Over the Wall

12 09 2014

It’s hard to explain camp to those who have not experienced it. Over the Wall is a charity that provides free life-changing activity camps for children affected by serious illness and their siblings, but what they forget to tell you on the website is that it isn’t only the children’s lives that are changed. It is fair to say that without OTW, I would not be in the place I am today. When I first attended camp, I was still recovering from my worst period of OCD, about to return to uni after eighteen months off, and scared as hell. For someone with hyperresponsibility issues, being put in charge of a team of eight 14-18 year old girls (some of whom had complex medical needs) could have gone badly, and yet it didn’t. It was the best experience you could imagine, a turning point in my recovery and just a wonderful week of fun.

Since that camp, I have returned to others and they have all been fantastic. That being said, this summer’s camp was different. I don’t know whether it was the group of amazing people that I was working with, the fact that I had a seemingly neverending supply of glitter and paint or that what I needed more of all was a week of silliness, but this year’s camp made me think.

I spend most of my life feeling like a failure. I spend most of the time feeling not good enough, not clever enough, not anything enough. This year has been long and hard and I haven’t been particularly happy. I’ve made some silly decisions and ended up using totally unsustainable coping strategies, and most of all, I’ve been sad and I’ve been scared.

My first week at Over the Wall this year changed all that. When I am at camp, I am myself. I am everything – the best and the worst bits – and I am good enough. At camp I feel full and not gnawingly empty; like I belong and not like I am lingering at the edges of life; like I have a future and not that I am hopeless.

And feeling all that, even just for a week, is enough. It’s enough to give me the kick up the arse that I need to ensure that that Bellsie doesn’t stay at camp with the facepaint and the silly songs, but that she puts on her sensible clothes and slots into daily life. It’s enough to remind me that I am fine as I am, that I am not useless or stupid, that there is something in me that has inherent value. And it feels pretty good.

So thank you. Thank you to all of you at Over the Wall – the fantastic staff team and the amazing volunteers, the brilliant med team and the unforgettable campers. You see, camp is life changing for us all, and we are so very lucky to have it.



11 07 2014

It’s taken me a long time to write this post.

Recently I have had a problem with bouts of utter hopelessness. We’re talking desolate black holes which seem too deep to climb from and too dark to see out of – and yet they do pass. The problem is how I cope whilst I’m down there.

I’ve always had good coping skills – I pull myself together and logic and practical answers sort me out. And yet recently, I have found myself totally unarmed whenever these night-time days happen. I find myself forgetting all that I know – my mindfulness, my CBT, the skills that I have gained over the last twenty five years. Instead, I make bad decisions. I chose coping strategies that are neither healthy nor sustainable and which just make me feel worse. And it scares me. I am scared by what I’ve done and what I may do and I worry that one day it won’t just be a case of waking up the next day feeling silly.

I know this will pass. I know that things will get better and that I will be back to my normal happy self soon. But it’s just another reminder that maybe I haven’t come as far as I thought. I still have a way to go.

I don’t know what the future holds, but I know that I need to change things. I need to stop waiting for it to happen and beating myself for being no further than I was ten years ago. It’s time for me to decide what I really, really want and where I want to be. It’s time to grow up a bit.

I have exciting projects ahead. I have things to look forward to and people who think I’m worth spending time on. I can’t mess it up.

Obsessively compulsively yours,


The Full Lady Macbeth

27 06 2014

I think that it is fair to say that I am somewhat naïve. I don’t smoke, never take anything stronger than paracetamol and drink rarely (apart from after exams. I am still recovering from that hangover). To be honest, I rarely come across people that do – they don’t tend to hang around in libraries – and yet at the moment, it seems like all I can think about is drugs.

Drugs is a little general – it’s cannabis that really panics me. Quite a few years ago I had a lesson that explained (pretty badly) the effects of using cannabis and the risks of developping psychosis. What was meant to frighten teenagers into abstinence instead sent me into a loop of worry. What if I touched something that had been touched by someone who had smoked cannabis? Would the THC molecules somehow squeeze their way through my hands and up to my brain, sending me into a violent psychotic state? The short answer is no – of course they won’t, but we all know that OCD rarely listens to logic.

There are times when I see imagined traces of cannabis everywhere – smeared on the handrails in the tram, dusted through the pages of my library book or sweatily passed from palm to palm as I pay for my shopping. Having worried initially about it all those years ago, the obsession reappeared with avengence this time last year, causing me to scrub my hands raw, rubbing again and again with a towel in case a few particles were clinging to my knuckles. After a few weeks things improved – although this probably had something to do with moving back home – only to rear its head again a few weeks ago. I can’t pinpoint why – there are a number of factors – but I do know that it’s something that I need to act upon.

I currently have two little raw patches on the knuckles of my left hand, and I’m determined not to let it go any further. Now is time to stop – not reduce – and accept that enough is enough. I have conquered so many aspects of my OCD and this will be no different.

So no more Lady Macbeth impressions. No more lathering up my hands and washing them until I feel clean. No more stopping people from touching my things.

