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"When I was 19 I developed an obsession that I might be HIV+ and pass the virus onto a girlfriend. I felt so ashamed and guilty and frightened. I was unable to experience happy and positive thoughts/feelings because as soon as I did, the obsession would come crashing in. I didn't recognize my problem as an anxiety problem - I thought it was appropriate for me to feel this way. I also believed that if only I could be 100% certain I didn't have HIV then I would be really happy and everything in my life would be great. I was unable to take other people's problems seriously, because I thought my problem was much more important. I felt unable to love anyone freely, including myself, until this awful doubt was resolved. I took 5 HIV tests over the period of a year or so, but kept remembering and inventing new risks that invalidated the test in my mind.
After a few years, my obsession changed. I now began to worry that I might have done something sexually inappropriate in front of a child during a day trip to a city. I had these horrible images in my mind of what I might have done, and the more I tried to not have these thoughts, the more they scared me and the worse they became. I was living in a rented flat, which I shared with two largely absent acquaintances. I dreaded going home in the evenings, fearing what thoughts I might have. I did not realize at this time that having these thoughts was made worse by trying not to have them. I didn't know about OCD or the idea of 'intrusive thoughts' so I felt very confused about what these thoughts meant. I felt really unsure whether I was dealing with things which had happened or things that were just going on in my head. I felt extremely guilty and ashamed. I felt that the thoughts indicated I was a bad person, a pervert. I was scared of my own mind and didn't know how to distinguish between my thoughts and myself.
Settling into a relationship with a medic, I switched my medication to seroxat and this led to a decrease in obsessions and in side effects. Life went fairly smoothly for a few years; I settled into my job and felt happy. In fact, things went so well that I decided to come off Seroxat. This was a mistake. Aged 34, and not taking any medication, I suffered another bout of OCD in which my earlier obsessions returned. This was triggered by some problems with my research which had gone off its expected track. I spent Christmas largely in bed, unable to function. Then I tried to get back into my research but I was just hiding from my problems. Suffering panic attacks almost daily on the way home from work, and unable to relax and enjoy myself, I decided to find out what that doctor had meant when he said I had 'OCD'. By this point, my OCD had hardened into a persistent question (and self-questioning): did I do X, or Y, or Z - that is, am I guilty of doing 'bad things'. These worries and 'what ifs' included: getting and passing on HIV; raping a girlfriend; sexually inappropriate behavior with a child; hitting a pedestrian while driving; giving my father too much morphine when he was dying. I would spend many hours trying to figure out whether I had done these things. I thought this was the best thing to do and that I was being honest in trying to 'discover' if I had done them or not.
That was 18 months ago, and I'm now pretty much recovered. The turning point came when I contacted India Haylor at the OCD Centre having heard her speak at the OCD conference in 2003. After assessing my particular type of OCD, India used REBT to enable me to accept myself unconditionally. She taught me, at a profound emotional level (not just intellectually) that it is OK to make mistakes, to be fallible. India taught me about the types of irrational beliefs many of us bring to life, the demands we make on ourselves and others, our low tolerance for frustration, our tendency to over-estimate the awfulness of events, and our habit of denigrating ourselves and others on the basis of one perceived or actual element. Armed with a new belief system, I was able to say to my obsessions 'OK, maybe I did do that' and so to stop trying to prove I didn't. I have stopped trying to sort out my memory or figure out if I did X, Y or Z. I have accepted those things which I have genuinely done wrong as mistakes, and I have accepted those things which I worry I might have done wrong as possibilities (however remote) that I will never be able to prove didn't happen. In technical terms, REBT has enabled me to stop my cognitive rituals by giving me another basis - self-acceptance and fallibility - through which to live my life. In the past, I couldn't do this, because I had no self esteem. Now I have confronted my sense of shame, I can live with feelings of guilt, and don't think I have to feel sure about things in order to enjoy my life right now. It is only by accepting the possibility that I can harm others that I can love myself, and love others. With time, perhaps my rational knowledge that I simply have OCD and that all my obsessions were just obsessions will really sink in so profoundly that I will cease to doubt. I would prefer this, but it doesn't have to happen. I am learning to live for myself, and from this selfishness I am learning to love, and to help others. I believe it is my right to be wrong and make mistakes." Andrew
"It is almost impossible to describe in words how much my life has changed in the last three months. Instead of telling you about my life before, I want to start from then, as I am very much moving forward and want now to concentrate on the future. It started with a call one Wednesday night from OCD Action. They had a telephone call from the Producer of 'Richard & Judy' who were looking for someone with OCD who had never before received treatment. Eager to get help with my OCD I went down to London the following morning ready to go on the show that afternoon. It couldn't have happened at a better time. I felt within myself that I was really ready to start fighting this thing and was very excited about the prospect. I had previously met India, my therapist, at the OCD Conference and we had the chance to have a good chat in the green room before the programme started. Talking to her about my OCD was a huge relief. Knowing she understood me was such a reassuring feeling. After the show I had so many positive comments from people that I felt I was not only helping myself but, in some way, helping other people by bringing OCD out in to the open.
