For most my life I have struggled with my thoughts. I have always looked at other people around me and wondered how they can look so calm faced with the same situations as me. The realisation that I simply don’t deal with things in the same way as other people came as a huge shock. I literally had no idea that I was different in any way which is odd because, as I said, my peers seemed so calm whilst I was in a state of complete anxiety. I was diagnosed with Pure OCD.

I can’t pinpoint the exact age I was when this started happening to me but my earliest conscious memory of one of  these attacks was in my third year of junior school. My class went to France to stay in a big house for 5 nights. A thought occurred to me that my family in the UK were going to move before I got home. The thought grew and grew until I was absolutely convinced it was reality. I was stranded in France with no where to go, never to see my family again. PANIC! ANXIETY! The teachers tried their very best to placate me but there was absolutely no changing my mind, I was convinced. I remember being slapped round the face by one of the teachers for being hysterical. It didn’t help, if anything, it made it worse. The terror was so acute that I still remember the feeling to this day, nearly 40 years later. The relief when I got to Newhaven Port after sailing from Dieppe to see my mum and dad standing there was immeasurable.

My anxiety and pure OCD has actually got worse as i’ve got older and I think that is because the more I get exposed to different things in life, the more my mind creates things to think about in an unhealthy way. At its worst, I can have very frightening self harm thoughts including those of suicide, I can visualise worst case scenarios and I become unable to see any other way that things can possibly end. At the end of an episode, when I finally come out of the other end, i’m left feeling exhausted and nervous of the next time it happens. 

A few years ago it all came to a bit of a head, As a result of a particularly bad and recurring thought, I started to feel a bit agoraphobic. Not ideal when you own a business or when you’re in rehearsals for a show. When these thoughts happen, it becomes quite hard to function properly. For the most part people don’t notice and I can just about function, I might just seem a bit preoccupied or vacant. It’s not like the OCD that people are used to. I don’t have to say several words over and over again or ceremoniously touch things loads of times. It’s more about thoughts that turn in to compulsive ones. 

So I went to see a mental health professional. 

I have had CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) before and it really didn’t work so going again (this time to someone else) seemed a bit redundant. But I needed help and so I went. 

It was a completely different experience to he first time. The therapy involved many many different techniques that I won’t go in to in too much detail as I am not a therapist and wouldn’t  dare advise on any one else mental health challenges. I believe that problems of this nature should be commented on only by a professional. 

I will, however,  share a couple of exercises that have helped me no end through all of my troubles…

* When feeling low and full of anxiety, it is important to smile. Smiling releases endorphins that make us feel good. It absolutely works. It seems the most ludicrous thing to do in the middle of a frightening moment, but give it a go, you’ll be very surprised.

* Sleep, Always go to bed the same day as you wake up. No TV in bed (or phones). Beds are for sleeping and sex (if you’re lucky). 

* Try not to avoid the subject. Whatever anxiety you face, it’s important to train yourself to face the situation without avoidance. This means that you will be better armed for the next time you have a thought that becomes out of control. 

* Wear an elastic band around the wrist and when thoughts start to become hard to control, flick it. It brings you back and reminds you that you’re ok and that it’s just a thought. 

* Spend time with your pets. The freedom and enjoyment that they have reminds you that life can be carefree and enjoyable. 

* Lastly, mediation really helps me. I live a very busy life and to take 10 minutes to remember to breath is priceless and absolutely helps me cope day to day. It is my most valuable tool when dealing with performance or if i’m in a show. Most people that have worked with me in recent years will have seen me meditating whilst they were getting prepared in other ways. Its become an OCD all of its own! (Not sure that’s a good thing).

Busy people have busy minds and it’s really important to remember when the customer is rude or the salesman in pushy or the parent is impatient that they may be suffering in silence. We all battle our demons and life is hard. Outwardly, I like to portray a very happy go lucky character, but occasionally, this can be a mask to wear rather than how I actually feel. 

I guess i’m sharing this to own up, come clean and explain that sometimes life can get on top of us all and it’s ok not to be ok every now and then. We all have our challenges and this is mine. The mind and it’s mental health should be treated as any other part of the body, it can make you very ill but it can also be treated. Help is out there, give yourself a break. 

Stuart Simons – OCD Sufferer

Privacy Preference Center