My Experiences With Treatment For OCD

Therapy blog post

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!

Links

http://ocdtreatmentcentre.com/

http://www.ocduk.org/ocd-treatments

Stay Strong,

Anna

Is this me, or my OCD?

From my experience with years of having OCD, I always struggled with the question who am I? I think when you have so many confusing thoughts and feelings constantly running through you and your head its easy to lose sight of who you are and it sometimes feels like you suddenly never knew who you were in the first place.

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We tend to define ourselves by our OCD thoughts and feelings, for example with me and certain thoughts I have I am constantly feeling like I’m this evil, horrible person and I remember crying  thinking of memories from my childhood and thinking ‘how could I turn out like this, how could I have gone my whole life not even noticing how bad I am’ it broke my heart to think I was this scary monster. Even writing this gets my brain thinking ‘Am I?’ but I think us people with OCD need to stop questioning who we are, it takes time for anyone to discover who they are, let alone when you’re so lost, battling a mental illness, constant anxiety, doubts and thoughts. I don’t think anyone could find their inner self with all of that going on in there heads. We need to stop asking ourselves ‘Is this me or my OCD?’ mainly with intrusive thoughts, because I think that is the main reason people question themselves and try to work out whether what they are thinking/feeling is them or the OCD.

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How about instead of ‘Is this me or my OCD?’ we just think ‘I have OCD, it doesn’t matter right now if its me or my OCD, I’m feeling anxious, the need for certainty, reassurance or to do a ritual so it most likely is OCD, I will come back to this question later on when I’m calmer’. What is the point in that question, if you asking yourself ‘is this OCD?’ it is most likely to be OCD, its known as the disease of doubt and that’s a doubt in itself questioning if your thoughts and feelings are you or OCD.

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 As Sharon Davies from the OCD Treatment Centre said ‘You can’t think yourself into inner peace, inner peace comes when your mind is clear’ which I think is really true and relates back to feeling like you know longer know who you are because OCD is such apart of your mind and life. You can’t know who you are until you’ve learnt to except and deal with your OCD until then except you may not know who you are, as scary as that sounds. Why beat yourself up over not knowing what’s OCD and what’s you any more, you get more and more lost in your mind and are less likely to find your inner self. Take a deep breath, accept OCD, label OCD and refocus on anything BUT OCD.

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OCD – Your thoughts are not the problem, your beliefs about the thoughts are.

When you have OCD and you have constant bizarre, scary and anxiety provoking thoughts it hard too look past them and we often find ourselves thinking there MUST be something wrong with us for thinking the way we do. I learnt what I am going to talk about at the OCD Treatment Centre and it’s really eye-opening, so I thought I’d share what I was taught with you guys!

From my personal experience  whenever I had thoughts I considered bad I used to instantly think I must be a bad person to think such horrible things.  Which is one of the main reasons OCD is a problem with our beliefs about ourselves and the meaning of our thoughts. Thoughts are just thoughts, the meaning we attach to the thoughts is the problem, e.g ‘If I have a bad thought I am a bad person’ so is the thought we had actually bad? not really thoughts are harmless they are just brain activity, we have created a belief that certain thoughts are bad and should not be thought about.

Often OCD sufferers like myself get stuck in something called ‘Thought-Action-Fusion’  also known as magical thinking which is basically thinking a thought, is just as bad as acting on it or it happening, which is  no wonder we feel so much anxiety and guilt if we think about certain things or  do not perform mental or physical rituals. How could you not feel anxiety when your brain is saying ‘If you can think about that, you must be a psychopath’ ‘If you don’t do this then your family could die’ its because a lot of the time thinking these things to us is as bad as it happening, or thinking these things means it is almost certain to be true. which you can find out more about HERE as well as other factors of OCD.

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I have always been told everyone has intrusive thoughts, but people with OCD get stuck on them, unlike people without OCD who don’t take any notice or can easily dismiss them as ‘silly thoughts’, but that’s because they haven’t attached any meaning/belief  to them, to them they are just ‘thoughts’ but to people with OCD like myself, they MUST MEAN something. A belief is nothing more than what you have told yourself or been enough times that you believe it, often beliefs are irrational and unhelpful, but hard to get rid off.

An example of this is Person 1 has a belief that the colour red is lucky, person 2 has a belief that red is unlucky. Person 1 is going to have happy, pleasant and positive thoughts and feelings towards the colour red, because they have the belief its lucky. Person 2 on the other hand is going to have horrible, negative thoughts and feelings towards the colour red because they have the belief its unlucky. Person 1 will like red and want to be around it, person 2 will want to avoid red. So whos belief do you think is correct, person 1 or 2?… neither its purely a belief they have both attached to the colour.

Which is the same with a person with OCD and without, the person with OCD will have a thought, feeling or urge and see it as a negative thing that means something about themselves, or that they need to do something about e.g perform a ritual.A person without OCD will have a thought and still be at peace with themselves, because they have no meaning or belief attached to the thoughts. A good thing I got taught by Sharon Davies from the OCD Treatment Centre was that it’s not the story or the content that’s important, a story is just a combination of thoughts, It’s the meaning we have attached to the story’s/thoughts, it’s what we do about the story (thoughts) which becomes the problem.

Which is true it’s not our thoughts, feelings and urges that are the problem it’s what we do about them, whether we choose to acknowledge them and be sucked in by OCD. So when you think about it,  a thought is just a thought, if we get rid of the meaning and belief we have attached to the thoughts, OCD couldn’t survive because we would no longer be bothered by the content of the thoughts and without our attention OCD cannot survive. Trying to change a belief you have had for so long can be really hard, as I have found out and still am, but once you realise you have an irrational belief that’s the start of  getting rid of it. Remember if you no longer believed your thoughts, feelings and urges meant something bad, where would your OCD be? Gone.

tumblr_ly6h4j0szt1qmyf2uo1_500      Stay Strong, Keep fighting ♥