I want to start this post by saying this blog post talking about my experiences with CBT is to share with people who might of had the same experiences as me. This is not to put anyone off seeking help, because you need help and treatment to learn how to cope with severe OCD.
Grab yourself a tea or coffee its going to be a long one.
Are you sitting comfortably? then I will begin (haha)…
So lets start from the beginning which was my first experience under CAHMS the mental health team. I was diagnosed with OCD and started going to CBT for my fear of sick and the rituals that went along side that. I didn’t really get on with the therapist that I was working with I found them very emotionless for someone treating people with mental illness. I didn’t find them very motivating or caring and I think its important you feel cared about and trust the person who’s treating you with CBT. As OCD makes us feel so scared about our thoughts, feelings and not performing rituals, its important we trust the individual enough to not engage in OCD. I went there once a week and if anything it was more like a counselling session, where I would talk about everything that had gone on and what I was struggling with. When I was assigned tasks to complete at home such as ‘write down your thoughts before performing a ritual’ or ‘keep a diary of your rituals’ I found it too hard. I didn’t really understand how it would help and I had so many rituals and thoughts I didn’t see how it was possible to write them down. Baring in mind I was about 14-15 at the time, I thought I understood OCD but I didn’t at all. I needed someone to explain it to me, to motivate me and explain clearly what they wanted me to do and why. It was getting harder to fill the hour session we had together up, I felt like I just sat talking. Which maybe I had the wrong idea of therapy, but I would have liked the therapist to tell me how therapy works, guide me and correct me. So long story short eventually the therapy stopped and I felt no better of. I discussed with my mum and the psychologist that I didn’t feel like the therapist was right for me and my personality which is bubbly and chatty.
From the age I stopped therapy about 14-15 I didn’t have CBT again until I was 17. To fill in the gaps, I still suffered with my OCD and went on to Setraline tablets to help with this which I didn’t stay on for very long. I’m not sure why or how but over time my OCD which related to sick seemed to calm down. I feel like one of the main reasons I got over this fear was from facing it by being sick in front of people I wasn’t that familiar with in a car. Although it was an awful experience I do think this aided in this particular fear being less prominent in my life. OCD tends to merge and latch on to new fears and the next was being a bad person, a psychopath and worrying I would do ‘bad things’ or ‘psychopathic things’. My first experiences with this new to me form of OCD was probably to date the worst experience of my life. I was desperate to get help and understand what was happening to me, so I went for another round of CBT with a different therapist. This time, was more positive, I really liked the therapist and found them easy to get on with and less dull to be around. I found this round of CBT a little more effective although not greatly. I’m not sure if I just didn’t engage in it effectively or what. I found it mostly useful to talk about my thoughts and feelings and learning that they are more normal than I think. We also done other exercises such as writing a list of good things I had done in the past week and the bad, to show I do good things all the time which means I am not a psychopath. This was helpful and reassuring for me. Which I think is the problem, I felt reassured to have someone to tell all my thoughts and fears to, for them to then respond and tell me that’s OCD, it was like a form of reassuring me because I doubted I had OCD. I don’t think I believed the treatment would work and I don’t think I trusted the therapy enough to not partake in rituals and to not listen to OCD. Once dealing and getting used to what I was experiencing with this form of OCD, I guess things were a bit better but not manageable.
Skipping a few years to the age of 19. I still had my fear, but this time it wasn’t just the thoughts and feelings that bothered me it was the rituals. I didn’t do rituals myself, I would ask people to do everything for me which in itself was a ritual. Everything I done I felt anxious about like if I didn’t do it ‘Something bad would happen’ or ‘I would be a psychopath’ you can read more about my OCD in my ‘OCD Story’ blog post which you can find HERE. Remember people with OCD do know that what they do has no effect on what happens, the OCD just makes us feel like it does and so does the anxiety and doubt. This was my first ever CBT treatment with in the Adult mental health team, so I was a little more optimistic that they may take me more seriously and work with me a bit better. This time I loved the therapist I had, I felt comfortable around them and like we were on the same wave length. Being older I expressed my concerns that I didn’t want to just sit around and talk about it, I needed her to guide me and tell me if I’m talking to much. I trusted them and felt like they actually cared and understood what I was experiencing. Although I still struggled to partake in exposure exercises. Which involved not asking someone to do something for me or not taking things I felt anxious about back to the shop, or to not confess and seek reassurance about things I had thought or done. At this point I felt reassured that I had someone to discuss all my latest thoughts and worries with, but again I feel like I used it as a part of my OCD to seek reassurance. My compulsions were still bad and my life felt out of control and everyone around me were also feeling as much despair as I was.
