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Season 1 Episode 8 – Camila Melo Pereira

Originally from Brazil, Camila Melo Pereira is currently a student at Douglas College in Vancouver. In this episode she shares her journey with generalized anxiety and OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder), and how CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) has helped her.

She says, “I think everybody should go through therapy. It’s too bad it’s not very accessible here.”

John Bateman (JB): Hi Camila, are you there? How are you doing?

Camila Melo Pereira (CP): I’m great, thank you. How are you?  

JB: I’m doing fine, thanks. So my notes here say that you are students with lived experience of anxiety. Can you tell me a little about, about your anxiety story?  

CP: I’m from Brazil. I’m 26 now and I’ve always been an anxious person since I was a kid and I think my family as well, my dad’s family. So I’ve always been anxious, but when I was 17, I went through a bad breakup and that gives me a lot of anxiety, like even more. And I ended up developing some sort of OCD. I would shower maybe like 20 times a day. I would wash my hands all the time until my skin started bleeding. So, a lot of compulsive symptoms. And that lasted for a couple of years until I find help with therapy, cognitive behavioural, I think that’s the name.  

JB: That’s right, yeah. Yup yup yup.

CP: And that was what helped me a lot with my anxiety and OCD and everything. Since then I’ve always tried to try to find a way to help other people because I think it’s much more common than people think. And I’ve heard about Anxiety Canada and I wanted to share a little bit of my story.  

JB: That’s fabulous. I have a question. You know, you mentioned OCD is being a part of it. Were you experiencing what you knew as anxiety that led to the OCD, or did OCD kind of lead?  

CP: Oh, I think I, I’ve always had anxiety, but when it started getting worse, it was the time for me to look for help, find some support, some kind of therapy. And I didn’t have anyone to talk to actually. I thought that no one would ever understand me or what I was going through. So I think that led to my OCD, I think because there was so much anxiety that I didn’t know how to deal with that. And I think that was the main reason because I didn’t look for help before like the OCD, before I get to the point where it was OCD.

JB: And do you have an idea of how OCD ‘helped’ you? Did that help with your anxiety?  

CP: Actually I don’t think it helped with my anxiety. I think it was a way to find some relief for what I was going through in that particular moment. When you do that, it only get worse. It doesn’t get any better. 

JB: So how did you find help?  

CP: I started having OCD symptoms when I was 17 and I only moved here a year and a half ago, so I found help in Brazil. My dad is a doctor, so what he thought would be a good idea was for me to get into medication. But I don’t think that’s very helpful with OCD. I think it’s helpful when you have like some sort of depression, and I never had depression. I had OCD so I ended up finding a friend who had the same issue that I had. She had OCD too. And she was like, you have to go through therapy and that’s what it’s going to help you to overcome this issue. So that was when I found Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, and that’s what helped me.  

JB: And have you continued to do therapy here in Canada?  

CP: I did CBT for many years in Brazil, but when I moved, I don’t think it’s very accessible here because it’s very expensive. It is very expensive in Brazil, but even more expensive in Canada.  

JB: Interesting.  

CP: I find some help at my school, but only once a week. They’re always very busy because obviously they help a lot of students, especially international students going through a lot of anxiety issues because they are away from home, but finding a private help here would still be very expensive for me right now. Fortunately I don’t currently have symptoms. Now obviously I have some anxious thoughts, but I know how to control them. I think after some time you learn how to identify your triggers. But I think everyone should go through therapy. It’s not just people suffering from something like of OCD, or anxiety or depression. It’s too bad it’s not very accessible here.

JB: Yeah. It’s interesting that you say that because it, did you find it generally, so I guess you say it’s not accessible because of costs to you because I assume you are not, you’re not a Canadian citizen at this point.  

CP: Obviously there are a lot of good professionals. I just don’t find it accessible because it’s pricey for me because I’m from Brazil and my parents pay for my expenses here. Private counsellors here are super expensive for me. 

JB: What is the general feeling about mental health in your country? Are there the same stigmas? How are people with that?  

CP: I think there is a lot of stigma everywhere, but I find it easier to talk about it in Brazil than here in Canada. People are more private about that subject here than in Brazil. I would talk about it, feeling more comfortable with my Brazilian friends I guess. But I think there is a lot of stigma everywhere. And I think people talk a lot about depression and like general mental health issues, but they don’t talk much about anxiety, how it manifests in OCD and panic attacks. I don’t see people talking about that, and anxiety is as debilitating as depression. So it’s really sad that people won’t talk about that. Like if I had found help before, maybe I would never have had OCD, but I spent so many years without telling anyone about my anxiety issues, they got to a point that it was so bad, you know?  

JB: Yeah. Well I think that’s one of the issues. Anxiety is often sort of a foundation affliction: you get anxiety and that can lead to depression, that can lead to OCD. It’s very important to tackle anxiety earlier on. And, you didn’t quite get on top of it right away because you said you weren’t open about it or just didn’t feel comfortable with that. How is it that I’m talking to you? How did you get associated with Anxiety Canada?  

CP: Actually from school. I’m doing a project for Anxiety Canada, coming up with marketing ideas. I’m super excited about it.  

JB: Wow. Okay. So what degree are you working towards?  

CP: I’m taking a marketing management program.  

JB: Okay. And you’re working with Anxiety Canada to help them with marketing stuff?  

CP: Yeah, me and my group.

JB: Are other people in your group affected by anxiety as well?

CP: I think they are very curious about it. One of them told me that she didn’t know if she had anxiety or not. And then, she was super excited to work with Anxiety Canada because she didn’t know. 

JB: Yeah. So often it takes people a long time to find that word that defines how they’re feeling. They’re feeling something but they don’t have a name for it. Until somebody comes along and says, I feel the exact same thing and it’s called anxiety.  

CP: Yeah. I just, I think people don’t talk about it much, so they feel kind of lonely. I feel that they feel that they don’t have anyone to talk to you, that they are going to be judged. That’s what I felt when I first had my anxiety symptoms. And then when I had OCD, it was even like more like, I was like, people are gonna think I’m crazy, you know?  

JB: Yeah. Of course.  

CP: And how am I going to tell my dad that I take 20 showers a day because I want to get rid of germs for example. You know, people think you’re crazy. Most of them don’t feel compassion. They just show you that. They just think you’re crazy. 

JB: That’s why #OurAnxietyStories is important. It’s not only talking to people who have anxiety and letting them know that they’re not alone, but talking to people now who maybe maybe need to understand anxiety a bit more. Not necessarily the fact that they may have it, but maybe someone in their life has, it may be something that you’re talking about that or I’m talking about resonates with them and puts that name on it, that it’s anxiety and that there’s a lot of tools out there to help.  

CP: Yeah. And have some, some respect and compassion for what they are feeling. Cause I think, for example, my family’s still don’t understand what I’ve went through.  

JB: Well, thanks so much for being a part of #OurAnxietyStories – everyone here really appreciates it.  

CP: Okay. Thanks very much for talking to me. Have a great day. Take care. Bye.