Sis­ters take steps to help OCD suf­fer­ers

Kentish Express Ashford & District - - Kentish Express Time Capsule From Our Archives - By Rachael Woods

When Abbi Wil­letts be­gan wash­ing her hands un­til they started bleed­ing at the age of four her par­ents were told by doc­tors not to worry.

But the pre-schooler’s prob­lems es­ca­lated through­out her child­hood tak­ing an ever-tight­en­ing grip over daily life as Ob­ses­sive Com­pul­sive Dis­or­der (OCD) was even­tu­ally di­ag­nosed.

Mum Penny, 45, head of Ash­ford Prep School, said: “Abbi re­fused to touch door han­dles and if she had a shower and touched the shower tap after­wards, she would shower all over again.”

Trav­el­ling on pub­lic trans­port was fraught with dif­fi­cul­ties as Abbi, who is now 16 and a pupil at Be­nen­den School, did not want to keep any bag that she’d been car­ry­ing.

“If Abbi’s bag had been on a train then she wouldn’t go near it after­wards,” said Penny.

The ob­ses­sive hand-wash­ing con­tin­ued as Abbi wouldn’t wear clothes more than once with­out them need­ing to be washed, so jeans and jumpers would all need to go straight back in the ma­chine.

Her fam­ily who live in Din- gle­den, in­clud­ing sis­ter Saskia, 14, and dad Rob, 44, were roped into Abbi’s rit­u­als and felt help­less in the face of her dis­tress.

F a mi l y mem­bers wer e in­structed to turn taps on and off in the bath­room at her re­quest, or an­swer ques­tions in a spe­cific way, with Abbi re­peat­ing the same ques­tion un­til they had framed the an­swer ex­actly as she needed to hear it. Anx­i­ety also caused the young­ster to be phys­i­cally sick be­fore she went out.

“It sounds il­log­i­cal if you have never ex­pe­ri­enced OCD,” said Penny. Even Abbi knows it’s il­log­i­cal.”

Abbi and her sis­ter Saskia, gave a talk at Be­nen­den School about OCD, which re­sulted in a stand­ing ova­tion from fel­low pupils.

The sis­ters did a spon­sored 480mile circular walk around Be­nen­den on Sun­day and Mon­day and have raised more than £3,000 for OCD Ac­tion a char­ity help­ing other suf­fer­ers.

Friends and fam­ily joined them as they walked 12 times around a four-mile course, a route they usu­ally use to walk the fam­ily’s black Labrador Sedge –12 be­ing the num­ber of years Abbi has had the con­di­tion.

Abbi is now de­ter­mined to raise the is­sue of men­tal health prob­lems in chil­dren and her open­ness has prompted fam­i­lies to get in touch with Penny, to say they are wor­ried about their child.

The teenager has just taken her GCSEs and writ­ten a book on her ex­pe­ri­ences that is be­ing con­sid­ered by a pub­lisher.

Penny said: “It’s im­por­tant to get help with OCD early and if you get turned away by doc­tors keep in­sist­ing some­thing is done.”

Abbi is fac­ing a much brighter fu­ture with the help of an­tide­pres­sant drug Ser­tra­line and cog­ni­tive be­havioural ther­apy from Be­nen­den School coun­sel­lor Caro­line Clarke-Wooster.

Penny said: “She goes to par­ties, trav­els to London on the train and washes her hands for two min­utes, not 20 min­utes. Abbi has her down days but she is learn­ing to man­age her con­di­tion.

“Know­ing she is help­ing other chil­dren in dif­fi­culty is driv­ing her on.”

To sup­port Abbi’s mis­sion visit https://tinyurl.com/yc9c9bph

Saskia and Abbi Wil­letts, cen­tre, sur­rounded by fam­ily and friends on their 48-mile walk to raise aware­ness of Ob­ses­sive Com­pul­sive Dis­or­der

Abbi and Saskia Wil­letts

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