It was that time of year again, Summer. Sunshine, warmth, fun and sports day! That dreaded day that filled me with panic, anxiety and fear. Why would a 7 year old be afraid of sports day? Because she was terrible at sport? Always came last? Fat and unfit? No, the opposite to all of the above. Stick insect thin, brilliant at sport and always won! But that was the problem, I always won and I couldn’t bear the thought of coming 2nd, 3rd or dare I say it, last
… I’m standing at the start line, I’m on the red team so my mum has bought me a red t shirt, I was wearing my navy shorts, hair scraped back. My left foot is on the line, my right foot ready to push off, I’m going to win, Sian is first, Sian is first, Katy is first, no, no Sian is first. Look at Katy, look at Hannah, look at Hannah, look at Michelle, no she’s terrible at sport, I can’t look at her or I might loose. lm going to win, BANG! I’m in front, I’m going to win, I’m winning, I’m winning, I’ve won, phew. Relieve, I won, hooray. Oh no, it’s long distance next, I hate long distance. Katy and Hannah are good at long distance, I hate it.
Everyone’s on the start line, my stomach is churning, I’m so nervous I feel like crying. I’m going to win, I’m going to win, Sian is first, Katy wins, no, no, no, Sian wins. Look at Katy , look at Katy. Go, run, BEEP! A false start, oh no, it was me, I went ahead before the bang. We’ve got to start again. I’m so scared, my stomach is churning, BANG!, go, go, go, run, I’ve got to win, I’m going to win, I can hear people shouting my name, I can see the finish, please let me get there first, I can see Katy and Hannah next to me, I’m running as fast as my legs can run, I’ve won, thank God, what a relief, it’s over. Sports day for a 7 year old is supposed to be fun, exciting, no pressure, it’s not the Olympics. But it’s not fun for me.
3 years later, it’s the day after my third crippling sports day, I’m lying in bed, 8;15. “Why are you going to bed so early?” my dad always asks. If only he knew. I have to say a prayer for everyone I know and care about. It’s 9:00, I’ve said my last prayer. Now everyone will be alright, but what if I’ve forgotten someone? Right think back, have I missed anyone, did I pray for everyone I love? I’m not sure, I feel like I’ve forgotten someone, what if something terrible happens because I’ve forgotten someone, I’ve got to start again to be sure. 9:45, there that’s everyone now. But did I say everyone’s name, the names of everyone I love, I’m so scared, I feel sick, what if I have missed someone, I wont be able to sleep until I’m sure. I will say my prayers again, just to be sure. 10:30, I can hardly keep my eyes open.
The next day I’m sitting in the classroom, Mr James is rambling on, I’m looking out at the field, my desk is facing out the window, the sun is shining, I want to go outside, I want to play on the field in the sunshine, I want to get out of the classroom, I want my mum. I want her to come and get me, I miss her. A tear rolls down my cheek, then another, then another. I wipe them away, Katy M is sitting next to me, “why are you crying Sian?” I’m not crying, my eyes sting and they wont stop watering, I don’t know why. Hannah hears what we are saying, “you must have hay fever”. “Why is Sian crying?” “What’s wrong with Sian?”
“She’s got hay fever, that’s why her eyes are watering”
Briiiing, lunchtime. All the other children are happy, it’s time for lunch, sun and fun. My friends and I are all huddled together on the field in the shade by the fence, right in the corner of the field. I miss my mum, another tear rolls down my cheek, then another, then the water works really start.
Its Friday evening, I’m staying the night at my best friend Michelle’s house like I do most weekends. But today is different, I don’t want to be here, I want to be at home with my mum. I feel so lonely, I just need my mum. Here come the waterworks again. I don’t want Michelle and her mum to see me crying. Too late “what on earth is the matter Sian?” asks Michelle’s mum. “I want to go home, I want my mum”.
Two weeks later, I’m back at Michelle’s house, just for tea this time, we don’t want a repeat of two weeks ago! Michelle is having her piano lesson. She is terrible, I’m much better than her, I couldn’t bear to be as bad as her. Oh no but I am listening to her playing, if I listen to her playing really badly, I will become like her and I will play really badly. Oh no I can’t listen, I don’t want to play like her, I know, I will stick my fingers in my ears so I cant hear her. My hair is long so I can hide my hands under my hair so they can’t see. 20 mins later, my ears are starting to ache, I have to push my fingers really hard into my ears otherwise I can still Michelle playing the piano really badly and I know will play really badly if I hear her. At last the lessons over. I’m back home, its 8:40, I’ve got 5 minutes until I need to go to bed so that I can finishes saying my prayers by 9:00. It’s 9:00 I’ve finished praying for every person I love and care about. But did I say auntie Anne’s name? Oh, I cant remember, oh no I will have to say all the names again otherwise something bad will happen to her. 11:20, I’m still praying, I’m sure I keep missing a name out so I have to keep starting again.
