Well Aware

It seems that in 2014, with 24 hour news, entertainment and social media; that we are to be bombarded constantly with information.

Well they say knowledge is power, so this should be a good thing right?

Well not always. This week for example, I have been made aware of the following VITAL facts.

• A teenage footballer was tired
• A tennis players mother can’t dance
• Belgium now has a 20 stone Health Minister
• Queen Victoria’s knickers sold at auction for £6,200
• Hitler had sex with his clothes on
• A drunk bride-to-be was impregnated by a stripper with dwarfism
• Katie Hopkins has a big mouth

Obviously our lives are significantly enhanced with this knowledge on board.
For some of us with slightly more serious things on our minds, we’d have liked the public to have been exposed to a few of these facts as well.

• OCD can be so debilitating and disabling that the World Health Organisation (WHO) has actually ranked OCD in the top ten of the most disabling illnesses of any kind.
This is in terms of lost earnings and diminished quality of life.

• The illness affects as many as 12 in every 1000 people (1.2% of the population).

• Based on current estimates for the UK population, there are potentially around 750,000 people living with OCD at any one time.

• A disproportionately high number, 50% of all these cases, will fall into the severe category, with less than a quarter being classed as mild cases.

• There is a key difference that segregates little quirks, often referred to by people as being ‘a bit OCD’, from the actual disorder.
This is when the distressing and unwanted experience of obsessions and compulsions impacts to a significant level upon a person’s everyday functioning.

• To sufferers and non-sufferers alike, the thoughts and fears related to OCD can often seem profoundly shocking.

• It must be stressed, however, that they are just thoughts – not fantasies or impulses which will be acted upon.

• Most people with OCD know that their thoughts and behaviour are irrational and senseless, but feel completely incapable of stopping them, often from fear that not completing a particular behaviour will cause harm to a loved one.

• Most people can learn to stop performing their compulsive rituals and to decrease the intensity of their obsessional thoughts through Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT).

• Very few sufferers are comfortable making their condition public. Many will not even have sought help or been diagnosed yet.

• In my opinion a high % of the people who regularly say ‘I’m a bit OCD’ probably aren’t.
Sufferers are experts at hiding or putting off compulsions to keep their OCD a secret.

If only there was an awareness week to get this information out there…

…Oh, there is! It’s this week, so please share this with your friends…they can read it in the advert breaks of the X-Factor!

See http://www.thatsocd.info/ for more information.

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Jumping up and down in muddy puddles

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 …
https://compulsivflyer.wordpress.com/2013/07/08/ready-willing-and-able-an-ocd-patients-guide-to-cbt/
WHY WOULDN’T YOU DO THIS FORM OF ULTIMATE EXPOSURE THERAPY?

Mum’s the Word

Never have I felt the acute sense of fear and shame that OCD can bring to sufferers than I did last month.

They are terrible feelings that I’ve felt in my life, and been lucky enough to have been able to confront and mostly overcome.

The stories and recollections I heard at the Maternal Mental Health event I attended recently took those familiar feelings and elevated them to a whole new level.

As one of only a couple of men in the room, maybe I didn’t ‘get it’ in the same way as many of the audience. Maybe the actual feelings are even worse than I could begin to imagine.
All I can presume is that what these ladies must feel is a cocktail of the terrifying and incredibly frustrating intrusive thoughts I suffered when gripped by OCD; combined with the fears, anxieties and concerns I felt as a new Dad to my two young children … and then multiplied several times!

Talking and opening up about my OCD problems was difficult, awkward and embarrassing (particularly at first and still now to my friends, work colleagues and family)…
…and this was talking about anxieties that pretty much only involved me, my health and my surroundings.

As with all OCD and most anxiety disorders, the fears are almost always unfounded and exaggerated, and certainly in my case, I was well aware that the things I was thinking were almost certainly untrue and at times outright ridiculous!

I was able to talk openly about them to my therapist and tackle them head on.
Was I worried about disclosing and voicing my thoughts? Not really.
I suppose I could have been concerned that when I divulged my fears that I had caused accidents and run people over, resulting in me having to retrace many journeys several times, that someone might have said “well you can’t drive until you are better”.
Or that my door checking and hand washing rituals may have meant that some work or home tasks were taken away from me and given to others.

