Recovering from/managing severe OCD: Hi, I just... - OCD-UK

OCD-UK
3,167 members1,000 posts

Recovering from/managing severe OCD

Hi, I just joined the community/healthunlocked to follow Rheumatoid Arthritis/JIA and also OCD.

I have recovered from severe pure OCD using various techniques, methods, medications and books, so if you would like to know anything regarding this please ask. RA/JIA interest is more from a professional standpoint.

Thanks

19 Replies
oldestnewest

That's brilliant that you've made a good recovery from OCD. How did you do it?

1 like
Reply

Hi Sallyskins,

I will reply to my post shortly, as there is quite a bit I need to write out. Stay tuned.

Thanks,

Will

1 like
Reply

I will conclude on what I wrote last week with a closing paragraph on what helped me overcome my illness in the next day or so. Hope everyone you're ok.

Reply

Willras, my name is John, counting numbers ,repeating words ,numbers, phrases obtrusive thoughts have plagued me since maybe 1983. They are so obtrusive so painful for me lately I can hardly keep my desire to live in focus. Please if you can share some of your wisdom with me you may save my life! Thanks

1 like
Reply

Hi MYWINSTON,

I will reply to my post shortly, as there is quite a bit I need to write out. Stay tuned.

Thanks,

Will

Reply

I will conclude on what I wrote last week with a closing paragraph on what helped me overcome my illness in the next day or so. Hope everyone you're ok.

Reply

Can't wait

Reply

Hi Willras - I am interested in the ways that helped your severe OCD also. I'm always open to learning and suggestions to help make this life journey easier.

Reply

I will conclude on what I wrote last week with a closing paragraph on what helped me overcome my illness in the next day or so. Hope everyone you're ok.

Reply

Hi Sunn-E,

I will reply to my post shortly, as there is quite a bit I need to write out. Stay tuned.

Thanks,

Will

Reply

I obviously want to make the point here that I am not a qualified Doctor, and therefore medications mentioned here are for your Doctor and you to decide. A quick history of me (Very High-level)... I am reaching 34 years, and I first started having OCD symptoms at around the age of 7. I never understood what these thoughts and subsequent behaviours meant, nor did those around me. I was eventually diagnosed at around 15 years old, put on medication and given therapy. Immediately I noticed a positive change in my thoughts, attitude and behaviour. I passed my school exams at 17, took a year out, and then went on to University where I studied Philosophy for 3 years. Symptoms during these years were more or less under control with the occasional slip. After University I travelled around South America for a couple of months with friends before returning to work. I worked in various jobs not really knowing what it was I wanted to do. At 24 years of age, I decided to take on a Masters in Quantity Surveying at another University to have a specific practical qualification. I decided on this as I had taken quite an extensive psychometric evaluation at school identifying all of my cognitive strengths (I excelled in spatial, abstract and numerical reasoning). At this time, I fell into the trap of "I feel better now, and I shall wean off these pills"... During my studies I slowly slipped back into my old dysfunctional OCD behaviours. I won't go into detail as to all the different "flavours" of OCD thoughts and behaviours I experienced, but I nearly had them all at some point in time. I dropped out of QS at University, had to go back on different medication (I think from Seroxat at school to Citalopram at this stage) at this time and go through the usual rounds of intense CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy). Time from total dysfunctional behaviour (total nervous breakdown) to normal behaviour took a lot longer, perhaps a year. The most likely reason for this is that my brain had somewhat desensitised to SSRIs over time, and therefore they had less impact on the second round. After recovering, I went back to work and continued in various roles before eventually narrowing my experience into the world of IT (this is the space I currently work in). At age 30 I again stopped taking my medication, had to take a break from work and go back on new meds before recovering again. The cycle continued whereby I went back to work, slipped again and fell even harder at around age 33. I had at this stage quit my job, lost my relationship, lost my dogs (as they were taken by my partner), left my apartment (moved back in with parents), lost my car etc... I had gone through the mill with the Psychiatrist I had been with since 2009. I had gone through various SSRI combinations, Anti-psychotics, Benzodiazepines and Sleeping pills trying to establish what worked best. I even had a Genetic sample taken to establish what medications were most likely to be accepted by my brain chemistry. Trigger warning.... I got pretty desperate with all of this and felt deeply suicidal and confused. Anxiety was extremely high and constant, depression levels were high, confidence was rock bottom...the future seemed very bleak and disturbing. I checked myself into a psych hospital, first State (considerably underfunded, but the staff worked very hard) and then Private. During my stay at the Private hospital I ended up taking a combination of Lithium (lift me from severe depression), Imipramine (SSRI), sleeping pills, Diazepam (taken ad hoc for panic) and what I found to be personally quite crucial in my recovery - Pregabalin (a longer term Anti-Anxiety drug). I also found a lot of the classes/activities/nursing support/patient interaction very beneficial in understanding and putting into an objective context what it was I suffered and suffer from. At this point I started to compile what I called my "Mental Health Contract". This is a word document where I have written out and worked on various thinking techniques, life goals,triggers,patterns etc... etc... The reason I named it so, was to recognise that I have to come to an agreement with what I can change, and with what I cannot change and should therefore accept. This is a negotiation between the underlying illness which is incurable and chronic, and the beneficial psychological techniques/medications that make it manageable. I use the word manageable here, but that should not equate to being unpleasant, as although I have the underlying continuous hum of OCD and what I refer to as "Wonky thinking", I still lead a very happy and productive life. I shall end it here for the moment, stating that I have gone from absolute rock bottom, to (without sounding dramatic) a rebirth and full recovery. I will post again, going into what my "contract consists" in, and how I use it primarily to manage my behaviours in order to manage my thoughts and thereby how I perceive and react to these thoughts in a normal and healthy way.

