After recovering from OCD, I’m sharing my experiences through theatre: Presenting “I’m Just a Little Bit OCD”
I started experiencing OCD symptoms very early, around the age of 5. One of my earliest OCD memories is being convinced every day that I was going to die.
These fears stuck with me for years—I remember once telling a friend in French class that I thought I was having a heart attack, and it felt so real. I can still imagine the prickling sensation in my left arm, a sense of chest pain, and my heart racing. On reflection, these must have been the result of anxiety from OCD. Even today, I imagine similar alarming sensations and become convinced that I feel them physically.
Since childhood, I have gone through many different themes of OCD. In my teen years, I began getting violent, offensive, and disturbing thoughts and images every day, on an hourly basis. At this point, I didn’t know I had OCD; I just thought that I must be a terrible person who wanted, deep down, for horrific things to happen to the people I loved most.
To this day, that was one of the hardest themes I have experienced. At the time I, like many others, thought OCD was simply a passion for cleaning and organizing. I had no way to explain what was causing me so much distress, other than to share my thoughts with others, which felt like a one-way ticket to prison. I felt like I couldn’t take the risk.
The long journey from diagnosing myself to eventually finding effective treatment
I diagnosed myself at age 17 from a Wikipedia page about OCD that I was reading for a college project—a discovery process I would not recommend. This was in 2011, when mental health wasn’t spoken about as much, but this article, despite its inaccuracies, gave me hope and the knowledge that I had mental illness and wasn’t just a dangerous, evil person as I had feared.
Over the next few years, my symptoms slowly disappeared—or so I thought. When I started university, the main theme of my thoughts had changed from disturbing and violent thoughts to moral scrupulosity. At the time, as I hadn’t had any formal diagnosis or treatment, I thought I had beaten OCD and was trying to be a “good person.” This made it hard for me to watch comedy shows, which I had previously loved.
It wasn’t until a friend with knowledge of OCD explained to me that “if you feel anxious and guilty watching comedy shows, and then feel compelled to tell everyone you don’t like what is being said because you feel responsible for what they are saying, maybe you still have OCD?”
It was such a “lightbulb moment”: OCD had been there the whole time! So I finally went to get some help. For a while, I did talk therapy and CBT, but no one gave me an OCD diagnosis—they just treated me for anxiety. All the while, my life was still being ruled by obsessions, compulsions, and avoidance.
Eventually, I got some help with the NHS, a full 21 years after I had started experiencing symptoms and 9 years after I had self-diagnosed. I began to feel hopeful and could see improvements. I could even watch standup comedy comfortably again.
Then March 2020 happened, and my theme shifted again—this time, to responsibility around COVID. That’s when I found NOCD. It must have taken about a week from my very first inquiry to setting up my first appointment. I couldn’t believe this, as I was used to waiting months to get help!
My NOCD therapist gave me an official diagnosis in our first session and worked with me each week to achieve realistic and personalized goals. If something wasn’t working, I could contact my therapist between sessions to come up with a solution rather than having to wait a week feeling frustrated. The app that accompanied my treatment provided resources to help when I experienced a spike and ways to set out your ERP goals in a clear and easy to follow way. I honestly can’t recommend NOCD enough (please visit https://info.treatmyocd.com/bit-ocd-play for information on treatment options).
Sharing my experiences through theatre
Over the last 4 years, as I’ve battled OCD and learned to manage it, I’ve been dedicated to sharing my experiences with others, so more people can understand what OCD is really like. Connecting my personal experience with OCD and my passion for theatre, I wrote an original play called “I’m Just a Little Bit OCD,” and Concept Theatre is bringing it to the stage in June 2022!
Concept Theatre, where I am co-Artistic Director, is an award-winning theatre company in the UK specializing in creating high-quality, innovative theatre with various styles for audiences of all ages. “I’m Just a Little Bit OCD” follows sisters, Tilly and Grace, through episodic scenes. Tilly starts having intrusive thoughts about harming her family, quickly dragging her into cycles of compulsions and isolation, and the sisters learn to come to terms with Tilly’s new reality.
Alongside their story, brutally honest but comedic monologues are performed by Matilda, a podcaster and OCD advocate, performing a live show directly to the audience. Filled with anxiety and frantically searching for answers, Tilly comes across a podcast all about intrusive thoughts and OCD. It is only now, sitting in the audience, that she can begin to reflect on her own journey from discovery to diagnosis, and finally, recovery.
