Reason #28 that I Love my Supervisor

5 12 2014

I have a whole series of posts to write about the fantastic OCD Conference that we held a month or so ago – and I will get around to writing them! However, something happened today that I think merits a short blog of its own -

I have a great supervisor for my Masters. She’s lovely, has a functioning kettle (incredibly important), funny, and (best of all) as interested in statistics as I am. Once a week we meet for a morning of tea, gossip and statistics. It’s a wonderful way to finish the week and I know how lucky I am to have her support and time. She doesn’t go pale when I start talking in equations and she enjoys having a student who doesn’t recoil when she gets excited about different rotations in factor analysis. All in all, we’re having a pretty good time together and getting some good work done.

So that brings us to today. We’re sitting there and chatting about life, the universe and everything when (for reasons I won’t go into) we got onto the topic of suicide. And out of the blue, she asked me if I was okay, and if I had any suicidal thoughts. I’m fine and I don’t, but I cannot tell you how bizarre and refreshing it was for someone to ask. I replied honestly and we carried on talking about something else.

I complain a lot about how mental health awareness is in its nascent stages at French universities. There is still a huge stigma aassociated and (yes, even in Psychology) it is not something that is talked about. I learned this the hard way – I finally opened up about my OCD when asked directly by a lecturer only to have it thrown back in my face. He wasn’t supportive and in fact questioned what I was doing in Psychology. Apart from that guy (who is, on reflection, a dick), my superviser is the only person who knows about my mental health history. She doesn’t bring it up often but it means that I feel a support is there if ever things do get tricky.

So being asked outright today about suicidal feeling was pretty great. I can only hope that the fact that I reacted positively means that she will ask others. It isn’t about how I’m feeling, it’s about fostering a culture where it’s okay to talk about these things. It’s about accepting that life can be hard work and that sometimes people struggle, but that it’s okay to ask for help. Most of all, it’s about normalising the desperation that we can feel and letting us know that the lines of communication are open if needed.

I know that it probably sounds strange to some of you – it was quite strange for me at the time – and you may disagree with me… I’d be interested to hear your thoughts.

Obsessively compulsively yours,



#OCDweek – My Funny Friend

17 10 2014

A while ago I asked my friend S to write a blog for me about what a pain it is to have a friend with OCD (the hours wshe has spent on the other end of the phone whilst I moaned and fretted mean that she definitely deserves a medal). Anyway, I had completely forgotten about it until she emailed me this yesterday. So here it is – unedited and in all its glory. I think you’ll agree how massively lucky I am to have a friend like S – without her support over the years I would have been lost. Aside from immediate family, nobody has offered so much help and love – congratulations and encouragement at my best times and endless patience and love during the bad times. Thank you S.

My Funny Friend – Bellsie Boo otherwise known as “Big Loon”

Bellsie asked me (quite a long time ago now) if I would write something for her blog from the point of view of a friend. So as it is OCD awareness week I thought it was about time I did it!

I’m no where near as good a writer as Bellsie, so bear with me……………

I first met Bellsie when we went on a family holiday to France. If my memory serves me correctly she was only 16 at the time. She didn’t really speak to us and kept herself to herself but my 2 boys (1 and 4 at the time) fell in love with her and her sister. We have gone back to France every year since then and we love the family very much, in fact I would go as far to say they are family. I’ve often said that Bellsie is the little sister I never had.

Over the subsequent years we got to know Bellsie, I had noticed her little “quirks”, things like cracking fingers, the way she ate etc. but thought no more of it. One year whilst on holiday Bellsie’s mum told me that she was coming home from uni and having a year at home. She explained about OCD and how it had taken over Bellsie’s life, how she couldn’t get out of the door to lectures because of it etc. My husband wasn’t in on the conversation and I can’t remember how it came about, but he made a joke with Bellsie about OCD, and in a roundabout way she explained that was her. From that moment on Bellsie has been far more open with me/us and OCD and how it affects her every day life.

So here is my take on it all.

There has been many a time when I would laugh and joke with my friends and husband about “being OCD” or “that’s a bit OCD” just because I may have turned all the cups round the same way in the cupboard, or written hundreds of lists, or sorted cd’s into alphabetical order. Through spending time with Bellsie and listening to what she has dealt with on a daily basis I now know you cant be “a bit OCD”!!

I understand OCD to be very debilitating. It can take over your life and stop you doing the things you really want to. It is NOT a joke or about lining up the cups in the cupboard. I have spent lots of time on the end of i-message “talking” and “listening” to Bellsie and the difficulties she was having that day.

One particular incident I remember is when she needed to delete some photos off her ipod because her memory was full. It took her hours to summon up the courage to delete any photos, you see Bellsie thought that if she deleted your picture she would “delete” you as a person. We talked and talked about it and eventually she deleted the photos. However the next day she thought she was updating her ipod when in fact she had restored it, so all of those photos she had managed to delete were back again!! This resulted in me getting a phone call from Bellsie where we talked through deleting them again. She made me stay on the phone whilst she deleted my picture so she knew I was ok.