1 like
Reply

Looking forward to it. Thank you so much for sharing :)

Reply

That's great that you have learned to cope with OCD. I'm interested in what you say about getting desensitized to SSRIs. I hadn't heard this before, and I have been on sertraline for 12 or 13 years.

I think that if a medication suits you, it's best to stay on it as long as you can. I'm a bit concerned that you stopped taking your medication at one point, presumably because you didn't think you needed it. The problem is that OCD will rear its ugly head again if it isn't kept down by medication.

Much of what you say about your recovery uses techniques that sound very similar to what I learned when I had a hospital stay a few years ago in an OCD treatment centre. I found them very useful!

Keep on with the recovery!

Reply

Thanks for sharing, even though we are all different I think that we all share some thread of commonality, because you just described my journey through this.

Reply

I will conclude on what I wrote last week with a closing paragraph on what helped me overcome my illness in the next day or so. Hope everyone is ok.

Reply

Thank you very much for sharing

Reply

I will now discuss what is in my "Mental Health Contract". I shall list out the details from beginning page to end page, with a summary of what to practice and think about moving forward. I suggest you start to compile your own document as this will help you to become self-reliant. It important that you start to slowly become your own therapist, and not to rely on others. However I strongly recommend you start seeing a professional first if you haven't already done so. You will find that you need to refer to this document from time to time at first, but as you get better you will do so less.

Brief starting summary...

The key realisation throughout this compilation of methodologies and self help notes, is that in order to start to get better you must choose to behave in a way that is only ever practical and beneficial to your well being and to those around you. If it does not meet this criteria, then do not engage in this behaviour no matter how tempting or difficult to resist. Do not expect to get better over night, this process must be practised day after day. This will be painful, but you will start to recover in time (could be weeks, could be months). Remember this is an illness, nothing more. There is no reason or meaning behind your thought process and crucially your emotional reaction to these thoughts.

