I have OCD – Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder – there I said it.
It’s taken me a good 30 years to realise, come to terms with, and accept that OCD is an integral part of me and probably always will be.
In April 2019 I made a bold decision that my OCD was something I needed to strategically work on and change. I realised that OCD was the prison wall I had built around me that stopped me from living my life, I mean, really living my life.
It’s taken a further 2 years to write this blog and share my story. Why?
Well, part of my compulsion was to never share that I had this disorder because if I did, myself or someone close to me might get very ill or even die!!! Add to this the social stigma of ‘being a bit nuts’ and we have a perfect OCD trap.
If I wasn’t able to admit I have OCD to myself or anyone else, how could I get better?
Having hypnotherapy and training as a solution-focused hypnotherapist gave me the confidence and clarity I needed to really understand how my brain was working and how I could get it working better for me.
Our brains are amazing things, and what I didn’t realise is that I can train my brain how to work to my advantage. Imagine having a brand-new luxurious sports car, that can drive you through life comfortably, easily, having lots of fun. Now imagine you’re terrible at driving it – you’re stalling and bunny jumping at every junction. This is how I was using my amazing brain, I just needed to learn the techniques to ‘drive’ it and use it to its highest potential.
Sharing my story of how I suffered from an internal battle with OCD is really important to me because I know others can transform their minds just like I did.
So, what actually is OCD really like?
Suffering from OCD can range from mild to very severe, but the common theme is that it disturbs people’s lives by taking up time and mental effort. It can affect your education and career development, building relationships, overall quality of life, and can greatly impact those who support you too.
OCD is something I’ve struggled with for as long as I can remember. In my younger years, I assumed that my thoughts and feelings were the same as everyone else’s and that everyone felt like I did inside. I didn’t realise I was different. Because of this, I struggled to understand why other people appeared to find a day-to-day life so simple, especially when we have all these thoughts to battle with. I felt trapped in my own head with overwhelming frequent scary thoughts every single day, and this was a massive strain on my overall happiness and wellbeing.
Everyday tasks were more than a chore, for example simple activities like leaving a room! You would have thought leaving a room would be nice and simple right? Not for me. I remember as a teenager I couldn’t leave my living room without scanning my eyes over my Mum’s favourite ornament six times whilst repeating a safe word over and over inside my head, and then repeating that sequence until it felt OK to leave.
Another obstacle in my day would be using the stairs. Depending on how many steps there were from top to bottom would depend on which specific steps I needed to completely skip over. Because, if I stood on that particular step, something bad would happen. This was easy at home because I had mapped out which steps, I could safely land on and the ones that I needed to jump past and avoid like the plague. Imagine how my stress levels would rise when I was faced with a new flight of stairs in a shopping centre, and I had just a few seconds (to avoid social embarrassment) to figure out which steps were safe to use, and which would (in my mind) cause a car accident on the way home.
All these behaviours that I had, and there were hundreds, whether it be physically missing out steps on the stairs or mentally repeating dialogue over and over in my head, was an overwhelming necessity to cancel out and neutralise the anxiety caused by the disturbing thoughts in my mind. I became increasingly aware as I got older that these behaviours might be silly or strange or even crazy, and because of this, I was ashamed to share how I was feeling for fear of being judged and rejected.
My mind was full of observing and scrutinising my every thought, my every move, all the things I was doing, all the things I wasn’t doing, I was in a state of flux searching for control of just about everything, from the moment I woke up to the moment I fell asleep. The irony was that I was completely out of control.
All this might sound completely bonkers to you. I thought exactly the same thing, ‘I’m crazy!’. I couldn’t let anybody ever find out – hence my covert rituals of counting inside my head and daily mantras of words and sentences. Surely, they would throw me into an asylum or call me a modern-day witch? (Yes, that’s how negatively I was thinking.)
This is exactly why I’m writing this blog. I am passionate about educating people to understand what OCD is and what it isn’t. I want others to know that if you suffer from OCD, you’re not crazy and you’re not alone. OCD affects 1.2% of the population, which is three-quarters of a million people in the UK. Having a better awareness of OCD to educate and remove the stigma enables us to spot the signs in ourselves or others and get the help we need.
Where am I now?
Well, I can honestly say that I am no longer the woman who must put her deodorant on three times in the morning or the woman who can never drink coffee ever again in fear that someone close to me might die. In fact, on Thursday 2 April 2019, I drank my first cup of coffee in over 19 years!!! Back then, the obsessional responsibility I felt to keep my loved ones safe led to compulsive avoidance of my love of a nice cup of hot sweet coffee. Now my coffee machine is in full swing, and I enjoy every moment of each cup.
I also walk up and down every step on the stairs, not that anyone ever noticed when I didn’t, I hid it well.
This ability to break rituals and to cease the development of new ones is because of the learnings I have taken from solution-focused hypnotherapy. Understanding that my brain cannot tell the difference between real and imagined has enabled me to have autonomy and empowerment over my thoughts and how I react to them. Because of my solution-focused journey, I was motivated to train to enable others to reap the same benefits as I have. As a therapist myself I use comfortable and relaxed techniques to enable others to gain confidence to make many small, simple, but significant steps forward.
My OCD brain is now Optimistic, Courageous and Daring, and it’s my job now to guide others to achieve the same.
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