The Real Deal or Where I’ve Been

26 01 2016

Some of you may have noticed that my blogging (which has always been irregular at the best of times) has been even less often than usual. This is for a number of reasons but mainly one, one that I have debated blogging about for a while now.

You see, this blog was originally about OCD. I was diagnosed, I had excellent treatment and I made a good recovery. It was a fairy story, albeit with ups and downs, highs and lows. Occasionally I would stray off onto more general posts about OCD or my life in general but it has mainly stayed on the topic of obsessive compulsive disorder.

The thing is, I have other demons. In the last couple of years I have slowly developed other symptoms, fallen into moments of utter crisis  and experienced things that I can’t put down to OCD.

I don’t know where to start the story because like most stories it doesn’t have a clear beginning. Over the last two years I have had periods where I felt so low and full of self-loathing that I have cut myself and needed stitches, stayed in bed all day and been invaded by suicidal thoughts. I have also had periods where I have felt so high and wonderful that I have churned out pages of work whilst getting no sleep, like I can follow every conversation in a crowded room full of hundreds of brilliant ideas. Unfortunately these periods tend to end badly, the euphoria making way for paranoid thoughts and invasive voices.

In April of this year, my mental health started to deteriorate significantly. My psychiatrist was concerned and started talking about hospitalisation but I was determined to finish my Masters degree. Somehow I did and once my exams were over I was admitted to a psychiatric hospital. I stayed there until September, moving from the young persons’ unit to a general ward after it became apparent that there were significant problems hiding behind the depression that I was admitted for.

In September, four days after being discharged, not on stable medication and against the advice of my medical team and my family, I moved to the UK to start my PhD. Two months later I had once again slipped into a deep depression and my parents took the decision for me – I returned to France and was admitted to the unit I had been in during the summer. Whilst I was there things deteriorated further and the decision was made to section me. It was traumatic, involved being physically manhandled onto a closed unit when I refused to go myself and was incredibly hard both for myself and my family.

The unit I was on was closed for good just before Christmas and I was moved to a hospital closer to home. I have since been discharged and am attending as a day patient. I have taken a temporary withdrawal from my PhD (until at least April) and to be honest, things are so much better than they have been for a long time. I feel that the medication that I am currently on is working well and my head feels clearer than it has done for a very long time. This week I also start CBT with the same psychiatrist who treated me for my OCD. I don’t know if it will help or not but I figure it is worth a try.

Different diagnoses have been given over the last year but whilst having a label can be reassuring, it is just that, a label. It is a description of my symptoms, nothing more and nothing less. I don’t feel the need to share it at the moment, it is still fresh and I think it will take me a little longer to comfortably wear it as I did with OCD.

My friends and family have been brilliant. My mum has been especially fantastic, handling hysterical phone calls to release me whilst I was under section and generally calming me down, my dad has been Mr Rational throughout and my brothers have been stars, driving me to appointments and coming to see me in hospital. My friends have been remarkably patient with me as I have progressively withdrawn over the last few months. I still find it hard to be sociable, to reply to messages or make that phone call but they have remained stoic and consistently offered support and love. The university has also been fantastic and hopefully will help to coordinate a gentle and adapted return to my studies in a couple of months time. My supervisor has been more than helpful and has regularly emailed to ask for news and updates. I am a very lucky girl.

So that is it really. Not the whole story (I am not ready to tell that yet and may never be) but enough. I share it in the hope that it will help others and as an apology for my lack of presence on social media recently.

Obsessively compulsively yours,



The OCD-UK #OCDconference

16 11 2015

Last Saturday in York I had the pleasure of attending the OCD UK annual conference. I was lucky enough to be involved in the planning of the event and it was the cumulation of a lot of hard work. I was pretty nervous as to how it would turn out but based on previous conferences I knew it would be a special day.

The conference organising team were there early, setting up the shop, preparing the name badges and delegate packs and generally getting excited. People started to arrive at around a quarter to nine and we were off…

The first talk was from Sandy (@Snadwai) who gave a moving and funny account of his recovery from OCD. Sandy considers himself completely recovered and was an inspiring way to start the day.