Think of your brain, your mind and your behaviour as analogous to a computer... Your brain is the hardware, your mind the software, and your behaviour, the functions and actions performed by the software. Like the human brain a computer is a physical machine that interprets electrical and magnetic states from external reality and then creates a representation of that reality, a virtual reality, which is displayed as images on the screen that we comprehend and then interact with. This virtual reality can be thought of as the mind - your mental reality. Given the reality you are presented with, you will choose to behave and interact with that reality in a certain way. Each person like each computer is wired differently, and therefore every person's interpretation and representation of reality differs and will change from time to time. If the hardware wiring is faulty, or becomes faulty, then the software can become corrupted. This means that the software will look and behave erratically and become dysfunctional. This could be the case for people with OCD and those with other mental health complaints. Unlike a computer however, we are not doomed to be forever corrupted and dysfunctional, we are capable of changing our wiring, this is called "Neuroplasticity". It means that just as our brain (the hardware) determines our software (the mind), and consequently our choice of behaviour, the reverse is true. If we choose to behave differently from the expected action determined by our wiring, then we can change our wiring and fix it. If we dig into this a bit deeper we see the following process. Every person has thoughts in relation to things that have happened in the past, things that are happening in the present, and things that may happen in the future. These thoughts can be rational and they can be irrational, the volume and intensity of which being based upon your brain wiring. Every person subsequently has an emotional reaction to both thought types. On the one end of the spectrum there will be some people that have little positive or negative emotional reaction to these thoughts. On the other end of the spectrum there will be people that have a catastrophic negative emotional reaction to these thoughts. With OCD, it could be the case that we have been built towards the latter end of the spectrum, and that our hardware presents a stronger emotional response and importance to certain irrational thoughts. It is not that we are delusional, it is more the case that we are border-line delusional as it is the emotional responses that distort our rational thought process and consequently our choice of behaviour. Once someone starts to take these extreme emotional responses as being true to reality (even though they know it to be illogical or not evidently a threat), then our behaviour starts to reinforce our wiring. As I mentioned earlier, behaviour can change our wiring, but it can also strengthen and reinforce faulty wiring too. This constant appeasement to what we believe to be true even though it is not, turns into a vicious downward spiral where the software (the mind) eventually breaks and can't perform any behaviour, good or bad (total nervous breakdown). At this stage significant professional intervention must take place, as the individual will be too ill to alter their dysfunctional behaviour on their own. I have reached these levels on occasion when I have stopped my medication and fallen into a spiral, hence the hospitalisation. Once I started to recover and then create this document, with the help of time, medication and professional intervention I was able to then start practising the mantra to only ever engage in behaviour that is practically beneficial to my well being and the well being of others. This behavioural practice, along with my notes, and medication have helped me jump the last few recovery hurdles.

Now, the sections of my document...

The first section is a list of things that are practical, important and also enjoyable to me in life (this includes things I have done in the past that I am proud of). Examples are "A Good Night's Rest", "Exercise", "Reading", "Rent", "Budgeting", "Planning", "Flying a Piper Warrior", "Great White Shark Cage Diving", "Trekking through the Amazon", "Friends" and so on. The reason for doing this is that it gives you focus on what is truly beneficial to your well being, and starts to direct you away from irrational non-practical beliefs. Part of the theme/rule of this document is that you should only choose to behave in a way that is practically beneficial to you and those around you.

If it is not, then you should drop it and move on.

The next section is a very high-level objective position on what OCD is. I should stress that you should remain scientific and objective when it comes to recognising that OCD is an illness, nothing more. Again, noting this down on paper keeps things clear, and gives you a good rational perspective on what it is you are suffering from. With my "what is OCD" list, I concluded that it consisted in the following mental states: "Depression", "Anxiety", "Irrational Thoughts", "Borderline Delusional Thoughts". A major part of recovering is recognising and importantly ACCEPTING that this an illness and that you will get better.