But what if I needed to disclose the sort of horrifying and disturbing (though equally unfounded and unwanted) thoughts that these ladies have about their children? Would I be labelled as the exact type of person I despised the most and fought hardest not to be? Would my children be taken away from me?

Diana Wilson of http://www.maternalocd.org asked the Maternal Mental Health conference audience, “Do you know what OCD is?” The audience, as one, nodded and, to the best of their knowledge and with the best intentions, said YES.
The silence, ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’ and dropped jaws a few minutes later confirmed to me what I’d thought when she asked the question; that there were probably only a few of us in the room with direct experience of the illness, who knew what was coming.

Is it a surprise that mothers find it too scary to talk to their GPs, friends, families and even partners about the details of their (and I repeat) completely unfounded and irrational thoughts when the reaction in a room full of health professionals and knowledgeable people could be of such shock?

OCD’s anxiety compass is always on the move.
From 1960s/70s/80s Cold War driven anxieties of nuclear war, to the late 80s ‘ultimate contamination’ hysteria of HIV/AID.
We then moved onto the media fuelled hype of MRSA, Bird Flu and Swine Flu and now onto the ‘ultimate intrusive thought’ subject stirred up by the current media fixation with the abuse of children.

OCD can mutate and change its focus at will. It smells fear!

At least this explains the random collection of obsessions sufferers end up with I suppose: contamination, checking and driving for example don’t at first seem common themes.
But underneath the veneer of the coping compulsions we employ in an attempt to keep a lid on our anxieties, there is that underlying double act of FEAR and RESPONSIBILITY.

Now base these fears and anxieties around babies and children, not blood, needles, doors, ovens and fires and they become all so much more intense and terrifying… I’d imagine?

A mother with Maternal OCD is not going to hurt her child.
She is no more likely to ever hurt one than any other mum, as she finds the thought so abhorrent as to have her illness focus on the idea that she might.
The truth about this cruel illness needs to be acknowledged, rather than undermined and dismissed.

To get the real inside track on this, not my external observations check out:
http://www.maternalocd.org
http://www.maternalmentalhealthalliance.org.uk
http://www.pandasfoundation.org.uk

Why hypnotherapy for OCD is a waste of money and effort

Despite being hugely skeptical and dismissive of this type of thing, I tried it before I got proper professional treatment.
Obviously, as with most of this mumbo jumbo, it doesn’t work; but hey I was desperate.
Don’t waste your money. The best they might be able to do would be to teach you some of the thought processes that CBT do … but in a less professional manner.
The way the hypnotherapist ‘tried’ to rid the OCD was to get me ‘in the zone’ then talk about the bad things that have happened in my life, put them in a thought bubble and let them drift away … er, yeah that’ll work!
The process she advised for when anxiety came would be to take that intrusive thought and put that into the bubble to float away instead.
This is COMPLETELY the opposite the professional CBT I have had since that makes you live with the thoughts and by doing so reduce the anxieties felt over time.

Effectively this could have an ADVERSE effect on your condition!

Physically Sick (OCD, Exercise and Me)

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The speed and almost fullness of my recovery from OCD have virtually mirrored the amount and intensity of the physical exercise I have been undertaking.

Coincidence?  Not sure?  Almost certainly, but there is no real way of quantifying this short of making myself ill again and trying to do it again, but with a more sedentary lifestyle (and I don’t really want to try that little experiment out!)

 

A sudden lack of physical excursion also coincided with the onset of my anxieties, obsessions and compulsions … another coincidence?

I had been working in a very physical job as a bricklayer since leaving school; so 16 years, and had always been reasonably sporty, if not particularly competitive.  Riding my bike several times a week, going to the gym most days and playing a fair bit of football.

Add to this the ‘dancing like a loon’ at rock clubs and live music shows several times a week, and it would be safe to say I was pretty fit and active (and always knackered!)

 

Then it all stopped!    CRASH..BANG..WALLOP!! 

