“I wrote this play because I wanted to show OCD on stage in a truthful way”

BY SORCHA MCCAFFREY 

When I was a little kid I used to wake up my mum to check she hadn’t died in the night. My head was full of intense worries and patterns and numbers and routines. 

Fifteen years later I was diagnosed with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, and the frightening spiral of thoughts and compulsions I was stuck in suddenly made sense. 

OCD is a lonely illness. For years I never told anyone about the intrusive thoughts I was having, and the things I did to try and get rid of them. I thought it was too weird, and that if I told people I had these disturbing fears, that it would confirm that there was something deeply wrong with who I was. 

Ladybones is a one woman show about archaeology and OCD. I wrote this play because I wanted to show OCD on stage in a truthful way. I want to show that although recovery can be a long and tricky process, it is possible. We’re chuffed to have been awarded Arts Council National Lottery funding for the show, and to be partnering with the charity OCD-UK, who supported me with my recovery. 

Sorcha McCaffrey in Ladybones
Photo by Chris Payne

My therapist told me once that OCD targets the stuff you care about. At times, writing and rehearsing this show has been anxiety-provoking, upsetting, terrifying and overwhelming. Dealing with OCD means it’s been difficult to make decisions, hard to believe in myself, and generally knackering. 

There is something incredibly vulnerable about putting the bits of myself I’ve spent most of my life hiding from people onstage. As a queer woman (now I am 25 and three-quarters I’ve moved on from calling myself a girl) with a mental illness, I’ve often felt like an outsider. The idea that I was going to unearth my strange, scrambled experience and dish it up to an audience made me want to vomit. It still does a wee bit to be honest. 

But making Ladybones has also been heartwarming, exciting and lots of fun. People with OCD have got in touch to say how much they connected with the play. I think if I had seen something similar before I was diagnosed I would have felt less alone. After working with my ace director Lucia Cox and a great team of creative people to make an honest, funny show based on my personal experience of having OCD, I am proud that I can tell this story to people. After our run at VAULT Festival, we are taking the show to the Edinburgh Fringe. 

VAULT Festival runs until 17 March 2019 in venues across Waterloo

Something surreal about beginning to recover from OCD is that I have been able to fill the gaps left by the illness with myself. I’ve had the time and space to discover stuff about myself that I couldn’t see through the fog of OCD. My resilience. My sexuality. My flair for building dens in the woods (a very underrated activity). There is a lot of amazing stuff out there in the world when you’re not desperately looking inwards to solve the panicked puzzle of anxiety. 

“The bastard OCD”, as my dad calls it, is just a part of my journey, not who I am. With this show I want to portray people as more than just their condition or disability. I hope people who come and see Ladybones have a proper laugh, and leave feeling less lonely than when they arrived. See you there. 

Ladybones is at VAULT Festival 20-24 February. See vaultfestival.com/whats-on/ladybones for more information. 

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