A few months ago, I joined another OCD sufferer to take part in one of these new, seemingly trendy, ‘tough’ challenge races.
It involved running, clambering, wading and racing over a cross country course for 10 kilometres in slippery mud, and at times through waist deep muddy puddles.
I have written a review of this event here: https://compulsivflyer.wordpress.com/2014/05/01/and-now-for-something-completely-different/
As a regular club runner, the distance and effort involved was never going to really be an issue for me and despite my friend not being quite as fit, she was also confident that physically she was going to be able to complete the event.
We both realised though that as recovering OCD sufferers, the day was going to challenge us in some fairly different ways than the majority of the other runners.
Certainly in my case, as little as four years ago I found it extremely difficult and traumatic to even walk to the shops without unwanted obsessive thoughts overtaking me.
Thoughts about what I may or may not have stepped on, forced me into ridiculous and uncontrollable compulsive checking of the floor for signs of blood and needles that had miraculously managed to enter my body, through my then obligatory steel soled protective shoes.
Anyway, I digress.
This tale wasn’t supposed to be about what I could or couldn’t do four years ago!
It is supposed to be about misunderstanding and misinformation about the variety of ways OCD can affect people, and to focus on a small incident that occurred during this filthy but fun slog around a forest in Surrey.
As I was nearing the end of the second of my two 5k laps; soaked to the bone, cold and covered in a combination of mud, pine needles and sweat, I noticed I was approaching the ‘official event photographer’; a service provided to snap you in your moments of pain and then sell you a copy for an extortionate fee as a keepsake.
Upon spotting him I did as most others do during this encounter…sucked my gut in and pretended to look like a pro athlete in complete control of my machine of a body…and then breath out and collapse as the lens falls on the next victim!
As the photographer focused in on my approaching lumbering mess, I presume he spotted my running vest; sporting the name and logo of the OCD charity I was supporting that day.
“I THOUGHT THAT SAID OCD! … BUT SOMEONE WITH OCD WOULDN’T BE DOING THIS …”
“YES THEY WOULD, AND I AM! … CHECK OUT THE CHARITIES WEBSITE” was my heavily breathed shouted reply as I dashed on through the trees towards my next mud bath.
I wasn’t annoyed by this presumption; in fact I was happy to have maybe proved a misconception wrong, and hoped that possibly he might take a second or two to consider how he could have been mistaken.
Now I’d pretty much forgotten this fleeting conversation until the other day when a similar subject cropped up online.
This got me thinking.
So why WOULDN’T and OCD sufferer be able to take part and even enjoy this type of challenge?
… or, HOW could and OCD sufferer take part and enjoy getting dirty, sweaty and ‘unclean’?
Because for a lot of us, cleanliness has absolutely NOTHING to do with our condition.
As I have written and said many times before:
OCD is NOT a cleaning disorder https://compulsivflyer.wordpress.com/2013/03/13/ocd-is-not-a-cleaning-disorder/
Make no mistake; there are a significant number of sufferers who would definitely NOT want to put themselves through this.
Some people with contamination OCD issues would feel horrified with the mere idea of getting dirt in their hair, nails, clothes, orifices?, or anywhere else for that matter.
The important thing to remember in these cases though, is that this is NOT BECAUSE THEY ENJOY BEING CLEAN AND NEAT. It is because even the thought of potentially exposing themselves to contamination from the dirt may cause them EXTREME, IRRATIONAL but UNCONTROLLABLE ANXIETY.
An anxiety that they often can only control by undertaking upsetting, repetitive and time consuming physical and/or mental compulsions such as washing themselves and their belongings or ruminating and checking on potential ways they could have been infected.
What this assumption that someone with OCD wouldn’t partake in this muddy nonsense ignores, are the scores of sufferers where a bit of muck and slime would make little or no difference to them whatsoever.
• If you have intrusive thoughts about having harmed someone when driving by causing and accident https://compulsivflyer.wordpress.com/2013/05/04/driving-with-me-and-my-ocd/, would you be able to run about in the mud for an hour?
• If you have obsessive worries about having switched off the oven, TV or light switches, or having locked your house or car securely, would you be able to run about in the mud for an hour?
• If you have disturbing intrusive thoughts of a violent or sexual nature, would you be able to run about in the mud for an hour?
• If you have Pure-O OCD and have to carry out compulsions in your mind for fear that if you don’t, your family will die, would you be able to run about in the mud for an hour?
• If you irrationally hoard possessions to the extent that your house is full to the brim, would you be able to run about in the mud for an hour?
• If you have Maternal OCD and fear for the safety of your child to the extent that it controls your every thought https://compulsivflyer.wordpress.com/2014/07/15/mums-the-word/, would you be able to run about in the mud for an hour?
• If you have Religious Intrusive Thoughts (scrupulosity) where you constantly analyse and question your faith; Relationship Intrusive Thoughts – Obsessive doubts over the suitability of a relationship, or HOCD where you continually question your sexuality, would you be able to run about in the mud for an hour?
Or even; as in my case, if you do/did have contamination OCD but are willing and able to challenge it after successful CBT and the expert help of the medical profession …
… WHY WOULDN’T YOU DO THIS FORM OF ULTIMATE EXPOSURE THERAPY?