Sex and OCD

My relationship with sex is an interesting one in terms of how much it’s changed over the years. At age 19, sex was very much a carefree, fun experience. It was – at times – a way of distracting me from the difficulties of life. I was learning about myself and what I enjoyed. Sometimes it was reckless and alcohol-fuelled, and sometimes it was just me and the boy I loved learning about each other, wide-eyed and curious. Fun is the word I would primarily use for sex at this stage of my life. 

At age 22 I met somebody whom I fell very deeply in love with, and suddenly sex shifted a little bit. I was so psychologically happy, and I felt so emotionally safe. The sex was fun, just as it had always been, but it became far deeper and more meaningful. It became a way of showing this man how much I loved him. Sex became a little less about fleeting embraces in risky places, and a little more about a warm, deep connection underneath a cotton duvet on a Sunday morning. 

Since the OCD flare up in 2016, I’ve found it difficult to see sex as something other than the biological risk of combining two ecosystems of pathogens together (OHHHH yeah, I know how to talk dirty alright). It’s been challenging at times to keep my fear of viruses at bay. At one particular point, thoughts about hepatitis, HIV and herpes all screamed profanities at me whenever I even considered thinking about sex. Luckily, once I’d overcome the initial shitstorm of intrusive thoughts, it never actually interrupted my ability to enjoy sex in the moment – I was a little preoccupied in the actual moment. But afterwards, I would obsess that I had somehow contracted an STI from my partner (I trusted him implicitly but OCD doesn’t care for the actual truth). I would obsess that I had an undiscovered virus that could be transmitted sexually that I might pass on to my partner (pretty narcissistic if you think about it lol I’M THE CHOSEN ONE GUYS, THIS VIRUS CHOSE ME…) I spent hours researching the statistics of viral contraction through sex etc etc etc.

In hindsight, this fear of sexual contamination was probably very damaging for my relationship. Neither of us was aware that I had OCD, and by the April of that year I was calling him up on the other side of the world to sob over the phone that I might be contagious and that he might die because of me…imagine having me as a girlfriend hahahaHAHA (I’m v.sorry to the man who had to deal with this shituation, yours sincerely, low-maintenance Mim).

The fear began to sink further into the sprawling veins of my life in so many different ways. I kept my toothbrush separate. I wanted to use a clean towel every morning after I showered. I began cleaning door handles. I washed my hands and clothes constantly. I was so terrified of germs getting anywhere near my princess parts (that’s what they’re called by the way – just incase you were wondering). I hated kissing and cuddling. Various exes have taken my lack of desire for touch quite personally, or failed to accept that it comes part and parcel with me as a human bean. Ironically, the only way I’m really able to show affection is through sex itself (as though it’s less likely to catch something through penetrative sex than a bit of hand-holding lol go figure). I am working on it – for myself and not for anyone else. I’m doing it in my own time, on my own terms. I’ve even considered the fact that my lack of affection might not be entirely down to OCD, maybe I’m just not a cuddly person, and that’s okay.

As a whole, 2016 was a real b***ard of a year, and after the breakdown of my relationship and the death of my sister, I confronted my mental health headfirst and underwent Cognitive Behavioural Therapy from 2016 to 2017. The exposure work helped a lot in terms of sexual contamination fears. It just so happened that exposure to all kinds of germs, from public toilets and public transport, actually helped to take down the sexual contamination fears too. 

Unfortunately, after I had completed the CBT in 2017, I found out that my new companion had been unfaithful. This triggered an OCD break which was extremely painful and traumatic. Until this moment, I had finally managed to put all of my fears down to OCD and not logic, but now I was facing the fact that I had been intimate with someone who I couldn’t trust. Therefore OCD was telling me that my health was at risk, and that I was absolutely not being illogical for thinking so. The CBT had been temporarily undermined. Fortunately I tested negative for STIs after his confession, but OCD listens to neither logic nor science, my friend. The OCD was trying to convince me that science somehow didn’t apply to me (SCIENCE? I’M FAAAR TOO IMPORTANT FOR SCIENCE). I was back to square one again. Cue lots of unpredictable screaming fits and valium. Can you see why trusting a human in an intimate way can be especially tough for some OCDers?