The next section lists out some statements that I felt to be important for me and to refer to when my "Wonky" thinking tries to surface. Examples for me (may be different to you) were that I should lower my standards (perfectionist thinking), that I should question whether my thinking is constructive or not,to let go, to practice acceptance, to be kind to my needs, not to rush, to keep busy etc...

The next section consists of a diagram to represent anxiety as a searchlight in my brain, always seeking out something new to grapple with (again this keeps things objective and clear as to what I am dealing with). Following this I have a layer diagram, with the mind on the top, Neuroplasticity underneath, and finally the brain underneath that. The mind is me, the sense of self, the software. What generates this is the brain; the hardware. Same as in a computer. Neuroplasticity fits in-between these two elements; it is the method of changing the wiring of your brain and therefore changing the state of mind you experience. This is important to remember, as practising good behaviours will consequently re-wire bad hardware.

The next section is something I learnt in one of the classes in the hospital - it is called the life worth living. All it consists in is statements of what you consider to be a life worth living, and what is stopping you from achieving these goals. Examples of my life worth living are: "Happiness", "Self-Reliance", "Peace" etc... Things in my way are: "Rumination", "Lethargy", "Hyper Responsibility" etc...

This again provides me with practical goals and a focus.

The next section is a letter to my OCD. All you have to do is write out a letter as if you were sending it to your OCD to express how you feel about it. Here is a chance to be angry, not sad - this provides me with a motivation to remain focused on getting better.

The next section is an easy copy and paste of the "Worry Tree" from a google search. It is common sense, but it is good to refer to as it provides practical decision making advice.

The next section is a list of all of my triggers identified by keeping a daily journal of my thoughts, feelings and behaviours (I only needed to do this for a month or two). Following this is a list of "teachings" I learned that help me cope with these triggers.

Keep a diary and make observational notes as this will help you identify your weak points and how to manage them.

The next section is a list of positive brain distractions. Such things could be reading, watching a comedy or playing a game.

The next section is a list of all of my specific OCD subject matters that bothered me. These I refer to as the Wonky thinking subject matters. I would write out the "problem" as the heading, and then I would write out what I would tell someone else if they were thinking the same thing - what would be good advice to help them.

The next section consists in what I know to be my personality type. For me this is "Imaginative", "Sensitive", "Mastermind" (Mastermind here referring to my ability to think in extreme detail, but to recognise how this can lead to dysfunctional overthinking and action paralysis, leading to stress). It is good to know yourself and to work on harnessing your strengths.

The next section are the Six Pillars of Self esteem written out as bullet points. I recommend reading or listening for free on youtube to Dr Nathaniel Branden's seminal book on improving self esteem.

This is excellent life advice for anyone, mentally ill or otherwise.

The next section lists out my short and long term goals. Short and long term goals create purpose, meaning and practicality in my life. For anyone going through an existential crisis, or suffering from depression, it provides meaning and structure. The danger is to overthink philosophically, trying to establish a final meaning in everything - you will not find it in your lifetime. You create meaning, you do not discover it.

The next section lists out important lessons I learned from Dr Schwartz's book "Brain Lock". I think it is a really important book and it provides practical advice on managing one's dysfunctional irrational behaviour.

The final section lists out the main ideas around REBT - Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy.

I will summarise with the most important lessons I have learnt, and what I try to gently practice each day as and when my "wonky" thinking creeps in. Thoughts provoke feelings, which in turn present me with a choice. The choice is whether to behave this way, or that way. The behaviour I engage in can either reinforce the initial way I felt about these thoughts (or real situations I find myself in), or it can undermine this initial feeling. With OCD, it is key to realise that my choice of behaviour determines my mental well being.

Some useful apps I used/use:

Mood Path, Calm, Michael Sealey's youtube Mindfulness videos, NOCD app.

Do not stop taking your medication as this is dangerous. Discuss this with your doctor and don't be defined by your illness or obsess over obsessing by being on this website too much.

Much love

Reply

Thanks for this.

Reply

Thanks

Reply

You may also like...