I first sought help and embarked on the group OCD program when I couldn't stand the thought of going near anything sticky. The thought of it was so abhorrent to me that it interfered with ability to function, forcing me to go out of my way to avoid things like putting any honey or jam on my toast. I had also become scared of other sticky substances like hair gel, pastes, and even sticky tape. I feared getting my hands and clothes sticky and that the stickiness would get everywhere, covering me from head to toe.
The group helped me to largely get over this debilitating fear by supporting me with a series of ERP (Graded Exposure Response Prevention) sessions led by an OCD specialist. I remember very well my first graded exposure response, which was to look at a small packet of honey. From there I went on to hold it in my hand and then to place it on my lap before finally opening the packet and playing around with it. Doing this over and over, I learnt to overcome my fear of honey in particular as well as other sticky substances. No one in the group made me feel bad or embarrassed about my fear of stickiness. In group, we all respect each other's fears.
Unfortunately my OCD problems didn't just stop at the honey. I also have problems with things like handling money, checking locks, switches and taps multiple times, wearing light coloured clothing, opening and shutting windows, turning doorknobs and compulsive eating and shopping. I am beset daily by many fears including scarves being blown off in heavy winds, getting cigarette burns in expensive bags and clothes as I walk down the street, checking my bag often for
important items and the constant fear of my bag being suddenly stolen.
Surprisingly, I found I was not alone with my fears. In many ways, we had formed a kind of pact to improve as quite a few of the group members had similar fears to my own. For instance, I remember sitting down next to one person who was as terrified as I was of sitting on a bright red sofa. This fear, as well as another of sitting opposite a vending machine and not being allowed to get anything from it, brought us closer together.
The OCD group was an extremely positive experience. One of the ways to increase the overall level of positivity was to start our session with a
positive scan. This is a method of achievement affirmation where we all go around and name something positive that had happened in our week. This could be anything from reaching an important milestone to conquering a particular fear. After this we would often be given a bit of general theory about OCD by the specialist, and then put through ERP tasks. At the end of our sessions we would be given homework and asked to set a well being goal for the week. For me, that would include only spending my money on food and fares or the avoidance of particular foods such as chocolate.
A Great Group
I found the group in general to be very tolerant and understanding, even when I would interrupt discussion and repeat myself, which is a part of my compulsive disorder. I felt that we were all in the same difficult-to-control boat. Even those who had the opposite problem to me, such as under eating and under spending, never made me feel bad. The group looked out for one another and when I made a special effort to look good, such as wearing lovely but
risky and expensive clothes, I was often complimented and made to feel the extra effort was more than worthwhile.
Thanks to the structure and solidarity of the group, I reached many of my goals, conquered many fears and no longer feel quite so alone with my OCD.