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Shaun Flores

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Shaun Flores is a mental health advocate, experienced Keynote speaker & TEDx speaker. Shaun has lived experience of mental health with OCD and you can ask him all about his experie...

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How old were you when you were diagnosed with OCD?

I was diagnosed with OCD at 27 years old after having obsessive intrusive thoughts for around five to six years, and I finally had an answer to the chaos that was going on in my mind.

Have you ever had suicidal thoughts?

Absolutely. I've definitely had a lot of suicidal thoughts at the worst of my OCD. When I was at the height of my OCD episodes, oh, I was having constant suicidal thoughts. I'd get onto a bus or I'd get onto a train and before I'd get on, it would be jumping in front of a train, jumping in front of a bus. I would get images of cutting myself, images of running in front of things. And I, I remember I would be able to text my therapist. I'm like, I'm having it again. I'm having it again. And she had to keep saying to me, Sean, you need to get back to the basics. Get back to the basics. You need to keep doing this. You need to keep showing your brain you're going to be okay, is going to be nothing. Not everything in your head is true. And I need people to understand that your brain is this fantastical machine that creates narratives, creates stories, and not everything you need to believe in your brain. So I've definitely had suicidal thoughts. The jumping off a bridge, the run in front of a bus, run in front of a train, cutting myself. I remember during the worst of my mental health breakdown, I was going to go to bed and I just had this thought of cut myself, cut myself, cut myself, cut myself. So I went and I picked up a knife and I put it to my wrists and I was like, why am I not getting the feeling to cut myself? Because I fought again to have a fort meant that's what I wanted to do. The idea I grew up with, especially being part of a conservative Christian Caribbean community, and I just couldn't cope with the thoughts. I called Samaritans three nights in a row, and I remember I said, if I don't sleep, I'll take my life. And I remember I started going down the rabbit hole with the forts. I was like, do I jump off a bridge of books in my bag? Do I get a gun? I was just thinking, how do I take my life? And when I eventually fell asleep, I had to take melatonin tablets. That's how high my anxiety was and how bad suicide thoughts were. I woke on, I just cried. I was like, why am I thinking that? What's wrong with me? I wrote suicide notes two nights in a row and I said I was prepared to take my life. It's no joke. I was prepared to leave the people that love me the most, and I'm just happy that I didn't do it. And it makes me actually quite emotional. Yeah.

Why are you so passionate about speaking openly?

I'm massively passionate about speaking about OCD because I know the torment that OCD caused on my life. And there's a saying I usually run with, which is OCD was the worst thing to ever happen to me. But I'm determined to be the worst thing to happen to OCD. And so many people suffer in silence with OCD. When I first wrote my story for the Book of Man, I remember I posted it on my Instagram and it had one of the words rape rapist, because those are some of the intrusive thoughts I suffered with. I thought I was a rapist, I was terrified I was going to hurt women when I shared my story, people I knew, people I didn't know, people I'm really good friends with messaged me like Sean, rather, I've got the same thing. I've had OCD for years. And I was like, what? And this showed to me that there was so many of us out there, and especially being black. I remember shocker made a great point actually on the very same platform where he said, mental health isn't a black and a white thing, it's a human thing, but when it comes to it being a human thing, it affects certain humans differently because of our relationship with mental health. And when I shared it, I had black people reach out to me. I had so many people reach out, and now I've been able to create a WhatsApp group as a result of it with 25 of us there, which is not, it doesn't sound big to most people, but for our community it's huge. And I realised that sharing my story was a burden half for somebody else, telling my story, healed somebody else. And if you are watching this to know you are not alone, you'll never be alone. And I know what it's like to live with and mental illness and to live with OCD, you often feel you're the only person in the world that has those thoughts and you're not, it's so common. Everyone has intrusive, obsessive thoughts. It's just us with OCD, it's an anxiety and it's an alert behaviour. And I speak openly again because we lose too many mental suicide, especially in the communities. And I want men to know that they have value and the world needs them. I was reading even just a message on LinkedIn and the messages I get from people on every social media platform on my emails. I just want people to know they can get through it. That's why I'm so passionate. And I think anxiety and depression, not to throw any shade on it in any way, shape or form, but I think they're at the moment socially acceptable topics to speak about with mental health. Whereas if OCD, because the subtypes in OCD, which I'll go onto in other questions, are so taboo to speak about. So paedophilia, OCD, harm, OCD, sexual orientation, OCD contamination, OCD symmetry, OCD. The last two are the ones we mainly understand about OCD. People worry they're going to be a paedophile. People worry that they're going to harm people and kill people. People worry that they're gay or they collapse, their identity is going to collapse. People just sit there and they don't say anything to anyone and people lose their best years to OCD. It takes 10 to 15 years for the average person to be diagnosed with OCD. That should tell you the reason why I'm so passionate to speak about it. I want people to have a chance to fully function and to exist in society and to know that they will be okay. That's why I'm so passionate and I had to take my pain and to put it out there and it's become my purpose. So that's some of the reasons why I'm so passionate to speak about OCD.

How did you feel after you were diagnosed?

Do you suffer with anxiety?