Thankfully, with medication, counselling, support from family and friends, and by surrounding myself with love and trust, I healed completely from that particular blip. Further treatment means that I’ve stopped obsessing over STIs and I’m more able to trust humans and their walking ecosystems. I do however find the biological side of sex to be ever-present in my mind. Perhaps it always will be. I’m still not a huge fan of kissing or holding hands, and I still see sex as sharing a whole bunch of pathogens. Sex seems like a bigger commitment to me than it used to before OCD took over.

Right now I’m not dating – not because of the OCD – just because I want to be by myself for the time being. Being single is such a welcome breath of fresh air. I’m working on myself and my mental health, unapologetically, without having to compromise or think of what would be best for a partner. I’m being selfish because I know that right now, that’s what’s best for me. When I do decide to date again, it’ll be in my own time, on my own terms, because my mental health is my priority. It’ll be interesting to see how differently I react to dating and love after some much-needed healing and reflection. I think deep down that once I’m feeling a connection with a human, and I feel emotionally safe in their presence, the sex-related element of OCD will probably sink away underneath the bed. 

Thank you for reading, and remember kids, always practise safe sex *finger guns*

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Balancing studies with OCD

I wrote a piece last week about how studying accidentally lead to my OCD diagnosis, so I’ma continue the theme for this week and talk (very briefly) about how OCD affected my studying on a day-to-day basis .

First of all, my dudes, having OCD can actually be pretty productive for me in terms of organisation. HOTDAMN am I organised.

When I first started studying, I was waking up at 5:30 in the morning and getting home at 7:30 in the evening (until the long days triggered my physical health issues and then I studied from home). My routine was FLAWLESS. I had to-do lists for every section of my day. I had everything I would need to get ready in the morning lined up on my dresser, in the order that I’d need it. My life was like clockwork… like a perfectly oiled machine… like a really predictable sex life that involves gentle foreplay, followed by missionary, followed by pillow talk. My life was safe. It was dependable. And it was unbelievably f***ing boring.

This hyper-organisation element of OCD translated well when studying; my folders were all colour coordinated, my notes were hella neat, and I always did my work way before the deadline. My revision timetables were disgustingly precise, and my revision was (mostly – refer to last post) effective. I rehearsed and remembered the dates of my exams and repeated them in my head. I re-drafted essay after essay until I was (sort of) satisfied with it.

This all sounds great right? It’s great to be motivated right? It’s great to have OCD right? WRONG. YOU COULDN’T BE MORE WRONG. YOUR NAIVETY HATH FAILED YOU, DEAR SWEET READERS. I was stuck in a self-perpetuating downwards spiral of lined paper and biros. I never, ever had fun. But I did have control and safety and that comes pretty bloody close to fun if you ask me.

I am a complete perfectionist. I think I would be even if I didn’t have OCD, but the OCD certainly spices the perfectionism up with the odd “re-do that or your family will die” jibe (classic). I would take notes in class and then have to re-write them more neatly when I got home that night. If I made the slightest mistake I would have to scrunch the page up and start it again. Sometimes it wasn’t even an actual mistake – my brain just created reasons why it was rubbish. This was soooo time-consuming it’s unreal.

I wrote a LOT of notes as well. I had to be 100% thorough, to the point where I was learning stuff that wasn’t even in the curriculum just so that it felt ‘complete’ in my sad strange little head. This also evolved into me asking entirely irrelevant questions in lessons and most probably being labelled an irritating supernerd that loved the sound of my own voice. I absolutely don’t love the sound of my own voice by the way – or the four other voices telling me to touch that sticker on the wall or else I’ll accidentally murder someone in the next 30 minutes…

Anyway, these time-consuming rituals and reassurances shared a tiny sliver of room for the actual studying, but outside of that I lost touch with all of the things I enjoyed. I didn’t socialise with my friends, I didn’t have time to exercise, and I didn’t paint or walk. I didn’t do anything at all that I enjoyed actually.