She also told me that when she had come to stay at ours before camp she was struggling with the OCD and at that time she couldn’t look at the photos of my boys on the wall, because if she did, something would happen to them.

She has told me about the times when she felt that if she held a sharp knife in the kitchen she may stab someone with it. It was a huge moment when Bellsie was given a kitchen knife for Christmas one year to go back to university with.

She has talked about having to walk past a shop in Munich that sold pipes/bongs etc. and how she thought if she walked past that shop she would be “contaminated”.

These are just a couple of examples. I have learnt an awful lot about OCD through Bellsie. She has talked about people she has met on conference or heard about and how OCD affects their lives too. I’m still learning! I don’t always use the correct terminology – but Bellsie soon puts that right ;-)

There are times when Bellsie is having a “bad day” and messages me. Sometimes I find it difficult to give her an answer and reassure her other than to let her know I’m here for her. If that doesn’t work I just say “get a grip you big loon” which usually makes her laugh…….well it’s worked up to now!

We all tease her endlessly, telling her “it’s good for her” I know her brothers move things round to wind her up and when I went to see her in Munich for a weekend I jumbled all her shoes up and nail varnishes – telling her it was “good for her”! However, that came back to bite me when Bellsie sent me a picture of a huge spider as therapy, as it was, and I quote, “good for me”. J

My sons are now 14 and 11. William, (aka mini fish) the 11 year old, adores Bellsie, and the feeling is mutual. Bellsie can just be herself with him, they are silly together and scientific and mad all at the same time. In fact both of my boys adore her, they accept her for who she is and I’m hoping they will have good understanding of OCD as they grow and get older.

I now find myself correcting my friends when they talk about OCD, and how they think they are a “bit” OCD.  I find myself challenging them by saying “does your “OCD” stop you going out the door to work? “ “if you pick up a sharp knife do you have the urge to stab someone?” “Do you think something will happen to your friends or family if you don’t follow your routine”……. No?? They soon realise!

Bellsie is a very, very intelligent, eloquent, kind, caring, brave lady and whatever she decides to do with her life I know she will be successful. She argues that she is none of those things, but we all know she is and I am immensely proud of her and what she has achieved these last few years. I know I couldn’t have done it.

We have laughed many times that one day she will be a famous doctor of some sorts and be writing leading journals. And then in the same conversation we can be talking about when she gets married to my son she wants a dress covered in fish and I have to be a mermaid! That or constant requests for brain cupcakes – yes, BRAIN cupcakes!!!

So if any of you reading this are going to the conference in Nottingham you will hear Bellsie speak. Give my Big Loony friend a hug and tell her to “get a grip” and that I love her very much.

Xxxx  (4, I remembered Bellsie!)

#OCDweek – Downward Arrows or the Consequences of Losing your Pen

16 10 2014

I wanted to write a post about the downward arrow exercice that is sometimes used in CBT, so when googling for an image to use, I found the following, which sums the whole thing up really -


Oh how true…

The downward arrow is a way of working through our automatic thoughts to find the irrational beliefs or schemas at the base. A lot of the time, these core beliefs are not obvious to us – so it’s a case of asking the same question again and again until you get to the bottom of it : “what does that mean about me?” or “what does that imply?”.

You see, this is how my brain works – I’m going to give you an example from this morning. On my daily walk to university, I came across a microwave that had been thrown out of a window (ah, the joys of student living). There was broken glass everywhere, and I could feel it crunching under foot. Whereas someone else may shake their head and carry on, to me that wasn’t the end of it. Instead, the following downward arrow occured -

What if I have broken glass stuck in my shoes? I’ll spread it throughout the city, and someone could get cut by it, and this cut will become infected, and the infection will kill them, and I will be responsible for their death and their families will be all alone and I won’t be able to forgive myself and I will be crushed by the guilt and die alone having ruined the lives of all around me.

So what do we do when we get that far? Well that’s when it comes down to tackling these core fears and beliefs. What evidence do you have that they are correct? What evidence do you have that they aren’t?

It’s not as easy as that – of course it isn’t – but it is an interesting exercice to have a go at.

Go on – give it a chance,



#OCDweek – OCD Conference

15 10 2014

On October 31st and November 1st, OCD-UK is taking over Nottingham for an amazing two day OCD Conference.

On Friday 31st October, we’re holding an event for health professionals and all involved in the treatment or care of those affected by OCD – a fantastic opportunity for professionals to hear about recent advances in understanding and the treatment of OCD and related problems.