Hooray, It’s the summer holidays, no school for 6 whole weeks. It’s 1:20, oh dear I’ve only got 5 minutes until my favourite soap starts, Neighbours. Where are my purple spotty leggings? Where are they? Quick time is running out. “Mum, Neighbours is starting, where is my cup of tea? Brilliant, I’ve found my leggings, now it’s just down to mum to have my tea ready. Quick mum, quick it’s nearly started, if it’s not ready in time I dread to think what will happen. If I am not sitting down wearing my purple spotty leggings and drinking a cup of tea by the time it starts, something really really terrible will happen. I’m so so scared, what’s taking her so long? Here it is, phew, everything will be alright. Now I can sit and watch Neighbours. This is the routine I go through every day before Neighbours starts. Paul is on the screen first. I’ve got to look at his left eye, then his right eye, then his nose, left ear, right ear then his mouth. Left eye, right eye, nose, left ear, right ear, mouth. Now Jim’s on the screen, okay. Left eye, right eye, nose, left ear, right ear, mouth. Did I look at his nose? I cant remember I have to do it so quickly, okay, I look at his left eye, then his right eye, nose, then his left ear, right ear and last of all the mouth. I must do this continuously to every character that comes on the screen, otherwise something awful will happen, someone will die or every one will start to hate me.
I’m 12, I’m at the social club with my family on a Friday night. I’m with all our friends and one other person I definitely don’t consider a friend. Lindsay. She is so ugly and so un-cool, nobody at the club likes her, I would absolutely hate to be her. But she is talking to me then all of a sudden, oh my god, horror, she touched me. Oh no, now I will become like her, I don’t want to be ugly, I don’t want people to hate me. Quick I’ve got to blow her germs off without anyone noticing. Right, I should be okay now, just as long as I don’t go within touching reach of her.
I’m watching the boys play snooker in the snooker room when I feel something on my back. It’s Lindsay standing behind me, shit, she touched me again, I cant cope with this, I’m so scared now she has touched me I will become like her, I’ll blow the germs off again then I will say the name of someone popular just to make sure I’m alright. Who is really beautiful and popular, I know, how about Catherine Zeta Jones. If I keep saying her name in my head I will be fine.
It’s a week until my 13th birthday, I usually love my birthday, but not this year. It just means that I am going to have to touch things that other people have touched and touch presents as they hand them to me. I think I will cancel my birthday this year. My parents just don’t know what to do with me anymore, I say names in my head continuously from the second I wake up, until the second I fall asleep. I say names of everyone I can think of that is beautiful, popular and lucky in life, if I say the name of someone who is any of the opposite then I will become unlucky, unpopular and something really terrible will happen. I have a routine of 12 names I say and I have to say them in the right order otherwise I have to start all over again. I cant touch anything that has come into contact with any other person or animal or any of their belongings. So that means I cant touch the sofa in the sitting room, or the television remote, or the carpet (unless I have got shoes on). I cant touch or eat off the plates in our house or drink out of the glasses unless I wash them out with half a bottle of washing up liquid first, and I have to touch it with a piece of kitchen roll in my hand. I feel so trapped, everything around me is contaminated with peoples dirt and germs and if I come into contact with other people I will become them.
Now it’s time I had a shower, I’m dreading it. I cant touch the floor of the shower with my bear feet so I will put sandwich bags on my feet, what a great idea. I can put them on my hands too so I don’t have to touch anything that is contaminated. 2 hours later, I’m shivering, I’m crying, I’m screaming and pulling my hair out in big clumps, I’m still in the shower!” I cant stop washing my long brown hair until I have said all the names of the 12 popular, beautiful people I say all day every day in the right order. If I make a mistake I have to start again. I’ve washed my hair 32 times now and I’m so cold and so sick of having to say these names and not be able to touch anything. My parents are banging on the door begging me to get out the shower and open the door. They are so worried, it has gone so far now that I cant even move a part of my body or take a step without saying a routine of names in my head and performing my rituals. They took me to the doctor but I refused to talk to him and ran away from him.
I am so desperate to be free and happy, I am so lonely and depressed, I am holding my arms around myself, tight, as some sort of comfort, but then my nails sink into the skin on my arm and I begin to drag them down, drawing blood which starts to drip to the floor, I feel a kind of release for a moment, then my dad comes crashing through the door.