I don’t regret it or feel sad about it in the slightest though, because I got the results I wanted and, to me, nothing else mattered at that point in time.

I’d be pretty interested to know what results I would have achieved if I didn’t have OCD. I have no idea if they’d be higher or lower. I think they would perhaps be higher because I’d have been focusing my concentration and time on the useful parts of the course.

Whether those few years were unhealthy or not is kind of irrelevant now. I can’t change the ruddy past and I’m at peace with the way I handled life during those few years. And at least I have an immaculate set of cue cards about rhesus monkeys and goslings I guess…

OCD gave me an E in Biology…

How my studies hurt me and then healed me

If you know me or you’ve read my previous blog posts (shouts to the regulars ayyye) then you’ll at least partially be aware that I completed my A-levels a couple of years ago. I did them late due to illness. I’ve got a pretty intense/borderline unhealthy interest in human psychology, so I was 100% sure I wanted a psychology A-level. I also love writing, reading and creating, so I took English Language and Literature. I was always good at Science back when I was at school, mostly because I thoroughly enjoyed it – so I took Biology. This was a very large, fat mistake in terms of my final grade…but it actually ended up playing a very important role in my diagnosis and recovery. 

I’d always known I had some ‘OCD traits’, but I’d never researched OCD itself as a disorder. I had therefore fallen into the thought-space that many people are in – that OCD was mostly about neatness and cleanliness. I honestly once used the term “I’m a little bit OCD about my room”. FORGIVE ME, FELLOW OCD-ERS. But surely we can’t expect people to just know without being told about it? I certainly didn’t know much about OCD back then. I didn’t know enough about it to attach it to my many symptoms, or ‘quirks’ as people used to call them. I honestly had no idea it was a serious disorder that ruined lives. 

In the first year of my A-levels, everything was alright in terms of the OCD. It was present, but not so present that I was actually aware of it (if that makes sense?) Fast-forward to the last module in the course, which was based around pathogens. You probably get where this is going… I spent hundreds of hours studying and revising various viruses, how they mutate, how they spread, and what they look like under a microscope. That’s hundreds of hours spent on my own, in own head, thinking about viruses. I remember we had to know about HIV symptoms, how to test for it, and I remember being extremely bothered by the thought of it. I became obsessed (can you believe it?) with viruses such as HIV, hepatitis and herpes. I spent hours researching them out of fear rather than out studiousness. I couldn’t sleep at night because I was thinking about all of the cells in my body…whether they were working correctly…whether they were dying…whether I had caught a virus. 

One day I marched into my GP surgery and asked for blood tests to check for any type of hepatitis. The nurses seemed confused as to why I felt I definitely needed this test, and all I could say was “I just need it guys okay”. They asked if there had been an event during which I cold have been exposed to it, but there wasn’t. I just had to stand there and persuade them to test my blood for hepatitis. TAKE MY BLOOD GODDAMMIT. I was that weird, flighty woman with the shrill voice, the darting eyes, and the incredibly persuasive language (I will absolutely take this title and I will own it with pride). The nurse tested me for hepatitis and alas, I did not have it. This wasn’t enough for the OCD however. “What if the tests didn’t work?”…”What if I have a brand new undiscovered form of hepatitis?”

Side note: In moments like these; THERE IS NO REASSURING YOURSELF. STOP REASSURING YOURSELF. You’re not helping yourself, you’re not being kind to yourself, and you are FEEDING THE OCD.

Every sneeze or cough in my lessons became a reason for my blood to feel hot and my skin to prickle and redden. I would physically stop breathing for at least a minute afterwards to avoid breathing in pathogens. I didn’t really question why I was having these reactions, because I was too busy trying to focus on getting good results. Ironically, I ‘studied’ so much for Biology that I got big, massive, stinking E. My first ever E. I was confused. I had achieved A grades in my other subjects. I studied rigorously and revised mercilessly, but I realised afterwards that what I thought was ‘revising’ for Biology was actually just obsessing and worrying about absolutely everything to do with the health of my body, as well as informing my batshit self about every virus on Planet Earth. I actually remember opening my Biology paper on the day of the exam (feeling hella f***ing confident – LOL) and just sitting back in my chair like WOOOW OKAY… WOW. I don’t know how to do any of this, but I do know how many incidences of SARS there have been in each continent. Nice one, mim.

