Fighting against the compulsion ritual

OBSESSIVE Compulsive Disorder (OCD) has made Stephen Turner a prisoner in his own home. After sharing his experiences of OCD for a documentary to be released in 2013, he tells JO DAVIES more about his “dirty little secret”




THE ritual began at 5pm and would last until 5am when Stephen Turner would repeatedly check all doors were locked.

At the time he was living with his elderly mother in Barrow and working full time at MIND.

And nobody knew his secret.

FREELANCE filmmaker, and OCD sufferer, Claire Watkinson, is making a personal documentary Living With Me And My OCD.

Filming started in January and the feature is set for release in 2013.

It will include interviews with sufferers of OCD, including Barrow’s Stephen Turner, diary entries from Claire, the Bupa Race, OCD UK and many other organisations.

The documentary has already received huge support and positive comments, so much so that Claire was invited to attend an OCD awareness week in America this month, where she introduced her trailer and was invited to speak about her experiences.

She filmed the event which will be featured within the documentary.

For people interested in joining the campaign, Claire needs more interviews, people and interest.

To join the campaign and help raise OCD awareness visit:



Website: www.livingwithmeandmy

His neurotic behaviour took its toll on his health.

His weight plummeted from 18-and-a-half stone to eight-and-a-half stone in just over a year.

And eventually he was admitted to Ridge Lea, mental health hospital, in Lancaster, after suffering a breakdown.

Throughout his three separate stays in the hospital he never disclosed his obsessive compulsive disorder.

As to why he kept his OCD hidden, Stephen concedes: “I was ashamed of it. Yes, it was okay to talk about depression or anxiety, but going round the house from 5pm to 5am? It’s a scary thing to admit to yourself that you’re doing that.”

OCD is a chronic mental health condition that is usually associated with obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviour.

It is estimated that up to three in 100 adults and up to five in 100 children and teenagers have OCD.

OCD usually starts in early adult life, with men tending to report earlier symptoms than women. However, OCD symptoms can begin at any time.

Stephen believes his OCD is linked to a traumatic period in his teens. After losing his father at 11, his late mother remarried a violent man who used to beat them both.

“I had responsibility fairly early on. My mam was taken into hospital with mental illness.

“I was 15 or 16 and I had to look after my dog and pay the rent and lock up,” he says.

“At that early age there was a lot of responsibility.”

Stephen’s late brother was an alcoholic who would regularly come home intoxicated and leave the keys in the front door or the hob on, and he believes this may have triggered his OCD.

“Rather than have a fight with him I would wait until he had gone to sleep and come down and start the routine of locking the doors.”

At its most intense Stephen describes how debilitating his OCD became: “I used to be in tears at the front door making sure it was locked.

“I lived in Lorne Road at the time with my mam and had the constant routine of seeing if there was a key in the door.

“As I looked out a chap was passing in the street and he acknowledged me.

“It gave me such a shock.

“The sensation was unbelievable.

“There was a burning anxiety about it – a horrific fear and dread – every emotion being thrown at you at once.”

Stephen says his OCD is currently in check.

Now 55, he’s settled on Walney with his wife, Christine, and house cat Thomas.

He’s also an advocate for mental health issues, which is why he was interested in supporting Claire Watkinson’s documentary, especially once he discovered that the director herself has OCD.

Claire recently came through from Sheffield to film Stephen in his Walney home.

Living With Me And My OCD is Claire’s personal documentary about OCD, featuring interviews with other sufferers.

“I was having a bit of a rough patch and felt people didn’t understand it. I decided to turn the camera on myself and it evolved from there,” she explains.

“I’ve been very, very surprised by the reaction.”

Making the documentary has proved a cathartic experience for Claire.

“It’s helping me with my OCD because I realise I’m not on my own.

“When you’ve got it you think how can anybody understand what I’m going through?” says the 22-year-old, before explaining how her OCD manifested itself.

“I’ve had it as far back as I can remember.

“I used to control what I ate because I was terrified of being sick.

“I have intrusive thoughts where you think things are going to happen if you don’t do things.”

Claire and Stephen have both had cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), a form of psychotherapy, to try and cope with their disorders.

But they independently admit they are far from cured.

Having suffered from OCD, depression and anxiety for over three decades, Stephen hopes his breakthrough will come when he accesses the services of Newcastle Trauma Centre.

He is on the waiting list for an appointment.

“CBT and talking therapy has brought me a long way forward but it hasn’t stopped the nightmares I have in the day and night,” he explains.

“I said to the health authority that I can’t move forward if I’m having these nightmares.

“So I’ve hammered my case and it’s Dr Jebur (his GP) and Croftlands Trust, who have helped me with my case.

“I’m hoping for big things and know it’s going to be traumatic because I know there are things I’m going to deal with for the first time in my life. I’ve had things in my life that have held me back.

“CBT has helped me understand why I was doing the locking, but it hasn’t helped me sort through the fears of why it started.”

As to her prognosis of a recovery, Claire says with a sigh: “I hope so. I’ve met some people that I’ve interviewed who have it under control. It’s not really recovery, it’s just how you control it.”

Until that point she has the support of her new-found “OCD community” to draw on. And she desperately wants people to understand what it’s like living with OCD through her documentary.

“I’m really hoping, when it gets released, people will go ‘Oh My God’,” she says.

“I want it to do really well. I don’t want to just stop with this documentary.”

For other people affected by OCD, and Stephen believes it is far more prevalent than society admits, his advice is: “Speak to somebody straight away – anybody you feel safe with.

“The first barrier is the silence in keeping it to yourself.

“Once you’ve done that and somebody rationalises what you’re doing, that’s the step forward.”

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