Overnight it was all gone, all on hold for an indefinite period.

 

A high speed trip over the handle bars of my BMX race bike destroyed my right wrist (and broke my left elbow too, just for a laugh).

3 operations, a bone graft from my hip, an exposed external titanium support cradle and a couple of weeks in hospital later and it was all over.

I suppose it was a miracle I’d got into my thirties before doing any serious damage to myself considering how hard I’d been trying over the years.

 

…I say serious.  Almost exactly a year before I had dislocated and broken my thumb in a similar accident at a different track and had had to sit out a summers work and play while I recovered.

I split from my first wife during this time also; but despite these two not insignificant body blows, hadn’t noticed any particular negative effect on my mental health.

I’d had a relatively enjoyable and busy summer considering, visiting friends around the country (by bus and train – bit tricky to drive with no working arms!), eventually getting back in the gym, going to see bands play again and generally keeping life ticking over.

A pretty much full physical recovery (It’s still a bit stiff 13 years later) and I was back at work, back on the bikes, back in the gym and back on the dance floor.

 

NOT THIS TIME THOUGH!

Work GONE…Trade for life (that I was damn good at) GONE, as my wrist will never be up to the rigours again.  Goodbye not insignificant salary and recognised routine.

Bikes GONE…Even when I could conceivably get back to holding the handlebars well enough, the prospect of further crashes and damage ruled out the style of jumping and riding I’d always done.

Football, or any other sports with physical contact or the chance of falling, GONE… A fall onto a wrist that only partially moves, and has been rated as a 9/10 for damage by the experts looking at my scans, didn’t seem a particularly attractive proposition.

Smashing myself about at punk and heavy metal shows GONE…The rough and tumble of these makes some rugby games seem gentle, so they were looking permanently off limits too.

 

A pretty static life was looking on the cards.  And just as the months of killing time, walking around with an arm like a kids Meccano set was coming to an end, and the prospect of looking for a new career was on the horizon, something else decided to rear its head in anger for the first time:

OCf*ckingD!

 

This unwanted intruder into my life had snuck up on the blindside.  I’d always considered myself pretty ‘together’.

I wasn’t prone to bouts of misery or depression, had a happy family upbringing and was reasonable alright for money and somewhere to live.

I’d never taken drugs or smoked, had been drunk enough times to know what it was all about but certainly not to any excess that it was ever a need, a habit or a problem.

I’d bounced to and from a few relationships over the years, like most people have, but they’d never really troubled me other than the initial expected upset you get in these situations.

Maybe it was a combination of a few things all together, my age or it just being the time?

The loss of full use of the arm, the loss of a secure working future, the upset caused to my parents (hurting myself on the day I was off work to attend my Grans funeral could’ve been timed a lot better!), the letting down of an old friend I’d been dating …and of a bunch of others who’d trusted me not to ‘love her and leave her’.

Was it this combination of life events?  Was it me entering my 30s and needing to be a grown up about things?  Or did I just have a ticking timebomb in my head that kept itself at bay and allowed me to have a great 30+ years where I could be possibly described as somewhat cautious and organised in nature, but never really as anxious.

 

What I’ve learned through experience, therapy sessions and conversation with experts is that it doesn’t actually matter WHY or HOW my OCD developed and took over my life.

ALL that matters is how to recover and reclaim yourself!

Hours can be spent overthinking and analysing the reasons for losing yourself to this shithouse of an illness.  Is this going to help recovery?  Will wasting valuable time with a psychologist talking about an old girlfriend or a previous job make you better?

There were undoubtedly triggers that contributed to my becoming ill, as outlined above, these couldn’t be removed but needed to be overcome or replaced by a stronger urge to move forward not dwell on the past.

I’ve never consciously blamed myself for falling ill.  Certainly some of the triggering episodes could be put at my feet, but nothing that may have occurred was a deliberate act that I could apportion blame on myself for.  I didn’t need to repent to myself.

No one deserves or asks to be ill, and if guilt is holding recovery back it needs to be taken out of the equation.  Even the biggest arsehole who probably NEEDS to feel guilty about their actions may have to disassociate their health from their actions to enable their body and mind the chance to pull itself into line.