Fast-forward again to that September – my mental health was at an all-time low. It had been very traumatic to be inside my head that summer. But I was about to start a new academic year and a fresh page. I hesitantly let go of Biology and promised myself I would excel at my other subjects, however strange and unstable I was feeling. Psychology was the subject I was most passionate about. I loved everything about it. I didn’t even mind learning all of the dates and the names. I thrived when learning about human thoughts and behaviours. Our first module was about various mental illnesses, including symptoms and case studies. I had to make a fact sheet about OCD, and I can literally see the image of myself in that moment, hunching over my table, hurriedly reading through what I had written, with my eyes growing wider and wider. I felt sick when I realised. I had bloody OCD. It was the weirdest adrenaline rush. To anyone in the room I probably looked like I’d just boshed a generous line of coke. I think I might have even done a little heave. I realised that it was a very real, very painful disorder and that I had been dealing with it in full force for the majority of that year. I wasn’t weird! I wasn’t crazy. None of these weird thoughts or behaviours were my fault. 

I called my mum from college and told her my sudden realisation. I booked to see my GP right away, and when it came to the appointment, I explained (very nervously) that I thought I might have OCD. I explained my symptoms, and I was referred to see a mental health triage nurse. During that appointment, I was diagnosed with severe OCD. The nurse was extremely reassuring, and promised that the mental health team would try their best to give me back some kind of life. I’ve had various forms of treatment since, which have each helped me in terms of my recovery. I had CBT for a few months following my diagnosis, and I ended up passing Psychology and English with an A and a B. When I look back I’m not really sure how I pulled it off considering, but I feel incredibly lucky and grateful. 

Before writing this post, I was pondering about what my life might be like if I hadn’t decided to take my A-levels. Would I have had the OCD break I had that year if I hadn’t studied Biology? Would I have ever realised that I was suffering from OCD if I hadn’t taken Psychology? Nobody knows the answers to these questions my dudes, but what I do know, is that I wouldn’t change a bloody thing. Not even the hardest parts, or the darkest moments. Maybe I’m a sucker for pain, or maybe I’m just content with the person these last few years have moulded me into.

*Mim walks into the sunset whilst Take Me Home, Country Roads plays in the background. The glinting sun reflects in my eyes. A light trail of dust is kicked up in the path behind me. Roll credits*

P.s. In hindsight that last bit probably sounded a bit ominous. I was just taking the piss out of my last paragraph. I think I became Carrie Bradshaw for a hot second there. I’ll be back for another post next week!

Coping with grief and OCD

Warning: In this post I discuss a family bereavement and the resulting intrusive thoughts. Intrusive thoughts scare me because I find them to be ‘catching’ sometimes. I don’t want OCD sufferers who have recently experienced a bereavement to read this and then take on any of these intrusive thoughts. Read with caution. 

I’ve been avoiding writing this post for a while now, because the idea of writing it literally scares me. I don’t want to weird out any of my readers, or over-share. I don’t want to make people feel uncomfortable… but then I think balls to it. Life can be uncomfortable. OCD is incredibly uncomfortable. And losing a loved one is absolutely f***ing uncomfortable.

My big sister Jess died a couple of years ago. She had cystic fibrosis and she died of a lung bleed. When I was about four years old, my neighbour heard me and Jess playing in the sandpit and I asked her if she was going to die. I’d grown up knowing that I would long outlive her. I just didn’t think she would only live to 28. 

Anyway, I’m not gonna delve into the primary emotions of grief. Those are things that I find private and personal, and they’re also kind of irrelevant to my blog. I’m gunna discuss the effects that my sister dying has had on the OCD.

To begin with, shock set in and overtook my brain, leaving no room for OCD whatsoever. My brain still didn’t belong to me, but whereas OCD had held it captive until that point, it was now imprisoned by vibrating numbness and cold shock. I didn’t over-wash my hands, I didn’t keep everything in order, and my brain didn’t even punish me for it. Not once.

