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Friday, January 28, 2005

My Graduation From The Maudsley

Yesterday was Session 12 of 12 at The Mighty Maudsley.

As I told the mental health dudes, it felt somewhat like the mixed joy of graduation. What I meant by that is that you're kinda proud of your achievements, but you really don't want to leave the safety of your weekly seminars in how not to succumb to an obsessive compulsive disorder.

It's actually not the end. We have three follow-up sessions now, but they're about a month apart rather than about a week apart. The intensive stuff is over now.

It was a nice session. It really did feel like time to reflect on progress, and I think the progress has been pretty good.

To give you an illustration: when I first started going, I was washing my hands thirty odd times a day. I couldn't sit on my bed in clothes which had been outside. I felt I had to shower every day in order to rid myself of "contamination".

Now, I wash my hands only when necessary. I can not only sit on my bed in "outside" clothes, I can happily put shoes on and in the bed and not worry about it. I now have no concept of "contamination", and so don't have to "decontaminate" - meaning I now don't have to shower every day if I don't want to.

At the beginning of therapy, you and the mental health dudes talk about goals. You split 'em into short term, medium term (ie. end of therapy) and long term (ie. after therapy).

We went through those goals again yesterday, and I realised with some satisfaction and relief that I've managed to reach, or at least progress towards reaching, most of those goals we set back in September - something which I thought utterly impossible at the beginning of the sessions.

It's difficult to communicate quite how much gratitude I feel towards the mental health dudes. It's not an understatement to say that they have managed to completely turn my life around.

I was told at the beginning of the sessions that the difference between a good outcome and a bad outcome tends to be the amount of time you spend on your "homework" - the tasks you're set to carry out between sessions. It's true that I've done my homework. But to say that is to miss the fact that without two dedicated mental healthcare professionals helping me out, I wouldn't have been able to make any progress. I woulda continued to dig myself deeper and deeper into the hideous hole that is OCD.

I feel incredibly grateful to have - by living in South London - been able to go to the Maudsley. I feel incredibly depressed to think that there are thousands of people across the country who aren't lucky enough to get this sort of quality of treatment.

I found myself yesterday talking with the dudes about going on a flight. To be clear: I am terrified of flying. I have never been on a plane. I look up at planes in the sky and get anxious. Yet I am now seriously considering getting on one.

And the weird thing is that it's not really cos I want to go on one - it's just that I feel that this is another part of the anxiety which needs kicking. I want to go on a plane because I don't want to not be able to go on a plane any more, if that makes sense.

Walking back home immediately after the session yesterday, I really did feel that I could manage a flight. Today, I'm feeling a lot more scared. But I still want to do it. And there will never be a better time to than this - when I still have the chance to go and talk to my Anxiety Gurus about the experience. Until recently, I wouldn't have gone on a plane if you'd paid me. And yet now, I'm thinking about doing it voluntarily. That's a pretty big change.

I'm now starting to consider the thorny problem of what thank you gift to buy the mental health dudes/what to write in the thank you cards to 'em. Quite what do you give to your clinical psychologist and psychiatrist to thank them for helping you so much? It's not an easy question to answer.

And it's not one I should be considering now. The idea of not worrying about things you can't currently deal with is something I've learnt over the past few months.

And the great thing is that now, I can do that. I'll worry about how to express my gratitude for that fact another day.


  • At 7:18 PM, Blogger Sundried said…

    That is so damn cool! Well done! I'm saying, get on that plane to somewhere hot and dreamy, and buy the mental health dudes the tackiest souvenir you can find. They'll love it...

  • At 10:34 AM, Blogger Fizzwhizz said…

    I reckon you should send them a card saying exactly what you just said, because they must have so many people that they can't help that the only thing that keeps them going in to work (for, let's face it, NHS wages) is the knowledge that occasionally they help to make a massive difference to someone's life. Then you could send them a card every six months or so saying "still coping" just to remind them, coz one day the card might drop on their desk the day they're thinking of packing it all in and going off to be estate agents of something that earns money

  • At 2:00 PM, Blogger Fizzwhizz said…

    PS I'll go on a plane with you any time. I love 'em. Oddly enough, I am terrified of heights and won't go on rollercoasters for this reason, whereas the thing I like about planes is that they're no control over whether you live or die. Especially the bit when you're going really fast on the runway just before you take off and then you take off and your tummy drops out of your lap and you know that this is the most dangerous part of the flight, but you're on for the ride so you might as well surrender to the adventure and see what happens. Woohoo!
    Plus, you get free booze that gets you pissed quicker than on the ground, and if you're on Virgin you get a little goody bag of cool stuff like Virgin Vie cosmetic samples. And you get blankets that you can nick and eye-masks and stickers that say "wake me for meals" and in-flight entertainment channels playing weird Japanese pop and sometimes even game consoles with Supermario on them.
    Also I like wandering up and down the aisles on long-haul flights and looking at all the other people, trying to work out who's doing the bum-clenching, head-rolling "in-seat" exercises that they put on channel 99 of the in-flight entertainment for people who believe the hype about deep vein thrombosis but are too pig-arse lazy to get out of their seats and go for a stroll.

    Truly, it is the way to travel. Shame about the pollution, though.


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