Man’s secret hell as condition meant he brushed teeth 30 times a day

Man’s secret hell as condition meant he brushed teeth 30 times a day

A rugby player has revealed how he brushed his teeth 30 times a day and gargled with two bottles of mouthwash every day.

Ben Jeffreys, from Newport, Wales, says his secret battle with obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) drove him to the brink of suicide.

Now he has opened up about his years of mental anguish and reveals how rugby helped save his life.

"In 2013, I was suicidal but was not able to pull the trigger," he told WalesOnline.

"I would cross roads not looking, hoping a bus or car was coming and the driver would end it all.

"But my condition, coupled with the fear of losing the two people closest to me, meant I was about to hit absolute rock bottom."

Ben said he was just a child when he started having irrational fears about getting sick from his classmates.

"I was absolutely petrified that someone in class would get a stomach bug or an illness and pass it on to me," said Ben

"Don't get me wrong, I had a very happy childhood, full of love and warmth, growing up in Newport and attending Clytha Primary and Duffryn High School.

"But I guess, looking back, that constant fear was the first inkling that I was maybe a bit different."

It was when he started a television course at the University of South Wales in Cardiff that his problems really came to the surface.

"Because I was living at home, I had no opportunity to meet new people, was struggling to adapt and quickly felt friendless, very alone and very depressed," said Ben, from Newport.

"This is when I really started repeating behaviours. I'd wash my hands maybe 60 times a day, with very hot water, burning them. It looked like I was wearing red gloves and was very embarrassing and painful.

"I began losing the ability to rationalise, gargling two bottles of Listerine a day until I had mouth ulcers.

"There were other things, like I'd brush my teeth 30 times a day and it would take me 90 minutes to get ready in the morning because I was getting changed five times.

"Over the course of a few months, I had totally lost control of my life."

Friends and family had no idea the extent to which he suffered from the condition but his wife Andraya gradually became aware.

"She would have to go to the shop to restock on toothpaste and mouthwash. I must have spent hundreds on those products," he said.

"She would see this happening to me, but I was in a place where I had no belief or desire to get myself out of it.

"But after a while it would become harder to hide it as my weight dropped to 9st. I was always much heavier than that. Eating became so difficult because I found it impossible to use cutlery or my bare hands.

"I was finding novel ways, such as 'drinking' crisps from a cup, using paper towels to eat sandwiches and buying disposable paper plates for every meal."

When Andraya became seriously ill towards the end of 2012 with endometriosis – where the lining of the womb is found outside the uterus – he said he "became her carer".

"She was wasting away before my eyes. When she became ill I then became even more vigilant with my own hygiene and eating habits."

On Easter Sunday 2013 Ben collapsed at home from exhaustion.

"I was taken by ambulance to hospital where they discovered that my blood pressure was through the roof. I was completely shot mentally.

"That was the moment when I began to seriously consider getting some treatment. I didn't want to live with this condition anymore."

Just before his father suffered the stroke, he had saved Pontypool RFC  – the club he had supported as a boy – from liquidation.

"He made the decision to pay off all outstanding debts and take full control of the club," Ben added.

"Unfortunately, in the weeks following his decision he suffered a stroke which left him unable to work."


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