This phase lasted for a couple of weeks, until the funeral. In the following two weeks, I drank until I fell willingly into oblivion and I fooled myself into thinking it was fun because I was at parties, with brand new people, listening to music I loved. In effect, I accidentally drank the OCD away as well as the fact that my sister was dead. I realise in hindsight that this was an unhealthy way of dealing with grief and OCD, but I was just going through the motions. It wasn’t a conscious decision. 

After the two weeks of numbness, followed by the two weeks of partying, I slowed down and returned to college. It was at this point that the obsessive side of OCD bit me in the neck, because I was spending twelve hour days in my own company, and my brain knew how important studying was to me, so it tried its best to sabotage my efforts. I had also stopped drinking due to said studying, so I wasn’t numbing my thoughts in any way.

For me personally, intrusive thoughts were the most difficult part of juggling grief and OCD. I had intrusive thoughts about the day of Jess’s funeral. I had intrusive thoughts about me swearing at her during an argument in June 2016. My brain kept flashing the image of her body in the undertaker’s office. The most difficult intrusive thought I’ve had was the image of my sister’s face being engulfed in flames (I assume this is due to the fact she was cremated). OCD placed this blunt thought onto the surface of my brain one day, and then hammered it further and further in. I thought I was going crazy. Every time I had sex with my then-boyfriend, I would suddenly see Jess going up in flames. It broke me each and every time, and made having a healthy relationship impossible. I didn’t share this with anyone at the time (not even him) because I thought people would assume I was crazy and I was ashamed that my grief was manifesting in this unfamiliar way. My company during these months was probably quite peculiar. I spent a lot of time abruptly walking out of rooms and hitting myself in the temples. 

As well as the images being played in my head, I began to hear the first three chords of the song played at Jess’s funeral in my head whenever I got into bed. Whenever I went to take a bite of food. Whenever I tried to concentrate on studying. Whenever I kissed the man I loved. It was extremely jarring, and would stop me in my tracks every time. 

Soon, the intrusive thoughts evolved from snippets of sounds or images, and became a running commentary in my head that my sister’s death was my fault. My brain picked apart the days preceding her death to try and blame me for what had happened. “You caused her stress when you rowed with her”…“You let brand new germs into the house that weekend”…“You’re a terrible sister”…“She’d still be alive if it wasn’t for you”…etc etc.

These images, sounds and accusations weren’t just fleeting thoughts that crossed my mind and then left. They were constant and torturing. They stabbed my brain every time I was thinking about something normal or when I was starting to feel even the slightest moment of peace in my head. The more traumatising I found an intrusive thought, the more my brain played it to me. OCD feels so spiteful.

Something that intrigues me greatly about OCD and my grief, is the fact that my compulsions became far less of a problem for a few months afterwards. The obsessions took over, but I didn’t feel the need to carry out behaviours or rituals to stop them. I think I felt invincible in a strange way. I felt like the absolute worst had happened, and if I was surviving after losing my big sister, then I could handle anything. I felt very capable because I was sat inside my head constantly – revising and studying – straight up challenging the OCD obsessions and thoughts that were playing constantly. I was sort of on a “F**K IT, BRING IT ON” vibe, so I managed to temporarily beat the compulsions. Weird. 

Words can’t describe how dark my head became in those months after Jess died. I’ve subconsciously blocked some of it out I think. It’s scary writing about it because I’m worried that if I acknowledge the existence of these thoughts, they’ll take over again. Various treatment methods have calmed them down over the last year or so, and they seldom happen now. I spoke to my family and my counsellor about the intrusive thoughts I was experiencing after a while, and just sharing them out loud with people gave me a certain level of control over them. I panic on the odd occasion when they do occur, because I’m actually incredibly scared that the OCD is pulling at me, and as soon as I let go, I’ll just fall right off again.

I’m sorry that this post has been heavy, but I made a promise to myself when I started this blog that I would share even the darkest moments I’ve spent in the company of OCD. I hope it allows at least one person to feel less alone about their own dark moments. We should all talk to each other more about our thoughts.

