What it's like living with obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD)
Hi! My name is Jemma Pollard. I am 15 and live in a small village on the Essex/Suffolk border. My OCD and fear of sickness began when my Nan died. I was in year 4 at Primary School - seven years old…
I remember pestering for my best friend, Liv, to come over for tea when my dad picked me up from school on the day I found out. Obviously, my dad would not let her come round because we went straight home and he told me that my Nan had passed away - I was so upset.
My mum was at the hospital with her family. She came home the next day and life was different, but back to normal in some ways. Despite normality returning, I worried 24/7. I began worrying if anybody else was going to die which led to me asking my family for constant reassurance. My family gave me the reassurance I wanted, thinking it was just a phase - not knowing this was actually the wrong thing to do. I got a lot worse. My mind started telling me, ‘If you don’t touch that part of the wall, your family will die’. The more I thought it, the more times I would have to touch the wall. In the end I would have to leave it, and that would make me panic more. It was a horrible feeling that I wanted to just go away.
I was a really fast runner at school and was selected for a cross country, competing for my school. Just before my race started a boy from the previous race crossed the finish line and was sick right in front of me. This started another worry - being sick. I started to ask if I was going to be sick, I would check sell-by dates on food and if it was the day it was out of date I would not eat it, I would make my mum try all my food, at its worst I had to have fresh milk and bread for my breakfast every day, just to get me to go to school.
My attendance at school started to suffer badly. As well as the sickness phobia, it would take me from 7am until 11am just to get my school uniform on because I couldn’t let my arms and legs touch the sides of my blouse or trousers, which as you can imagine is pretty much impossible. This would result in me not getting into school until lunchtime! PE became something to avoid as my friends were starting to notice my ‘weird’ tendencies. I became very slim, pale and a very awkward person to live with but my family stayed supportive.
In the end my family asked my GP to refer me for some help. We were told that, via the National Health Service, this would take months. This turned out to be so true, in fact, when my doctor referred me in November, it wasn’t until the following June that I got an appointment. Thankfully my parents had private insurance which meant I got to go to Brookfield House in Cambridge where Dr Kelvin confirmed I had moderate OCD with a fear of sickness. He suggested I have Cognitive Behaviour Therapy which I did, and started to feel a bit better. Unfortunately, 7 months after my therapy finished I hit rock bottom again and I went back to Cognitive therapy but it didn’t help at all, so I was referred to Dr McKeown.
However, in that space of time my parents took me out of school, which was the best decision, and took much of the stress off me and my family. I started a college course in hairdressing and was monitored by the Home Education Team. I made lots of new friends at college, one of whom also suffers with a fear of sickness. This was a real turning point for me - knowing that other people have the same thing.
Recently, Dr McKeown put me on medication as she didn’t feel I would have got any better with just the therapy. I still have NHS therapy sessions with Helen from Harlow and am feeling so much better. Things have got better…. I am just finishing my Hairdressing course and, as my confidence started to grow, I entered a singing competition and got to the area final. In December 2011 I was scouted by BGM Ltd in London and they have signed me to Major Music Academy where I am just starting to write and record my fourth song! The first song I wrote was about my worries, called “The Shadow of Me”.
I am starting a music course at college in September and have a part time job. None of this I would have thought possible last year as I never even went out with friends; I stayed at home or went out with my mum. I have bad days and good days but that’s the way life is even for people who don’t have these worries. I hope my story helps anyone else who is perhaps wondering why they are feeling this way, or are at rock bottom and feel so depressed.
With a little help and support, it will get better. You will do it and you will become someone amazing - you.