My name is Shaun Flores. I have OCD. OCD changed my life. It was the worst thing to ever happen to me, but I continue to be the worst thing to happen to OCD. Looking back at life, I took my mental health for granted. I was chasing every single opportunity provided to me. I was raised on the bedrock of ideas that I must succeed regardless of the cost.
I am a creative who knows no boundaries, an influencer aiming to have the right influence on the world. I typically focus on mental health, well-being, and lifestyle. I am now aiming to qualify as a life coach, using my experiences from the creative world and my personal world to help guide others on their path in life.
I have delivered two TEDx Talks, TEDx 2022 & TEDx 2018. In 2018 I gave a TEDx Talk about the education system and how we can do more to ensure no one is left behind. My second TEDx talk was on “the straitjacket of masculinity and male mental health” in 2022. A third TEDx Talk remains in my periphery to help raise awareness of OCD and raise funds for OCD research, which remains severely underfunded and under-researched.
On Christmas day my dad died
In many ways, my life changed when the man who was my hero, my inspiration, and who loved me died on Christmas day when I was six years old. I witnessed my mum crumble in an attempt to stay sane. She endured six months of depression, during which she left her shoes on top of the car, and keys in the door and had several panic attacks. My mum truthfully raised me amidst severe hardship and I owe it to her for being alive to this day. I know how much she loved me and my existence is proof of this.
Looking back recently at my school records, I underwent speech therapy as a stutter emerged due to the loss of my dad. I never contemplated the extent of his absence and the profound effect it had on my life.
Christmas day to most is a time for joy, but for me, it became another kind of day. I aim to now celebrate life for the ups and downs. I refuse to revel in only the peaks or only the troughs. I now find myself in a renewed state of gratitude that I never before realized.
OCD’s emergence: how did it all begin?
My life since April earlier this year has been full of upheavals. I had my OCD diagnosis (in April), then my stepdad ended up in a home, as he has vascular dementia, which is progressively getting worse. My aunty, who helped raise me after my dad died on Christmas day has been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. I also tore my ACL (Anterior Cruciate Ligament), MCL (Medium Cruciate Ligament), and meniscus and fractured my leg. I then ended up in the hospital with severe pneumonia. Afterwhich, I found out my cousin was murdered – his body was tied up and found with gunshots in it. Then, whilst in therapy, I found out my half-brother who I’d never met and only communicated with a few times died of cancer on the 25th of August. Then, my Aunty, my mother’s sister, also died due to diabetes.
The significant trauma of OCD was one thing, but the trauma has compounded alongside all of the other problems in my life. When you are down, you have no choice, but to look up. I continue to try and realize the bad experience will bring sunnier days.
The switching themes of OCD
I believe it all began when I was first infected with chlamydia, I became paranoid and couldn’t remove this obsessive idea that I always had a sexual disease. They say great things happen in threes, well, I somehow caught it two more times after that. It added fuel to the ever-growing fire of doubt in my mind. Recurrently, I would visit the sexual health clinic, to the point they kept asking why I was coming back – I didn’t know myself. I was convinced I had something. As time went on, I had the belief that I had HIV, but this thought eventually faded out alongside the fear of chlamydia.
OCD then latched onto something I cherished highly. My sense of sexuality. One day, I had a dream where I saw the upper back of a man in boxers. I woke up and an obsessive idea spiraled around my head: I was gay. I threw up and became so anxious. I couldn’t stop seeking evidence to prove my newfound sexuality. Nothing sat with me or validated it, yet I couldn’t let it go. Noticing a man was good-looking felt like an admittance that I was gay, this thought came at volume, but with time it left, and then it came back. In the end, I became used to this thought.
What felt like the final straw at the time, was when I was with a friend of mine at my house. I was socializing, then an intrusive thought, a word, popped into my mind, ‘rape’. I immediately panicked, believing I heard voices. I thought I was going to hurt my friend. I screamed at her to leave, so she was safe. My mind was a war zone. I attempted to try and sleep when images of suicide and murder popped into my mind. I even called the ambulance. After that, I felt the only right thing to do was to seek therapy. Initially, I thought the word ‘rape’ popped into my mind because of my copious porn use. I thought I was an addict. I signed up for porn addiction groups, but I still felt so out of place.
The thought haunted me as I was raised by an army of incredible women who took care of me and supported my mum when my dad died, a strong matriarchal unit was the bedrock of my childhood.
A few months later, with the thoughts of being gay adjacent now to the rape thoughts, I was outside on the bus and my internal narrative wouldn’t shut up. An intrusive thought of violence entered my head and I feared I would hurt someone. I desperately rushed off the bus and had a breakdown. I carried on believing I was okay, and that I just needed to express my emotions somehow.
I tried to continue the day, but I felt so anxious and just not myself. I tried ordering some food and the next thought flooded my head: suicide. I saw an image of myself jumping off a bridge. That was the worst thought of all. I ordered an uber and panicked all the way home, believing I was suicidal. I cried to my friends and told them I wanted to die. They stayed with me for a few days. I was unable to eat or shower. My existence felt burdensome, I never thought I was going to come out the other side.
On Saturday, the 4th of June, I woke up and I couldn’t cope anymore with the thoughts. I searched the internet and via Instagram, I reached out in desperation to Emma Garrick otherwise known as “The Anxiety Whisperer”. I pleaded for a phone conversation and I poured my heart and mind out – there and then Emma understood it was OCD. Therapy began on Monday. Therapy sessions were where I lived outside of that environment. I wanted time to swallow me up. Slowly but surely, Emma renewed my confidence and mental strength to live again. I made the vow from then on out to tell my story and help others with OCD.
OCD shows you everything you are not and could never be, but through treatment, I now know who I am. I have been on a mission to help others with OCD, raise awareness of OCD and be of service to those who have been of service to me. A key component in my continuing recovery has been to remove the victim mindset I was in, and the best way to emerge from the victim mindset is to aid others. It does wonders for your sense of self and it gives back to the world.
Once upon a time, my world was closing in. Now, my world has opened up. From writing articles to being invited onto podcasts, countless individuals spanning from various corners of the world have sought me out and had many great things to say whilst explaining their stories. A key theme has been that of hope. Telling my story engages small glimmers of hope in those who have lost their hope. My story can help to arm those voiceless individuals with a voice. It removes the shame, embarrassment, and guilt of this mental health condition. It is not your fault, you are enough and I love you.
The OCD community has been the most empowering, engaging, and supportive community I have ever been a part of. I feel at home with those who also live with OCD. I love you all.
I had a thought I wanted to share with those in the OCD community, when you have ‘those’ thoughts, remember it is your brain with that bittersweet reminder of your morals and values. Embrace and accept those thoughts, the fact you are stressed, anxious, and depressed by the thoughts shows who you are. You are not your thoughts. Your thoughts say nothing about you. Our OCD brains just aren’t the best at doing their job. Remember we can rewire our OCD brains, it is not a death sentence.
I know why and it is to help those with OCD, to dream and live in a world where OCD no longer torments us and we come out of ‘survival’ into living our best lives. I wake up every day despite the hardship of my mind. I do it for you and I endure my suffering so you know you can make it through.
I love you, and thoughts can’t hurt you.
Some of my previous work can be found here: Kindred Magazine, The Book Of Man, The Model Cloud Magazine, Beyond Equality, and Orchard OCD. I was also featured on TheOCD stories podcast and Happiful MagazinePodcast.