Gemma Myers can’t leave her Redcar home until it is absolutely spotless.
From plumping up the scatter cushions to wiping down every surface, the 24-year-old ensures her two-bedroom bungalow is up to her exacting standards.
Diagnosed with OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder) three years ago, Gemma’s “vicious circle” of obsessional thoughts and compulsion to carry out rituals which includes cleaning is something she has lived with for several years.
Now her story will be featured on Channel 4’s Obsessive Compulsive Cleaners tonight at 8pm.
It began when she was 18 and a new mum to Kaysha, now five.
“I had postnatal depression and although my daughter wanted for nothing, I just couldn’t sit and cuddle her or play with her on the floor,” said Gemma, a line manager for a care company.
“Every night after she’d gone to bed I’d lock myself in the bathroom and sob because I was so ashamed, I felt like such a failure, like such a bad mum for not loving my daughter properly.”
Gemma went to see her GP and was diagnosed with postnatal depression and stress anxiety disorder.
“I couldn’t control my feelings but I could control my environment and could control where things went,” she said.
Things became so bad that she reached a point where she didn’t leave the house and in 2012 she was diagnosed with OCD and bipolar disorder.
“I would go through periods where I was on top of the world and thought I was a great person and then I would come crashing down.“Some days I’d wake up and think I can’t face things, I don’t want to be here and other days I’d jump out of bed excited about what the day would bring.”
Now on medication and having received counselling and undergoing cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) Gemma is keen to spread the message that help is out there.
“I’m starting to get better,” she said. “The big message I want to put out there is if you’re feeling like I was don’t sit and think you’re a failure, you’re ill and you need help. There is light at the end of the tunnel.”
Gemma applied to go on the TV programme after sitting watching the show with her then boyfriend and friend.
“They’d said ‘that’s you’ and ‘you’d never be able to go in a house like that’ and it gave me that determination,” she said.
“Also it had got to the stage with Kaysha that she’d rather do the polishing with me than play Barbies and I thought ‘no this has to stop’.”
After a series of interviews and filming sessions Gemma – who admits even her two Chihuahuas Oscar and Winston get a quick anti-bacterial wipe swept across them – was picked to be on the show and was sent to Norwich to be teamed up with a mum who struggled with hoarding.
She said they bonded sharing their stories with each other and have kept in touch.
“I’m quite minimal and she hoarded everything,” she said.
“The hardest bit was seeing her eight-year-old daughter’s bedroom as there was only a tiny bit of carpet with nothing on it.”
Gemma says her OCD focuses predominantly on having the beds made and surfaces wiped down and she carries a bottle of hand sanitiser around with her.
“But because I keep on top of it I don’t have to spend hours cleaning,” added Gemma, who admits she’ll run a bathroom wipe around the sink after Kaysha has cleaned her teeth despite already doing it as part of her morning clean.
“I hate dust and the beds always have to be made.”