After taking part in Channel 4’s Obsessive Compulsive cleaners mum Lesley Turner and daughter Tuesday found their illness was worse… story in The Sun on Sunday…
Lesley Turner and her daughter Tuesday used to spend up to eight hours a day and two bottles of bleach disinfecting their home. But after starring in Channel 4’s Obsessive Compulsive Cleaners they now use four bottles of bleach and spend 14 hours a day cleaning.
And daughter Tuesday claims she was left so traumatised, she has since been prescribed the highest dose of antidepressant Prozac.
The pair came to Featureworld because they wanted to raise awareness of the dangers of appearing in TV documentaries – people who take part often have to sign contracts that give them no say over the editing of the programme.
They also want to set the record straight about OCD which is a serious mental disorder which hugely affects their lives, as they did not feel they were portrayed accurately in the programme.
And in this case while Lesley and Tuesday thought taking part in the show would help their compulsive disorder, it ended up making it worse.
Lesley says: “Tuesday and I were left devastated by filming. The programme-makers thought swabbing shops, restaurants and public transport and showing us there weren’t enough germs on surfaces to make us ill would be reassuring.
“The producers believed we should confront our fears and touch dirty objects.
“But their bizarre therapy only traumatised us. It has made us terrified to leave our own sterile home. Now we realise how filthy other places are in comparison to our own home, we don’t want to go out at all.”
Lesley, who due to her obsessive cleaning condition has been unable to work for the past 25 years, also claims the programme made fun of their anxieties.
“Tuesday and I suffer from a serious mental illness,” she says, “yet any scenes of distress were edited out. For example when I went to the hairdressers I broke down in tears but none of that was shown.
“And when I said I was traumatised by cleaning my own kitchen sink, the producer told me I couldn’t use the word ‘trauma’ because it would be too upsetting for viewers.
“He said they wanted it to be a light-hearted programme. But OCD is not a funny or light hearted issue.”
Daughter Tuesday – who has developed a phobia of germs in shoes since the camera crew left – added: “The programme made us look as if mum and I love cleaning. But nothing could be further from the truth. We both hate cleaning. But due to our anxieties over germs and dirt we are forced to clean for hours on end.
“Since the crew left I’ve cried for hours. We wish we’d never agreed to go on.”
Their TV nightmare began when the duo, from Bridgend, Wales, decided to apply to be on the show.
Lesley said: “We watched the first series but didn’t see anyone on it with such a severe disorder as we have. We thought seeing how we are might help other sufferers realise they are not alone.”
Initially Lesley and Tuesday, who were not paid for the three months’ filming were impressed.
“The producers appeared sympathetic. They said they employed a psychiatrist to oversee everything and we were both assessed by a doctor who confirmed our diagnoses of OCD.
“Although both of us have undergone counselling and various treatments to try and cure us – none of which have worked – naturally we hoped taking part might help us as well.”
The Channel 4 therapy involved taking swabs to demonstrate that there were not enough germs on surfaces to make them ill.
But Lesley said: “It soon became clear Channel 4 was only interested in making entertaining television and not trying to help viewers understand our condition.
“Before filming I used to manage the odd meal out at a highly rated restaurant. But since their swabs demonstrated how many bacteria were on the plates, I haven’t eaten out once.
“Tuesday had just eaten a pudding off one and she was distraught. It was a terrible experence.
“And whereas it used to take me two hours a day to disinfect and polish my stainless steel kitchen sink, their swabbing demonstrated how germs remain on any surface where there is moisture. In my mind, one germ is too many as one germ will grow. So I now spend around three hours ensuring my sink is not only clean but dry.”
Channel 4 told me Lesley and Tuesday said on camera during filming that taking part helped them. A spokeswoman for Obsessive Compulsive Cleaners added: “They have never taken up the offer of professional support which was, and still is, offered to them.” They also strongly deny ever telling any contributors they could not use the word ‘trauma’ during filming.
But Tuesday, who washes her hands around 100 times a day until sometimes they bleed, said: “I’d never really thought about the germs inside of worn shoes. But I was horrified when Channel 4 swabbed the insides of my shoes after I’d worn them and found they were very dirty.
“Now I have to take my shoes off outside of the house and change my socks before I go in. Then I spend around two hours wiping inside my shoes with antibacterial tissues and spraying them with disinfectant.
“I always knew door handles were dirty but having realised how dirty, I have to open and close doors using my elbows and feet so I don’t touch them.
She adds: “Mum has been on the highest dose of Prozac for years but I was only on a low prescription. But the show made my anxiety is so high I have tripled my dose.”
In a bid to make them confront their fear of dirt, Channel 4 took them to the home of a hoarder who did no cleaning at all.
Lesley said: “The idea was that confronted by our worse fears we would realise nothing bad would happen and that dirt wasn’t necessarily harmful to health. But the reality was it made Tuesday and I realise how dirty other peoples’ homes are.
“The programme makers failed to understand that we are not worried about germs making us ill. I dislike dirt and like everything to be minimal and tidy. Meanwhile, Tuesday doesn’t like the thought of germs being inside her.
“And neither of us enjoy cleaning. In fact we will sometimes we will eat out of a sealed pack rather than use the cooker and a plate – to avoid hours of cleaning.”
Lesley believes she inherited the disorder from her own mother who was extremely tidy.
“Aged 16 I left home but I couldn’t go out unless everything was perfect – so the bed was always made and dishes were always washed and put away.”
Aged 30 she met Tuesday’s dad. “I became obsessed with keeping our new-build house as new, taking six hours to wipe down the cooker.”
But aged 31 working as a hotel cleaner, Lesley had a breakdown.
“It took me four hours to clean one room when it should have taken twenty minutes. One day I couldn’t face any more dirt.”
She then fell pregnant, splitting with her partner, leaving her bringing Tuesday up alone.
Since then, too ill to work, she has lived on benefits and struggled to bring Tuesday up.
“When she was a baby I’d change her nappy every few minutes. When she began crawling I tried to confine her to a chair as I couldn’t bear her getting dirt off the floor.
“I permanently washed her face. I wouldn’t even let her use a knife and fork until she was five because I couldn’t cope with the mess.”
By the age of 11 she’d taken Tuesday out of school to teach her at home. “By then it was clear Tuesday also suffered from OCD and found school too stressful. I will always feel guilty that I passed my OCD to her.”
Both say their waking thought is about ‘germs’. Lesley claims her obsessive cleaning – she steam cleans the whole house every day – leaves her exhausted.
She said: “Since the show I spend around 14 hours a day cleaning and now only manage three hours sleep a night.”
Tuesday, a booking clerk, said: “Work is hugely stressful. I have to disinfect my computer and desk every morning. Then I sit on a piece of A4 paper taking care never to touch the chair.”
Cushions on her bed are placed using a spirit level and tape measure to ensure they are straight.
Currently awaiting more therapy, she reveals: “I don’t sleep in it. Instead I sleep in mum’s bed and she sleeps on a sofa. Mum has the time to make her bed in the morning. If I had to make mine it would take hours and I would be late for work.”
Her disorder leaves her unable to live with her boyfriend whom she met a year ago through friends. “Luckily he’s laid back because I spend five hours cleaning his flat before it is clean enough for me to stay there.
“Sadly I am too ill to contemplate getting wed or having kids.”
Lesley, speaking out as the show is repeated, said: “I hoped going on the show would at least help Tuesday. But it’s set both of us back. We wish we’d never gone on it.”
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