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My friend Vera 

Please welcome Vera to the Olivia Community! Vera has been created by Rebecca and was one of the first alternative characters I was introduced to. Rebecca does such a great job of describing Vera and how she uses her to help externalise her OCD. It's so easy to imagine her as you read along. Thanks so much for sharing Rebecca! 

I am 35 years old and can trace my OCD symptoms back to age 11. My compulsions are mostly mental compulsions. I am fortunate that between flare ups, I have had stretches of milder symptoms. Last year, a series of events in early pregnancy led to the most terrifying episode of OCD I have experienced.

I hated the OCD thoughts and tried very hard to get rid of them. Of course, this only led to more mental compulsions which made the thoughts stronger. My therapist suggested that I could think of my OCD as a misguided best friend who actually has the best intentions at heart but is going about it in an extreme way and maybe that I could try to have some compassion for her.

So Vera was created. I chose Vera as it is not common enough to have an association but I think it is quite a sweet name!

Vera is very fit and has lots of energy. I imagine her in my brain pedalling on an exercise bike, shouting relentlessly at me. She is always on high alert, scanning the extremities of my brain, covering all possibilities and demanding definite answers to questions where there is no definite proof. I think of her pedalling those intense feelings of panic and doubt that accompany OCD thoughts. I feel sorry for her.

I sometimes think of her as an older woman who has collected all the world’s possible fears on her shoulders and sometimes I think about her as a scared child. She is vulnerable and very protective. My therapist made the connection that she is pedalling so hard to get away from her fears but because she is on an exercise bike, she is not going anywhere. It’s the same with OCD, we try so hard to get away from the thoughts but in doing so end up getting more stuck to them.

OCD batters self esteem. It makes us feel as though we are unlikable, bad or dangerous. But as Vera, I am trying to think of it as her merely searching through every potential and extreme possibility. Of course, she will cling to those thoughts which are most frightening to me and the ones which go against my morals, values and beliefs- the ones which threaten me losing what or who is most dear. But that doesn’t mean that the thoughts represent me as a person.

Trying to view Vera with compassion is an intentional attitude. I have to pick myself up and try again several times a day. We can spend hours in the same argument, with me trying in vain to re-assure her/myself and I still experience regular panic and panic attacks. But there are times she has been quieter, when she hasn’t been pressing me quite so urgently for an answer. One day she will realise that she doesn’t need to pedal so furiously and maybe in future she will get off her bike and have a rest.

I am learning to accept Vera and maybe even will learn to have some affection for her. She needs to be heard and I am trying to acknowledge what she is saying without engaging with it and practising getting used to the anxiety this causes. I say goodnight to her and somehow this helps me sleep better.  I hope that in future Vera will eventually become less of a crazy best friend and one day she may just be a crazy acquaintance.

Thank you so much for sharing Vera, Rebecca! 

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