My treatment started at the OCD Centre not long after and from the first session I was determined I was going to see positive results. Without a doubt the technique I found to be the most effective was detaching the OCD from me, a rational human being. For years I had regarded the OCD to be a fundamental part of me but then for the first time I began to see it as this other thing which I didn't much like being around. Everytime I felt an obsessive thought coming on or felt compelled to carry out my much-rehearsed repetitions I was able to say, 'It's the OCD, it's not me'. During the weeks that followed I began to feel I was regaining control over my life. I realised just how much time I had been giving to this intrusive thing and wasn't prepared to do so any more. I have just finished making a short film about OCD as part of my final year at University, which follows me on my campaign to raise awareness of the condition. So many positive things have happened through having treatment and making my film that it has literally been a life changing experience. Believe in yourself and never give up." Mark
"I am 32 years old and all my life I have suffered with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and have been looking for help. I have been to private counseling, out-patient in hospital, psychiatrists, I have had reflexology and tried most of the medication, and none have worked. Then one day a friend came across an article in The Sunday Times magazine about OCD. I made contact with the OCD Centre and have been receiving therapy with India Haylor since then. I am not 100% through but would say I am 80% there. There is no cure for OCD but the therapy helps me to control my everyday nightmare. I gave my heart to India Haylor for helping me and I am not ashamed anymore about my illness. I now know I can talk to people about my OCD. if anyone is affected with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder they need to know they are not alone in their own imprisonment and there is help out there.
One of my compulsions was to repeat words, I would interrupt in a conversation, because I had an obsessive thought that "if I didn't repeat the word then something terrible would happen to my daughter" e.g., she might have a car accident or she may get a disease and die etc. I had to confess everything to someone I cared about because I felt bad and guilty, and I had an obsessive thought that I would go to hell if I was not a good person. I would repeat over the same words in a book, because again I had an obsessive thought that my family might die. Continually, from morning to bedtime, I would be doing my compulsions going around turning the lights on and off 3 to 4 times a day, checking the doors and that the electrical sockets were all off. I was constantly washing my hands, and making sure there was nothing out of place in the house. I will not sit down until I drop, then when I was in bed I would be getting in and out touching my feet on the floor, and going to the toilet, because I had an obsessive thought that if I didn't do these compulsions my family will die.
