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  • Catherine Benfield

10 Things I've Learned through OCD Recovery

Updated: 2 days ago

Olivia abseiling into shot as Cat looks a bit fed up!

Hi everyone!

Last Saturday I got to take part in the OCD Gamechangers event in London. It was amazing. The picture above is us in the backstage room waiting to go on. I'm with the wonderful Chrissie Hodges, Stuart Ralph and Matt Shoobridge - all three are totally amazing advocates.

I was asked to speak for the event, and because I've spoken about my experiences with OCD much in the past - and most people know it already - I chose to quickly skim quickly over that part and focus on my recovery and the things I've learnt in the years since therapy. It's designed to be discussed as a list, hence the jumping of topics.

I know lots of people weren't able to attend for whatever reason so here it is - I hope it helps! 😊

The 10 things I've learnt through OCD recovery

1) My son is a little boy bursting with kindness, compassion, and love - he is open about his feelings, he discusses other peoples feelings too. I can see the direct link between what I’ve learnt through my years of recovery

and his amazing little character that is blossoming. He also knows some of what I’ve been through and what the condition means and that’s helped build that kindness too. It also really enhanced our bond and that understanding. So please do not ever underestimate the power of adversity. Really awesome, positive things can come out of upsetting and painful experiences

2) You are not alone in dealing with OCD – there are soooooooo many people out there dealing with exactly the same symptoms! Because I’m so open about the condition people talk to me. We are, quite literally, surrounded by people experiencing OCD symptoms. Members of my family, my friendship circle, my colleagues in pretty much every job I’ve ever had, staff in my sons school, parents at my sons school, one of my local postmen, my parents family friends. My goodness, we are EVERYWHERE!!!!!! So I think it's important we all realise that every single one of us is surrounding by other people who understand and have experienced the same – we probably just don’t know it.

3) Everything you learn through your recovery will stand you in good stead for other areas in your life. I have overcome challenges this week that would have been insurmountable to me previously – even me standing before you today wouldn’t have happened a few months ago. By practicing helpful skills, or going out to get help in the first place, you will find others areas of your life blossom in ways you’d never imagine.

4) It is possible to be happy, healthy and to live a really awesome life, whatever that means for each of us, with some symptoms

of OCD present. Obviously I know severity plays a part here and if that feels beyond you right now I get that - I’ve been there… but at the point we start to get a handle on our symptoms, and we start getting stronger, our lives start. No condition on the planet requires 100% recovery for us to be able to do things that matter to us and to live a life according to our values.

5) All emotions matter and they all have a place, even those ones society tells you, you shouldn’t have. You don’t need to beat yourself up for having them. I occasionally have feelings of the most explosive Godzilla-esque rage that I at times can struggle to keep a lid on. And instead of berating myself for it, I work on it, I accept those feelings, I’m human and I have been through some really difficult times in my life. Those feelings are understandable and as long as they don’t hurt me or anyone else they can show up – I don’t mind. Once I learned to direct those feelings they also became useful. My blog, my advocacy work, none of it would have happened without feelings of anger about my experiences and indignation at the lack of support and awareness I initially faced.

6) OCD really affected my relationship with myself, I kind of hit 30 and thought ‘who on earth am I, what do I stand for, what do I enjoy doing?’ and therapy bought that out even more because as I got better, and the hold OCD had on my life shrank, I had nothing to fill it with at first. I had to research ideas of hobbies on google and I felt so silly doing it at the time, but I feel like through actively working on me, and trying new things, and experimenting, and failing A LOT I built me. And my sense of identity, who I am, what I find important… and you know people change, we’re fluid but ultimately, I know who I am better than I ever would have done without that work. It is possible to build back what has been taken by OCD, and its never to late too start.

7) And on the same note, as well as building up my identity I’ve managed to build up the way I see myself. This isn’t easy for me to say because of our culture of not recognising our plus points, but I like myself, I like myself a lot now. I believe I need to be treated well by others and by myself. I protect myself, I show myself kindness and I do this mainly through the choices I make and the thoughts that I choose to challenge, and those I choose to believe.

8) I embrace me – I spent so much of my life being horrible to myself. I’ll tell you a quick story… so one of the things I didn’t like was that I can get very tired. I was normally the first to leave anywhere, very happy to stay chilling on my own or home. I used to berate myself for it and compare myself to others. Why wasn't I like them? Those thoughts and comparisons used to really bring me down. But something happened recently that made me realise just how much my opinions of myself have changed. I've recently bought my house and the first new thing I bought for it was this four foot sparkly gold, really trendy banner that’s gonna go right by the door when the hallways decorated and it reads ‘PLEASE LEAVE BY NINE’. I mean it’s a joke, but I really will have your jacket ready 8.59. When I first opened it, I thought it really highlights how proud I am of who I am now. I love naps, I tend to go home first. That’s me, and I'm very happy about it!

Those feelings didn’t come naturally to me. I’ve had to learnt how to recognise my good qualities and how to give attention to only helpful thoughts in the same way I had to learn to walk and talk. If you are feeling low or you think negatively about yourself those negative feelings can be worked on and changed. And that’s important, because they’re wrong.

9) Support networks do not need to be enormous to be effective. Before I started advocating and meeting all these awesome people who 'got it', I had two people that I could speak to openly and honestly about my condition and recovery. One was my husband and one was my closest friend. I know I am lucky to have them. If you feel that you don’t have the support you need, again I understand you, there's been times I've felt really alone in recovery and that is the time when the online OCD community comes in at its best. All the charities are incredible. There are community groups to be involved in. Having a loving, supportive family, and massive circle of friends all focussed on supporting you is the idea, but for whatever reason that often can’t be the case. So please know that if you want to find extra emotional support, if you want to be part of a community that understands - it is out there for you.

10) I want to end with this message that there has never been a time like now for OCD awareness. I know through our dealings with the media, through the people who message me, the amazing work I can see of others and it's introduction into mainstream society, that awareness of OCD is spreading like wildfire and that it amazing. It also means that the more people there are who are aware, the more people there are to fight for better and better services and better availability of resources, like the work Chrissie is doing with Gamechangers. It’s a really exciting time for all of us."

Okay, so there you have it, the 10 things I've learned through OCD recovery

I really hope it helps!

Loads of love

Cat x

Read more about my history with OCD and intrusive thoughts here.

Learn how self love and self compassion helped me with my recovery here.

The four speakers: Chrissie, Matt, Stuart and me.

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