Friday, 9 March 2012

A two-month summary of my absence

Well, here I am again.

It has been a couple of months since I last posted a blog entry and I feel that it is time to reapply words to describe my experiences with obsessive compulsive disorder. But, firstly, I should perhaps explain a little of why I have been absent for so long.

I have been plagued by an intermittent internet connection problem for the last 5 years that has become an absolute nightmare to work with. I have contacted my provider approximately 50 times in that time period and it still has not been sorted. Maybe that rant is for a different blog but the problem has still prevented me from connecting with those of you who read my words, whose opinion and support I value, and my ability to reciprocate on your blog posts.

My main reason for not writing though has been this.

Shortly after I last posted back in January, I got incredibly frustrated by my lack of progress as it seemed that each day I was taking steps backwards towards the darker period of my life from which I was trying to escape. I was beginning to be plagued more frequently by the terrible images, ideas and thoughts, and my compulsions developed into increasingly complex ritualistic behaviour.

Basically my new start to the new year wasn't going as planned.

So I decided to take action and chase up my treatment sessions that I had been waiting three months to start to see when I could finally begin my course of cognitive behavioural therapy. After making an initial enquiry with the receptionist, not even a minute later, a therapist contacted me to say that I was next on his list to make an appointment with.

Call me a cynic but that did seem like a little too much of a coincidence.

But, giving benefit of the doubt, contact was made and arrangements were discussed and, after what had seemed like an age of waiting, I was finally scheduled to discuss OCD with the guidance of a professional.

So that, in a nutshell, is why I have been absent. My full concentrations and efforts have been focused on trying to make progress by carrying out experiments, reading the literature that we have been working with, trying not to spend too much time alone and overall, just trying to get past some of the thought patterns that have caused me such misery and subsequent compulsive actions.

Now that I have arrived at this point some two months and nine therapy sessions later, I feel that maybe I have come far enough to sit alone at my computer with the strength to fight my compulsive urges that used to strike with intensity whenever I was on my own.

So far so good.

But there is still a long way to go on my journey and plenty for me to share with you, both what I have learned so far, my realisations, and what I hope to be able to achieve.

So, here begins my personal tale of therapy, of how it has helped me and developed my understanding of OCD, and how a couple of short months have made a world of difference (internet connection dependent, of course!).

If you have not yet enrolled in a course of cognitive behavioural therapy, or even been diagnosed with OCD, then I thoroughly recommend that you do as I sincerely wish that I did some 15 years ago, a period of time that OCD stole from me during which I only existed as a fraction of myself to how I wanted to be.

Don't make the same mistake that I did.

Sunday, 8 January 2012

Annus horribilis - A retrospective look at 2011

I write from a personal point of view as this is after all a personal blog, and from my personal point of view 2011 was not a year that I will remember fondly.

Or will I.

You see, my first impression when beginning this blog post was that of utter distaste when looking back at a year that has brought me some of the worst mental torment that I have ever experienced. I shudder to recollect even the smallest hint of the anxiety I suffered at certain points last year and the darkest places that I visited during these times.

As a consequence of these emotions I could quite easily wipe the entire year's existence from my memory. And I would have no regrets at all.

But hindsight is a wonderful thing, they say, and now, as I look back with a sense of detachment, I can see some examples of wonder.

In March of last year I had an aching sensation in my neck that lasted for a number of weeks. I was sure it was because I was spending a lot of my time hunched over my computer screen but gradually, over time, my thought began to fixate on it and my thoughts grew more and more negative. I was probably not aware of it even happening at the time but after a while I did get agitated enough to look it up on the internet.

Bad decision.

The internet is a bad resource to use for research when it comes to subjects matters relating to personal health and wellbeing. I have absolutely no medical training or understanding whatsoever and, when confronted by some of the things that I read, I had no resource to make a rational judgement. I only had the statements and articles that related accounts of fear and, subsequently, a stimulus for personal paranoia that I carry with me to this very day, albeit, in a somewhat diluted form now. But it has still taken me months to get this far.

But on a more positive note, that day in March enabled me to set off a chain of events that I am now truly grateful for:

  • I have finally been diagnosed as suffering from obsessive compulsive disorder, something that I have been aware of for many years but have never had the courage to face;
  • I believe that I am also suffering from hypochondria which is intricately related to my obsessive compulsive disorder;
  • I am now due to undergo cognitive behavioural therapy and counselling to help me tackle the conditions and to also face the origins of my main anxieties;
  •  I have grown closer than ever to my family as they have offered me love, support and compassion that I honestly do not have the ability to express in words;
  • I value my relationship more now than I ever thought possible. Not that I ever undervalued it but my experiences have highlighted what a special person it is who I get to call my own;
  •  I travelled to Rome for a number of days which is a city that I have always wanted to explore and the memories I gained will be carried with me for the rest of my life.

I think it should be said that my family and relationships have always been important to me and that I have been lucky enough to live my entire life surrounded by love. But, unfortunately it is easy to take those wonderful things for granted, to assume that your love returned is obvious enough for all to see. A positive side effect to suffering from OCD is that it has forced me to re-evaluate my life and to seek the reassurances of those I love, and, as a result, I have realised that I haven't always been as obvious in my affections as I should have been.

I have come to realise that I honestly could not have gotten through the year without them.

The Queen famously called 1992 her 'annus horribilis' (horrible year or year of horrors) after Windsor Castle was badly damaged from a fire and some tabloid articles were negatively focussed on the personal lives of her children.

I, too, could call 2011 my 'annus horribilis' for the OCD related intrusive thoughts that I have had to endure and the resulting anxiety, fear and distress, but, for all of this year's negativity, I feel that I have become a better, more loving person, certainly to those whose opinion I hold dear.

I would never wish to experience another year like the one just gone, indeed I would not wish it on anyone, but the lessons and experiences that I have gained will help to guide me with the strength and resolve to live my life as best and as positively as I can in the future.

That can't be a bad thing.