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. Continue Reading
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 63 of the podcast I interviewed Dr Allen Weg. Allen is a licensed psychologist and founder of the stress and anxiety services of New Jersey. He is on the board of directors for OCD New Jersey, an affiliate of the IOCDF, and he wrote the book “OCD treatment through storytelling”.
I had a nice chat with Dr Allen Weg. He shared some great wisdom around OCD recovery. We talk about the power of storytelling, he explains ERP through a couple stories, shares the importance of lowering stress in your life, preventing relapse and graduated vs flooding in exposures. Enjoy!
In episode 62 of the podcast I interviewed Eric Kupers for the second time. Eric is Associate Professor, at Cal State University East Bay, in the Department of Theatre. He is also Dance Co-Director, at the Dandelion Dance theatre.
Eric emailed with a long philosophical piece of writing (see below) for the site. It’s called “The Dharma of OCD”. Eric has taken one aspect of his understanding of the world and applied it to OCD to make sense of it. I liked this approach to tailoring understanding of treatment and recovery from one’s own perspective. In this talk we chat openly (and philosophically) about his piece, including what is Dharma, why is buddhist philosophy a good framework for understanding OCD and how does treatments such as ERP and ACT link in with it. 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!
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
I am nowhere near completely recovered, and new compulsions arise as I treat the old ones, but I am certainly closer each day to being OCD-free.
It all started when I was three years old and my family was going on a three-day road trip. My older sister was eating a brownie, drinking apple juice, and reading all while the car was moving. So, she threw up. I had no idea that a person could do that, and I didn’t know if she would live. That was the first time I remember having a panic attack, and from that point onward I have been terrified of vomiting or having anyone vomit near me.
When I was younger, my main compulsion was to control what I and my family ate. I couldn’t eat chocolate at all, and my family could only have one dessert item each day. No one could eat more than one snack between lunch and dinner, and if anyone tried to break that rule, I would forcibly steal the food from their hands and put it in the garbage. I could not (and still struggle with) eating in any restaurant that is too dirty or dark, and I cannot go through a revolving door, drink a whole glass of water (especially after 8:00 pm), ride a roller coaster, or use a public restroom without anxiety and intrusive thoughts about vomiting.
As I got older, I became more aware of my surroundings, and I was introduced to the concept of alcohol. The idea of not having complete control over my executive function completely petrified me from the start, and as I had more experience being around drunk people, I decided that I would never drink alcohol. That, coupled with the reality that drinking too much often makes you throw up, caused a new obsession to surface for me. This obsession is with coming into contact with alcohol, getting drunk or addicted, having to interact with a drunk person, driving drunk myself, and being in the car with a drunk driver.
I will never quit and you should never quit either.
I have had OCD for as long as I can remember. My first memory is when I was 11. I watched a movie and became obsessed with being hurt sexually like the person in the movie. It was a unhealthy fear. I told my parents and they took me to a counselor, and they psychoanalyzed me. This did eventually go away. I became obsessed with my health in my teen years. I thought that I would die from some sickness even if I had no symptom of anything. It was ridiculous.
Then when I had my 1st baby at 19 years old was when I really met OCD like no other. I remember walking with my 4 month old baby and all of a sudden a thought came to me “What if you accidentally dropped the baby” and then it went to “what if you purposely dropped the baby”. These thoughts of harming my baby almost destroyed me. I knew that I would never hurt my child. I thought I must never tell anyone or I will loose my child. So I suffered in silence. This OCD fear did did loosen its grip eventually.
But OCD started to make me think that I was a lesbian. I knew that I wasnt but the thoughts were so strong. I recognized the feeling of fear was a similar feeling I had with the harm thoughts of my child. It still felt so real. This also did eventually lose its power and things were normal for a bit. Then I had a 3rd child and 5 days after he was born.. the harm thoughts came back with a vengeance. I became extremely depressed for I recognized the feeling and I was overcome with sadness. This was my first episode of a major depressive episode. It was awful. I lost a lot of weight. I finally was diagnosed by a psychiatrist with OCD. It made so much sense. I was relieved that I was not crazy. She put me on medication and it was helpful with the depression but not so much with the OCD.
In episode 49 of The OCD Stories podcast I interviewed Dr Kieron O’Connor. Kieron is a full professor at the university of Montreal, and the director of the obsessive compulsive disorder and tic disorder studies centre. Kieron is a key researcher into inference based therapy as a treatment model for OCD.
I chatted with Kieron about doubt, describing your authentic self, intrusions and obsessions, why you shouldn’t try ordering pasta at the OCD restaurant as it only sells doubt, what an inference based therapy session looks like, benefits of a support group, the role of the imagination in OCD, don’t let OCD run your life and why reality always beats OCD. Enjoy.
To listen on iTunes click the button, or go to iTunes and search “The OCD Stories“. If you enjoy the podcast please subscribe and leave a review. It helps us reach more people who need to hear these remarkable stories of recovery!
You can also listen on Android and over devices through most podcast apps, such as Stitcher.
It all seemed too weird, embarrassing, ridiculous to share with anyone but I am thankful to have the opportunity to share it here.
Someone recently reminded me that we all have our dark places, things that we are ashamed of. The following is a brief description of mine…
My story is connected to obsessive compulsive disorder. Specifically something called “harm ocd”. I discovered the name for it when I was 14 or 15, but the symptoms had been there for years. I can remember being a young child and having disturbing thoughts of harming myself or someone close to me. These thoughts would be accompanied by distressing images which caused extreme anxiety. Was i going crazy, losing my mind? Was I a danger to myself and others? Typically the thoughts would be about physically hurting/harming someone close to me (I did not want to hurt anyone, but feared that I would lose control and do so). I became afraid to be alone with others, to be around sharp objects/potential weapons, to babysit, etc. The avoidance did not work and the thoughts continued until I discovered a medication and therapy that worked for me (anafranil and ERP).