Hannah Nelson wearing an OCD orange t-shirt

Izzy - How OCD changed

My OCD has changed immensely throughout my life.  It’s gone from something in the background that doesn’t bother me to completely encompassing my life to the point where every other thought was OCD related.

Nowadays, when my OCD crops up again with a new obsession or compulsion, I know how to fight it because I’ve done it before.

I can do things now that never would have felt possible a year ago. I say yes to things that I never used to even consider doing.

It’s a battle, and it’s not an easy one. It can feel completely isolating because it feels like nobody really understands what you’re going through.

But it’s a battle you can win.

How OCD Changed

I’m 8 years old,
Slowly drifting to sleep in the back of the car,
Counting every street light that we pass
For no particular reason,
I just find it comforting.

I’m 10 years old,
The fire alarm has just sounded and the whole school is out on the playground
I know it’s only a drill,
But I still check to make sure both of my sisters are out of their classrooms, safe outside and far away from the raging fire that my brain has conjured.

I’m 12 years old,
I’m lying in bed
I’m exhausted
I’m saying the same prayer over and over again
I don’t even believe in God

I’m 14 years old,
Crying in the school changing rooms during a PE lesson,
A friend in my class has just been sick
And I’m convinced it’s my fault
If only I’d sat out of the run

I’m 15 years old,
My hands are cracked and bleeding,
I’m wearing gloves in lessons to try to keep the germs out,
But still going to the toilets to wash my hands repeatedly
Just to make sure

I’m 16 years old,
I can’t write the number “3”
It’s making maths lessons really hard
So I have to tell my teacher my secret
And I cry

I’m 17 years old,
Everything I write has to be perfect
And I’m shaking and crying in a French lesson
Because I wrote an ‘a’ instead of an ‘e’
I feel pathetic

I’m 17 years old,
I eat an apple for the first time in 2 years
I’ve been too scared for all this time
In case it somehow poisons me

I’m 17 years old,
I’m so tired I can barely open my eyes
And yet I click on another YouTube video
I’m avoiding the moment that I have to get into bed
Because first I have to tidy my room until it is perfect
And that could take forever

I’m 17 years old,
I’m on a biology field trip with my school
During a heatwave
And yet I’m rationing my water supply
The water that I bought from home in my suitcase
Because tap water could kill me.

I’m 18 years old,
I’m sat in a biology lesson
Scribbling on a piece of paper with my biro
The page is practically black
But I have to keep going
Until it feels right

I’m 18 years old,
I’m watching a video to relax after revision
I pause the video, then play it
Then I press the spacebar 16 times repeatedly
Until it feels just about right

Im 18 years old,
I’m about to do my A level French speaking exam
And I’m hyperventilating in the common room
What if I say something racist?
Or homophobic?
What if I swear?
I’ve gotten myself so worked up that I’m exhausted by the time I walk into the exam room.

I’m 18 years old,
I’m working as a waitress,
I spend the whole night terrified I’ve given them all food poisoning,
Or that I’ve said something rude to someone,
Or that I’ll pour food over somebody

I’m 18 years old,
I’m working the same job a week later,
I’m cutting the ends from a salmon roulade,
I offer them to the people around me so that they don’t end up in the bin
Nobody takes them
So I pick one up
And, terrified, put it in my mouth.
It’s not a safe food
But I know it won’t kill me
And it’s a small battle that puts me 1-0 up against OCD.

"I can do things now that never would have felt possible a year ago.”

Background Photograph: Taken by OCD-UK member Laura Mcllveen on the Northern Ireland coastline.

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