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Living with OCD

wayne ocd quote

My husband and I often joke that we wish my OCD took the form of tidying... sadly for both of us this is not the case!

OCD must be one of the most misunderstood conditions and if I'm honest, it does sometimes annoy me when I hear people make that same joke about tidying up or lining all your tins up a certain way in the food cupboard. How often do you hear people say, 'oh, I'm a bit OCD' when explaining away a quirk of theirs.

The fact is that jokes like this and the language used around mental health conditions can have an enormous impact on the person who is suffering.

Actually, OCD takes many forms and what many people don't understand is that it may be based on a lifetime cycle of mental checking, memory recall, catastrophising and doubt, in a way that becomes habitual and completely out of someone's control. Constant mental rituals, going over memories again and again, getting stuck in some kind of worry loop; it's so exhausting and debilitating that it can consume your life and, at times, it does.

I have had OCD for as long as I can remember really, although it wasn't labelled as such at the time. I believe it started with being badly bullied at school, and seeing my mum have a schizophrenic breakdown when I was 12 years old, when she was taken away for six weeks.

'What helped me cope as a child became something I couldn't stop'

At the time I internalised a lot of the problems I was having because I didn't want to worry my parents; my brother was also schizophrenic so there was not much time for me and I had no-one to share my worries with. The little mental rituals that began as a kind of coping mechanism became something I couldn't stop doing and became a much bigger problem.

OCD becomes part of your personality. Often, your mind doesn't stop, it can be hard to switch off, which might bring with it a certain creativity but it can honestly be a struggle to live with.

I did try to reach out for help externally as a teenager but to be honest there was little understanding at that time and a definite stigma around any kind of mental health issues, which is thankfully changing.

After a breakdown in 2006, I had some medication and treatment but for me the meds were not great and I found they just dulled all my feelings and simply masked what was going on, rather than helping.

What helps for me is counselling, a good and understanding husband, family and friends. I consider myself lucky that I am largely able to control things at work and have a job that I love, a very supportive manager and good work friends that are not just colleagues; as the Training Assessment Manager at RICS my job involves supporting other people all over the world and bizarrely I find the focus I give to others through it really helps.

Living with something like OCD is a bit like being on a lifelong rollercoaster. Although there are sometimes periods of time where I am doing ok, something like OCD can't be 'cured', it must be managed. You can't, as they say, run away from your mind, and even when times are good there's a part of you wondering how big the next wave that's coming along is going to be.

Talking to help break the cycle 

2022 has been tough going for me and I am currently undergoing counselling to help me further manage my OCD, which has escalated this year and resulted in personal difficulties with anxiety. This could be due to a stressful move, house renovations, work structural changes and pressures (but my great boss Heidi has been very supportive as always). We have also had to deal with the very sad recent loss of my mother in law, and the aftermath of Covid and sometimes struggling to work alone at home has also probably had an impact on me. Thankfully I have my beautiful double doodle puppy Baby Audrey, which does wonders for improving my mental health, and my husband of 10 years who is very good at listening and helping me manage my OCD, and most importantly allowing me to try and rationalise things.

I am a big believer in talking. Certainly, talking for me is a great help in breaking the cycle of doubt and worry and a tendency to catastrophise.

I am passionate that we remove the stigma of mental health and start talking about good mental wellbeing. I believe by sharing our experiences and helping each other we can make that change so thanks for reading this blog. If you're an RICS professional, please reach out to LionHeart and utilise the many wonderful resources.

Life is precious and so is our mental health!

Wayne Grainger-Lloyd is Assessment Training Manager at RICS and is also being trained to become a Mental Health First Aider (MHFA). As part of this personal commitment to helping others he volunteers as a mental health ambassador for LionHeart, the first RICS staff member to do so.
He accessed counselling through RICS EAP provider Vitality and, during OCD Awareness Week, wants to help make others aware of the support available through LionHeart and employee assistance programmes.

Find out more:

  • LionHeart offers free professional counselling to the surveying community via our own in-house counsellors in the UK and Ireland, and through our trusted, accredited partners elsewhere. Read more
  • We also offer youth counselling through a specialist provider to the children of RICS professionals based in the UK, aged over 12. Read more
  • 'What's OCD and how can we help?' Read an explainer from our counsellor Bernadette Antoniou here

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