18th October 2019
For OCD Awareness Week (13 – 19 October), SAMH media volunteer Jess shares her story about recovery from OCD and her experiences in trying new activities, like yoga.
"I have always enjoyed being active, seeing friends and doing activities that I liked. However, when I became extremely unwell with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and on leaving school, I couldn’t function due to my intrusive thoughts.
"Intrusive thoughts are not always in people’s awareness of OCD as a condition. The Obsession part of OCD is the repetitive intrusive thoughts, which are basically fears that cause great levels of anxiety. I tend to compare the thoughts to being like having a song stuck in your head. Compulsions are the behaviours that are used to alleviate anxiety, but due to having to constantly repeat these actions, it only works to increase the anxiety and strengthen the fear behind the thoughts.
"I was hospitalised in Glasgow, and had Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and individual behavioural work. The vital part of my life-saving therapy, which I continue to do today, is Exposure Response Prevention Therapy (ERP) and its premise is to challenge the OCD fears, (in my case, fear of loved ones becoming ill or harmed) and prove to the mind that the compulsions aren’t necessary, helpful or rational in the long term.
"It’s taken some time for me to let go of the thoughts and cut down on avoiding things in my life, but since hospital I have continued to build up my health and wellbeing. Recovery, to me, has meant good days and tougher days; and I want people to know that recovery isn’t linear, but a process.
"Recently, I have been trying to build on doing more things alongside my part time work. And one of these, is yoga.
"I had been introduced to yoga in my treatment and therapy in hospital, and had wanted to continue it, but didn’t know where to start. It wasn’t until a friend mentioned an evening yoga class, and then with much work and encouragement with my psychologist, that I even considered trying it.
"This meant a whole consideration of things that I had been previously been avoiding due to my anxiety - shopping for appropriate sportswear, which is a task in allowing myself to buy something and sit with the thoughts; not letting negative rumination take over and prevent me from going; and planning to get there in time.
"From the moment I actually attended the class, I loved it. It helped being in a friendly and small class, with breathing techniques and relaxation at the end of the session. So, I’d like people to know that they are not alone in the perceived obstacles that exist when trying to get into activities after a period of being unwell. However with the right help, you can overcome them.
"Little things like going along somewhere with friends, attending a smaller activity class/group, building up motivation, and challenging unhelpful thinking styles are really important for when we have struggled with mental health, and for the inclusion of everyone getting into regular activities. That’s an important thought!
"I have been going to yoga every week for the past few months and it has improved my anxiety, as well as now having intervals where I don’t ruminate about my OCD intrusive thoughts. And that has been a real boost in my mental health recovery.
"And on this note, it is important that others can support someone in recovery from mental illness, as they try doing new things, with patience and understanding. I know that with my OCD it’s a constant battle, and just because I’ve had therapy, it is still an ongoing and often exhausting process. However, every recovery win, like my yoga class, is completely possible.
Jess, the Recovery Ninja."