Gaining access to appropriate treatment for my OCD has taken 17 years. I’ve been down many blind alleys, had wrong types of therapy, tried many prescribed drugs, hypnotherapy and had voluntary admissions to psychiatric hospitals.
I’ve met sympathetic but powerless GPs, amazing fellow sufferers and extremely ignorant mental health professionals. I’ve studied for a history degree, an MA in journalism and worked in the media for a number of years. We sufferers of OCD are much stronger than we think and can achieve our goals despite the disorder.
When I was much younger I had a habit of sniffing my hands as I thought they were “smelly”. I also used to make repetitive clicking noises with my teeth. I was always relatively anxious and lacking in confidence but I was never in the state of terror and panic I later found myself in.
When I was in my early 20s I had a friend whose two daughters were nine and 11. I had spent a lot of time with these children and had never had any self-doubt regarding my own behaviour or feelings towards them. In fact I had looked after them and other children on many occasions.
OCD is a process that takes time. After all, it took me 17 years to get into the state I was in.
At their house one day this “what if” thought related to child abuse popped into my mind. It was like being hit by a ton of bricks. Within a matter of days I was avoiding many situations involving children, had started to ritualise mentally and was extremely frightened of what was going on in my head.
I sought help relatively quickly and although I was diagnosed with OCD by an experienced psychiatrist a pattern began where I would be probed about my childhood experiences with an emphasis on “this is what we think caused it” rather than “what are we going to do about it”?
I was prescribed many different drugs over the years including anti-depressants, anti-psychotics, sleeping tablets and beta-blockers. I genuinely feel that many of these drugs are completely inappropriate for the treatment of OCD.
As time passed I became aware of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and began to push for this type of treatment.
As time passed I became aware of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and began to push for this type of treatment. Five years ago I moved from Brighton to Cardiff but soon found myself facing familiar problems - lack of access to appropriate treatment, ignorance about OCD and too much emphasis on prescribed medication.
Fortunately I began to see a more enlightened NHS psychiatrist in Cardiff who pushed for me to receive CBT at the Centre for Anxiety Disorders and Trauma (CADAT) in London. My local health trust initially turned down a funding request despite CADAT’s willingness to take me on. A lengthy battle began during which my consultant wrote that my OCD was extremely debilitating and that “there was no comparable service” to CADAT in South Wales.
Finally, after many letters and advocacy from OCD-UK and my MP, the trust agreed to fund the treatment. This began in April and involved weekly and fortnightly visits to South London.
How helpful was the treatment? Perhaps not as useful as I had hoped despite me now being able (metaphorically) to see OCD as a bully that I can stand up to. I’m certainly not “cured” of OCD and still struggle with intrusive thoughts on a daily basis. I know, however, that overcoming OCD is a process that takes time. After all, it took me 17 years to get into the state I was in.
On the other hand having OCD has contributed to me growing as a person, becoming more mature, tolerant,
I do believe I am calmer, not taking the thoughts quite so seriously, am spending more time with my nephew and niece (six and four years-old) and making tentative plans - professional and personal - for the future. I am also lucky that I have an extremely supportive, non-judgemental partner.
I try not to dwell on what I feel I’ve lost but I can’t help wondering sometimes how differently things could have been if I hadn’t experienced such intense fear for so many years – consistent relationships with my nieces and nephews, children of friends or even having a family myself.
On the other hand having OCD has contributed to me growing as a person, becoming more mature, tolerant, compassionate and empathic towards others. It has also given me a greater insight into what I do want out of life.