How CBT helped with my obsessive compulsive disorder

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I am 24, I have a 7 month old baby and I have struggled with obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) for as long as I can remember. Things came to a head when my husband's family insisted on staying at our house, which is a minefield of triggers for me, and it resulted in me calling the police. Obviously there's more to it than that, but I realised I couldn't carry on struggling with the behaviours, thoughts and worries that came with the condition, and I desperately wanted a way out so I referred myself to steps2change.

On my first session with Ruth, she asked what had brought me there and I became very emotional telling her just how much of an impact OCD was having on my life and others around me. I was constantly arguing with my husband because he just wasn't doing things the way I needed them done, every time I tidied or cleaned (which was pretty much all the time) it ended with me crying, having chest pains, getting angry, throwing things and shouting. I refused visitors because I was worried what they would think of the state of my house and therefore what they would think of me. And worst of all I was neglecting my baby so I could carry out my routines, so she would often cry on her own because I was too busy.

"I wrote down a list of my triggers and rated out of 100% how much I thought this trigger affected me. So Ruth started with asking me just to delay doing things."

I went away with a couple of the triggers on my list and I didn't stop myself carrying out my behaviours but took comfort in the fact I could still do them, just a bit later on. Normally after 10 minutes or so passed, the urge to do it had almost disappeared anyway! The next week Ruth took one of the biggest triggers which was washing up. I could not leave it until the morning after and I could not let anybody else do it. I used to get really upset and worked up if I went to the kitchen in the morning and it was not clean. So she asked me to spend the whole next week just leaving it until the next morning. Of course, I thought that at the end of some slippery slope somebody would die or the world would end, and it gave me my initial intense anxiety feelings, I got very upset and had a go at my husband for not having done the washing up the night before (I’d have had a go at him for not doing it right anyway) but I did do everything Ruth asked, and every day the anxiety feeling was slightly less intense and lasted a little less.

Very quickly using the delaying technique I realised that it was the anxiety feeling I was afraid of, and not the actual trigger. So I practiced as much as I could, and instead of carrying out my obsessive behaviours I just sat with the awful feelings and embraced them, and over time, I felt so much more relaxed with housework.

"So after about five sessions I realised that the things I thought were my biggest triggers, weren't. My biggest problem was with other people."

I had a big issue with the lack of justice in the world, even in small things like someone not holding the door for you. I could not stand people being in my house and I did not want to associate with people I thought were 'bad'. This was such a massive issue because after my daughter was born, my in-laws became very pushy, selfish and slightly controlling. But I couldn't just cut them out of my life so something had to change. Ruth helped me realise my issue was stemming from the contamination OCD again, I was worried that my daughter and I being around people like this would turn us into them. I learned techniques and mantras to help me remember I am myself and I can be around things I don't like without it becoming who I am. The best technique I learned was to make a caricature of people who invoked horrible feelings in me.

"So I would urge anybody suffering like me to just trust the treatment."

It will work and as morbid as it sounds, the worst thing that will happen is your fears will come true. People could die and the world could end but we're only human, so no matter how many behaviours we adopt and control we try and exercise, we can't control the whole world and stop all bad things happening. I've gained an absolute world from therapy, I am not controlled by my OCD anymore, even though it is still there. Instead of it being a massive bully holding a gun to my head, it’s just a tiny annoying mouse who rattles through my head now and then. I've got my life back, I don't argue with my husband anymore so I don't have to fear my marriage ending and I can be around mess and dirt and horrible people and feel OK. My daughter has my attention now and I can actually enjoy life.

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