My mental health story: living with OCD: Interview with Maryna Suprunenko

Prague Integration is working on a project ”My story, my mental health” where we are interviewing on weekly basis locals and expats in the Czech Republic who are diagnosed and living with different mental health conditions. 

Our intern Alexa, a Psychology and Brain Science student from California is conducting interviews with our dear expats and getting interesting and educational content, where we are trying to share awareness about mental health.

We had the pleasure of hosting Maryna, a 27-year-old expat, living in the Czech Republic for 4 years. She spoke about her experience with OCD. 

Read Maryna’s story and share awareness about mental health!

Hello, welcome Maryna! How are you doing?

Great! Thank you very much!

Please tell us a little about yourself

I am originally from Ukraine, and I have lived in the Czech Republic for a little more than four years. I moved to Prague at the end of February of this year. I mostly do a lot of volunteer work now that I am in the Czech Republic. 

To you, what is OCD?

For me, it is thoughts overcoming my brain. It is all I can think about at a time and nothing else. It comes along with a lot of anxiety because it is so overpowering. For me, it started last summer. I tried to study at university and it did not go well. I am a perfectionist and I was not receiving positive feedback from the university. I was getting bad grades in my courses and realized that I might have something that was not recognized at a younger age. So, I went to a psychiatrist and was diagnosed with classical OCD. They prescribed me medication and I started counseling. I was told counseling should be in my native language, so I worked online with a professor from Ukraine. I think the biggest part of my improvement was due to this counseling because I am not on medications anymore and I feel fine. I do classical behavioral therapy weekly, and I think it helps. I do meditations and small reflection tasks that have improved my mental health. 

How did you know you had OCD? What were your first symptoms?

I think I had some symptoms of OCD from childhood, but it was a little less. I was just nervous and anxious about small things, and that has always been a part of my life. I would touch my hair, spin my pen, or even scratch my face to try to alleviate some of those feelings. Luckily, I never did anything worse than that. As I said, it got really bad last spring, but I was able to act fast and see a doctor. I did not get diagnosed until fairly recently, and I decided to leave university because there was not much improvement in my grades. I have a degree from Ukraine, but I wanted to do my masters in the Czech Republic. Someday, I will go back.

From your perspective, can you tell us how maintaining your mental health plays a role in living with OCD?

At least in my case, it is very difficult for me to live without a precise plan. I need to know what I am doing every day of the week, and cannot stray away from that. I get very nervous if things do not go according to plan, so I must do what I can to make a realistic plan and stick to it. As I mentioned before, I do meditations that help me. I also took medication for some time, and it acted very fast with few side effects for me. However, I have been able to be ok without the medication for a while now. 

I think there are a lot of stereotypes about OCD. For example, people think I will need to wash my hands all the time. This might be for some people, but I don’t do this. I also don’t have to clean my whole house every day. I like it to be tidy, but people think that I will need it to be spotless all the time. However, I normally do not like it when people touch my stuff because I have a place for it even if it doesn’t necessarily look like it. 

Do you have any advice for people living with OCD in Prague?

My ideal advice would be to go to counseling and get medication if it gets worse. OCD is curable with the right help. Make sure that you see a doctor as soon as you start feeling symptoms of OCD, or depression and anxiety because those often come with it. Do not wait until it gets worse and worse because it will only get harder to treat. Also, try to stay away from drinking alcohol because it often only makes it worse for me.

I also think it is important to tell your close friends and family that you have OCD. This way they can be more understanding. My counselor was recommended to me by my friend. I just told her about my diagnosis, and that I was looking for a counselor. I would not have found the help I needed without being open about my diagnosis. 

From your perspective, how can others support the mental health of someone with OCD?

I think it is better to let them do what they need to do. Oftentimes, people will try to help me clean or tell me how I should do things. This only makes things much worse for me. Try not to push them to do a certain thing, especially if it is a new person. However, every person with OCD is different so it is tricky for me to say. 

Thank you for talking today, we appreciate your time! 

Personal Boundaries