 

I didn’t, and almost certainly never would, go to a support group during my illness.

I was told of a couple of groups by my GP but it never crossed my mind that this would be something I’d like to go to or something that may be helpful to me.

I’m sure there are some lovely caring people at them, both sufferers and carers, but why would I want to surround myself with illness?

For one, the thought of being around ‘strange’ people when I was at my sickest would have put me off going anyway!

And what would we talk about?  “I’m ill”…”so am I”.  

 

I was unaware of social media at this time…and mighty grateful that I was!

I’d heard of Facebook but hadn’t thought of signing up and am not even sure if Twitter was up and running.

What a waste of time it would have been spending hours on those when I could have been concentrating on getting better.  I waste enough time on them now and enjoy the access to information, opinions and friends, but it is free entertainment for me rather than watching the TV or reading magazines and newspapers.

I can see the possible benefits of seeking information if you are exploring the possibilities of why you feel ‘weird’ or ‘different’ and seeking answers as to appropriate courses of action and treatment.

The temptation to seek reassurance by simply airing your anxieties must be SO TEMPTING though that I can see no benefit from interacting with fellow sufferers once the facts are in place and the route to recovery known and accessed.

 

Maybe for younger sufferers it is a form of friend making if this is something they find difficulty with at school or college.

I have read some brilliantly open and brave blogs, particularly from young people whom I have the most respect for, but I often wonder if this selflessness in sharing their stories for the greater good and their work in raising awareness for the benefit of the ‘community’ of sufferers at large is taking away from their own chances of recovery?

It is so tempting to respond with a plea for them to take this obvious passion and bravery and dedicate it to themselves solely for a couple of years and see where it can take them.

I found the fight and recovery EXHAUSTING.  To hand over valuable energy and times to others is commendable but …

 

I seem to have gone massively off track here; I was supposed to be talking about the relationship between physical exertion and mental health … SO I WILL!

 

I DID TRY.

After 9 months I made a tentative return to work.  I was very ill by this stage and was struggling to drive or even walk anywhere.

Driving the 10 miles or so to the building site was proving a real issue.  The anxieties and compulsions ramped up steeply, with retraced journeys and multiple laps of stretches of road a now daily occurrence.

At this stage I had also acquired contamination and checking problems that meant I was looking at anything shiny or red as a potential needle or splash of blood.   On an active building site with a proliferation of dropped nails and screws all over the place this was not a convenient development.

I was put on light duties due to the weakness in my arm which, although relatively easy and well paid, meant working alone with just my overactive ruminating mind and the radio for company.

Despite being offered this as a long term job option, I was struggling.  This wasn’t something I could see myself wanting or being able to continue with.

 

I was also becoming increasingly uncomfortable being in the town that me and my new partner were living in.

A probably over inflated sense of resentment from some old friends and acquaintances, and an increasing routine of anxieties and compulsions had me searching for work possibilities elsewhere…somewhere new?  Somewhere safe?

 

The bikes stayed and even came out very occasionally; I even attempted to resurrect my social life to a degree, but by this time I was in a downward spiral; OCD had well and truly grabbed hold of me.

At this stage, after just a few minutes of research had unearthed the likely/obvious cause of my anxieties, I had been to see my GP and had been given some medication to take the edge off of them.  No form of behavioural treatment was offered and I was unaware still of what I should have been asking for or being offered.

I managed, bizarrely, to get offered only the second job I applied for.

Something related to construction, but not hands on, so wrist friendly. 

This meant a relocation of some 60 miles and a new start for us.

 

It didn’t however mean an end to the misery of OCD.  Running away or dodging isn’t a route that’s going to bring much reward with this bad boy.  Tackling head on is what’s really called for!

Feeling mildly better had encouraged me to take my bike riding passion in a different direction, and for a while I was able to partake in a fair amount of mountain biking, heading out with a group of other riders a couple of times a week.

I was also doing well at work.  Within a few months I had been ‘poached’ into a teaching role, something I’d never really considered up until this point.

