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In episode 68 of the podcast I interviewed Shala Nicely. Shala is an anxiety disorders treatment specialist in Atlanta, co-founder of beyondthedoubt.com and co-author of the forthcoming book, “Everyday Mindfulness for OCD”.
I got Shala on the show to answer some of your ERP questions. I asked the community what their ERP questions were. 36 people answered, with a collective 78 questions. This is part one in answering these questions. Enjoy!
One way is recovery and the other is OCD. It is awesome to have that choice!
Growing up I used to worry a lot. About everything. I never told anyone though. I’m not sure if this was because I thought ‘If I don’t say it its not real’. Or maybe I didn’t want to seem weak? Or perhaps I didn’t want people to worry themselves? Probably all of those. It does not matter too much now. The fact is I had a load of anxiety taking a ride on never ending waltzers in my belly and, despite having a wonderfully supportive family, I never felt comfortable vocalising its existence.
So where does this anxiety go? How is the pressure relieved? Unfortunately the natural mistake any child, teenager or adult can make is to try to work that feeling out. To try to think themselves out of that feeling. It can work briefly. But if that anxiety pot is always on the verge of brimming you have to keep thinking of more ways to reassure yourself that everything is going to be okay. Throw a frightful “intrusive thought” into the mix and its not too much of a jump to see what can happen next. The individual starts to dedicate their whole lives to convincing themselves that thought was not real. But the issue is the anxiety made it FEEL real. And so the cycle continues. OCD is born.
I remember in my early 20s I used to say to myself “I will NOT have that thought today” and manage about 5 minutes at best. That track got stuck more than the NOW 54 CD that I used to use as a tea coaster and frisbee. And was even shitter. I was so desperate to have a ‘pure’ brain without ugly thoughts. But anything from a pair of scissors to a dark BBC News story would be enough to set me off into dreadful doubt and reflection. Of course all of this reassurance, coping and avoidance made things much worse. I had got to the point of planning how to ‘hand myself in’ (for crimes against the thinking world I suppose) and researching online to see if I had the same brain as the Moors Murderers. All was not well.
Then, whilst training for a new healthcare role at the age of 24, a little miracle happened. The woman taking the group mentioned “some people with OCD have repeated unwanted thoughts about hurting people”. I sat bolt upright. Straight after I raced home and jumped on Wikipedia and started reading about OCD, intrusive thoughts and compulsions. The relief I felt that day is still something I marvel at fondly. That there could be a reason for all this confusion and fear felt something close to being reborn.
In episode 64 of the podcast I interviewed Donald Robertson. Donald is a cognitive-behavioural psychotherapist, trainer, and author who specialises in the treatment of anxiety and the use of CBT and clinical hypnotherapy. He is the author of many books including “Stoicism and the art of happiness”, “Build your resilience” and “The philosophy of CBT”.
I had a good chat with Donald about Stoicism and OCD. We talk about what Stoicism actually is, the birth of CBT, advice for exposures, how broadening your scope of attention can help dilute anxiety, defusing from thoughts, meta-cognitive therapy, effective meditation, how to become more resilient. Enjoy!
In episode 61 of the podcast I interviewed Adam Shaw. Adam, along with Lauren Callaghan co-wrote the book “Pulling the trigger – OCD, Anxiety, panic attacks and related depression. A definitive survival and recovery approach”. Adam also founded the mental health charity The Shaw Mind Foundation.
I had a good chat with Adam. We talk about suicide, why reassurance is a nasty drug, taking a punt on recovery, facing fears not fighting them and living a life beyond OCD. This is an inspiring talk, hope it helps. Enjoy!
But with the right help and support I know I can get better.
I was always been a different child, I obsessed over a lot of things that other kids wouldn’t. I believed that if I didn’t pray a certain amount of times, someone I loved would die. This was scary to deal with at such a young age. I would obsess over things and get worked up about things. Eventually my OCD grew, it manifested itself into everything in my life. As I started high school my OCD got unbearable. It took up my life I couldn’t function normally, I couldn’t even walk into a room without my mind telling me “don’t go in that room or someone will get hurt”. Things that I used to love became meaningless, I didn’t find joy from anything anymore.
I started going to therapy and soon started CBT. It was hard at first to open up to someone and let them know about my thoughts. I struggle with intrusive thoughts, these thoughts are so real to me sometimes I can’t tell what’s real and what’s in my mind. These thoughts revolve around harming people I love. I believed that once I had this thought it would come true. This is so scary for me because I take responsibility for everything. I started self harming because I felt worthless, like I needed to punish myself for being a bad person. I got sent away to a psychiatric hospital when I was 14, this was so scary. I didn’t like it at all, I felt alone and my self harm got worse after being in hospital. I ended up being discharged from hospital as they believed it wasn’t the right environment for me.
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In episode 56 of the podcast I cover a question I have been asked and seen around the web many times, “how do I do ERP for Pure O?”. There are many great ways of doing this, however I share a couple ways on this episode, focusing on a technique called imaginal exposure in particular. Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP) therapy is best done with a therapist as it can be quite emotionally challenging and the therapist is trained to help you get the most out of it.
“Do the thing you fear most and the death of fear is certain“ – Mark Twain
She has confirmed to me time and time again that no one in the history of OCD has ever actually acted on these intrusive thoughts
Like many, my OCD reared it’s ugly head when I was a teenager in the form of Pure O, or harm OCD. At the time I had no idea what OCD was, there certainly was no Google back then, and sincerely thought I was losing my mind. I certainly didn’t want to talk to anyone about the intrusive thoughts so I kept the torment to myself. I remember in the late 80s being in our kitchen with the Phil Donahue show playing on the tv and only half listening until I realized there were people on this show discussing exactly what I was going through. It was like an elephant being lifted off my chest and I cried many tears of relief as I listened to other stories and finally understood what I had was just a horrible condition that affected many.
I have thought at the worst times that I would rather have terminal cancer than this disorder, because at least only myself would have the chance of being harmed in that scenario. The cruelty of this illness seems to me to be one of the worst illnesses that can affect a human, but I know there is hope in the form of reaching out for help.
You have been around for quite some time now for my son (now 22yrs old)…… I first noticed when he was 13yrs old, I thought it was just little fad he was going through. Bending down touching the floor, or the top of a fence or not walking on the cracks on the pavement.
You did that for 3yrs then on a holiday weekend it all came pouring. You could not cope anymore, you thought you were gay, a bad person, a really really bad person and would go to hell, you cried with fear. OCD gave you a breakdown! You were admitted to hospital and diagnosed with OCD…. You had continuous intrusive thoughts, sexual, violent, religious thoughts…. Your head was full…… I could visibly see your worry, your pain, your fear!!! But I was helpless and did not know what to do….. I cried with you, I tried to re-assure you….. I did the best I could.
In episode 41 of The OCD Stories podcast I interviewed Shala Nicely. Shala is an anxiety disorders treatment specialist in Atlanta and author of the forthcoming books, “Is Fred in the Refrigerator?” and “Everyday Mindfulness for OCD”. Shala is also co-founder of BeyondTheDoubt.com.
I chatted with Shala and asked her your questions, she gave some great answers. Shala answered questions on sleep, dealing with mental checking, advice for starting ERP, how obsessions have changed over time, medication, accepting risk, depression and imaginal exposure. Enjoy.
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