My therapeutic journey has barely begun but I feel more positive than I have in years.
I have wondered many times when my OCD story started and I have to conclude I always had a propensity to over-analyse and fixate on things from a young age, but instead of growing out of it and becoming more confident and learning the crucial art of letting issues go, I let my feelings hang around and fester. I learned to live in fear with the expectation of the worst outcomes.
I don’t ever remember not being afraid. I was always terrified, I felt I never fitted in and I was socially isolated. I stuck to routines in order to preserve a feeling of security; when I was at school it involved arriving at the same time every day, using the same routes to get to lessons etc. As an adolescent my symptoms were the worst, I felt extreme anxiety in doing things my peers did, like going to the cinema. I had a brief period between the ages of sixteen to eighteen, when I felt more optimistic and I felt accepted by new friends at a new school where I took my A-levels.
However, a minor set back in my career plans at 18 derailed me and I spent a year living in shame, more isolated and embarrassment. I went to medical school when I was nineteen but took my shame and my sense of never quite being enough with me. Subsequently I was ruled by compulsions to avoid getting hurt, I was basically implementing avoidance strategies to such an extreme I was missing out on everything, however despite this I somehow passed finals first time, contrary to what I’d convinced myself and took on my first post with excitement. As an adult my compulsions involved using the same route to get anywhere, isolating myself to avoid being out in public and not coping well with any level of deviation from the norm. My coping mechanisms were limited and I felt dangerously alone and vulnerable. Instead of seeking help I spent years telling myself to get a grip and simultaneously nurturing the avoidance which lead to me going into a crisis where I avoided everything. I was diagnosed with OCD in 2009, approximately 20 years after I first had symptoms. I was discouraged and too afraid to seek help until my symptoms reached an extreme, by which time I had put my career and life on hold. I underwent CBT group therapy for 10 weeks followed by 6 weeks of individual psychotherapy. I was unable to control my anxiety to leave my home without my husband for 9 years and its only now after a year and a half of psychodynamic group therapy that I have regained some limited independence.
The fear of bad things happening to me or my husband never leaves, but I have begun to feel a level of optimism that has been absent since I was 18. I am still a long way from understanding why I feel such fear and lack of personal security, but I am beginning to see the damage that years of compressing my feelings and living with unhappiness has done. My therapeutic journey has barely begun but I feel more positive than I have in years.
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