When I found out that I had been chosen to go to America for therapy, the first thing I felt was relief that I was going to get help with my OCD. I was ready to take control of my intrusive thoughts so the opportunity couldn’t have come at a better time. I was desperate to get better, for my family’s sake and for the sake of living a ‘normal’ life and being able to go back to university. I was really worried about how I would come across on television, because most of my OCD is internal, so I thought people might think I was making it up.
I’d never met anyone with OCD and to be honest, I thought they would all be quite reserved and quiet. However I was proven completely wrong when I met them for the first time, welcomed with three huge smiles and a big hug from Olivia. At that moment, I knew I would get along with everyone as they were exactly the type of people I would have as friends normally.
The next morning we left for the airport. It was really strange because we were getting along as if we’d known each other for years! I think that we had an instant bond because we all understood each other’s OCD and no one had ever properly understood us before. I clicked with everyone but I think the three of us girls were especially close. I was relieved to find that Imogen had exactly the same intrusive thoughts as I did so we were instantly close.
I felt I coped well with the first few days of therapy. This was because I was creating forced exposure therapies by saying ‘bad’ words whilst looking at pictures, which enabled me to start my treatment gradually. My anxiety is spiked when thoughts come in to my head naturally, so the severe tests came when we reached the wilderness. I would wait for the thoughts to appear without forcing them and then my challenge was not to ritualise.
My highlight of the trip was the high ropes course. I was in my element and could’ve stayed up there all day! Aside from this, the best thing about the experience as a whole was meeting five of the most amazing people I’ve ever met. Before the trip I’d never spoken to anyone with OCD and didn’t really know how much of an impact it would have on me. I realised not long into the trip that I wouldn’t have been able to do the therapy without everyone’s support, especially that of Josh and Olivia who were in my group, led by Travis. The most powerful thing was watching the others going through their exposures and seeing how far they had come since the first day.
The frustrating thing with OCD is that you know rationally that whatever rituals you do won’t affect what happens to your loved ones, but OCD makes you doubt that. So in order to remove the tiniest risk of something happening, you do whatever it takes to protect them. I see OCD as a bit like superstition. You know nothing will happen if you walk under the ladder but you still avoid it because of the fears associated with what could happen if you did.
This whole experience has helped me so much and Travis has given me all the tools I need to live my life as best as I can with my OCD. I am now able to return to university in September and it’s a fresh start for me. I know now that there is so much support available for me in Cardiff, with a little extra help from my new boyfriend.