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"OCD has been all-consuming and has felt life-threatening."

Aimee tells her story of how her battles with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder lead to her joining the Harbour team.

I grew up with the constant fear of the unknown. I didn’t know what was going to happen next, and that would terrify me. It would terrify me so much that I felt the unrelenting urge to try and control what would come next for me. I would overthink so much about what would happen, and become so anxious about it. These were obsessions. And I would do absolutely anything to make sure that nothing bad would happen to me and other people. These were compulsions.

This started when I was seven years old. And it took ten years from then to be diagnosed with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. But this diagnosis wasn’t the end of an exhausting and ever-ritualistic childhood. It was the start of an even more exhausting and ritualistic adulthood. I had much more awareness of the world around me, which translated to having that much more to be scared of. 

My fear of the unknown only grew. My fear of contamination only grew. My hands only got redder from washing and my elbows only got more bruised from using them to open doors.

And it has always been really tough for other people to understand what’s going on inside my head, because often my compulsion doesn’t make any sense and doesn’t correlate to what I’m scared of happening. For example, I have to brush my teeth in a pattern or else I think I’m going to be sick. What relevance does brushing my teeth have to sickness? I don’t even know that, I just feel the two are strongly bound. The thought of being sick is just awful to me. Most of the time, my mind would tell me I’d rather die than be sick.

For a long time, OCD has been all-consuming and has felt life-threatening; that’s just what the illness is. It completely takes over large portions of life, without our consent, making life very difficult to cope with. Every few seconds a compulsion occurs, whether it be physical and outside the body, or inside our heads.

Managing this illness is something I always have, and always will battle. But over the past six years since my diagnosis, I have been learning more and more about mental health, and how to use the fact that I have a mental illness to my advantage, rather than it just being a disability. I have realised that I can relate to so many other people on another level, and my experience can be utilised to help others understand their experiences. I realised that having a mental illness doesn’t make me weak: I have been empowered to make a difference.

This is what has inspired me to work for The Harbour, a crisis peer support helpline, where I can use my experience of mental ill-health to help those who are struggling, and start navigating a path to a future they are happy with. Even if this is just taking small steps towards their goal, it is amazing to see so many people find even just one thing that may ease their pain, even if it’s just for the night, even if it’s just giving them a little bit of respite. 

Seeing and helping aid the hope come back into someone’s heart makes me feel thankful, not only on behalf of the person with whom I’m speaking, but thankful for my mental illness; without it, I wouldn’t be able to help other people through theirs.

The Harbour is an informal, non-judgemental, out-of-hours mental health service for anyone over the age of 18 in Portsmouth, Fareham, Gosport, Havant and East Hampshire, who needs short-term support in times of great difficulty or is struggling with poor mental health. Open Friday to Sunday, 4:30pm to 11pm, call or text 07418 364911. For more information, click here: https://www.solentmind.org.uk/...

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