Teenager turns to poetry in bid to wash away OCD

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A teenager who needed to wash his hands up to 40 times a day has described how he used poetry to help control his obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD).

Ronan Thornley, 14, from Longley, Sheffield, started suffering from OCD last year.

He said it got so bad it began to dominate every aspect of his life but therapists from Sheffield Children’s Hospital encouraged him to use his love of creative writing to combat the condition.

“Having OCD really takes over your life,” said Ronan.

“Mine got so bad I couldn’t go out with friends and I was struggling to make decisions by myself.

“It was hard for people to understand as they don’t think young people can get OCD.

“When my therapist suggested using my poetry to help express my feelings I felt relieved as it was something I felt comfortable doing. I really enjoy writing poems at school and it worked really well to see my issues on paper in front of me.”

Ronan, who is a student at Sheffield’s Parkwood Academy, said he is speaking up about the disorder ahead of OCD Awareness Week, which starts on Monday.

Ronan was treated at Centenary House, a child and adolescent mental health facility run by Sheffield Children’s NHS Foundation Trust.

“The staff showed me that they were people I could trust,” he said.

“They would explain to me that I wasn’t going to catch an infection from having a cup of tea or sharing sweets like I thought, and would do all these things so I could see that they were fine after.

“One day they took me to Tesco and we bought a pick-and-mix and sat and shared the sweets. It was hard for me but that is when I knew I could beat my OCD and the sweets were really tasty.”

Sara Gilles, a child and adolescent mental health practitioner who treated Ronan, said: “We knew Ronan had a talent of writing poems and had even had one published so we thought it might be a great way of helping him think about his hopes and fears.”

The trust said that at the beginning of his 40-week course of therapy Ronan was writing: “My head full of thoughts, and eyes full of tears, I’m tired, depressed, my life looks a mess.”

Towards the end of his treatment he was writing: “I fought for control, and my chances looked good, I gave it my all, I was there I had done, OCD is in the corner, I took my life back.”