Tuesday, April 12, 2016


I bought this little guy from a local charity shop as a reminder that I am a fighter.

“We are healed of a suffering only by experiencing it to the full.” – Marcel Proust

In retrospect, I think that engaging in dialogue with my mum which I knew, deep down, was only going to cause me distress, had been a self-sabotaging act: Even though I have compassion for myself, there’s a part of me that isn’t comfortable with long periods of feeling happy and relaxed – and OCD has served the purpose of perpetually ‘putting me in my place’. I really am done with feeling this shit and guilty, though, but am having to dig really deep to find the strength to identify and override this urge to self-destruct.

I’ve worked hard on my OCD, ‘Walk down the street in trainers / shoes / boots without checking behind me for blood or contaminated needles, and don’t seek reassurance from my partner, Jan, or write down that I hadn’t been contaminated by anything on the pavement’ to reduce the anxiety it provokes in me (especially when wearing lightweight trainers) to a SUDS level of 0. Also, without as much conscious effort, I’ve been able to prevent myself from compulsively having to write down / ask Jan for reassurance that I haven’t deleted and deleted again any important emails.

Even though I’ve got these obsessions under control, I realize that the anxiety and intrusive thoughts I experience in relation to doing these activities are always going to be there to a lesser or greater degree - and that now I must, to keep up the momentum, push myself to move on to the next exposure.

As I’d predicted, this journey to recovery is bringing up a jumble of traumatic memories, nightmares featuring my father and conflicted feelings, which I could use some help with, so this week I’ll explore a couple of support outlets for victims of abuse I’ve been told about.

The BBC (in England) aired the documentary, Abused – The Untold Story, about the DJ Jimmy Savile: It’s really positive how nowadays, the voices of victims of sexual abuse are being heard and taken more seriously.

At one point I became despairing about the new OCDs my brain is creating to replace the ones I’ve just conquered. Janet Singer brilliantly describes this ‘replacement OCDs’ happening in her blog: ocdtalk: 'Just right' OCD. That evening, exhausted, I took myself off to bed at 9 pm: I’m finding complete rest essential when I hit a all-time low.

A few days later I felt almost ready to destroy the reams and reams of reassurances I’ve written down over the last 10 years as a result of my obsessions, in a bid to feel ‘lighter’ – which can only be a positive sign.


  1. 9am or 9pm? OCD has mde me a creature of the night that's for sure. Lovely lion. The Proust quote interestes me and bothers me in equal measure. Well done on looking for a group to discuss those difficult hot potatoes. See, you're a dancer. That's important I think.

  2. Whoops! 9 pm! Thanks for noticing that, David! My hope is that given time, discussing traumatic events, feelings and memories won't be viewed as much as "dirty washing" and "hot potatoes" the more they're discussed openly. To me, they're part and parcel of being alive.

  3. That is a very good place to try and get to. I like it. I know what you mean to - this is the journey I've made with some of my things. Damn hard to make the first few steps. I think whatever you can do to take power from the thing is good. Like sometimes I laugh about my OCD - at how ridiculous it is and that does help. Sometimes ther'es nowt to laugh at though obviously! Then I kick it's ass instead.(then it kicks mine back and that's when the trouble starts...grrrr)

    1. Hi David, Yes - it's good to be able to have a sense of humour about one's OCD - because it IS totally ridiculous (the bastard), but you're right - there are times when it's just not funny; like today, for instance, for me: I've started ERP on my obsession that wherever I am in the house, I'm going to poison my (beloved) cat. I've had it for about four months and the intrusive thoughts that accompany it are terrifying. I managed not to ask for / write down reassurances to myself that I hadn't poisoned him for nearly 9 hours. All the time he was playing with me (because he loves me, bless him). Now I'm tired, I've been unable to keep going with the exposure, but not bad for a first attempt, I guess... Now my brain feels like mush!

    2. Yeah I know exactly what you mean. I've experienced it with pets and fmaily members and you feel so despicably guilty. It'a a cruel disorder in the way it makes a beeline for things that ought by all rights to remain sacred. "The bastard" indeed! This cat one feels achiavable(easy for you to say mister!) - keep chipping away at it. Actually everyone else's OCD seems really avoidable and unnecessary ..... wait a minute. Doh!!

    3. oh lord my typos are out of control. SLAP. Ouch.

    4. Well it doesn't feel really avoidable and unnecessary to me. Not sure if some of the time you're judging me... Nobody has the right to critique someone else's experience: What to they know? Thinking of stopping this blog and keeping my journal private.

    5. I'm afraid theres been a misunderstanding here.
      That was meant to be a joke. i.e. that other people's OCD always seems simpler than your own. I promise you I wasn't judging you. I wouldn't do that so a fellow OCD sufferer. I'm sorry it came across that way.
      I'm not sure what else I've said that's made you feel I'm judging you but I can only apologise and assure you no judgement was intended. I'd better leave it there. All the best with your recovery Gemma.

    6. Thanks for the apology; accepted. I must have read it wrong. I didn't get that bit about airing one's dirty linen in public: I'm talking openly and honestly about my experiences in order to try and break belief that in this life 'stiff upper lip' is best. Maybe I'm just making myself vulnerable and behaving self-destructively after all. I don't know. All the best to you, too.

