When I was approached by the Daily Star on Sunday for an interview about my experiences with OCD and to talk about the documentary I'm featured in - Me & My Mental Illness, Channel 5, 10pm Nov 1st (catch-up will be available) - I was naturally hesitant. Being a tabloid paper, I had a preconception as to how the piece would be written and the kind of reader it would be geared towards. I sincerely hoped that the piece would be informative and represent the truth about OCD based on how sympathetic, kind and understanding the journalist who interviewed me came across.
Although it wasn't the worst article written about OCD, it certainly wasn't the best. From the headline onwards, the article senationalised my OCD and focused intently on my 'fear of doorknobs' (because naturally, the word knob just had to be in the headline!). I appreciate that it's written in a way to sell papers and get page views online so I can't complain. What I can do is write a response and talk about the truth of my mental illness and not just add fuel to the fire of misconception about OCD.
Admittedly, I dislike touching door HANDLES in public places or in environments where potentially a lot of people could have touched them. However, I am not scared of them and it's nowhere near as bad as it used to be when my OCD was at it's worst. At the core of OCD, the thing that scares me the most are the intrusive thoughts. These can range from violent or sexually explicit thoughts to obsessing about death and my own mortality. They are often panic inducing, paralysing an almost always lead to me losing track of time with the odd occasion where I feel like I'm hallucinating or having an out-of-body experience. If you want to learn more, you can watch a YouTube video I made about 'My OCD Story' which goes into a lot more detail about the true nature of my mental illness.
For many people, the stereotype of OCD in mainstream media is so damaging because it makes them feel isolated, strange, different and abnormal when in reality, they should be made to feel accepted, loved and cared for. Just because you can't see their illness and it's in their head doesn't mean it's not real or should be treated any differently to a physical injury. Silence, shame, stereotypes and the sharing of ill-informed ideas all contribute to the stigma that surrounds OCD and all aspects of mental health. I really hope that if you read the article about me, you can take it with a pinch of salt and go and find some true stories about what living with OCD is like. Sites like The Secret Illness and OCD Action are great places to read about what life with a mental illness is really like.
The Daily Star article was specific to my story and experience with OCD, but that doesn't mean that that's all there is to OCD. Not by a long shot. So get educated about OCD and share the true stories and slowly but surely, the stigma and misinformation that has enveloped OCD for so long will start to fade away.