Christmas Message 

It’s that magical time of the year again when we are often expected to laugh and celebrate with all the festive fun going on around us. But it’s important we take a moment to pause and reflect, that whilst many of us will hopefully take that time to enjoy the holiday period, for some of us that suffer from Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, Christmas is not always the most wonderful time of year.

Christmas sadly can mean countless OCD triggers, for some people it can be OCD related for example at family gatherings we feel pressured to attend and where we force ourselves to wear a fake festive smile in front of a glittering Christmas tree as others chat seemingly happily with merriment, but for us OCD intrusive thoughts steal our Christmas joy. For others it can trigger reminders of the collateral damage that OCD can cause, for example loneliness due to being unable to be around family, or for others seeing lots of pictures of happy looking couples can be a loud reminder of how OCD has impacted relationships.

If you are struggling this holiday period, we hope that you are still able to find some moments of joy, even if it’s just in small places. We hope that you allow space for self-compassion and be kind to yourself as you would to others and reflect on how far you have come this year, you are surviving. Reflect on how you deserve recovery, and you deserve to be able to celebrate next Christmas without the shackles of OCD.

Despite OCD it was heart-warming to see members of the OCD-UK online support groups coming together last week for their Christmas social group and it was joyous seeing the Christmas hats and jumpers and smiles on faces. OCD doesn’t bring anything positive, but the kindness and community spirit the OCD support group attendees have shown each other was beautiful to see. I was able to reflect this week how attendees are effectively strangers tied together by OCD, but at the same time have supported each other throughout the year, acted as each other’s cheerleaders, celebrated each other’s OCD recovery achievements, but offered a virtual arms around shoulders when OCD was shouting loudly.  For me that was positive and beautiful to observe throughout the year, it's not a positive of OCD but it’s a reflection of the kindness and humanity that many of those that suffer from OCD have in abundance.

I must also thank my volunteers and my colleagues Laura, Mia, Sara, Zoë and our chair Catherine who have been there for me this year.  Most people don’t realise just how much work goes on behind the scenes, and at times it can be challenging and that’s where my wonderful colleagues have supported each other so well and supported me both professionally and even personally at times. They have made me laugh and picked me up when I needed it, and also importantly they have educated me. In essence I don’t really have colleagues I think it’s friendship and I hope our unity as a team is actually strengthened by our friendship.  That unity and togetherness helps reinforce our commitment to our work to make the positive difference that OCD-UK is here for. To help and support those affected by Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder and promote the message that recovery from OCD is possible.

Finally, as I mentioned at the outset, whilst for some Christmas will be a time for family and friends and fun and laughter. For others Christmas may be different with OCD as an unwanted guest at Christmas.  The phrase I coined a few years ago, that ‘OCD doesn't take time off for Christmas and neither will we’, is why the charity will continue to operate throughout the festive period. We will be running support groups, and I will be covering the email and forums support on Christmas Day for anybody that is finding it tough. Whilst we may not have all the answers for you, I hope us being there throughout the week will help the loneliest of us even when we're surrounded by countless family to feel slightly less isolated this Christmas.

Stay safe and wishing you all a Happy Christmas that allows you to believe in hope that 2024 will be the year that you can thrive free of the shackles of OCD.

Wishing you good mental health.

Ashley Fulwood
Chief Executive of OCD-UK (and someone with lived experience of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder).