To celebrate our 50th Anniversary, we are collecting stories from those connected to No5.
This is Hannah’s mental health journey, in her own words. She shares her experiences of seeking help with OCD and anxiety.
Content Warning – details of Hannah’s experience with OCD – including intrusive thoughts, panic attacks, anxiety, and discussion around food and medication.
Cliché it may be, but all the progress I’ve made to be where I am today has allowed me to reflect back on my battle with mental health. I have realised all of the unpleasant experiences that I was facing at the time were a result of my mental health and not something that every kid experiences.
Fighting the Guilt
I know, that as a person I am so lucky to be surrounded by loving people, my family and friends included. This is what made it really difficult for me to accept that I was struggling with poor mental health. I felt guilty for the way I was feeling because I had it much easier than so many others. But here I am, five years after my diagnosis, writing about it. Who would have thought?
From a relatively young age, I was presenting worrying behaviours that caused my parents to question what was happening. Though this was not something I noticed at the time, others noticed irregularities in the way I was acting.
I remember that one night, I had just finished having a major meltdown. When I say major, I mean huge, snot-bubble tears and all. I remember sitting in my bedroom, trying really hard to hide the way I was feeling. My Dad came upstairs and into my bedroom, and told me that it was okay to feel like this, but that getting help was something that we needed to think about as a family. All of this, this huge meltdown, the heart-to-heart with my Dad and deciding to finally get help, occurred from such a small issue surrounding food at dinnertime.
Seeking Medical Help
So, this led to doctor’s appointments and a working diagnosis of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and anxiety at fourteen. Both of which festered in me, presenting themselves through anxieties and intrusive thoughts, surrounding food, routines, unpleasant things happening, and obsessing over little things. For example, it was really common for me to worry about walking somewhere on my own. Even if this was to a building on the school site, in the middle of the school day, surrounded by other pupils. Now, though this is something that many people may relate to, I would be crippled with anxiety because of it. If I didn’t walk with a close friend, who knows what might have happened to me. I’d experienced my fair share of tough times at school, which meant that I often related this emotion to that cause. However, it was only after my diagnosis and tonnes of research that I realised this was an intrusive thought and the only way to get rid of it was to do the compulsion – the thing that took away some of the weight of the anxiety.
I have found that it is incredibly difficult to find relatable, simple information about mental health. When this huge thing was thrown at me, I was bombarded with books and research, all medical and scientific, I was overwhelmed. There was nothing that said to me, this is okay. It’s normal. And you will get through it. Instead, I was caught up on things like chemical imbalances and serotonin levels. Which, in my experience are confusing for all ages, even at nineteen I still feel overwhelmed by it, let alone at fourteen.
With this in mind, I didn’t sit on my diagnosis. I was determined to get past it. I was offered medicine as an option but determined fourteen-year-old Hannah refused. Power-through, I told myself. This led to countless therapists and counsellors. I tried hypnotherapy, aromatherapy, counselling, private therapists, the list went on.
Making The Call
The day arrived when I made contact with No5 to see a counsellor. My anxiety was so crippling that I could not phone. I could hardly sit next to my Mum, listening in to the call. However, the voice on the end of the phone was calming, they listened to me and instead of making me feel like a mentally unstable child, they made me feel accepted. They were there to help me, without any expectation of payment, they listened to what I had to say and they actually cared.
Just after the time of the phone call, I was kept home from school to return to my GP. A few days earlier My parents had caught onto the fact that I had a “clean” hand and a “dirty” hand when it came to eating. Noticing that only one hand would touch the food, even after vigorous cleaning at the sink. It was something that I didn’t notice. When they suggested I used the other hand to remove a piece of stringy cheese from my pizza, I genuinely could not bring myself to do it. Fast forward many hours of shouting and crying, me lying on my kitchen floor unable to breathe or move, we decided that it was best for me to go back to the doctors. I was put on sertraline at seventeen, and propranolol for my anxiety at eighteen.
One Counsellor, One Room
I started No5 counselling and I was there for every session. I have never been accepted and listened to by a counsellor like this before. I truly mean that. Not only did she listen to me and help me on my journey but she was interested in me as a person. When I had a bad OCD day, we discussed it and were able to laugh at some of the absolutely ridiculous things I did, whilst working to accept and cope with this part of me. If I was having a bad day I could sit in silence and she would wait, with patience and care, not pushing me, but making me aware that this was a place of support and comfort and nothing less. There were times that were dark and No5 brought a light into my week. I knew I wasn’t alone.
“No5 let me know I wasn’t alone.”
Whilst I was sat in the waiting room for my final session, I read about No5’s Young Ambassador scheme – I knew that when I was ready, I was going to apply. I wanted to do all I could to give back to No5 who had given me so much. One counsellor in one small room, helped me see the joy of life and get me back on my feet so I could be here today. I am just insanely grateful to my counsellor and that No5 exists.
I am a No5 Young Ambassador and it’s so fulling representing such a brilliant charity and helping other young people. I’ve shared my journey on radio and TV so help other young people. No5 inspired me to start my blog, Oh, to be a warrior, so I can let others see – this is okay. It’s normal. And you will get through it.
Hannah Pither – No5 Young Ambassador