Ciara's story
Posted by
2nd Jul 2015

I'm Ciara.

I seem like a normal 15 year old - I'm in year 11 currently studying for my GCSE's, I love listening to and playing music and I also love hanging out with my friends, drawing and writing.

I'm just a normal teenage girl, right...?

Well, you see, I've had OCD for as long as I can remember. I was only diagnosed a year ago as my mock exams and a very turbulent relationship were a huge trigger that meant that the OCD had a much bigger impact on my life. However, I can remember being compelled to complete so many rituals and had struggled with obsessive thoughts years beforehand (and no, I wasn’t compelled to tidy and clean everything like most people perceive OCD to be - gotta love the stigma).

I had missed almost a whole year off school, perhaps even one of the most important school year of my education. Within that year, I had faced many challenges but I had also overcome so many of my struggles that would have seemed almost certainly unachievable to me at the time.

 We also introduced a new member to the family in early November of 2014 - my eight month old puppy, Allie. I was at such a low point in my life as someone very close to me had sadly passed away (which had effected the responsibility side of my OCD tremendously) and I was spending the majority of my days in bed sleeping and I wouldn't get up or leave my room. So my dad decided that the best thing for me was to have a new friend - a new puppy. Allie has made a dramatic difference to my life as she really does help me to escape from negative thoughts and to cope with my OCD and anxiety. Walking her also has helped massively to cope (it was part of the deal in the first place when we got her that I had to walk and clean up after her!). Walking really helps me to clear my mind and get some exercise in for the day (which is always a plus as the endorphins released whilst exercising helps a lot with anxiety or depression sufferers!).

Between October and February was also another extremely difficult time of my journey to recovering. I had started taking sertraline daily to help balance out the serotonin levels in my brain which, in turn, would help me to think more rationally and ease the symptoms of anxiety and OCD. The medication helped a huge amount but I struggled with self-harm within those months and was badly effected by that very 'turbulent' relationship I mentioned earlier.

But in a way, I am so glad that those four months had occurred as I have really been able to see my life in a more insightful way, looking to find a positive in every negative. Because that's what mistakes are for - they help to shape who we are today as we can learn and move on from them. I believe that there is a positive to every negative. The negatives in our lives help to define and accentuate all the positives, the joy and happiness that surrounds us all right now. I know for a fact that I wouldn't have achieved as much as I have done in my music if I wasn't a perfectionist, if I didn't suffer from OCD. And a lot of people would say it the other way round - "I wouldn't have OCD if music wasn't my strength". But I am so proud to have OCD as I wouldn't be the person I am now without it.

 I have been back to school for over a month now and I have just completed my 10 hour art exam that I wouldn't have ever imagined I could overcome. But without the support from my phycologist, my group therapy sessions, my family, my friends, my teachers and my dog (and myself) I know I wouldn't be where I am now. I have also been able to go to London with friends, play in many different concerts, and enjoy life a lot more in general. Furthermore, I am going to be starting a blog that outlines my experiences with OCD and anxiety and ideas of how to cope with it to help others my age who also suffer from OCD or anxiety.

I feel like a normal teenage girl again…

Okay, so I said the word 'normal' there. So I wasn't normal within that year? So I'm not normal because I have OCD? So millions of people in this world are not normal because they suffer from a mental illness...?

It doesn't seem quite right, does it? That millions of people have to deal with the stigma associated with mental issues that leaves them feeling isolated, lonely and inSANE, let alone putting up with their illness in the first place. And that is why I am so passionate about beating the stigma. It is something so close to my heart and I want to make a difference. I want to help people who suffer each and every day of their life with their demons, their mental illnesses. By sharing my experiences and being open about my mental illness, I can accept it. And others can too. Being open about our problems helps to spread awareness, it helps people to understand and it helps them to not be afraid of mental illnesses anymore. Yes, fundraising events are amazing to raise money for mental health charities. However, money cannot change how aware people are of mental illnesses. Awareness is the key to overcoming the stigma.

My diagnosis will not and should not define who I am.

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