It’s my birthday, a day for celebrating and feeling happy with your friends and family, ha ha. My mum has attempted to bring me to the shops to buy me some new clothes for my birthday, only I cant try on or even touch any of the clothes in the shops because I know they have been touched and contaminated by so many other people. All my clothes at home are contaminated so I had to wash a top myself this morning then wear it to the shops still soaking wet. We decide its time to go home. There is just one problem, I cant walk. I’m not injured, my legs and feet are fine, but my mind isn’t. I cant take a step forward without saying a routine in my head, every time I get it wrong or miss something out I have to take a step back. I am stuck in the same place with my mum begging me to come to the car. An hour later my dad turns up and lifts me up and puts me in the car. He drives off so quickly. “Where are we going dad?” .” To see a special doctor” .I couldn’t think of anything more terrifying, I cant look at people, touch people, talk to people for fear of contamination or something terrible happening. I scream and beg my dad not to make me go. I’m kicking the back of the passenger seat where my mum is sitting but still we pull up at the ‘special doctors’.
I’m sitting in the doctors room, I say nothing, I cant even look at him. He just keeps on talking to me, he tells me he wants me to face my fears and try to stop doing the routines and rituals. His he joking, or is he just stupid? “okay” I say, “I’ll try”. I don’t think so!!!
Back at home I’m having another one of my ‘freaky fits’ as my mum calls them. I’m hitting and punching the germs that are surrounding me and the thoughts that are crippling me, but there is nothing there really. I’m just hitting the air. My wrists are bleeding from where I have had a knife to my wrists, there are clumps of my hair on the floor around me. Somehow hurting myself gave me some sort of comfort. There is a knock at the door, I order my mum not to answer it, she doesn’t. I run upstairs and climb out of my window and get out onto the extension roof. I want to jump, I want to end it all, but then my dad tells me that if I jumped, I wouldn’t die. I would just be badly injured and things would be worse, although I couldn’t imagine anything worse than this, I agree to climb back into my bedroom and go downstairs. But then to my horror 3 men walk in through the back door. I recognise 2 of them, one is Dr Clarke, one is the ‘special doctor’ and the other is some Chinese man!! Who the hell is he?? “This is Dr Cheng, he is a psychiatrist” Dr Cheng starts walking towards me saying that he wants to take me somewhere safe, the hospital. Safe, Safe, how is a hospital safe? it’s a building just full of contamination. I plead and beg with them not to make me go then Dr Cheng says” If you don’t come voluntarily, I will have to touch you and carry you and we will get an ambulance to take you to the hospital”.
I’m at the hospital, Dr Cheng takes me to my room, at least I’ve got my own room. He gives me a little pot with some pills in. He tells me to take them and they will help me sleep. Another nurse comes in and puts a name band around my wrist. Great, not only did she touch me, she has locked the contamination around me so I cant get rid of it. The hospital is decorated with tinsel and Christmas trees and actually looks quite festive, it’s 6 days until Christmas and I’m stuck in hospital. Everyone leaves, I rip off the name band and hide it behind the bed, then things get blurry then I’m asleep.
The next day I feel strangely calm and feel like I’m doing everything in slow motion. The doctor had given me more pills to take this morning, she told me one of them was valium to keep me calm and help me sleep. I’m still doing my rituals and routines but I feel less anxious and scared, I like these drugs!! I go out of my room, I’m in a children’s ward and I find a TV room with loads of videos, I’m the only one in there so I choose a video to watch.
On Christmas eve the doctors came back to see me. They told me that I was suffering with OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder) It’s a disorder where your own mind is making you ill. It makes you believe completely irrational thoughts and makes you believe that you can somehow magically change things with the your thoughts and rituals. They asked me if I would like to go home, I really wanted to get out of the hospital for Christmas day but didn’t think I could go back to my house that the 3 doctors had been in and contaminated. I ask if I can stay at my Nan’s but they said I could go home or not at all. Somehow Dr Cheng knew what I was thinking, he knew exactly why I didn’t want to go back home, it’s like he could read my mind.
Slowly and gradually my medicines started to work and my obsessions became less and less.
After 5 years of being on antidepressants and sedatives etc I decided I didn’t want to be on the drugs any more, I wanted to be normal. I hadn’t had any bad spells of OCD again, I still did a few little things but the doctors told me I would never be completely free of it, but I could control it. But for the last 5 years I had not been happy, far from it. I had felt so miserable. The only time I felt better was if I harmed myself somehow. But even then I didn’t feel better really, I just felt nothing and numb, but numb was better than bad. I didn’t know it at the time but I was suffering from depression. I stop taking my medication which is exactly what the doctor had told me I should never do . He had told me I need to be on the medication for the rest of my life. I didn’t even come off it gradually, I just stopped taking it completely. Now that was the biggest mistake of my life yet.