Next up came Dr Claire Lomax who gave us a run down on the NICE guidelines – what treatment we should expect and how to know whether we were getting it. It was a helpful talk and will hopefully ensure that everyone in the audience left with the knowledge and conviction of what they should be receiving.

Before lunch we had the results of the OCTET trial which looked at whether computerised CBT or guided self help could be useful in the treatment of OCD. I will blog more about this later so we can skip over this bit for now.

Next up we had Preeti (@mymindoutlined) who spoke about growing older with OCD. I think that it hit home for a lot of people there, including those of us who were younger. All of us have lost periods of our life to OCD and may not be where we imagined we would end up due to the illness. Preeti spoke honestly about coming to terms with this and how at the age of 40 she is maybe not where she thought she would be but is nevertheless happy and content.

After lunch the amazing Ellen (@Ellen_White_) and I did a Q and A about her OCD. She was, as ever, articulate and eloquent and her bravery and openness was appreciated by all.

Ben (@NCLPsych) followed on telling us about his research about OCD and religion. He is hopefully going to write us a guest blog about his results so I will just say that there were some surprising findings!

Up next was the awesome and hilarious Ian Puleston-Davies (who you may know from Coronation Street or Dirty Filthy Love) who shared his brilliant insights into life as an actor with OCD. He spoke from the heart and made the audience laugh and cry. He was in conversation with Ashley Fulwood, CEO of OCD-UK and it was wonderful to hear from Ash and he was pretty brave to share some of his own story.

Finally we had our Q and A sessions. I was on the panel for the family, friends and carers Q and A and was honoured and humbled to hear some amazing stories of parents who won’t give up on their children, partners who are desperate to get help for their spouse and professional carers looking to learn how best to care for their sevice users. A lot of questions about reassurance and enabling came up, so hopefully I will write a blog about this soon.

All in all it was an interesting, hopeful and inspiring day as ever. Thank you to all of those who helped with the preparation (including Ellen who made up 150 name badges!) and to all of those who came.

Obsessively compulsively yours


Good News!

3 05 2015

A couple of weeks ago I flew over to England to have an interview for a PhD studentship that I really wanted. Anyway, to cut a long story (and a long 48h) short, I got it.

As of October 2015 I will be studying for a PhD in a field that really means a lot to me – mental health and learning disabilities. I can’t wait – they say that a PhD takes over your life for three years and I can’t think of a better way to spend them.

The honest truth is that had I never had OCD, I wouldn’t have ended up here – I probably wouldn’t have become interested in mental health and wouldn’t have met the people that make me passionate about autism and learning disabilities. I’m a big believer in seeing the positives, and finally there’s one to mark up against all the negatives…

So there you have it – good news – excellent news – and a very excited Bellsie.

Obsessively compulsively yours


Impossible Task #1 – Asking for Help

13 04 2015

I have been going through something of a crisis. It hasn’t manifested itself in OCD but just a permanent and overwhelming sensation of panic and anxiety. About two weeks in, I ran out of coping strategies and made a stupid mistake that had consequences that I had not anticipated at the time.

One thing that my psych pulls me up on time and time again is my inability to ask for help. To be honest, I’m a stubborn idiot sometimes, and when not at my most logical (anxiety does that to me), I feel this need to get through things alone.

I ended up in the university health centre who were amazing – from arranging extra time for my exams and getting me an emergency appointment with the psychiatrist to letting me call in once a day (or twice sometimes) to check that I was okay and that I felt less alone.

And then there were the friends – the wonderful S who held my hand throughout, albeit a few hundred miles away, and the excellent A, who had me to stay, phoned me in the middle of the night to check that I was okay and drank copious amounts of tea in companionable silence with me.

For some stupid reason, I didn’t tell my parents. They knew that something was wrong and yet it sat there like the elephant in the room, each of us occasionally prodding it nervously. Eventually it all came out and they have been brilliant, understanding and, best of all, not judgemental at all.

So what have I learnt from all of this? That it’s okay to ask for help. That people generally step up to the plate when needed. That instead of judging me and calling me stupid, they held my hand and guided me through.

