associated with OCD and debunking them https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DhlRgwdDc-E
This is a great website for people who are supporting or personally experiencing OCD
Although you are on the website currently, Anxiety NZ provides great support. See a psychologist at Anxiety NZ by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org or 09 846 9776
This may be very beneficial in your journey.