A good CBT therapist is like a guide

 

Walkers on brow of hill - clipped

 

A good CBT therapist is like a guide

 

This photo is from a presentation I gave to the OCD-UK conference in 2014.  I took it on the way up to Grisedale Tarn in the Lake District. 

 

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Going walking again

One of the things I used to love before my OCD started was walking in the country. I revelled in the trees, the ploughed fields, the morning and evening light, the views, the colours, the smells, the wind, the sounds, the rain.

Pic by Dave

Around the time this photo was taken I remember going camping in the Lake District for the first time and falling completely in love with the place.

However, as my OCD developed it became more and more difficult to go walking because of my contamination fears, not being able to use public loos, and the sheer exhaustion of having OCD. Over time going on holiday became much more stressful than staying at home.

Walk on the moors

Walking with group
on the moors
Peak District
favourite
favourite
type of landscape.

Trying as hard as I can
not to step
on any
sheep droppings

Beautiful view.

Tiny dark droppings
all over the place
other people
don’t give them
a second thought
they’re free
to enjoy.

Rolling hills.

I’ve stepped on some
too late
I’ve done it now
now watching my feet
like a hawk
long grasses
trampled underfoot
bounce back
and wave across my legs
so now
my trousers
are contaminated.

No-one knows
the contaminated zones
except me
constant mental noting
how far the contamination
has spread.

Will have to change clothes
and shower
when I get back.

Not enjoying
the walk
anymore.

In my forties I started cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) for my OCD at a specialist NHS clinic. It proved completely life-changing.

While I was still having CBT I went to Grange-over-Sands for a work conference. I was aware that the Lake District was tantalisingly close. I longed to go. Longed, with my whole being. But my first thought was no, that’s too difficult at the moment. At that time I hadn’t been away walking, or owned a pair of walking boots, for decades.

However, the longing wouldn’t let me go. I decided that if I bought a pair of boots then, while I was still in Grange-over-Sands, it would be a first step, and one barrier less to me going walking in the future. There was a wonderful old-fashioned walking boot shop in the main street with a vast collection to choose from and a very kind and patient assistant. I got home to East London clutching my new walking boots and within a couple of months I was on my way back, this time to stay in the youth hostel near Windermere.

From then on nothing could stop me. I started going to the Lake District every few months. I decided I wanted to get to know the hills and valleys really slowly, savouring the process, staying at one hostel on each visit.

It’s impossible to adequately describe what I feel when I’m there. I walk and walk, absorbing the colours, the huge expanses of wildness, the sky, the wind, enjoying feeling incredibly small, and the feeling that any worries I’ve been dealing with in my everyday life are even smaller. Feeling deeply, deeply as if I belong there.

And I can’t stop taking photos! I decided to set up a photoblog to share them. It’s called Earth Hues; http://earthhues.wordpress.com

I hope the photos will be able to express something of my love for the place, and my joy and wonder and huge gratitude at being able to go walking again.

1.a. DSCF2286 - Langdale valley - contrasting light