On Saturday 1st November, we’re holding a conference for those affected by OCD and anyone interested in learning more. Not only will it offer an opportunity to learn more about OCD, it’ll offer guidance, hope and inspiration for those suffering and their families.

So here we have my Top Ten Reasons to Come to the OCD Conference

  1. It is a unique (and I’m not exaggerating!) opportunity to hear from world experts in OCD as well as a chance to ask them questions.
  2. It’s a chance to meet new people (I’ve made some good friends at previous conferences) and to make professional contacts.
  3. The conference delegate packs include pretty amazing pens.
  4. How often do you find conferences that combine lived experience and professional expertise? The conference is being organised by a team of people affected by OCD and clinical psychologists.
  5. There will be an infinite supply of coffee. Or tea. Or a really nice hot chocolate (I felt it only right that I tried it).
  6. The day has been organised following feedback from health professionals and shaped around their training needs and questions.
  7. We’re a pretty nice bunch. I promise big smiles, good conversations and maybe even some interpretive dance (although I’ll leave that to Ashley).
  8. There’s a choice of workshops. Can’t decide? Don’t worry, you can choose two!
  9. There will be presentations on the cutting edge of OCD research from those at the frontline as well as practical clinical advice.
  10. And best of all, you get to hear me talk… what else could you want?!

To book your tickets or to learn more – visit the OCD Conference website.

See you there!


#OCDweek – Going to the Dark Side

14 10 2014

In a somewhat blind leading the blind way, I am currently spending one day a week on a CBT placement. For the moment my role mainly involves sitting awkwardly in the corner and trying to nod in the right places whilst maintaining my “I am full of empathy and yet maintaining professional boundaries” face, but in time I’ll be expected to be a little more proactive.

It’s interesting and yet a little unsettling, and it’s certainly making me think about what I want to do with my life. It’s also been an excellent kick up the backside – I can’t sit there as a hypocrite on the other side of the desk if I can’t put into practice what I am preaching. One of my problems is that I know all the theory. I can tell you exactly what I’m meant to do, how I’m meant to challenge the OCD and the ways that I’m supposed to stand up to it, but when it comes to putting it into practice, I just get stuck.

So I am doing what I do best – scheduling, organising and making lists. This is to be a coordinated attack. I will be ticking the fears off, working my way up and down the hierarchy until my OCD is well back in its box where it belongs. I started today with a scary exposure, and I will continue until I’ve blasted the whole lot away.

I’m not sure whether I will have a career in clinical psychology – at the moment I am so in love with the quantative side of research that I can’t imagine doing anything else – but that choice cannot be left down to my OCD. I want to be able to say that I don’t want to be a psychologist for any reason apart from that, but if it’s because I’m afraid that my OCD will get in the way, then that’s not good enough.

So there you go. I’m doing a bit of anti-OCD stuff. If you listen to my  OCD then there’s a good chance that by the end of #OCDweek I will be dead, probably having taken down at least half the population with me.

Good luck


#OCDweek – Risky Business

13 10 2014

There is a risk, however small, that tomorrow I will walk under a bus. There is a risk that I may get Ebola (can you guess what my OCD might be especially keen on at the moment?), that I might cause an accident, that I might hurt someone unintentionally, that I might leave my cooker on and burn down the entire student residence… the list goes on. Every day we take a million tiny decisions and a million tiny risks.

Worse than all of that though is the risk that I choose not to take. There is also the risk that I don’t face up to my OCD and that it ends up consuming my life, my dreams and my future.

You see, life is dangerous. There is scary stuff out there. And yet we have to make that choice – do we accept the uncertain, the unknowns and live with it (as those without OCD seem to do), or do we allow OCD to try to reduce those risks and spiral into isolation and fear, anxiety and terror. You see, in the face of uncertainty, I will (like most humans) leap to the worst possible conclusion. Instead of accepting uncertainty I will do everything I can to strive for the impossible, 100% certainty.

A huge part of facing my OCD has been about accepting uncertainty. I might get Ebola, but I might not, but those extra hours I spend washing my hands are definitely hours that I won’t get back. Because if I live continuously on edge, fearful that something terrible might happen, then I’m not really living, am I?

I’m not there yet – I’m still not one for spontenaity, and I’m not keen on uncertainty or giving up the endless doubt, but I do see that it’s necessary. I’m getting there. Slowly but surely, but I’m getting there.

Don’t forget to tweet using #OCDweek and #thatsOCD -


#OCDweek – OCD Bloghop

12 10 2014

Tomorrow marks the start of OCD Awareness Week and I’m therefore hoping to host a special edition of the OCD Bloghop.

So the topic is…

Why do we need awareness?

Answers can be in the form of personal experiences, general thoughts, pictures, cartoons, songs, vlogs… anything you want! Just post the link to your post below.

Good luck and enjoy – don’t forget to tweet using the hashtags #OCDweek and #thatsOCD



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