Saturday, September 10, 2016

FEELING THE PAIN AND KEEPING IT TOGETHER

'Self-portrait - September 2016' by Gemma Boyd

"PTSD has taught me that I am what I choose... fear or love." - Jill Christensen (from her profound account, 'Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is Hard').

Increasingly, this blog is becoming as much about healing from PTSD as it is from OCD, because for me the two diagnoses are intertwined: This week I continued to postpone asking my partner, Jan, for reassurance that no man had raped, attacked or contaminated me while I was either outside or alone in the house: I spotted a young man ahead of me on my way to work yesterday, and even though it was a main road and there were cars passing, the terror automatically overcame me that because we were alone together on the pavement, he'd raped and attacked me.

Normally, I'd compulsively make a note to myself or call Jan to reassure me that he'd done no such thing, but instead I made myself actually feel that fear that he'd fatally contaminated me / taken everything from me - as I was walking along. In so doing, I felt exhausted and tearful, plus it became clear what past trauma I need to discuss next with my counsellor. Another part of me, though, was fighting to walk tall in the knowledge that I was safe and that I had to go and earn some money.

I then got on a rush hour train where there were smelly and noisy people pressed up against me; overcame the urge to write down that they hadn't contaminated me - and still managed to perform my folk fiddle set to crowds of people with a smile on my face.

All day, I felt as if I was having to contain so many different selves and emotions as a result of not giving into my compulsion to seek reassurance that I was safe - but I managed it for about six hours before finally asking Jan if anyone had hurt me. Of course the answer was "no," but I just needed to hear the words.

This morning my eczema has flared up as a result of all this effort, but instead of condemning myself for not having been able to make it into work, I'm trying to congratulate myself for the progress I made yesterday.

Whenever OCD bullies me into doubting my ability to perform routine actions effectively, such as closing my greenhouse door without leaving a bird trapped inside, I'm now able to say to myself, "That's an OCD thought," instead of, "I've shut a bird in there that'll die after I leave." This doesn't necessarily mean I can stop checking the greenhouse for birds an absurd number of times (I need to summon up more willpower to check just once or twice maximum), but at least knowing it's simply OCD prevents me from fixating on intrusive thoughts which take me to terrible places.

My 'checking' behaviours are, in fact, so entrenched, and made worse by even the tiniest amount of stress; something that Bryony White in her article, 'How My Checking OCD Crept Up On Me (And How I Learned To Cope With It)', can identify with.

Reading about others' experiences of OCD enables me to not feel so alone on this journey; and generally it is very lonely, which is why I'm very grateful that I've at last found a great counsellor in T. of Nia; East London Rape Crisis.

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