I was exhausted, I cried myself to sleep many times ashamed of what my family thought of me and afraid that my daughter will discover my OCD and pick up my habits, I even thought of leaving or suicide, I didn't want to put any more pain on my family - they didn't deserve it. When I was a child I had no confidence, I was shy, quiet and dyslexic. I had a hard up-bringing, a perfectionist dad and a negative family, I blamed my parents for not helping me and not taking time to understand my problem, they would call me a stupid child for doing these compulsions, which made matters worse. But now I can learn to forgive them a little bit and move on with my life. Now my whole life has changed I couldn't be happier and more energetic." Julie
"When I came to the Centre, I couldn't drive my car, I couldn't do physical activity because I thought I couldn't breathe and I couldn't be in public places. And I'm sure if I had left it, it would have got to the stage that I couldn't be left on my own. I want to say thank you - because I'm starting to see life in a completely different way, probably how a child would see it. I feel like I have removed the fear that stopped me from progressing. I've gone from having a truly frustrating life, to having a very varied and satisfying life. I now drive my car and I actually caught myself enjoying it the other day! I go to aerobics, swimming and kickboxing weekly too - all the things I always wanted to do, but couldn't. I went to Paris on Eurostar for New Years and I loved it! 3 days break and it was the first time I was actually sad to get back. Sure I still get spiked now and again and I've learnt to accept that it's not a case of rapidly becoming ill again, but it's about not giving into those spikes, re-assuring ones-self, not reacting to it, and that tomorrow is always another day. Something India said to me stuck with me - anything that doesn't kill you, makes you stronger - it is very true. When ever I feel uneasy or wobbly in a situation I STICK WITH IT... it's a battle of nerve and will, and I have to say that since my time in the field, I seem to be winning most battles. For me the best way to deal with my OCD is to face what I am frightened of, head on. It's funny I used to avoid anything that I knew deep down needed addressing. Now I seem to enjoy the challenge." Katherine
"The 5 day intensive course in London was indisputably valuable in equipping me with the tools for helping to conquer my OCD. There's no doubt it was hard work but it really was so reassuring to meet other people in similar situations and to be able to help each other. The structure of the course was clearly set out at the start and the overall composition of the course - in terms of it focusing on both cognitive and behavioural aspects was just right. It was also genuinely good fun! Well done." Emma
"After – a far brighter place. I was petrified at the thought of returning home and applying what I had learnt to my regular life. Some time later, I am still putting these invaluable skills into practice daily. I still have bad days, but am slowly learning to accept them for what they are, I am also still working really hard on some of my compulsions. The group conference calls following the intensive have been a godsend to me, they provide motivation and ongoing support, remove the sense of isolation and assist me in maintaining my progress. Relapse is a frightening prospect, but I will deal with it if and when it should occur, I am not going to let it rule my life anymore, and know I am now better equipped to handle it. OCD had been a destructive force in my life for many years (although I now realise it also has it’s positives – never thought I’d say that!), it has affected me in more ways then I was prepared to accept. I had locked myself into my own ‘safe world’ as described earlier. Through the goals we worked on during the intensive, I am slowly opening my eyes to the world again and it seems a far more interesting and exciting place …there is so much I want to do now, I don’t know how I am going to fit it all in. I hope to get my own place in the next few months and am picking up a lot of my old hobbies and interests. I have signed up for the Kilimanjaro climb and know this will challenge me on various levels. Most importantly, I want to help others with OCD in any way I can. I feel incredibly lucky to have had treatment and hope to help others feel the sense of freedom I feel now. I recognise I am only at the beginning of my journey in rebuilding my life…but at least I am on the right path now.
