This is going to be a blog where I discuss the progress I have made in the past year with my severe Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. This is going to be a blog where I express right now how happy I am to be alive!
This time last year my severe OCD had started improving a bit, but nothing amazing. I was still frightened of a lot things if I am honest. I had started taking my new mental health meds(fluoxetine and aripiprazole). This meant much less arguments at home with the family, but I was still living on the edges of a proper existence. Home still felt like a prison and going outside anywhere still felt like torture.
I had started seeing a lovely new psychiatrist and a lovely new psychologist. Therefore, with 2018 starting, if I wanted to get myself better then I knew the onus was on me and ONLY ME to do something about it. The time had come to start doing CBT(Cognitive Behavioural Therapy), and I was both scared and excited at the prospect.
I guess I better state here what my OCD is about so you realise just how far I’ve come this year. Roughly about eight years ago at my local GP’s surgery, I unknowingly sat on a seat with sick on it. I contaminated all my house, all my clothes and was scared stiff of this incident ever happening again to me. I was literally scared of going anywhere and seeing or smelling sick again.
I thought about suicide and my anxiety got that bad that I self harmed. It felt like I had experienced a breakdown. It felt like life was no longer worth living because I just could not envisage me ever getting better.
Back to the start of this year and the prospect of me starting CBT again. Up to this point I’d always felt too scared really to do it. The meds though no longer made me feel this way. Do not get me wrong here, I was scared and at times felt petrified before doing an exposure, but I never felt that scared that it stopped me from doing them.
This time it felt different doing CBT. I was motivated to the extreme because I wanted my life back. I’d had enough of living an existence rather than an active life.
The first big thing I did was SITTING DOWN on a bus(on my way to therapy). I can still remember punching the air in delight in my therapy room, with my bemused looking psychologist wondering what had just happened. I guess that was the real start of me embracing my fears and no longer just being the victim.
The big breakthrough was when I somehow agreed to meet up with one of my dearest friends called Ruth, she’s a teacher and it would be half term. During that day in Manchester(Feb 2018), for the FIRST TIME IN EIGHT YEARS I SAT DOWN ON A TRAM. I SAT DOWN IN A UNFAMILIAR RESTAURANT TOO. Throughout I was bricking it, but I had to stood up to my OCD demons and afterwards it felt amazing.
I was like an injured horse who had just learnt how to gallop once again, because from then on I kept doing more and more exposure exercises. I knew I had to keep pushing myself forwards if I wanted to get better.
I began regularly shopping at my local supermarket(up to that point the idea of this had seemed too scary). I started going on trains, meeting up with more friends, and then I considered maybe even joining a gym!
Before my OCD had got so terrible, I used to love going to the gym and doing exercise. I have always been a massive sports fan. The way I looked(a bit overweight) was getting me down, so I wondered if I could cope OCD wise going to the gym.
I AM PROUD TO SAY THAT I WENT TO THE GYM AND I CONQUERED. Not only is the gym a great OCD exposure for me, but I also feel amazing afterwards with the rush of endorphins that it gives you. There, I have coped with a sick looking stain outside the building, coped with getting a brown dodgy stain on my fingers once, and coped with a whole host of other unpleasant smells.
I coped because I was so motivated to do so. If you had told me this time last year that I would be a regular gym goer in 2018, then I would have laughed in your face due to it feeling so unlikely.
Without doubt though, the best day of 2018 was when I got the train to Liverpool in August, to meet my best friend Ruth. I went to university in Liverpool with Ruth, and so because of my OCD, I had not been there for round about eight years. This was because I was too scared of sitting down on a train.
I CONFRONTED MY FEARS AND SAT DOWN ON A TRAIN ALL THE WAY FROM MANCHESTER TO LIVERPOOL(and back). The weather was great, the company was amazing and I was well and truly sticking two fingers up at my OCD. I sat down in a cafe, I sat down in a restaurant, and I walked through dodgy looking stains on the pavement that could have been anything.
My Liverpool trip was made even better a few days later when I got approached on Twitter by a journalist, who wanted to do a story about my amazing OCD achievements that day. It was a great way to celebrate my ongoing OCD fight.
The reaction to the online article was really heartwarming because the amount of goodwill I received off the back of it was truly incredible. Numerous people said I was ‘an inspiration’, they’ll never truly know just how much their kind words meant to me.
Whereas last Christmas day I refused to go to a restaurant with my immediate family because of my OCD, this year I’m pleased to say that I am going to my sister’s with my mum. It is going to be tough because my sister has a dog, BUT I know I can do this and cope going there. I refuse to let my OCD stop me from going.
My dreams and goals for 2019 are quite simple really. Firstly, I want to finally get a career going, preferably something in writing, e.g. TV critic. I want the feeling of self-worth and self-respect that being in employment can provide for you.
Secondly, I would absolutely love a girlfriend once again. I miss the sharing of life and I miss the intimacy that being in relationship gives you. If I carry on fighting my OCD like I am doing, then I truly believe these two targets of mine are really realistic.
I end this year feeling a lot more positive about life than how I felt when it started. I enjoy waking up in the mornings now. I enjoy being alive and am no longer scared to breathe in(that is how bad it once got).
I have to keep fighting the OCD because it is so easy to slip backwards without realising you are regressing. 2019 will be tough at times with the exposures that I know are coming, but the more I do them then the less scared I will feel. I refuse to let my OCD beat me……..I LONG FOR 2019 TO BE MY BEST YEAR YET!