The show is an hour long, with a 30-minute Q&A afterwards, giving the audience a chance to ask questions and share their thoughts on the show. Several venues will have quiet spaces, allowing audience members to take some time away from the play if they are finding it distressing and come back as and when they feel ready.
Performances take place in the UK on Saturday, 11 June at 3:30 & 7:30pm and Sunday, 12th June at 2:30 pm at the Cockpit Theatre; Sunday, 19th June at 7:30pm at the Southwark Playhouse; and Sunday, 26th June at 3:00 & 6:00pm at the Chickenshed. If you’re interested in coming to the show, visit https://www.concepttheatre.co.uk/bitocdplay to learn more about all our performances and to purchase tickets.
Creating the show alongside others with OCD has helped me to be open about my own experiences and feel much less alone. I have felt the shame surrounding my intrusive thoughts vanish as I began to realize that these images and thoughts that once terrified me and filled me with guilt and anxiety are both common and treatable.
I wanted to share this experience with others who also have OCD, so in addition to the performances, we are offering creative workshops for adults with OCD. If you are in the UK, you can participate and explore your lived experience with OCD using theatre practices on Friday, 3rd June from 6:45-8:45pm and Saturday, 4th June from 1:15-3:15pm & 3:45-5:45pm at Theatre Deli.
The workshops will be facilitated by myself and Charlie Blowers, the Artistic Director of Moving Pieces Collective. If you would like more information or would like to book a space, email email@example.com, and we’ll send over some more details.
I know OCD is a serious topic, but as it’s been around most of my life, I’ve found ways to inject humor into my experiences, and I hope to do the same for you. Whether it’s by counting down our “three best bullsh*t OCD memes” or taking part in the interactive “How OCD are you?” quiz. (Spoiler alert: the quiz is pointless). We hope to educate and entertain our audience, creating an experience that helps those with OCD feel less alone. If “I’m Just a Little Bit OCD” sounds like the play for you, come join us at one of our shows in London this June!
NOTE: Since 2019, Concept Theatre has been supported by OCD Action (The UK’s largest OCD charity) and have performed snippets of the show at several of their events. OCD Action shares our passion for sharing real OCD experiences through theatre: “We feel strongly that this production should be seen by as many audiences across the country as possible. ‘I’m Just a Little Bit OCD’ cleverly and uniquely combines comedy with an accurate portrayal of the condition—which is something we very rarely see.” We are thrilled to work alongside them and recommend their website to anyone wanting to know more about OCD.
If you’re struggling with OCD and are looking for treatment that can help you get better, NOCD is here for you. Our licensed therapists deeply understand OCD and are specialty-trained in treating OCD with ERP. We work side-by-side with the OCD experts and researchers who designed some of the world’s top OCD treatment programs – and that means the best care for our members. You can book a free 15-minute call with our team to get matched with one and get started with OCD treatment.
Ria Fay, author and director of "I'm just a little bit OCD," has had Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder for over 20 years and decided to create a show that educated and entertained people whilst tackling some of the more unspoken themes of OCD. For more information, visit https://www.concepttheatre.co.uk/bitocdplay.
NOCD Therapists specialize in treating OCDView all therapists
Licensed Therapist, MA
I started as a therapist over 14 years ago, working in different mental health environments. Many people with OCD that weren't being treated for it crossed my path and weren't getting better. I decided that I wanted to help people with OCD, so I became an OCD therapist, and eventually, a clinical supervisor. I treated people using Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP) and saw people get better day in and day out. I continue to use ERP because nothing is more effective in treating OCD.
Licensed Therapist, LCMHC
When I started treating OCD, I quickly realized how much this type of work means to me because I had to learn how to be okay with discomfort and uncertainty myself. I’ve been practicing as a licensed therapist since 2016. My graduate work is in mental health counseling, and I use Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP) therapy because it’s the gold standard of OCD treatment.
Licensed Therapy, LMHC
I've been a licensed counselor since 2013, having run my private practice with a steady influx of OCD cases for several years. Out of all the approaches to OCD treatment that I've used, I find Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP) therapy to be the most effective. ERP goes beyond other methods and tackles the problem head-on. By using ERP in our sessions, you can look forward to better days ahead.