Trigger (not so) happy

Now that OCD is (mostly) under control for me, I find that it rarely instigates a random takeover on its own. It usually requires a little trigger – a doorway into my brain whilst holding hands with a seemingly innocent thought or event. OCD YOU WILY MINX. Triggers are the remaining scar from when OCD was at its worst for me. I try my best not to fall victim to the resulting obsessions and compulsions, but sometimes it’s disgustingly tempting. PSA: There will be numerous lists in this post. Mmmm, lists.

Okay, SO. Some examples of triggers:

  • Conversations about teeth
  • Eating crunchy foods (I can’t even eat Hula Hoops anymore – it really be ya own brain huh)
  • Talking about ageing 
  • Any kind of twinge or pain in my body
  • Any new mark that appears on my body
  • Anyone mentioning that they’re ill 
  • Conversations about bodily functions
  • My hands being too warm
  • My face being too warm 
  • Touching unfamiliar objects 
  • Touching magazine pages / book pages / any kind of pages that aren’t brand new
  • Small black objects in my food / on floors ETC ETC, YOU GET IT. 

I understand that any stranger reading this list would be like “Jheeeez what an uptight human!” When in fact anyone who knows me would assure you that I’m not uptight (I am a human though so 1 point for Slytherin). I don’t expect people to tread on eggshells around me and more importantly I really, REALLY don’t want them to. I want to be normal. So when something happens or something is said that awakens the OCD, I don’t usually voice it. There’s more to this than just trying to avoid driving everyone around me crazy, but I’ll explain that part later… 

In terms of the gravity of the fallback from the aforementioned triggering moments, it depends from one moment to the next. Some obsessions that can arise include: 

  • Becoming convinced that I’ve contracted a virus that has never been contracted by a human before
  • Becoming convinced that I’ve contracted an illness that is incurable and that is my own fault (Didn’t stop my four year nicotine addiction though, huh OCD??)
  • Worrying that my teeth will all crumble and fall out
  • Worrying that I might accidentally hurt somebody I love
  • Worrying that strangers want to hurt me (this one’s complex – I’ll do a whole post on this another time)
  • Worrying that I am fundamentally a bad person
  • Thinking about all of the pathogens on Planet Earth
  • Thinking about the germs on my hands
  • Being nervous of foreign objects in my food or in my bedroom 

These obsessions can lead to the urge to give into compulsions such as washing my hands, washing my belongings, washing my face, checking my teeth, bruxism, researching the internet or books looking for ‘reassurance’, hinting for reassurance from loved ones, memorising dates and events in my head, counting in my head, checking electricity sockets and checking my skin for foreign objects. There are waaaay too many to include them all. The symptoms and triggers above are a small proportion. A delicious little taster for ya. 

Before my diagnosis and treatment came into fruition, these triggers were constant and the obsessions and compulsions were unstoppable. I had completely lost my life to OCD. I didn’t have time for anything I enjoyed during my days because they were taken up frantically completing compulsions, whilst under the illusion that it would actually help in some way. These days, the triggers are less frequent and less strong. I still have moments – especially anything to do with my hands and viruses – but the key for me is to face the obsession head-on whilst avoiding the compulsion. 

Pour example, my fine curious friends, I’ve been staying in a rented house in North Wales this week. It’s idyllic, and for most people, it would be a chance for pure relaxation. For me personally, it is chilled and peaceful up to a point, but staying in a whole new house full of brand new germs is a little bit of a challenge. My hands have felt warm and prickly (not physically but psychologically) for the four days that we’ve been here. This then causes the obsessions to prod at my stress receptors seductively, and the urge to wash my hands flashes constantly within my mind. BUT I SHALL NOT GIVE IN, FOUL OBSESSIONS – PROD AWAY. I’ve learned that allowing the obsessions too much airtime, and giving into the compulsions leaves me in an unresolved cycle for hours and hours, complete with a large amount of fidgeting, frantic singing, and adrenaline. (Blessed are the ones who have witnessed these cycles of panic.) 