My illness didn’t affect my work in anyway other than a few logistical issues and a bit of underhand checking that went pretty much unnoticed by both colleagues and students.

 

I was also (whisper it) playing a lot of golf at this time.  The physical effort involved in this may well be up for debate, but it at least involved a 4 mile walk a few times a week! 

Obsessions arose during the playing of this far too often.  The countless used tee pegs littering the course got my ‘is that a needle’ suspicion going, and I found myself regularly wandering along the fairway (or more often the rough) some 20 yards behind my playing partners as I scanned the floor for anything remotely harmful.

Not being able to take my ball from the hole (after I’d finally got it in there!) without staring into it to make sure it hadn’t been booby-trapped was also an 18 times a round effort.

 

It was at this stage that kids came along.  See my other blogs for the inside story of the implications of bringing up children while suffering from OCD https://compulsivflyer.wordpress.com/2013/10/16/ocd-the-implications-to-bringing-up-children/ and https://compulsivflyer.wordpress.com/2013/10/16/ocd-the-implications-to-bringing-up-children/ .

This new found focus in life had a rollercoaster of highs and lows for my battle with my illness.

Bigger and different anxiety problems and eventually a real NEED to get better had sport and hobbies taking a back seat.

The lack of leisure time parenthood allows resulted in another sideways step with my bike life.  The half day long off road excursions were replaced with road cycling which allowed similar levels of exercise but in less time and nearer to home.

 

I was kind of ticking along for a while, not really getting any better but with a successful series of CBT sessions behind me and a reliable, dependable medication dosage being taken was in the most stable way I’d been for a fair few years.

That final push to the level of recovery I’m enjoying at present came about by chance.

The charity OCD-UK http://www.ocduk.org/ had held their conference in my hometown and I’d gone along as a curious and nervous sufferer to see if I could get anything out of the event.

An inspirational and frankly terrifyingly harrowing talk from a former sufferer about how OCD nearly cost him his family kicked my now wife and I so hard that it compelled me to try EVERYTHING within my power to get better.

I checked the charities website and noticed they were looking for runners for a big 10k event in London.

I’d not run AT ALL since stopping playing football 10 years before and certainly had no idea what a 10k race would be like (or if I could even manage it).  I’d also pretty much avoided London as much as possible for a good few years as the number of ‘scary’ people and inability to perform checks in such a big City had scared me too much.

I did a few little practice runs, but had some leg pains that led to me having to unfortunately pull out just before the event, and that seemed the end of that idea … little did I know I would return to this with gusto a year or so later.

I upped my cycling as best I could, ramping my rides up to a regular 50 miles most weekends and started to do a few big organised rides, such as a couple of 140 mile weekend events for the fine charity Asthma UK http://www.asthma.org.uk/ .

These were proving to be a good physical and mental workout, as I was putting myself well out of my comfort zone on both fronts.  I was beginning to see some signs of a recovery, but nothing that felt certain or solidly founded.

A year on from my failed 10k attempt, a got an email out of the blue from OCD-UK asking me if I wanted to run it this time … IN THREE DAYS TIME! … with no time for any training runs.

So there I found myself, on the starting line of my first ever running race, and little did I know, on the starting line to fulfilling my dreams of recovery and a return to a normal life.

This was at a stage when I was still shuffling about looking at the floor for non-existent hazards, but the freedom and instantaneousness of running in a group and the lack of opportunity for checking meant that I comfortably finished the event.

Not only did I finish it, but I did it relatively anxiety free; even being ‘relaxed’ enough to have been able to nip up a side alley for a wee half way through – NOT the type of behaviour you’d expect of a sufferer of a contamination anxiety disorder.

CAUGHT UP IN THE MOMENT is the phrase that comes to mind and it’s a phrase that is VERY unfamiliar to OCD sufferers.  Remember, this is an illness where we want FULL CONTROL of ourselves and our surroundings.  Going with the flow isn’t usually an option.

This was a real breakthrough.  CAN’T walk 100 yards down the pavement at home, CAN run 6 miles through ‘dirty’ London.  The bug had bitten a bit.  I’d exhausted my cycling sponsorship options by now, so decided to enter a half marathon.

