Shaun Flores, 28, is a mental health advocate, former model, an influencer and podcaster. He also works as a freelance writer. In 2022, he was diagnosed with obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). Being diagnosed helped give Shaun insight into his intrusive thoughts, which were causing chaos in his mind. The diagnosis gave him the tools he needed to gain control of his life, manage his OCD and turn the pain he felt into a new purpose. He’s now on a mission to raise awareness about what it’s like to live with OCD and help others to feel less alone.
It was while I was experiencing suicidal thoughts, I was brought to the depths of my existence and felt I could not cope with living. It was then I realised I needed to see a professional, which led to me receiving an OCD diagnosis. The intrusive thoughts surrounding terminating my own life had caused a panic attack so severe that I called my friends to tell them goodbye. I looked my friends in the eye, convinced I wanted to be out of life and most importantly that would take me out of my mind. It felt like the only possible solution. But deep down I knew I wanted to fight.
As a result of previous traumatic experiences that I’d buried deep within parts of myself I had experienced intrusive, obsessive thoughts for a while, such as around my sexuality and even sexual assault. I never found ways to cope or not pay attention to them, they tormented me every day of my life, every waking moment to the time I slept. It was the companion I never asked for but this time, I knew I needed help. I could not cope any longer, I was terrified I was a danger to myself and others.
Getting support for an OCD diagnosis
Being diagnosed with OCD was bittersweet. I finally had an answer to the chaotic thoughts that were happening in my mind. For me, through chaos then came order.
I sought out a therapist who I actually came across on Instagram. She helped me through CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy), ERP (Exposure Response Prevention), and ACT (Acceptance and Commitment) therapy. Ultimately, she saved my life and I'm so grateful to her.
Luckily for me, I found her at a time when I was desperate for help. Since then, I have been taking positive steps, such as sharing my story with others in the hope that it might make others with OCD feel less alone. Through them knowing they aren’t alone, I hope that brings comfort to people in their most uncomfortable times.
Looking after my mental health since my diagnosis
Instead of keeping things in my mind, I put them onto paper.
I journal every single day. I practise what is known as “brain-dumping”, which essentially involves ‘dumping’ worries out of my head. Instead of keeping things in my mind, I put them onto paper. This allows me to see thoughts for what they are, just thoughts, nothing more. With the help of my therapist, alongside my own research I am slowly retraining my anxious brain to realise thoughts are just thoughts. This is called “neuroplasticity”, which is the ability to create new neural pathways which in turn create new behaviours.
I also make time to exercise, and I am continuing to research OCD, which helps me to understand more about this illness. An illness that is recoverable and now I am a thriver with OCD, no longer a sufferer,
Writing about my experience has helped me manage my OCD. I’ve been encouraged by how many people have reached out to me and found the strength to speak up themselves. I hope other people know now that they aren’t alone.
My life is not over with this diagnosis, it has just begun.