    7. Well for what it's worth I re-rerad it and I can see how it's ambiguous, but I assure you it wasn't meant any bad way. Just unfortunately worded by me I think. First I was just trying to be encouraging about the cat, cos it felt like that might be an achievable ERP exercise - then I remembered how other people's OCD stuff can seem achievable to you on paper when in fact it's just as hard as your own(like that's the whole point of OCD) and that's when I tried to make the joke about it. Bad idea. I think sometimes I make jokes that might work in person with the right faces and intonation but in writing are hard toget. Anyway it's important to me you understand it just wasnt meant that way. I wouldn't play those kind of games. I've been through hell with this thing you see. It's taken everything.
      I really think you ought to carry on with the blog and not give two stuffs about people's comments - it's not about that - it's testament for people in pain to stumble on and go "thank god it's not just me". I agree about breaking stiuff upper lip behaviours - all the more reason to continue with the blog I reckon.
      I don't mean this in a funny way but I think it's probably best if I delete these comments after this cos I feel like I've stunk up your blog with this bad vibe now and I'd like to leave it in the state I found it in if you know what I mean. I'll wait till you reply though. Take it easy Gemma.

    8. David, Thanks for the explanation - I get it. I'm sorry I took it the wrong way. You're right; things can get misconstrued in writing that face-to-face wouldn't be a problem. Please don't delete your comments as I've appreciated your encouragement. Hope we can continue our correspondence. All the best, Gemma

    9. Good - it was bothering me, you might not have got how it was originally intended so thanks for giving me a chance to explain. Are you sure. I figured it might look a bit neater without all this under? I don't mind deleting them, seriously. Just say yay or nay.

    10. I am really sure. I'm not worried about it being neat; human interaction generally isn't!

    11. :) Your belief in me helped me with ERP this week. Thank you, David. I hope you're well?

    12. Hi Gemma,
      That is good to hear. I'm afraid I don't get email notifications about replies on here, so if I don't manually check, I don't see them. Probably something I didn't tick originally!
      I'm glad ERP is going well, though I'm not sure how I helped! Thought I'd been a bad influence.
      I tried an ERP walk today like I used to do - promised the therapist I'd try again. Hard stopping those damn windmills spinning though. I'm somewhat overwhelmed with all the pressures facing me now and in the future, and I find it hard to get my head into a therapy place when it's like that. But I'm OK thanks for asking.
      I hope your ERP is going well and you can enjoy a bit of sunshine. Personally this time of year is a nightmare cos there's loads of garden machine noise, building noise, screaming kids, and noise is a real problem for me. Scrooge alert.

    13. Hi David, I'm exactly the same with noise; can't bear screaming kids especially. Well done for attempting the ERP walk. I know added pressures make doing this work really tough - but just take it in breathable steps. It does get easier the more you do. As you know, persistence is key - especially when an exposure doesn't go to plan. My ERP has been tough, but getting there on good days, thanks, and I enjoyed the sun a bit too much today as I now look like a beetroot.

    14. Oh no I hope you have some strong sun cream and a good hat.
      I agree, persistence is the key. I don't feel like I can bring everything to bear on the old ERP at the moment - still too much worry about money/future, and too many other things to service in light of that. The good news is I never really stopped trying to resist compulsions, even through the unpleasantness of the last year, so I don't feel like I've slid all the way down the mountain. No harm trying it where I can though - keeps the therapist happy at least. ERP can be a slippery snake, you think you've got it one week, then it wriggles out of your hands the next and you have a proper OCD nightmare. I think the trouble with many OCD sufferers is we have an all or nothing approach to life - we want to do a thing properly or not at all - and if anything doesn't go right we're inclined to abandon it and start again(or not!). But that is poison to ERP, because ERP is destined to fail, a lot. So we need to know this, and expect it, and defy our natural inclination to interpret that as failure and give up when that happens. Instead we need to just carry on regardless with the knowledge that persistence is the golden key; that it's a percentage game; that the more you play the more the percentages start turning in your favour. But I suspect in my case, I'll be playing for the rest of my life. I think this thing is just in me, has been since day one and always will be. Not a weird phase I can just shrug off with a few pills and 5 sessions of CBT(that's NOT aimed at you at all BTW just in case there's any doubt, but I've encountered some along the way who've made such claims). And that's not me being precious about it either - if I could I'd puke this thing right out right now and be done with it forever. I have no affinity with it whatsoever. I hate it. But life's too short to beguile myself into kidding myself black is white - I need to get the proper measure of it and be realistic about it, rather than being snake charmed into thinking there's a quick fix. And from what you've said I suspect you're in the same camp with all that.
      I do think though, in the absence of a magic bullet cure, ERP is our best bet for making a dent in this thing and managing it. It's the only thing that has worked so far for me anyway. But I think it may be a life's work in progress. But one which gets easier the further into it you get.
      So we need to keep at it I reckon.
      Sorry I wrote a bit too much there.

    15. Hi David. I find your comments very insightful! Well done for keeping on trying the resist compulsions in the face of all life is throwing at you right now; that takes real strength. Yes, I experienced the 'slippery snake' side of ERP last week (mentioned in my latest blog post). Being quite a perfectionist, I have to try hard to stop thinking "I've failed it!" when an exposure is unsuccessful, but right now my determination to believe in the power of persistence is winning out. Like you, I believe I'll be battling OCD for the rest of my life, but already I feel freer from it than I did at Christmas... All the best, Gemma

    16. Then I suspect you are doing something right Gemma ;) Yes, it is hard not to interpret it as failure when it goes that way.
      I thought you'd identify with some of that! :)

  4. its its its its its its
    there's there's there's there's there's