You think after overcoming OCD once and understanding that your thoughts are completely irrational and un true you would think you would recognise the signs if it came back again and would be able to stop it before it actually started again. Wrong, very wrong! Gradually it creeps up on you and starts to mess with your mind and your life. Before I knew it it was happening all over again. But this time it isn’t as horrific as the first time but it is accompanied by major depression. I am so paranoid about looking ugly that I look in the mirror 60 times a day and redo my make up every 10 minutes, even if I am out. My face is almost an inch thick with make-up, because I keep piling it on. I knew the only thing I could do was to go back on the medication.
Over the next year I go through some very traumatic losses which trigger of my OCD and depression but somehow with medication I kind of get through it, although I’m far from happy.
A year I’m doing ok but still very conscious of my looks I’m standing in the bathroom counting down a minute. A minute is how long it takes for the result to come up. Negative or positive? Positive! I’m pregnant. Wow, I’m so happy but so scared at the same time. I had heard that the medication I was on should not be taken if you are pregnant, I didn’t realise at the time that this isn’t true but I panic and stop taking it straight away. Through my pregnancy my OCD slowly gets worse and worse, almost to the extent it was when I was 12. It doesn’t help that I have an alcoholic, cheating boyfriend who disappears for days on end. We live together in a flat, well we did until I just couldn’t cope any more, I couldn’t cope with the OCD, the depression or my waste of space boyfriend, even if he was my child’s father I was better off without him.
I move back home with my parents and brother after Michael is born. I go back on medication and slowly my obsessions start to ease away.
I’m 21, I’ve got a great job that I love, Michael is 3 and loves his nursery, I’ve been with my new partner, Andy for 4 years and we’ve got a great little house. I know I should be so happy but I can feel my depression getting hold of me but in away that it never has before. This time I have so much anger inside me that seems to build up then all come out which makes Me destroy everything in my way. I’ve lost count of the things I’ve thrown and smashed, I’ve kicked enormous holes in the doors and my arms and stomach are covered in cuts and my whole body is covered in bruises. It is me that has given myself the cuts and bruises, I take my anger and frustration out on myself as well as everything in sight. Nearly every day I self harm and every other day I run off, I don’t even know where I’m running to, I just run and hide for hours sometimes so no one can find me. I’ve also become addicted to cannabis. When I have a joint all my fears and continuous irrational thoughts disappear. There is a difference this time though. I know my thoughts and actions are wrong, I recognise that I need help, I’ve been to see my local psychiatric nurse several times but he was as helpful as a chocolate teapot. I made up my mind, I wanted to get proper help, I wanted to go to a psychiatric hospital and get better once and for all, so I never have to go through this hell again. I didn’t know where I could go so I go to my local hospital and ask for help. I walk in, my arms bleeding, my hair a complete mess. They tell me that I can phone a psychiatric ward at a nearby hospital. I do exactly that. And much to Andy and my dads disapproval, I went. They tried to tell me I would hate it there and it would be full of nutters but I knew I had know other option.
My dad takes me, I arrive there at midnight, for some reason I’m not even scared, I just feel numb. They ask me some questions then give me something to eat and then a sleeping pill, I slept for the next 10 hours. My next 2 weeks in the hospital are nothing like I had expected. Yes it is full of nutters and would be terrifying for anyone else, but I understand a lot of the people in here and can even relate to a lot of them. I make a few friends even though they tell you not to and find the whole experience relaxing and it gives me time to really think. Obviously the reason I am so calm was because of the cocktail of medication I am on and the tablets to help me sleep. But this time I actually want the medication and I am completely prepared to take it for the rest of my life.
Now, a year on I am so so proud of myself and so is everyone else. I’ve still got the job I love and everything I had before but there is one thing I haven’t got, life crippling depression and anxiety disorders. I’m not saying I’m completely cured and deliriously happy everyday but everyday I laugh, everyday I enjoy something in my life, I don’t self harm and I don’t wear any make up, I’m so much more relaxed. I owe a lot of this to my medication but another huge part of my success is my hypnotherapist/psychotherapist. He has helped me with my confidence and helped me to grow into my own person. I no longer let other people control my life, I voice my opinion, I have confidence and I even jumped out of an aeroplane to raise over £700 for charity, something I would never even considered in the past. I wouldn’t have thought that in a million years I would ever be free of my mind disorders, but I am and after 17 years I feel happy. I want to give hope to everyone who has experienced similar problems to me or any other mental illness that you really CAN get through it, something I would not have believed before I have become living proof that you can.