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OCD: A monster in my mind

Ex-ADRU | 08.10.2015 14:05 | Health | Other Press

Seriously ill people are just being abandoned to suffer and die. Like all broadcast programs, this edition of Horizon gave people a false impression that this isn’t so.

All the homes of people with OCD that the program showed were clean and tidy. That's not what my home is like. These people were either able to look after themselves, or else they had some one else to look after them.

When I was at the ADRU I discovered that three other patients with severe OCD who lived alone were at least as badly off as I was. We all had homes that were cluttered and strewn with rubbish. None of us had working central heating. One person had a broken window and mice had overrun her flat. Another had plaster hanging off the wall. The light at the top of my stairs doesn't work, & I had no lights in my kitchen, and no cooker. I also have exposed asbestos in my roof. In short, none of us were able to look after ourselves properly, and we weren't getting any help from anyone else.

In the program Richard tried to make a sandwich to show how difficult it was for him. I must admit, my gut reaction was one of anger. "Christ, is that all he's complaining about?" I thought. If some one still thinks they can get themselves, cutlery & crockery clean by washing, then they don't know how bad OCD can be. I have to use disposable plastic cutlery & paper plates. If my skin touches anything contaminated (almost everything is contaminated) I have to scrape the skin off with a razor blade. Richard was still able to drive his car. I can't. Also his diet didn't seem to be affected by his OCD. My diet is a nightmare, because my OCD restricts what I can eat so much. He wasn't throwing away clothes either. I have to throw away around £60 worth of clothes a month because they've become contaminated.

One of the worst symptoms of OCD is that things can become impossibly complicated and stressful; things which used to be so simple I could do them without thinking about it. I can be right in the middle of doing something when I come across a minor difficulty. I can't figure out how to solve it. I'm stuck. It will remain undone until I die. This sort of problem was not mentioned in the program.

Having said all that, it was a science program about treatments for OCD. It wasn't intended to cover the social and political issues of care for people with OCD, nor the availability of treatment. You can only pack so much into a one hour program. Plus my friend Kay (see 'NHS Mental Hell') thought the demonstration of how difficult it was for Richard to make a sandwich was so evocative, it made her cry.

What really infuriates me is that it’s impossible to get journalists to report how bad things are for people with OCD. I know that people suffering from severe depression also find it impossible to get proper treatment or care. I suspect that there are many groups of people who suffer because they are too ill to campaign for an improvement in their situation.

I tried to use the BBC complaints system to get them to improve their coverage of mental health issues. I pointed out that their programs were giving people a false impression, but that no one at the BBC responded to my offer to let them film my home, show them excerpts from my medical notes, & talk about how bad things really are. The response of BBC Complaints was "saying that you were welcome to suggest stories to ‘All In The Mind’ and/or BBC News does not equate to any obligation on behalf of ‘All In The Mind’ or BBC News to take them up nor that they would necessarily be able to reply... We will not therefore correspond further in response to additional points, or further comments or questions, made about this issue or our responses to it". In other words: 'Fuck off. We don’t care about the truth'.