This would require something a bit more than my ‘rock up and hope for the best’ approach.  I decided to go along to a local running club that a lady at work ran with.

Although obviously anxious about the new surroundings and experience, it went well and I started to train with the club twice a week leading up to my next event.  This training also involved some off-road stuff that challenged a few different issues for me.

The more I ran, the more I wanted to run.  The motivation to get out and do things was a welcome feeling I’d not had for a long time.  After that first half marathon, I started to do a few smaller local races. 

Confidence in speaking to ‘strangers’ and making new friends when running was an added bonus I’d not accounted for.  That couple of hours a week was proving very profitable.

As my confidence and recovery started to snowball, an opportunity arose to put another demon to bed.  A plan was hatched with a friend from my old town, where my OCD had grown and from where I had moved away. 

The couple of times I’d HAD to return I had been a bag of nerves.  This time was to run a half marathon through the town and along the streets I’d been barely able to walk along a few years earlier.

To top off the weekend I’d arranged to talk on camera … and indeed publicly for the first time about my illness.  A post-race interview with the wonderful Claire Watkinson for her Living with me and my OCD documentary occurred … freezing cold and soaking wet under the entrance hoarding of a nearby B&Q!  See the trailer for this ground-breaking film here http://livingwithmeandmyocd.co.uk/ .

A blog of this weekend entitled ‘A weekend of normal’ can be seen here https://compulsivflyer.wordpress.com/2013/03/18/a-weekend-of-normal/ .

After this, the sky seemed the limit.  More training, more racing, more socializing, GETTING BETTER!

And here I sit now.  I ran a marathon last month, as a big thank you, and probably last hurrah sponsorship wise, to the guys at OCD-UK for the work they put in to supporting sufferers and spreading the truth about this illness.

A couple of days before I did this I presented two 1 hour awareness talks to large groups of colleagues at work.

More importantly, I’m a happy Dad, a better husband, and back to somewhere close to my pre-OCD self.  And I’m running and riding A LOT.

Is there a direct proven link between physical activity and mental wellbeing?  Don’t know?  Ask a Doctor.

What I do know is that if I’m asked by another anxiety sufferer if I think they should go along to a support group or sign up to a chat forum, I’d tell them not to bother.  Why spend your time with people who share your worries and problems?  They may not have the answers.  If you strive to be ‘normal’ then maybe its normal people you need to be around?

Look up your local sports club instead.  It may well give you everything you want and a whole lot more.

 

 

And now for something completely different.

Bog trotting – Brutal 10k Bagshot Surrey

 

A couple of mudstacle running friends have been badgering me for ages to give one of these a try.  Last week I finally relented and gave it a go.

 

I’ve always been put off the idea of these ‘extreme’ events by the thought of their gimmicky nature and the presumption that they are inhabited by hoards of Rambo wannabes shouting their way around the course.

This pre-conception was not helped when I looked at a couple of videos of the larger ‘Tough Mudder’ type events and saw footage of groups of ‘lads’ walking from obstacle to obstacle, ready to parade their manliness.

 

Fortunately the series that I went along to turned out to be a much more normal and friendly affair, with the 500 competitors being made up of a good mix of men and women of all ages and abilities…and a good scattering of cani-cross dog runners.

 

A slightly more relaxed atmosphere than most regular club runner road races greeted me; with not a lot of the usual warming up going on that you’d expect to see at a road 10k.

There appeared to be a fair few families there either running together or showing support and very few of the ‘hero’ types I had feared there might be.

The only unnecessary concessions to the soldier assault course image was a stall who would put a touch of camouflage makeup on anyone wanting it and the pre-race warm up which involved the usual exercises, but with a shouty Sergeant Major type asking the runners to sit in a puddle to get in the spirit.

I chose to ignore this; but then I am a notorious misery guts.

 

Anyway, as the saying goes; ‘when the flag drops – the bullshit stops’ and so it was with a blast of the hooter that we went charging off down a puddle strewn forest road towards the first big water splash.  500 runners into a 20ft wide thigh deep puddle with an uneven tank track riddled bottom is never going to go well…and for some it didn’t.

