I’ve decided recently to feature some guests here on my blog to showcase some other people’s troubles with mental health. Here we have Faisal Ali who talks about his journey with OCD diagnosis & treatment. Unfortunately, since writing this introductory post in 2013, Faisal hasn’t continued with his blog, but you can follow him on twitter by clicking here.
My life has been a little bit like a seesaw fluctuating though happy times and sad times. The seesaw keeps going from one side to the other but doesn’t seem to have a good balance in between, which I guess is something that we all want and yearn for.
One of my saddest life events began 4 years ago at the tender age of 18. I had just finished college and had my birthday in France with some amazing friends of mine and I was really looking forward to going to university. To others I looked happy and seemed happy. However deep down I knew I was suffering but I was really confused because I had never felt anything as painful as this before. I was struggling with intrusive thoughts about harming myself and harming others and I was really frightened and worried.
Taking the first step and admitting to yourself you have a problem is hard. Anyone who has had a mental health issue will be able to vouch for this. One thing I did realise though was that in order to get better and possibly find a way past this was to take the first step and admit to myself I had a problem however hard it may be. I found it really difficult to accept this, as many people with OCD (what I have) will tell you the nature of the thoughts are against their personality and the person they truly are deep down.
I knew I had to make an appointment with my GP to try to find a breakthrough and to find a diagnosis. Plucking up the courage to do so can be very difficult due to the stigma that constantly seems to surround those who have any form of mental health issue. The stigma made me weary and I was aware that people can be very judgemental so for me sitting in the doctors preparing to talk about it for the first time made me feel very anxious, like I knew I didn’t want to be there but it was something that I had to do. Talking about it takes lots of courage and inner strength and that is something which I really felt I had.
The first time at the GP I don’t really feel like I got the point across as clearly and effectively as I wanted to mainly due to anxiety and the naivety of an 18-year-old boy. One of my life morals though is that if at first you don’t succeed, try again and keep trying. I went again and by this time the intrusive thoughts had been with me for about 3 weeks now and I still didn’t feel like I was getting anywhere or any closer to finding out why they were there. This time I really felt the doctor who I spoke to (different to previous one) listened and I felt comforted by the fact she was trying her best to help me. OCD can make a person feel like they are in a constant bubble, but they want that bubble to burst and be set free. By now this is how I was feeling.
The doctor referred me to my local CMHT (Community Mental Health Team) so I could see for myself what services I could use once an official diagnosis was put in place. It was here that I was analysed by another doctor and it was confirmed that I had OCD. I kind of felt a bit relieved to get a diagnosis as it was the first time since I started getting intrusive thoughts that I felt I wasn’t going insane.
It was at this point where I began to realise the seriousness of OCD and what it entails. Like most other people, I always thought OCD was something only associated with hand washing and germs. How wrong was I! The reality is that OCD just isn’t about germs or hand washing. There is so much more to it than that. There are many types of OCD including Pure O (Intrusive thoughts) Religious OCD, Hoarding and checking. The reality is that OCD is an anxiety disorder that can have an effect on a person’s daily life and make them think they are something they are not (own definition).
Once the diagnosis came through I was referred for CBT.
Those of you that have been through it before know that CBT can be one of the most emotionally draining processes that a person could ever wish to go through. I always see talking about your emotions as a good thing though because it shows a true representation of who the person really is and how they really feel.
The therapist I saw was called Denise and from that first session she made me feel very comfortable. I felt like I could talk to her freely about the depressing, despairing and agonising thoughts that were engulfing my mind on a daily basis knowing she wouldn’t judge. From the first sessions I told her about my thoughts and the nature of them because I knew in order for myself to receive the best help and treatment I had to be honest about how I felt at the time.
In total I was allowed 18 sessions and I really felt these sessions taught me a lot in terms of how to control my OCD and let it have as little control over me as possible. CBT for me was about finding ways and methods of me controlling my OCD rather than the other way round, and to a certain extent I think I managed to achieve that.
One of the most important techniques that Denise taught me was that I could lessen my anxiety whilst having a thought itself. I was told to trigger an intrusive thought. I was worried and anxious about that at the time as I had to think about it full on for 2-3 mins. Those 2 -3 mins seemed like a lifetime and at first I wanted to break the cycle and not think about the thought. However the more I thought about the thoughts in those 2-3 mins the more I realised they were not actually happening, and thoughts were all they were.