My OCD has utterly dominated the second half of my life, the last 35 years or so, and has been a factor in almost everything I’ve done.
I haven’t been able to work full time since December 1988 and for all but three of those subsequent 28 years I’ve been relying on Incapacity Benefit or its equivalent. I’ve been unable to earn a living, never owned a car, never owned my own home, and can’t even visit the house where I was brought up, which was left to both my sister and myself by my mother when she died. I felt unable to go to her funeral. These are just some examples.
In the early days the opinions and attitudes of others affected me, but over the years I’ve become much less influenced by them.
That said, the atmosphere of acceptance at both Samye Ling and Lothlorien have been very welcome. Negative attitudes from e.g. GPs or psychiatrists just annoy me now and I am more inclined to challenge them.
I’m very open about my condition but I’m also quite presentable so the condition is often not obvious. Similarly, regarding stigma, I wouldn’t really know if I have failed to get this or that opportunity as a result of prejudice or simply because there was a better candidate at the time.
I’ve had huge emotional and practical support from friends and family.
For example, my sister often helps me financially when the state benefits don’t cover my needs – OCD can be quite expensive sometimes. Back in 1985 when I left Rutherglen (the family home where I’d lived all my life until then) one of my friends came and sat outside the house in his car for about an hour then drove me to his home, he and his wife (another friend from school days) supported me through what must have been a very shell-shocked few hours and helped me get on the train to London the next day. In London I stayed for a few months with another friend and her husband who was a psychiatrist. More recently I’ve also had a lot of support and offers of help from new friends I’ve made in the town I moved to last year, Gatehouse of Fleet. Chief among these are folks I’ve met through involvement with The Bakehouse – a venue in Gatehouse – where I perform regularly.
I’ve mentioned the ways in which my condition has held me back but, as with countless others, there are other facets to my life.
In addition to my degree in Philosophy (1981) I’ve also managed a postgrad diploma in IT (1998), a postgrad certificate in Writing for Children (2008), I’ve worked part time as an IT tutor in community education, I’m currently still employed as a sessional IT tutor at Glasgow University (2 days a year teaching GNU/Linux), I lived for 4 years at Samye Ling (a Tibetan Buddhist monastery near Lockerbie) where I did web and database work for the charity Rokpa and the Holy Island projects, and I spent 2 years at Lothlorien (a therapeutic community in Dumfries and Galloway) as a volunteer co-worker.
I’m also a writer, a storyteller and a performer of poyums (comic verse for children), I’ve had work published in magazines and elsewhere, have performed at a number of festivals, and just this past weekend at the Big Lit Festival I ran one workshop for kids and performed twice for adults. But I’m not well enough to do enough of any of this to earn a living. Oh, and I’m very modest