Catherine Benfield wasn’t diagnosed with OCD until she was was 31, after she had her first child, though it would appear she’s had it all her life. She recovered with the help of therapy – and by creating a character who personifies her obsessive-compulsive behaviour.
“She’s got the big ears, because she’s like a startled hare, she’s listening out.
“She’s bedraggled, because she’s been through a lot and she’s normally having some kind of panic.
The big eyes are about making sure she’s keeping an eye out for danger.
“The big legs – for running,” like a frightened hare, says Catherine Benfield.
You have now met Olivia.
She is a visualisation – a character created by Catherine to personify the condition she has lived with since she was a child.
The O in Olivia stands for OCD, an abbreviation for obsessive-compulsive disorder.
People are often mistaken about OCD, Catherine says. So many people think it’s about being very fastidious and organising your pens very precisely on your desk but it’s actually a serious anxiety-related mental health condition, involving intrusive obsessive thoughts, images and fears.
In an effort to prevent one of her fears coming true, Catherine would feel compelled to carry out a repetitive physical or mental act – in technical terms the fear is the “obsession” and the repetitive act is the “compulsion”. This would provide temporary relief from the anxiety, but then it might return, compelling her to repeat the behaviour again and again.
As a teenager she was terrified to be the last one to leave the house, because of the fear that it would burn down once she had gone – she would compulsively check the cooker was switched off and switches unplugged. And to ensure everyone was safe she would compulsively lock all doors and windows, and remove all trip hazards. These routines could take hours to perform, and if one thing disturbed the process she would start all over again. MORE