 

The course was made up of two 5k laps of a forest course, that could be at the kindest described as ‘undulating’ but more realistically as ‘ridiculously hilly’.

We’re talking steep hills where walking was the only option for most mortals and clambering was necessary for a good portion of the field.

Surfaces ranged from gravel forest road, to sandy and muddy for both the ups and the equally steep and challenging downs.

There were a few flat bits, but these were either a couple of hundred yards of rest to the next uphill, or a good excuse for the organisers to route you through a swamp.

There was nothing deeper than waist deep, but the challenge of attempting to run a 50 yard section of thigh deep water with an uneven bottom was quite entertaining to do and to watch.

Any advantage the dog accompanied runners may have had being dragged up the climbs looked cancelled out by their canine friends dragging them recklessly through the muddy waters (or if a little dog, by needing a carry).

 

From a racing point of view, I entered the event with no real expectations of a result or time, as for myself and another friend this was also being undertaken as a challenge to our contamination OCD anxieties, particularly for my friend P whose blog can be seen at mymindmythoughtsmywords.wordpress.com .

Once the hooter went my competitive head kicked in though, and I raced pretty hard for the whole event.

Considering a reasonable 10k time for me is in the low 40’s, my time of 1hr 10min should indicate the toughness of the course.  The fact that the winning time was a relatively slow 48mins did at least reassure me that I hadn’t been slacking too much, and hadn’t already lost all of my marathon fitness.

 

So was it a good event?  Yes; well organised, friendly and I enjoyed myself.

Would I do one again?  Yeah, why not.  It certainly made a change from another parkrun or long run.

Recommended?  Yes.  If you’re in the area it’s a definite and if you don’t mind a drive then you won’t be disappointed.

 

Check them out at http://brutalrun.co.uk/

Fun Running… Is it??

Is running ever really fun?

… and if it is fun, does that mean you’re not trying hard enough?

 

If I study my running habits, then the ACTUAL PHYSICAL ACT is never really ‘fun’ in the traditional ‘makes me smile and laugh’ way.

Tuesday Training – Running up hills, often in the cold and rain, trying as hard as possible, until I can’t breathe and/or feel sick … whilst being outrun by a bunch of gossiping teenagers ; )

Wednesday Clubrun – Run faster than I normally would, with quicker runners than me until I’m knackered, whilst being rained on in winter or scratched to bits by gorse in summer.

Thursday Track – Like Tuesdays, but flat and harder.

Recovery Runs – Functional and just need to be done.

Parkruns and other 5k races – Rev it up to maximum heart rate and hang on for 20 minutes and attempt not to puke.

10k races – A bit like 5k’s but feeling like death for twice the time!

Half Marathons – I actually like these … in a sadistic kind of way.  A pace you can actually breathe at, but an hour and a half of total mental commitment to the pain.

Marathon – No need to say much on this one.  Euphoric and horrific at the same time, and a very uncomfortable finale to the months of hard work you’ve put in.

 

Where’s the fun then??

Even in the midst of high discomfort, funny things often happen.

I’ve found myself laughing out loud 2½ hours into solo long runs at some of the bizarre things you see when you give yourself the opportunities to be outside in this bonkers country that running enables.

Then there’s the tripping over, catching a glimpse of how ridiculous you look in a shop window or the realisation of how silly you are actually being running 20 miles into driving rain on a cold February morning when your family are all tucked up under the duvet eating toast and watching telly.

Of course there’s the pre and post run banter with friends and club mates similar to most other sports.  This helps to see the humour in hurting your body and gives the chance to share the fun by laughing at other runners all too familiar woes.

Group run chat is like a watered down bike club ride.  The slipstream and pack riding draft of the bike (which allows you to, dare I say it, rest and breathe normally) allows for a level of constant mickey taking and cajolement that running cannot offer … if only we could freewheel down hills, I reckon this could even be an enjoyable sport we do as well as a fulfilling one.

 

So, is running ever really fun?

Yeah, you just have to look a bit hard to find it sometimes.