• Catherine Benfield

The Disappearing Double Act Returns

Olivia and me sitting on a curb looking at each other.

Happy New Year everyone!

It's been a really long time since I posted an Olivia blog and I just wanted to update everyone about why that is, and let you know that we'll both be back very, very soon.

Despite it looking like I've had a nice long blogging holiday I have in fact been writing continuously throughout. These posts are all about to come out, in various places, around the same time so you'll probably go through a phase of seeing my bits and pieces all over the place... sorry about that! :-)

So let me just explain the background of our little 'Olivia break'.

In the middle of last year I wrote a post for the Secret Illness which talked about how creativity was helping me with recovery, and Olivia had a starring role. In this post, I tested the waters for opening up a little bit about my Postnatal OCD symptoms (mainly in the form of intrusive harm thoughts and impulses). Something about this post hit home for a lot of people - parents and non-parents alike - with harm intrusions and I started hearing from lots of people who shared their own stories. OCD tries to make us think we're alone, it is so wrong!

These stories made me realise just how little harm obsessions are spoken about, and even though everyone on the planet has intrusive thoughts, our lovely community of kind and awesome people, gives a lot of weight to these thoughts and finds them terrifying. Your messages also showed that a lack of awareness for this less talked about side of OCD has added layer upon layer of confusion, both in terms of recognising the condition and getting adequate treatment. The general population and sadly, many medical professionals, seem not to know about all the ways OCD can present itself.

Rewriting my story

After a huge amount of thought, I decided to rewrite and share my story - all of it - more openly. It took two months to write, on and off - pretty much the whole of October and November. It was quite tough going and has put me off of writing a book forever - well at least another year or two! :-)

Once it was finished I visited the lovely Olivia Bamber of OCDAction to talk about how we could begin to share the story in a way that would get the word out and protect me at the same time. I was, I hope understandably, anxious about too many people seeing it at once so it was decided that a more concise version would come out in their January Newsletter followed by the full version on their website. Shortly after that, if everything goes to plan, the post will also go up on the OCD-UK and Maternal OCD websites too.

Sorry, I know this is all a little long winded but I do want to show how I protect myself from overwhelm whilst sharing my story in case you are ever tempted to do the same. Only when and if you're ready remember!!

Writing for OCD-UK

The fabulous Ashley Fulwood asked me if I fancied doing some regular writing for the charity. A chance I jumped at. The first post is called 'Getting Younger with Age' and talks about how recovery is helping me feel younger and happier, having spent much of my childhood feeling far too responsible for the safety of others. OCD-UK are working on a new website and I believe the post will come out when that is up and running. I'll post a link to it on this site too when it's posted.

Sharing my story for the Strong Mind Campaign

I've been contacted by the press quite a few times to share my OCD story and I've always refused. I've always been a bit concerned that they'll turn it into a piece that focuses mainly on "quirky" compulsions and not the condition as a whole.

I was contacted by Women's Health Magazine and asked to be part of their Strong Mind Campaign last week.

After a few messages to and fro, reading the journalists previous pieces, talking to people she's already written about, and taking advice from the marvellous OCD charities OCD-UK and OCD ACTION, I agreed to be interviewed about all things OCD and Olivia.

The campaign is highlighting some of the lesser known mental health conditions, esp ones that are surrounded by lots of misconception and stigma, and they seem to really want to do a good job on this one for OCD, which is awesome!

The interview went extremely well and I'm just waiting to be contacted

for a read back. I made sure I could have this with the option to change bits before I said yes to doing it. I wanted to make sure I had the right to ask for an edit if I wasn't happy with anything in the final write up.

I didn't receive a fee for this article - everything I've done has been on a voluntary basis. I hope it helps to spread awareness of a badly represented condition and gets a lot more people realising that they aren't alone.

Again, I thought long and hard before doing this piece and although a little anxious I am sure I've made the right choice.

Stuart Ralph

I also went to a meetup with Stuart Ralph, creator of OCD Stories (and had to work pretty hard on hiding how seriously I was fan-girling). It was an amazing gathering of people. The meetups are going to happen monthly I believe, so please check out his website and social media for information about future dates.

There's more news on this coming so watch this space :-)

To end...

Right I think that's about it! I've got two Olivia posts ready to go. One on medication and one on self esteem. My poor, long suffering, husband Pete has started working full-time so the artwork that accompanies the blogs takes us a little longer than it did previously (honestly, you cant get the staff!) but we can work around that.

I just want to add a huge thank you to everyone who made 2017 so special for me. In my wildest dreams I couldn't have predicted how well Taming Olivia would be received. I look forward to a brilliant 2018 with everyone and hope you find my upcoming posts helpful.

You really aren't alone!!

Until next time....

Catherine xx

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