Therefore, to avoid the cycles of panic, I avoid giving into the obsessions and the compulsions. I give myself a set period during the day when I am allowed to obsess. Sometimes this is in the shower, or after breakfast, but I always make sure it’s in the morning. Once I have allowed myself these few minutes (without carrying out any compulsions), I try not to let obsessions take over my brain for the rest of the day. I only wash my hands when necessary, I am categorically NOT allowed to use hand-sanitising gel, and I have to touch anything that a normal person would. This low-level exposure helps me to keep the reigns on my OCD gooood and tight. 

In conclusion; OCD is a sneaky b***ard… Do not give your obsessions free-reign on the amount of airtime they get… And whatever you do, stop giving into the compulsions. Also, remember that however far through recovery you have come, there’s still a way to go because you’re a little human bean and we’re complex as hell. Try not to worry when triggers are still affecting your mindset. Try not to demonise yourself for slipping up and giving in. YOU KICK ASS AND YOU ABSOLUTELY WILL MAKE OBSESSIONS/COMPULSIONS YOUR B*TCH.

I’m not ‘precious’ – I’m mentally ill. 

Precious. Prissy. Diva. High-maintenance. These are all terms that I have had unwillingly thrust upon me during the last decade of my life. I’ll give you a few examples, shall I?

I once walked into a pub with an ex and subconsciously checked the bar (thoroughly  of course) before leaning on it with my elbow. He grinned from ear to ear and affectionately called me “precious”, which I thought little of in the moment.

On another occasion, when asked by an ex-boyfriend what he thought of me, his male friend called me “a bit prissy” due to my health and germ fears shinin’ on through no matter how hard I shamefully tried to smother ‘em (OCD is a persistent little bugger).

Whilst travelling with another ex-boyfriend, we ended up having to stay in a little back-street hostel that cost a couple of quid. The bedsheets were scratchy, unwashed sheets of fleece material, and the bathroom had brown smears and splatters up the wall. I tried to stay calm – believe me I tried– but OCD took full control of my brain and I freaked. I mean FREAKED. The ex-boyfriend took the resulting panic attack very personally and called me difficult.

Now, I wish more than almost anything that I didn’t have OCD. I wish that I could walk into rooms without checking surfaces. I wish I could be a relaxed, laid-back person that is able to improvise when travelling. I wish I didn’t suffer with panic attacks. Unfortunately, I do have OCD, and although I try my best to keep it in check, sometimes it just slips out of my grasp and I am not okay. I cry, I panic and sometimes – SOMETIMES – there’s a surprisingly large quantity of snot.

“Trust their reaction.” 

That’s something I say to myself and to others a lot when dealing with the emotions of people around us. If I offend somebody and I’m not sure why they’re offended, I ask them how I’ve offended them, and then I trust their reaction. If someone has a phobia that I personally do not identify with, I trust their reaction. If somebody is crying about something that I don’t understand being upset about, I trust their reaction. Trusting somebody’s reaction has a lot to do with empathy, and understanding that just because you don’t understand WHY somebody is feeling the way they’re feeling, it doesn’t mean you have to be unkind or judgmental.

Some of the people I’ve known – in some situations – have not trusted my reaction. They saw me feeling distressed about something that seemed ridiculous to them and they ridiculed me and called me names.

I’m not being confrontational by writing this blog post and I’m certainly not angry at the numerous people that have called me seemingly harmless names. I do however think that it’s an issue that needs to be addressed. It’s an especially relevant issue at the moment, with the likes of celebrities such as Mariah Carey and Kanye West being very forthright and upfront about their mental health.

Mariah Carey recently spoke out about the fact that she is has been living with bipolar disorder for years. This made me feel like hugging her, not only because she’s living with this illness, but also because she has been keeping it hidden for all these years whilst being continuously labelled a ‘diva’.

Mariah Carey has been known for high/profile incidences such as her meltdown on TRL back in the early noughties, followed shortly by a breakdown and a stay in a New York hospital. More recently Carey had an onstage mishap at a New Years Eve performance in New York which saw her leaving the stage prematurely.

There’s been a string of these incidents that have displayed to the world that Carey struggles with dealing with certain situations, and it was clear to many that she has in the past struggled with her mental health. Despite this public knowledge, Carey has been labelled as a high maintenance, difficult diva for her entire career before it emerged in 2018 that she has been suffering with bipolar.