And that is a pretty good lesson to have learnt.

Obsessively compulsively yours,


Choose Your Battles

13 01 2015

This week is exam week – that joyous moment of trying to prove that you have taken something in over the last semester and that your vague, day dreamy look was actually your special concentrating face.

In the last year or so I have started having a problem around exams. It’s not the actual questions that stress me out, or even answering them, it’s all the silly admin bits that come with it. Did I hand my paper in? I have been known to spend hours going through my bag again and again to check. Did I sign the piece of paper? Did I write my name on it? Did I stick the special stickers in the right place? Did I write my student number legibly?

It’s got worse recently and has been commented upon by my lecturers. To be fair, it’s probably not everyday that they get a student chasing them up the corridoor to beg them to check if I handed my paper in, or making them go through the pile to check that I signed it. So when it was brought up by a lecturer (who was probably at the end of his tether with me), I was honest – I have OCD, and it’s making me doubt. A week later and the same thing happened, and again, I was honest. Both times they understood (although one followed it up with a lecture about standing up to it, as if I hadn’t thought of that before).

Yesterday I was called in to see my head of year to talk about something completely different, but at the end of the meeting she told me that she had heard I was having problems handing in exams. To be honest my first reaction was one of mortification – I hate the idea that it’s got back to her. But she didn’t throw me out, or tell me that I shouldn’t be studying Psychology. She didn’t look at me as if I were totally insane or give me a puppy dog stare of pity. She just asked if there was anything that she could do to help. It felt as though a weight had been lifted from me.

I have hidden my OCD at university and never been open about it to more than a select few individuals. So yesterday I was. I told her that what I hated was that I spent more time worrying about all the admin bits than I do the exam. It can take ten minutes to fill in my name because I’m so determined to get it neat enough. I get so worried about the end of the exam that I can’t even concentrate on what I’m writing.

Together we worked out a plan. A plan that involves her personally checking that I have handed in everything I need to. A plan that involves giving into the OCD.

And that’s what this post is about – picking your battles. I know that I should stand up to OCD all the time, that there is no time like the present, that if I give an inch it’ll take a mile. I know that these fears are illogical and that by giving in I am handing it power. I know that involving someone else in the whole vicious circle is a no no, that asking for reassurance isn’t the way forward.

But I need to do my exams, so this time I’m giving in. Sometimes we have to remember that we’re human, that we can’t fight the whole time. Sometimes this dragon slaying can get tiring. It’s okay to give in from time to time – fighting OCD cannot be the full time job that it needs to be. We have to carry on with our lives, even if that sometimes means making arrangements with the OCD to get five minutes peace.

Maybe I’m just making excuses. Maybe standing up to the OCD is more important than my grades right now, but I don’t think so. I’m just picking my battles.

Obesessively compulsively yours,


The Great #OCDproblems Take Over

2 01 2015

A few weeks ago something pretty cool happened. The wonderful OCD community on Twitter took a stand, and it had a fantastic impact. The hashtag #OCDproblems is often misused to moan about habits and quirks of daily life, and thus the decision was made to claim it back.

I believe that awareness comes not from attacking those who misuse the term OCD, but through educating them as to what OCD really is, and this was a great example of this.

The wonderful @secretillness made a video that I invite you all to watch – it’s pretty powerful.

I was so proud to be a part of the OCD community that day (and everyday) – a wonderful example of people coming together on social media to create good things.

Obsessively compulsively yours,


The Year that Was – 2014

2 01 2015

Bonne année!

I know that I should probably do the obligatory 2014 recap, but to be honest it’s been a funny old year. In June I graduated with a good degree and in September I started my Masters. In November I went to the OCD-UK conference (which I am still yet to blog about) and in this Summer I went Over the Wall.

But life isn’t about all those big things. It’s the small things in between – the normal, routine days, the times that we won’t remember. It’s been up and down and all around in the last twelve months, and I don’t know how to talk about it. I’ve had times of huge despair and times of utter joy, and I guess that’s what life is all about.

Here’s to 2015 – exciting projects, silly evenings with old friends, challenges and opportunities and too many cups of tea.

Obsessively compulsively yours,



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