So let’s get real right now. It’s often said that the person that you see is the person that they want you to think they are, their social media accounts are just a ‘highlight reel’ that they only show the best of themselves to the rest of the world. But I want to challenge that and try and keep it real. Especially when it comes to mental health. I want to try and lessen some of the stigma around mental health discussions and hopefully offer someone else some comfort that they aren’t alone if they are going through something similar to me.
Little known fact about me? I have OCD. And I’m scared to publish this post. I don’t know why I’m scared. Maybe because it’s so personal and nobody really talks about mental health openly. But here goes!
For so many years now I’ve struggled with crippling anxiety and up until recently I felt like anxiety was not the best way to describe how I felt. I couldn’t tell you how I was feeling exactly but general anxiety just didn’t seem to fit how I was feeling quite right.
I went to my doctor and told them how I was feeling and I was referred to a mental health specialist who initially offered me a place on a ‘mind over mood’ CBT course for people struggling with anxiety. I had had CBT therapy in the past at Great Ormond Street Hospital when I was younger for anxiety after recovering from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.
I arranged an appointment with the mental health specialist prior to the course to make sure it was the right fit for me. As the session went on and my fears etc were discussed, she asked if I knew anything about OCD. I knew the bare basics that most people know, that people feel they have to complete certain rituals in order for things to feel ‘right’ but other than that I really didn’t know anything.
She explained that OCD can manifest itself in all manner of ways, and that it’s not just keeping everything clean or flicking light switches on and off a certain number of times. It can be a horrible ‘intrusive thought’ that your mind gets that then you feel like you must do something about.
For example my fears, or obsessive thoughts are mostly concentrated on the my fear of ever hurting anyone. I’m so scared that people will be hurt as a result of my actions. And because of this I check things over and over again, I look for reassurance from people, I will avoid certain situations or have to neutralise the negative thought by thinking about something positive or telling myself in my mind that I’m not a bad person and I would never do that to anyone. She asked if I minded doing a questionnaire with her to see if I got the criteria for OCD. The score you needed for them to say that you had OCD tendencies? 40. The score I got? 83.
Some specific examples of how my OCD affects me are; when turning the oven or certain switches off I have to make the movement overly pronounced so I know that the memory of me doing that will stick in my head and that will help me feel less anxious when I mentally check my memory that I did in fact, turn the hob off. I reread emails/blog posts/texts/Facebook status’/tweets over and over again to make sure that I haven’t written anything that might offend or upset someone. I avoid driving as much as I can as I am so worried that I’ll lose control of the car and hit someone, and if I ever have a horrible intrusive thought of someone I love being hurt, I have to do something to try and neutralise that thought, be it telling them I love them, giving them a hug, texting them anything just so they will respond and I know that they are okay or checking their social media accounts to make sure that they have recently posted so I know that nothing terrible has happened. These are just some of the examples of how OCD affects my day to day life, and every day I’m finding more and more things that have become so ingrained in me that it’s not immediately obvious to me that they are actually compulsions.
After that meeting, for the first time ever I felt like someone actually understood exactly how I felt. Reading case studies and other information I honestly felt like it was reading exactly what was in my head. It was a complete lightbulb moment where how I was feeling was written down in black and white in front of me.
I emailed the lady who gave me the information and told her that this explained so much. I really felt like finally the nail had been hit on the head. So she referred me for a different group course designed specifically for people with OCD.
Before the course I had one to one phone calls weekly with a lovely lady who took the time to explain exactly what I could expect from the course and we started to think about some of my obsessions and compulsions. I learnt so much with her and am truly grateful for all of the time she spent with me on the phone patiently listening to me talk through some of the things I struggle with.
I started the course 2 weeks ago and have met some lovely people who make me feel like I’m not alone. That it isn’t normal to feel the way I do and I have absolute confidence in the ladies who run the course to help me help myself get better. None of us have exactly the same obsessions or compulsions, but we all support and listen to each other. I’m so happy that the group of people I’m going to be spending my Fridays with are genuinely lovely and caring people. I just want good things for all of them, because they absolutely deserve it. It has helped to dissect how OCD works and see how we can start to break the cycle, and it doesn’t seem as overwhelming when you break it down. I know it’ll be hard work, but it’s absolutely going to be worth it.
I came out of my first session 2 weeks ago feeling surprisingly optimistic. But actually after my second session on Friday, I spent the weekend feeling quite down and tearful which was actually quite scary. I think this course is kicking up some things that I’ve never had to deal with head on before, and things will probably get worse before they get better, so I accept that this is probably part of the process.
I’ve decided to start taking some supplements to help with my mood, and after some research and help from the lady in Holland and Barrett, I went home with some Rescue Remedy, Omega 3 Fish Oils, and 5-HTP. I’m really hoping that these 3 things along with the course will help me get better, and that the supplements will help me cope better with the anxiety that I struggle with on a daily basis.
I’m fully dedicated to this course, and I am committed to doing everything I can to get better, I want to feel like myself again. So if anyone has any advice, I’d love to hear it.
I hope this post has helped just one person feel like they are not alone in what they are feeling. I know that eventually it’ll get better and I cannot wait to see that day! I will probably post an update further into the course to let you know how it’s going and how things have improved, and I can’t wait to start living a life free from constant fear and anxiety.
Until next time,