Shaun Flores

Shaun Flores

Being a Model with OCD, an Invisible Illness

Smiling Shot
A famous quote from Mahatma Gandhi springs to mind here: ‘the true measure of any society can be found in how it treats its most vulnerable members. That is where I begin this article, The modelling world across the years had changed immensely, slowly but surely, are we doing enough to showcase those who are vulnerable? Giving them a chance to be included in society, to see themselves on billboards?

Modelling has been a creative passion where I built up my skills and allowed myself to experiment. I aimed to be open minded and where better to explore than the fashion industry. It is still a world so far from my upbringing and shows me something new every single time. Modelling and influencing alongside podcasting have given fantastic opportunities to meet individuals, work with brands and see myself in ways I could have never imagined. Via public speaking I was afforded a life changing chance to deliver two TEDx Talks, TEDx 2022 which was about male mental health and the straitjacket of masculinity & TEDx 2018 referring to the education system and how we can’t leave anyone behind.

Whilst discovering the modelling world, in my own world I was lost. I came to the conclusion in my mind I was becoming gay because of fashion. So I walked away, yet the thoughts did not stop. My thoughts evolved to other ideas of sexual assault and suicide which tormented me. After a series of these three types of intrusive thoughts I truly no longer recognised myself.

It took a breakdown where I experienced an intense suicidal thought, I believed I wanted to die. I called my friends and said goodbye. I saw no hope, nothing. I pleaded for help via the NHS, but their waiting list was jampacked, they only were able to recommend me a book Break Free from OCD: Overcoming Obsessive Compulsive Disorder with CBT . It was not enough, I need profession help. One Saturday it all became too much and I sought out help everywhere I could via the internet. I called people, emailed and texted all to not much change. I then stumbled upon something that was the last try.

Shaun Press Shot
Instagram gifted me someone who saved my life. My therapist Emma Garrick , who diagnosed me with ‘Pure 0’ OCD, (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) a mental illness that is commonly and widely disregarded for simply being about “cleaning”.

'Pure O ' refers to distressing internal intrusive thoughts, as a result of these thoughts the individual does invisible mental compulsions. Intrusive thoughts are sporadic and unwanted which can cause torment to an individual’s life. OCD can present your worst fears and play them like a broken record.

Therapy session to therapy session was the only time I could explain what was going on in my mind. Through her help, care, concern and actual love for me I have been able to share my story to help others. To bring myself and others with OCD out of hiding because of shame and embarrassment for the thoughts we have.

OCD is not something we can use to describe as a personality trait or as a adjective. People with OCD wish they did not have OCD. it causes torment. To demonstrate the common rhetoric use in every day life, Mugzz a young Essex rapper, in his lyrics of song “O.P.P” declared “ Don’t touch me bitch I have OCD.” It is the common use of mental illnesses as slurs in music which circles wide society that continues the stigma of OCD.
A day in the life with OCD
From the minute I wake up, anxiety and intrusive thoughts can absolutely come crashing in. Getting out of bed can be a struggle. When there are no thoughts you become worried as you have become so used to the thoughts you feel in a way you become negatively addicted to them. So you go in search of them, and when you search you will find.

Some days thoughts will try to get my attention alongside crippling anxiety. I have to remind myself anxiety is a lie The type of anxiety that is incredibly hard to ignore, an anxiety that feels like it is fed by steroids, but I simply preserve throughout.

I can be easily triggered by anything that plays on my fears. Fear of violence, taking my own life and hurting others. Fear of being bipolar or schizophrenic. It is about accepting the thought is there and remembering it is just a thought nothing else.

Simply put some days are tough, and others are easier, as time goes on it will become easier I have to rewire my brain which I am also learning about via this book Rewire Your OCD Brain: Powerful Neuroscience-Based Skills to Break Free from Obsessive Thoughts and Fears .
The Future
Shaun Stepping Out
The fashion world is slowly changing when agencies such as Zebedee Talent UK & Models of Diversity exist. Diversity matters as our society is not a monolith. Changes in the evolving industry are coming for those with invisible illnesses and visible illness. Representation matters. Most importantly we matter, and in a society that is encouraging inclusivity I remain grateful and hopeful. When you do not see yourself on television in anyway it is very easy to not believe your dreams can come true.

Modelling has taken on a completely new meaning as I hope to be a model who is the right role model whilst continuing to clean up the mess OCD made. I now aim to deliver a third TEDx Talk to help raise awareness of OCD, so watch this space.

I volunteer with Orchard OCD who are trying to fund better and faster treatment for those with OCD. The future is bright for those with OCD.

I wrote this to inspire other individuals who have OCD. those who know people with OCD, OCD is not the end of your life and it is something you can recover from. I pray this inspires you to tell your story and to never give up.

Thank you to Models of Diversity for this platform.