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Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Well, Who Knew? I'm An Extraordinary Person

I'm not sure how many of you spotted the fact that I am, according to Channel 5, an extraordinary person. It's true! They made a whole documentary about people with OCD and called it "Extraordinary People: Obsessions Run My Life". This would imply to me that, since I have OCD, I too am an extraordinary person. How little it takes these days.

I only saw the documentary last night - my Grandma had kindly taped it for me. Watching it was an interesting experience. Everyone featured was just starting on the treatment road, whereas I'm now nearing the end of it. I had a weird feeling of being both an insider and an outsider - an insider in the sense that I knew exactly what they were going through, and was able to point out ways they might like to refine their rituals, but an outsider in the sense that I've been through therapy and realise I don't think in the ways I used to.

Much excitement was derived from the starring role of Professor Paul Salkovskis, who is the quite the expert in OCD, and is Clinical Director of the Maudsley Hospital Centre for Anxiety Disorders and Trauma - my little home away from home for the past six months.

I of course cheered each time we got a shot of the Mighty Maudsley. Prof Salkovskis seems to be based in the rather fancy outpatients department, though, to which I've only been once. The only contact I have with the man is seeing his name at the top of every letter I sign to do with data protection.

But as the therapy started, it almost felt as though I knew the man. I grinned as he talked to the patients - all sounded very familiar, and my yelling out of "hey - thought conceptualisation!" as he scribbled up on the white board that flowchart with which I've become so familiar must surely have left my next door neighbour bemused. He even told the famous elephant story which I love so much. And he does the "mark your anxiety out of 100 at the moment" thing - invariably you're asked to do that in a situation where you're very anxious, and so each time I've been asked, I have to resist the temptation to yell "Look at me! I'm at 100, for Chrissake!"

What was upsetting about the show, as well as the one woman who found herself unable to face treatment, was that it underlined the inequality in UK mental health treatment. Here we had a woman who could only bear to leave the house once a week, and one who hadn't eaten food with her hands for years - clearly, in other words, two people whose lives were being significantly impacted by their OCD.

And yet, as far as we knew from the show, this was the first chance they'd had to undergo CBT. I was once again left wondering when - if ever - we'll have a situation where everyone who needs help for a mental health problem gets good, timely help.


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