By Nick Price, Geelong Advertiser, 13 August 2008
WHEN Simon walked down a supermarket aisle six months ago, it wasn't to find groceries. Instead, the Leopold man was undergoing exposure tests for obsessive compulsive disorder. By picking up snail pellets off the shelves, Simon was confronting his fear of poisons. "For me, that was an intense anxiety, going face to face with contamination like that," he said. "It's a silent battle. About four per cent of the population has it and there's probably another four per cent who don't know they have it."
The 32-year-old has suffered from the disorder since his early teens, but only gained an appreciation for his condition three years ago when visiting London during the city's bombings. "It made me think I was a terrorist. Even though you know you're not, irrational thoughts take over and guilt kicks in. "My friend Amber was murdered when I was 12. When I recently lost my amber-coloured secateurs I immediately blamed myself for her death. "It's illogical, but OCD is closely linked to superstition because of that connection you make with colours and numbers."
Simon has made rapid progress in the six months since his exposure therapy course. He now runs his own gardening business and works as an AFL archivist for a publishing company. "It's quite debilitating," he said. "It's hard to focus sometimes and something as simple as losing your keys can bring about panic attacks.
"But famous people have overcome it like David Beckham and Scott Draper. "Even though I'll always have it to a certain degree, there are strategies you can use. "Just working your way through the anxiety, taking it head-on alleviates the stresses.
Being in a relationship since February has also helped Simon in his path to recovery.
"I met my girlfriend in February and even though it was initially hard to bring it up, she's been a fantastic, steadying influence. "More than ever I'm determined to make it work."
People suffering from anxiety can join Simon during the Geelong support group's meetings, at the Lifeline Office, 1 McKillop Street, on the last Thursday of every month at 7pm.