Mia Williams was very particular with food and dirt when she was young. She didn’t want them on her hands or face, and she didn’t like things at the beach touching her skin. Although it was noticeable to her parents, it didn’t overly concern them at the time. But that would change when Mia displayed more unusual tendencies as she got older.
A competitive cheerleader since age six, when Mia would practice skills on the trampoline, she felt she needed to do them three times to succeed and avoid bad luck.
Things continued to escalate when Mia began dealing with a compulsive superstition to knock on wood or her head to avoid bad luck. For example, if she were competing or practicing a cheerleading skill, she’d need to tap on her head beforehand. And if a sports team were on a winning streak, she believed she would need to knock on wood to keep the streak going.
The compulsions began to impact Mia’s life and health severely. When she was in junior high and training for the Canadian Cheer National Championships, she started to feel anxious and nervous to the point it was affecting her performance. Her compulsions were worsening, and her parents took notice.
While travelling to Niagara Falls for the championships, Mia was washing and drying her hands at every stop they made along the way, and her hands were beginning to bleed. Eventually, Mia started to have negative intrusive thoughts about herself and others, which made her feel much guilt.
She developed more compulsions to try and make the intrusive thoughts go away. This made Mia feel sad, frustrated and angry because she couldn’t stop the urges. The compulsions were taking over her life.
“I was irritable and didn’t want to do anything,” shares Mia. Her parents, Shauna and Mark, were deeply concerned, and they took her to their family doctor to seek help.
In March 2020, Mia, then 15, was officially diagnosed with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), a common, chronic, and long-lasting disorder in which a person has uncontrollable, reoccurring thoughts (obsessions) or behaviours (compulsions) that they feel the urge to repeat over and over.
Mia’s family doctor knew she needed specialized help and referred her to the IWK for an appointment with a mental health clinician to discuss her mental illness and how to treat and cope with it.
Mia met with Dr. Bradley, an IWK psychologist specializing in OCD and behavioural interventions for children and youth with OCD. “Talking with Dr. Bradley and talking to someone who understood what I was going through was amazing,” says Mia.
Dr. Bradley helped Mia cope and overcome some of her intrusive thoughts and compulsions with the help of cognitive behavioural therapy and medication. It has had a positive impact on Mia’s life and what she has been able to accomplish.
In high school, she was elected to be the student council co-president during her Grade 12 year, which was a big achievement for Mia. “I built up so much confidence and had better organization and time management skills,” says Mia. “I worked so hard at being the co-president, and I didn’t let my OCD hold me back, which was great, so I was super proud of that.”
In 2021, Mia was selected to be on Team Canada Junior for cheerleading and represent Canada at the International Cheer Union (ICU) Junior World Cheerleading Championships, where her team won the bronze medal. Her team performed at the Pan American Cheerleading Championships as well, winning silver. Mia also joined the ICU Cheer Adaptive Abilities team for the World Championship, where her team won gold.
Today, Mia is studying Drama with a concentration in Musical Theatre at Bishop’s University in Quebec. She loves to sing and act and hopes to star on Broadway someday. For Mia, her cheerleading accomplishments and her professional studies wouldn’t have been possible without the help of the IWK.
“The IWK has changed mine and my family’s lives,” says Mia. “I honestly don’t think I’d be here or in university and doing what I love without the IWK. The help and support I received have allowed me to manage my obsessions and compulsions better and made me feel less anxious and nervous.”