By Charmaine Camilleri
Reprinted with permission from www.mymooneevalley.com.au
STRATHMORE resident Justin Sacr can't drive a car for fear he has knocked down someone every time he hits a bump.
The 33-year-old has lived with anxiety and obsessive compulsive disorder since age 14 and, because of the phobia, his bicycle has become a 'lifeline'.
“I cycle to work every day. It has been a blessing in disguise because exercise helps me a lot,” he said.
“It releases chemicals in your brain, like antidepressants, but in a natural way. It helps with your thoughts. You might look normal on the outside, but on the inside, you're going through hell.”
Mr Sacr, who runs an Anxiety Recovery Centre of Victoria support group in Moonee Valley for people with anxiety and obsessive compulsive disorders, wants to reach out to those with similar illnesses.
He first noticed repetitive habits around the time he started high school, repeatedly washing his hands or sharpening pencils.
“I did it to relieve anxiety. I struggled to do homework because I had so much anxiety. It messes with your mind,” he said.
“People are lucky now because there is more help out there, more education, and more doctors know about the condition.”
At his lowest ebb at age 26, Mr Sacr spiralled into a two-year battle with depression, but medical help and a strong network of family and friends helped him break out of the cycle, and he has since found content¬ment and stability in his life. Mr Sacr believes learning to accept the condition aided in his recovery.
“You have to accept it and learn to live with it. You can't fight it head on because it will consume you. To be in your room for 24 hours a day thinking the thoughts consumes you.
“I am trained not to do that because I accept the anxiety. The anxiety will say, ‘Justin is not paying attention. We'll go away and come back later.’ “
There are several theories about the causes of OCD, which affects more than 500,000 Australians. Mr Sacr said meeting others with mental illness in the support group was an outlet, and he encouraged people to drop in.
“It's there for comfort, knowing you are not alone.
“I'm happy. I've been around the world twice. I'm working. I love my cycling. It's an illness, but if you have the right doctors and support you can keep on living.”
Link to more about what Justin says about OCD and recovery.
Moonee Valley Anxiety and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder Support Group meets on the fourth Thursday of the month at Ascot Vale Neighbourhood Centre, corner Munro Street and Union Road. The group supports people with a range of anxiety disorders, including panic, stress and depression. Details: Tabitha Dougall, 9830 0566.