Wednesday, September 28, 2016


'Into the light' by Gemma Boyd

On Wednesday, my partner, Jan and I had one of our rare days out. It was lovely: We looked around the shops in Wanstead, North-East London and relaxed at our local pub.

Probably because I'd never been to Wanstead before (I'd ventured outside of familiar surroundings), plus I was tired, I 'took my eye off the ball' insofar as my OCD was concerned, and all of my OCDs came flooding back with a vengeance. I forgave myself, however, because quite frankly I needed a day off from trying so bloody hard all the time to regulate my behaviour. In the end I put this down to having simply been a bad day, and was confident I'd be able to start again from where I left off with ERP tomorrow - something which fortunately, I was able to do.

I carried on practising not compulsively seeking from Jan or writing down reassurances to myself every time I was triggered (which was practically all of the time while I was out of the house); by lone men, a foul-mouthed thug and a man sat beside me with a (potentially contaminating) bandaged wrist on the train, and things that resembled needles on the pavement (yes, my 'pavement checking' OCD has come back a bit recently). Instead, when challenged by these triggers, I physically stroked myself on the arms for comfort, as my counsellor, T. had suggested. This helped to keep me 'in the moment', and I succeeded in procrastinating for hours before finally asking Jan if anyone had hurt me.

This week was also one of major breakthroughs: For the first time in years (with the aid of yoga meditations I've mentioned in previous blogs), I managed not to immediately compulsively seek from Jan or write down reassurances to myself on two occasions when I was completely alone with men in confined spaces (in a train carriage and an office). Resisting this compulsion was so hard, though: Instantly I was beset by brain fog / felt removed from my surroundings; my anxiety levels increased; I couldn't concentrate; my head was a mass of different thoughts mixed in with past trauma of having been alone in rooms I couldn't get out of while my grandad sexually abused me as a child. Eventually I had to check with Jan that I was safe, but having survived these excruciating experiences twice, I knew I'd remember if a lone man attacked me, and that I can trust myself to protect myself.

The more I practise ERP on these most severe of my OCDs, the better I'm getting at snapping myself out of the intrusive thoughts that fuel my obsessive-compulsive behaviour, for example, I used to check again and again letters I'd handwritten to friends, because my OCD would have me believe that I'd written something either insulting or incriminating in them. Now, however, I can say to myself, "It's just my OCD trying to bully me," and pop such letters in their envelopes (after just a couple of read-throughs), and forget about them.

As a result of all my hard work, I've realized that all of my OCDs are part of the same malady; getting 'stuck' on the intrusive thoughts that drive them, and I'm hoping that if I can bear this in mind each I'm triggered, I shall be able to move on more smoothly through my days.

Here are three interviews and articles I found both informative and inspiring: 'Childhood Trauma: Overcoming the Hurt of Invalidation' by Sarah Newman'Meet Rebecca Ryan - the girl who has learned to beat her OCD demons' and 'How to Heal from Sexual Assault Through Music' by Amy Oes. I hope you do, too.

Finally, I'd love to hear from any of you I know read this blog, so please feel free to leave a comment! Also, I was invited to contribute to the conversation on #PTSDchat; an excellent online resource for people with PTSD. They have a great website!


  1. You're doing so well; even with virtually no support or encouragement. You deserve every happiness and are worthy of more in life.

  2. You're an inspiration Gemma. It's inspiring to read about how you choose to work through the trauma and OCD and not fight it. Keep writing and sharing.

  3. Thank you so much, Josh! Means a lot!