Mental Health Awareness Week is this week(10-16 May 2021), with the theme this year being nature. For years, I kept a big OCD secret that I was petrified of nature. Or if you want me to be more exact than this, walking in any kind of poo!
I can still remember all those years ago, regularly coming out of my university lectures feeling all positive and buoyed by the learning experience. Furthermore, I can still then remember the feelings of utter paralysis and fear that would then follow.
Would this finally be the time that I walked in dog poo or horse muck I’d fear? What if I did? I couldn’t cope then, my inner peace would be destroyed. I’d feel like self-harming as well as wishing I was dead. You see, me, jokey Andy, I was the best actor at my uni by far and I wasn’t even doing drama!
At my worst at uni, I can remember getting a black cab to take me just 200 yards down the road from the library to my home school. I did this cos I did not want there to be the slightest chance of me walking in any dog poo. It was AVOIDANCE at its magnified best.
The main problem with avoidance and OCD, is that ultimately it just makes things worse in the long-term. I was being too short-sighted to realise this at the time though. I was after a quick fix that didn’t exist. I’ll be honest with you as well, I was just TOO SCARED to face-up to my fears back then.
Fast-forward to about 3-4 years ago and big sceptic me, finally relented and agreed to try taking Fluoxetine and Aripiprazole for my anxiety and OCD. I had reached rock bottom and thought I had nothing to lose. It’s been taking these meds with the CBT that have got me tonnes better.
The meds made me actively engage and want to do the hard CBT exercises this time around. The baby steps that I took soon led to GIANT LEAPS forward. I would do short walks around the block at first, exposing myself to the fear that I might see dog poo whilst out on my travels. The length of the walks thus increased as I gained confidence.
I don’t want this blog though to be like a, OH LOOK AT ME EVERYBODY I’M NOW CURED!! That would be a lie because I am not. I guess the point of this blog is to hopefully show you how much I have improved. If you are suffering as much as I was back then with contamination OCD, then I hope my vast improvements can provide with with some sense hope.
Even now, I still get a bit flustered sometimes before going out, due to worrying I might stand in dog poo. The key difference here though, is that I now know I COULD COPE should it happen. It doesn’t stop me going out for walks like it used to. I can’t believe I’m about to type this, but I even said to my dear mum the other day, “it’s(dog and horse poo) just eaten food at the end of the day”!
Unbelievably, I’ve now become one of those people that loves going for a walk. It is tough at times when I see dog poo, but the more I see it then the less scared I have become. This culminated last week in me walking to my local hospital for my 2nd Pfizer vaccine. There and back, I walked about 4 miles. It was the furthest I’ve walked in over a DECADE……AND I SAW POO AND JUST STRODE OVER IT!
I love the endorphins rush afterwards when I get back home too. Like with all things CBT wise, repetition is key!
That is my story about nature. It has been tough ride at times, but now I can really appreciate it. If you are scared of it like I was for so many years, then believe me things can improve. I might never fully conquer my daily battle with nature, but all I know right now is that I’m enjoying it like never before!