OCD Update

So my OCD course finished almost 7 weeks ago. I meant to give you an update sooner than this, but I’ve had so much going on in my personal life that I haven’t felt that I could really do this justice. Maybe I still won’t, but I feel more in the frame of mind that I can write about it.- And with it being World Mental Health Day today, I thought it was a good day to post this!

First off, I just want to put it out there that I am so glad I completed the course. I learnt so much, I grew so much, I finally felt like I understood what was going on in my head, and in the meantime, met some really beautiful humans, whom I have massive respect for. The ladies who ran the course were all so brilliant, and I am so grateful for them.

I’m a super emotional person who takes the weight of the world on her shoulders. If you told me Brian in Wales wasn’t feeling very well. I’d want to cry and then go and give him a hug. Let alone if someone who I actually know is going through something.

It’s actually a part of having OCD. You feel so responsible for everything. If I drive past a car crash and see the crumpled cars, I can’t help but think, ‘if I had left the house 1 minute earlier, would that crash still have happened? Might I have changed the flow of traffic so that those two cars were not together at that time and thus stop the collision from ever happening?’ I feel responsible for everything. And the worst part? I only put weight on the negative things. If someone I knew won the lottery, I wouldn’t think I had anything to do with that. But if that same person broke their leg?.. That would be on me. Even if I wasn’t even there when it happened.

I know it sounds crazy, and logical me knows that it’s silly. But there’s that part of my brain that fights back. That seed of doubt that grows to a huge tree in no time at all.

There are so many different themes and ways that OCD can manifest itself. For some it’s contamination, for others it is hoarding, and for me it’s harm and mental contamination. I’m petrified that people will be hurt because of me. Even though I have no desire in the slightest to hurt anyone. And because I have the intrusive thought that I could hurt someone, (as everyone on the planet does) my brain thinks that I’m only thinking that because I want to hurt someone and that I’m a bad person. – One of my OCD worries is that I don’t even have OCD, and that I’m such a horrible/manipulative person that I make others (and myself) believe that I have it. Good times hey!

It can be absolute hell inside my mind, but this course that I completed, that was run by Health in Mind, gave me so many tools to combat my OCD. The support that I got from my group at my course helped me realise that I’m not alone, and that these thoughts are just OCD playing tricks on me, not that I’m a bad person.

The therapy used on my course was ERP (Exposure and Response Prevention), which meant that we had to face exactly what scared us to prove that they were just thoughts, and that the bad thing that we are scared of happening, likely wouldn’t happen. An example of this that I did at the course was that for a week, starting in the session, and ending during the next session, was to write down over and over again, say out loud, and think about that one of the ladies that ran the course was going to break her leg falling down the stairs. When I first wrote it down in the session, I cried my eyes out. I felt like a disgusting person to be writing those awful words down on a piece of paper. And I truly believed that my thoughts had some sort of ‘magical power’ that would cause her to fall down the stairs and break her leg. Now it’s in the realms of possibility that she could have fallen down the stairs and broken her leg during the week, I had to accept that it could happen, and that if it did, it wasn’t my fault just because I wrote it down.

Other people on the course did things that scared them, be it removing their gloves that they wore when they left the house as their fear of contamination was so high, or eating a peach that had fallen on the floor without washing it to prove that they likely wouldn’t get ill. The point of this method was to choose something that was within the realms of possibility. The guy could have picked up some germs as a result of touching something without his gloves, and the peach could also have gotten contaminated after rolling on the floor. But you do it anyway, to prove that it likely will be alright, but it also could go the other way.

It’s about learning that you can’t wrap yourself up in cotton wool and go through life guaranteeing that nothing bad will ever happen. Bad things can and do happen. And when they do, you can’t blame yourself. Nobody knows what is going on in your mind, and if you have a horrible intrusive thought, nobody knows about it. It’s just a thought, you are not magic. You cannot make things happen simply by thinking about them. You do not need to ‘cancel out’ a horrible intrusive, unwanted thought by telling the person that you had the thought about that you love them (as I felt/feel compelled to do).

OCD is not just about wanting things to be neat and tidy. So many people will say ‘oh, I’m so OCD’ when they like things done a particular way. OCD, to the sufferer is often a life or death situation. You constantly feel like your house might burn down, that you might accidentally hurt someone, that you might make yourself or other people ill because you didn’t do enough to prevent it. So you go overboard. You spend hours each day cleaning, or checking, or completing other tasks that you feel you must do in order to prevent those things from happening.

I’m so happy to say that I’ve come a long way from where I was, and slowly I’m learning how to control my OCD, and not the other way round. My OCD was controlling me. I lived in constant fear and life was unbearable at times. I still have my off days and moments, but they are becoming easier to manage and happen less frequently which is an amazing feeling. There definitely is light at the end of the tunnel. Just sometimes you need a little help to get through the darkness.

If you are struggling at the moment, please, talk to a professional. Get help, and talk about it with your friends and family. The more we talk about mental health, the more we will decrease the stigma around it. I hope that one day talking about mental health is as common as moaning you’ve got a cold. That people know where they can get help from, and more people can understand.

After I wrote my first post about OCD, one of my gorgeous friends sent me this message. And it really resonated with me. I won’t share her name as I don’t know whether she would be comfortable with me sharing that it was her who wrote it. But here’s what she said to me;

‘I just wanted to say, your last post was incredible and so, so brave. And just to give you a little reminder that you are strong and beautiful. It often feels like people that suffer with mental health are in some way weaker than the rest of the population, when in actual fact I think we’re some of the strongest people you could ever meet — we’re facing battles in our head everyday that want to cripple us, and look we’re still standing. …

…In fact, I only found myself compelled after reading your post to tell someone outside my close family about my struggle with mental health. The stigma around mental health needs to change. We need to talk about it. Challenge society’s perceptions. And I guess I just wanted to say, no matter how little you may have felt your voice was when publishing, you were making a massive step for both yourself and mental health. And it was truly incredible to read! xx’

To my friend who sent that message, you are a beautiful human, and I’m so glad you finally felt like you could be open about your struggles. (I did remove part of the middle of her message as it was quite personal, and again, I wanted to respect her privacy)

So please, speak up. I’m always here to chat 🙂

Until next time,

Emily x

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