No more giving in to OCD.

Obsessively compulsively yours,



OCD and Exams

23 05 2014

I have a dirty little secret.

I’ve always quite liked exams. I like the reverent hush of an exam hall; I like having an opportunity to tie together all of the different strands of knowledge that have been woven through the year; I like colour coded revision timetables and I even like the second of doubt and anxiety as you flip over the page and begin.

I’ve never really had much exam anxiety. For me, the worst bit has always been the waiting that begins once the exams are over. Like most people, I pick apart my answers, double check facts and squeak with frustration when I remember things that I left out.

Not this time. I have just sat my finals, and it was not – shall we say – a calming experience. My poor sister and parents have had more tearful conversations with me than during the last three years of my degree put together. In fact, I think that it’s fair to say that I have spent the majority of the last week either in an exam hall or in tears. Smooth.

This week OCD has been very much in control. Between the obligatory ‘your family will die if you don’t line everything up properly and repeat everything four times’ threats and the exam based ‘are you sure you really handed in your paper?’ worries, this week hasn’t been much fun.

In some ways I suppose it has its positives. It’s reminded me not to be complacent and the need to weed these thoughts out regularly, that I need to take better care of myself in stressful situations (I haven’t slept for quite a while due to the anxiety) and most of all, it’s reminded me that despite it all, I will somehow make it through alive.

Earlier this week I was cross. I was angry that OCD had decided to rear its ugly head at this most inopportune of times and that it was stopping me from being able to do my best. And then I remembered what I said last week about being human.

Maybe this is my best. Maybe my best doesn’t mean 100% in every exam but being able to get through a really hard week and staying on track. Sometimes it’s about choosing your battles and remembering how far you have come. Sometimes half of the success is about picking yourself up, dusting yourself off and walking into the next exam, aware that OCD is still on your back.

Sometimes it’s about remembering that we’re human.

Obsessively compulsively yours,


And I’m Done…

22 05 2014

This morning I sat my final exams. I have now officially finished my degree – it’s just a case of waiting for the results now.

So before I get too carried away with the worry of what I could have done better, before I am disappointed by not reaching my impossible standards, before I start catastrophising about my results and imagining myself at retakes or having to repeat the year, before all that, I want to say this –

Today I am proud of myself.

I’m proud that I have come a long way, that I have not just lived with OCD but succeeded with it, that I have pushed myself harder and further than I have ever done before, that I have only had the occasional breakdown and after all of that, I have somehow survived.

Yeah, it hasn’t always been easy. There have been times when OCD has been a total pain in the bum (this week being one of them) and where I could have done without its company. But I’ve survived. And I’ve done well.

And today I am proud of myself. Just don’t expect me to say it again.

Next step postgrad…

Obsessively compulsively yours


Letting Myself Down

17 05 2014

Right now I’m having a bit of  a hard time. I’m trapped in a spiral of perfectionism and anxiety and I’m not sure that I know the way out. It seems like every new and exciting opportunity that I snap up soon turns into another reason to worry, another chance to fail and let people down that I have to avoid.

Like most people, I’m no stranger to Impostor Syndrome. I feel like a fraud, that people are placing their faith in me when I will never be able to live up to their expectations. You see, this is one of my issues with perfectionism – it’s the implicit side of it that bothers me. My parents are the polar opposites of pushy – they’re far more likely to tell me that I’ve done more than enough work and that I need to stop and have a drink instead of reading one more chapter. And yet, and yet… if I were to come home with a bad grade or do something wrong, they would be surprised. They wouldn’t be disappointed – they aren’t like that – but they would be surprised. And it’s the same thing that bothers me whenever someone tells me that I’m bright or that I’ll do well in my exams. It’s another scoop of pressure being added to the already teetering pile of expectations.

I’m not good at asking for help, that much is obvious. I have a horror of being seen as attention seeking and a stubborn streak that means that I feel the need to cope alone. I know that this isn’t a good coping strategy and  nor are the self-sabotaging or self-destructive behaviours that seem the way out of the waves of anxiety. I know that I need to be mindful, that I need to use my CBT skills, talk to those around me and put things into perspective, and yet it’s so bloody hard. If I do, I feel as though I am letting down those who have invested so much in my recovery, and if I don’t, it’s just another stick to beat myself with.

You see it turns out that unfortunately I’m human after all. And that’s not easy for this perfectionist to accept.

Obsessively compulsively yours


Maternal OCD Twitter Chat

3 05 2014

Every mother knows how hard parenting can be – throw OCD into the mix, and it can be soul destroying. Luckily, the fantastic team at Maternal OCD are at hand – and this week they are holding a Twitter chat in order to share their wisdom.

How can you join in? It will be taking place on Monday 5th May at 9:30 – 10:30AM GMT. Use the hashtag #bumpsandmumsocdhr and follow @MamaOCD to make sure you don’t miss out.

But most of all, don’t forget to follow Maternal OCD on Twitter!



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