If you seriously want freedom from the OCD trap then, from my personal experiences, I would definitely recommend the intensive course as an excellent way to achieve this. Go into it with an open mind and you will achieve the most from it. Good luck!" Lisa
I have suffered from OCD, I guess, for all my life, at least as far back as I can remember. It has taken loads of different forms, from checking doors, cookers and the like to more recently seeking constant reassurance about my health and many other things. My contact with the OCD Centre has made a massive difference to my life and management of my OCD. Even more so it has made a huge difference to my understanding of myself and how I I regard myself. Its been fantastic meeting people with some of the same issues as me. It can feel very lonely at times suffering from OCD, being scared to talk to anyone about it for fear of being castigated as not 'normal' - whatever 'normal' is. I guess I feel less isolated than I ever have ever felt before, and I believe that my contact with the OCD Centre has a lot to do with that. The intensive therapy course (although hard at times and quite emotional) taught me the necessary skills to help me manage my OCD. I understand that there is no cure for OCD, but my understanding of my OCD is far better and I am now able to live with it much more comfortably than I have ever been able to before. I'm no longer ashamed of it, I guess no longer ashamed of being me." Nick
"Excellent sessions with India Haylor both face to face and by telephone have made a massive difference to my life and management of my OCD. She has given me practical advice and handy mental tools to help me beat the OCD and lead a more balanced life. It has been hard work and emotional at times but I have chosen to make the commitment to keep practicing the techniques, as I still do every day. There are times when I feel I have taken a step back and my OCD gets worse, but I remind myself of the things India has taught me and that its OK to have good and not so good days! For me it is also a journey towards self acceptance, that really does get better every day." Beth
"I just want to share my experience with others about the OCD Centre and how much its support helped me to turn my life around. Writing this is easy for me now but when I first entered the OCD Centre it was very daunting. My days would be spent doing rituals which was time consuming and unnecessary but if they were not done then I would go into a blind panic. I lived in my own little bubble away from reality. I was very much in denial at the time and the thoughts I was having were embarrassing and frightening. I never imagined that there would be people out there who were experiencing the same as me, but when I had my first chat with India I finally saw the light at the end of the tunnel. Although I had a long way to go, I knew that there was hope. I felt so at ease talking to them, they taught me so much. After a few sessions I started understanding more about OCD ... it was like somebody had popped my bubble! The more I learnt, the more I accepted my OCD and the more knowledge I had, the more my OCD calmed down to the point where I can now lead a happy life. I wont say it isn't hard work because it is, some days worse than others, but now I know what it is and I'm not afraid of it anymore. I can control it. I am so grateful to the OCD Centre. And it's not just me who has learnt about OCD - my family has also, which is vital for them to understand me. I hope this gives someinsight into how much the Centre and its therapists helped me. OCD is part of my life now, and I am not embarrassed to talk about it. It has made me a stronger person, and more accepting of other people as well as myself." Jeni
"I have suffered from OCD for nearly fifteen years and before I started therapy with the OCD Centre this year, simple daily life was virtually impossible to manage - every minute was spent on intrusive thoughts and the secrecy was extremely isolating. The OCD Centre has been the only place where I felt I could safely and honestly air and work on the problem. I am now sitting in a crowded computer room at university, completely relaxed, typing this testimonial. I am sure there are many OCD sufferers who would understand that (before my treatment) this would have been very traumatic - often impossible. It has been tough at times but I am delighted to feel that the skills which I am learning can be carried forward in to a much brighter future " Louise
OCD Treatment uk, OCD treatment centres, OCD First Aid therapy and counselling
I've lived with OCD and its various manifestations for nearly 30 years (since my early teens) and its legacy of "wasted" years, unhappiness, despair and hopelessness (felt by myself and my loved ones). I've been on and off medication and have been through a number of different therapies. I ended up going on the intensive after yet another OCD crisis and I'm so glad I did. The course is well administered and structured but not rigidly applied. The therapists, India and Clint, adapted the course from day to day to most effectively address the specific OCD issues of the course attendees. The course is about educating you about OCD so you know what you are really dealing with. You are shown how to manage your OCD by learning and applying behavioural and cognitive methods, i.e., how you act and think. I felt that, throughout the course, I had the understanding, acceptance and support of India and Clint but also of my fellow OCD’ers on the course who showed courage, determination and commitment to achieve. I felt their own individual breakthroughs. It was a powerful experience to share and I would recommend the intensive course to anyone who wants to finally take charge of their OCD and lead a "normal" life. There are no quick fixes. The intensive is tough, challenging, fun at times (yes, I wrote fun) and rewarding. I feel the course has the potential to be life changing in helping you lead your life rather than letting OCD run it for you if you embrace the course and put in the effort and work at it. As hard as it may be to read and accept, you and you alone are responsible for your well being, be it mental or physical and that includes managing your OCD. But that doesn't mean that others can't empathise and support you and empathy and especially support is what i found on the course. If you (yes, you, and not anyone else) chose to embark on the course, I truly wish you all the best. Suzanne.