18-year-old Rosie Arnold is taking on the Great North Run on Sunday 11 September for OCD Action, after developing obsessive compulsive disorder during the first lockdown in 2020.
The condition led to compulsive handwashing, anxiety and intrusive thoughts.
Rosie explains, “I’m taking part in the Great North Run for OCD Action this year because I wanted to fundraise for a charity that supports people struggling like me.
“In the first major lockdown, I became very ill with my OCD. I had never experienced any mental health issues before, but when my world was shut off and I could no longer live life as normal, I really started to struggle.
“As well as living at home with my parents, I also live with my grandparents, who we had to shield during lockdown, so I couldn’t see anyone my own age.
“The need to keep them safe led to horrific intrusive thoughts, when these calmed down, I began excessive handwashing due to the idea of COVID contamination.
“This cycle of intrusive thoughts and handwashing became really distressing. I couldn’t sleep due to increasing anxiety. My handwashing became so bad that my skin would crack and bleed and I couldn’t bend my hand without being in pain.”
“I had no idea what was happening to me and thought that something was wrong with me for having these symptoms. Even when lockdown was lifted, it had a huge impact on how I continued to live my life, my handwashing continued for a long time after the lockdowns ended.
“Since then, I have had help recognising that I am suffering with OCD. This included learning how to slow down my compulsive handwashing by being exposed to my fears of contamination.
“I needed intensive cognitive behavioural therapy to tackle the intrusive thoughts, but now I have a better understanding of them and can cope much better. My mum has been amazing and has helped me through everything, without her, I don’t think I would be where I am today.”
Rosie wants to help others who have been affected by the pandemic and recognises that her generation may be dealing with the impact of the pandemic on their mental health for years to come.
“Lockdown brought about a strange way of life for people my age. We were used to seeing each other every day and then one day we were suddenly shut off from one another.
“It has led to a lot of people my age struggling with mental health issues, but I also believe that the pandemic has made people more aware of how important it is to talk about mental health issues and reach out if you need support.”
Rosie hopes this new understanding will lead to a more open dialogue when it comes to mental health.
“Awareness and understanding are probably the biggest things that can be done to support young people. Many people believe that young people don’t have things to worry about and don’t struggle with mental health issues.
“Being aware that everyone can struggle with their mental health and genuinely being there for your friends and family if they need someone to talk to when they’re going through a tough time can be the biggest thing to help.
“When people realise, they’re not on their own, they are more likely to open up and know that they have someone that will support them through what they’re going through with no judgement.”
Rosie’s training has helped her manage her condition and she credits running with supporting her recovery.
“When I go out for a run my mind feels so clear and all I focus on is running and racking up the miles. When I go out on a run, I don’t have a single intrusive thought, so it has been a great release for me.”
“I am really looking forward to the great atmosphere of the run but also proving to myself that I can complete the 13.1 miles as it is something I never believed I would be able to achieve. I also can’t wait to cross the finish line!.”
In 2021 the Great North Run, celebrated four decades of incredible runners. This year, our focus is very firmly on the future, and our first steps towards the 50th.
At the 2022 Great North Run we’re shining a spotlight on the next generation of runners; why they run and why they raise.
The Great North Run, the world’s biggest half marathon and the UKs biggest running event, will be televised live on BBC Sport.
60,000 people have entered the event which will take place on Sunday 11 September, returning to its iconic city to sea route after two years of pandemic related changes.
For more information visit greatrun.org/north.