CHAPTER 1: It Started In The Playground


mental health ocd story

Starting school is awful for any child. You’re put in this uniform that is ugly and your shoes make your toes hurt. Then you’re dropped off and left for seven hours alone. I was five when I started infant school. My uniform was a standard grey dress, white polo and a red cardigan. My shoes had velcro and yes, they hurt my toes!  Honestly starting school was the icing on my buggered up cake and I guess looking back you can see it was going to cause problems (a lot of problems). I was living in a household filled with domestic abuse. At this time in my life I had only one friend, my other friend was going to a different school and everyone from my nursery were too. Lucky for me my one friend was at my school but in the year above as she was only one month older than me, which she would always point out! My school hours were 9.00-3.30 and because I was born in September I didn’t get to do the half day thing, age really was a big thing in my day I’m working out now.

School wasn’t like the hour at nursery I was used to: we had rules and a lesson times and we just sat at strange things called our table. I was with four other people but they didn’t have any interest in me. In my first weeks at school we were all learning to read, something I struggled at and even then felt embarrassed when we had to read aloud to our group.  As the months went on I found myself looking for friends at playtime. Jessica had her group of friends around her so I needed to find mine. The playground in which I found myself in was big to me and it was so loud. If you weren’t about to be hit with a football you were going to walk in the middle of Emma’s make believe pony house and be shouted at for “ruining the game”. I couldn’t find anyone, well I lie I could find many people but no one wanted an extra friend. I would see people in groups playing and I would try and join but when the group knew each other since they were babies you know your not going to fit in.

I spent a lot of time on my own at playtime. I would walk around the outskirts of the playground a few times or I might take a seat on a bench and watch others having all the fun. Sometimes my best friend would pop over and we would talk but she had been there for a year already and made friends and didn’t want the “younger” one around! There were many others like me, alone but I found they liked it that way, more so than me, I bloody hated it! At lunchtime I didn’t get to sit with everyone else, I had to sit on the “problem” table; as it was called. This was for kids who had allergies, were vegetarian, had to eat set meals or who had problems eating different foods aka: me. I felt then that I was different to others and sitting on this table only added to this fact. I was a girl with short hair, all the other girls had long hair. Most people had a sibling, I didn’t. Most girls did dance after school, I wouldn’t. I didn’t have friends, everyone else did.

Going from my home to school everyday was a struggle. I would throw massive tantrums and cry that I didn’t want to go. The evening before school I would make out I felt sick and I thought it be best if I was off. I remember dropping some of my ham on the floor and thinking that looks like sick and I would run around saying “I’ve been sick” or I would grab my mums talc and put it on my face so I looked pale! You would think living in that environment would make me want to be away from home but it didn’t, I wanted to be at home with my mum.  

The seasons changed as did our lessons. Then something new happened. It was cold that day, very cold and wet. I was out in the playground, on my own as per. In our playground we were lucky enough to have a wooden climbing frame, it was pretty big and had loads of places to hide. On this day I was standing by it just minding my own when it happened. It hit me like a football. I don’t know where or why it did, but it did. The thought entered my head and that was that. “If you pick up the leaves and put them in your pocket, your mum will be okay” echoed in my head. My stomach dropped and I set out on my mission. There I was, on the floor picking up wet, soggy and slimy brown leaves and shoving them into my pockets. I tried my best not to miss one but my pockets were getting fuller and fuller. My hands were covered in mud and my coat and knees were damp but that didn't matter, mum was going to be okay. I had saved her. My friend had helped me, mr OCD.

Mr OCD would come up at many times and the things he would say do could differ each day. One day I spent all afternoon in the toilets cleaning the mirrors, god knows how my teacher didn’t notice?! I remember using paper towels and the bars of rank soap to wash away all the spatters on the mirrors. I even cleaned the sinks after. OCD had told me to and with the feeling of anxiety rising I did it. Another thing I had to do was draw my mum a picture every morning in school and give it to her before she left. I would run over to the plastic trays where the paper and crayons were kept and draw her lines and circles. It was a protection photo, if she had it she would be safe. I also had to take to school a piece of toilet roll with her perfume on. I couldn’t smell it because the point of it was I had it. Plus smelling it would make me think of home and then make me feel worse.

Miracles do happen, funny enough, I made a new friend. This girl in the year of mine was lovely and she had an amazing coat that was all the colours of the rainbow. I liked her and she liked me and that was enough. Of course I still had my other friend, the one who I couldn’t tell anyone about or even see. But he was there, watching and waiting. Ready to help me save the day again.

Mum was going to be okay, I had saved her. My friend had helped me, mr OCD.
— stacey (age five)
Story TimeStacey BarberOCD