I can think of many other cases of this lexical field of words being attached to people with mental illnesses. Frankly, it’s wrong, it’s narrow-minded and it’s archaic.

I realise that this blog post took a SHARP turn and not only did I (harmlessly) mention some actual experiences with people from my past, but I also (sort of) compared myself to Mariah Carey herself. I realise that sometimes people can be dicks regardless of mental health, and I’m not saying that because I have OCD I’m allowed to be difficult or rude to others. I’m just saying that we could all have a little more sensitivity towards others, and that before calling another person a name with a negative connotation, we can perhaps TRUST THEIR REACTION, because we never know what is going on privately in their heads.

A SMALL, SWEET VICTORY WAS HAD THAT DAY.

Okay, so this post is going to be very short. I’ve had a really busy week and my lil brain is working at v.low capacity (I called the remote control the “channel-changer” earlier). Today I’m going to briefly celebrate a small (but kinda yuge) victory I experienced this week. 

OCD makes flying very difficult for me. Lots of germs circulating in a small space from which I can’t escape. Lots of humans that might cough or sneeze. The fear of oxygen running out in the cabin. Air turbulence and a bumpy flight that may cause passengers to vom. My vomit phobia is the main reason flying is scary. I don’t actually care about the crashing and dying risk – I’m at peace with that possibility. But if someone were to puke near me? Nah fam.

Again, logic doesn’t really come into it when you have OCD. I’ve been on ten flights in the past twelve months, and they all went very smoothly (up until this week). Surely this was proof that flying is not necessarily a chance for germy disaster to strike? You’d think my brain would just chill out for a sec and let me catch a flight in peace. 

On Monday I went to the Czech Republic. I flew from Gatwick to Prague, and the journey was pretty sweet. I drank lots of water (hydration baby yeeah) and I listened to Angels and Airwaves on my headphones whilst wearing my fluffy bunny comfort mask (gangsters need sleep too). Nobody was sat behind me, and I slept for most of the flight. “This is all a bit too good to be true,” I thought to myself as I breezed through Prague airport with no queues and no hassle.

I had a lovely time in Prague. Ate all the carbs. Saw all the sights. Stroked all the dogs etc etc.

THEN CAME THE RETURN FLIGHT. It was an evening flight, and weirdly I didn’t feel anxious at all in the run-up that day. Usually anxiety about the flight home makes me ill on the last day of my holibobbles. The airport was a doddle. I bought a cute ring and I ate some tasty food. I went through security and made myself cosy in the departure lounge (in the front corner so that I was in a defensive position to fight off germs and murderers obv). Anyway… twenty minutes passed and the gate wasn’t open. Another 20 minutes and I started to feel a tad unsettled. The flight was supposed to be leaving soon. They finally opened the gate and I was all fired up. I was READY.

The queue slowly dripped onto the plane. As soon as I had climbed the stairs, made awkward eye contact with the pilot and entered the cabin, the smell hit me. VOM. PURE VOM. One of my biggest fears in life is being trapped on a plane with vom, and it was bloody well happening, wasn’t it. There’s no logic in why this particular situation petrifies me so much – I knew deep down that I would survive the situation, yet it still froze me to my core. Perhaps it was the total loss of control of my surroundings? What could I do? I needed to get back to London – and I’d paid for the flight. I stood in the gangway and sang Sail Away by Enya frantically under my breath whilst making really twitchy eye contact with everyone in the vicinity. Did I look crazy? I absolutely bloody did. Did I care? Did I f**k…

Long story short, I did it. I walked to the back of the cabin, I sat down in my chair, inhaled through my mouth and calmly talked myself through it. “Nothing bad is happening… I’m literally sitting down with my worst fear and nothing awful is happening”. Not only is it an absolute victory that I managed to deal with it calmly, it’s also a bloody good bit of accidental exposure in terms of CBT. I know now that I can sit on a plane that smells of vomit and get to where I need to be.

One small step for man, one giant leap for Mimkind.