I watched the Extreme OCD Camp on TV (BBC3) and couldn’t help but wish there was somewhere around here that done treatment like they did. My mum done some research about places around here, where you could pay for treatment specialising in OCD as we were all at a loss of what to do with me next, I’d had enough of living like this. She came across ‘The OCD treatment Centre’ which was based in Taunton but had a variety of therapy packages available, where they also will travel to you. I wasn’t keen on the idea of doing group therapy or travelling up there the way I was feeling. It was expensive but my family said if it would help me they would pay for it (which I am very lucky and grateful for). We got in contact with Sharon who runs the OCD treatment centre, I spoke to Sharon via phone before making my decision to take the plunge. I felt like she really knew what to say to me as she had experienced OCD for herself and also dealt with her son’s OCD. Skipping a head of time a bit, me and my mum made our way to Taunton to stay in a hotel for 5 days, for me to receive treatment. I was so scared. During my 5 days of treatment Sharon taught me about my brain and about my OCD. I thought I already knew everything there was to know about my OCD but I was very wrong. I learnt so much that I felt like I was finally coming to terms with having OCD, I always knew I was diagnosed but I don’t think I really believed I had it due to the doubt I experienced from OCD itself. The environment was relaxed, I got to sit on comfy sofas and sip on cups of tea. After 2 or 3 days of learning about my OCD I felt ready to fight it, It was a combination of being sick of living the way I was and what I had been taught and trusted. I knew this was my opportunity to make the most of the money my family had paid and I felt like it was my last hope.
We went out in to the town in Taunton, where I done some exposure work and learned even more about myself and my fears. I had to do silly things in public, to open myself up to not caring what people thought of me etc. We also went out about and exposed me to my particular fear and tested out my theory that I might be a psychopath. Sharon would say ‘You see these two ladies walking towards us, if you’re a psychopath don’t move out the way, bang in to them if they don’t move because you’re a psychopath and don’t care about other people’ of course I moved straight out the way. All these little things helped me believe I had OCD. By the end of the week I had stopped asking my mum to do anything for me, I still wanted to occasionally but knowing I had 24 hour care and I could just call Sharon if I was having a OCD meltdown, or talk to her and work on the problem the next day was comforting. I enjoyed the therapy and my mum also did, she learned lots about OCD and how to help me, it was also a lovely week for me and my mum to spend time together and experience a new place. I feel like this treatment was the one for me. I felt like I had taken so much away from the week and I finally felt like this could be a turning point in my life. I was scared about going home but excited to tell everyone what I had learned and put it into practice. Months on now, I still struggle with trusting I have OCD and believing I am not in fact a psychopath because of things I think and feel. But I am in a much better place than I ever have been. I feel like I have OCD but OCD no longer has me. I have more control now. I have struggled with reassurance seeking from Sharon via text and emails but I am continuing on working on that and I am doing pretty well at the moment. Having follow-up sessions with Sharon has also been a massive help, being able to recap and reinforce what I have been taught.
This is just my experiences with therapy, don’t let what I have said about CBT put you off. You need to seek help to get better, it’s very hard to do it on your own. Some people have amazing experience with certain therapies others don’t It just depends on YOU, and you won’t know until you try. I think it also depends on whether you’re ready to get better, sounds weird as you hate your mental illness and would do anything to get better. But when you’re so afraid of not engaging in OCD behaviours and have so much doubt its hard. You can also become stuck in a rut and not being the way you are seems slightly alien to you now. When you’re ready and I mean truly ready to commit and trust in the therapy you’re receiving that’s when you can start recovering. Don’t give up if one therapy or therapist doesn’t suit you, keep trying. Look at me its taken ages and I’ve only just realised that I wasn’t trying enough, I didn’t understand my mental illness as much as I thought, but now I do, I am feeling the most positive I have done ever. I feel like I now have the tools and motivation to truly put what I have learnt into practice. I hope some of you relate to my experiences and find them useful! I also hope you’re still awake after all that reading!