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The OCD Diaries, Part 1

Gary Lambert has battled depression and OCD for a number of years. He will be serialising his experiences for CALM in new feature 'The OCD Diaries'...

I’ll start with a few statements of truth to give you a little bit of an insight into the magic that is me. Firstly, I’ve suffered depression for fourteen years. Secondly, I am very unfit. Thirdly, I’m now seeing the light at the end of the tunnel after being diagnosed with OCD and realising that this was something I could control if not destroy.

The trigger for my depression was what should have been the highlight of my life… UNIVERSITY!! All my dreams and hopes disappeared in a swirl of debt, alcohol and loneliness. Oh and alcohol-related debt. Now I can look back on those days with clinical precision and separatism and it is easy to spot all the mistakes I made and what I should have done differently. But until January of this year it was impossible to see any mistakes of my own and instead I was in a regular cycle of despair and debt and alcohol. It all seems so simple to me now but in the fog of depression it was not obvious. Thankfully I had another of my mental nadirs in December 2012 and I honestly think it was the best thing to happen to me. All it took was a simple question on the way to work from my mum of “are you okay?” and I couldn’t lie any more. I was at the doctor’s surgery later that day and for the first time in years I felt like if the clouds had not parted, the rain fall was starting to get lighter.

I embarked on a campaign of medicine, sobriety and counselling. The three of them combined to make noticeable changes to my demeanour and attitude within weeks, but I still needed an extra va-va-voom to use a phrase ten years old. I thought I’d found it in exercise as I applied for The Great North Run but with my application being unsuccessful in the lottery I once again started to neglect my personal fitness.

I was sat in work two weeks ago talking with a super fit colleague over the benefits of regular exercise when instead of glazing over like I usually do when dealing with zealots I was hit with a thunderbolt. If I was to get fit, I needed some motivation to do so. You see I like cakes, full fat coke, beer (my sobriety spells are deliberately short as I love to drink beers and savour them – I just don’t love the foolish, irritating person alcohol can make me become), bacon butties and giving two fingers to such ideas as abstinence. In fact I bloody love all of those things. They make me happy. They make me feel indulgent. They taste delicious. What could I use for motivation? The usual vanity doesn’t work with me as I’ve got such an over-inflated ego that I think every time Brad Pitt looks in the mirror he thinks he sees me. Similarly being healthy doesn’t push my buttons either. Then I remembered about The Great North Run and how I was enthusiastic, motivated and willing when I thought I had a chance of doing that. But why? It was so obvious. I wasn’t planning on doing The Great North Run for my own glory, but because I wanted to help raise money for charity. I wanted to help people. I wanted to take the responsibility of being able to improve life for even one other person. It was that which would make it worth it.

So what could I do? Well during my descent into darkness last year I had spent £200 on a bike which had so far been used for less than three miles, so I thought I could dust that down and get out on it. After all a couple of my friends were really into their cycling so I’d be able to join them. Just wait! Why don’t they join me? I’ll think up a madcap scheme and get them involved. That would definitely secure my involvement in the fitness campaign. Then I decided that we’d cycle the Leeds to Liverpool Canal. I just needed to convince them. Fortunately all the convincing required was a text saying “Lads, I am feeling the need for ridiculous motivation in cycling. In support of this, do you fancy doing a Liverpool to Leeds canal ride? We could do it for charity too. Pick one each and split whatever funds raised. My charity will be CALM”. Both of them replied in the affirmative and with the added bonus of both of them agreeing to support the same charity as me as they knew it was so important to me.

Then it hit me “I’ve got to cycle 127 miles!!!”. Yet instead of previous feelings of fear, stupidity and anxiety it was excitement, hope and adventure pushing through my mind. Luckily I have a career in Logistics so straight away I started with the planning of the route and the planning of my exercise programme. I had sixteen weeks to get fit. So far I’m three weeks into it and I do feel much stronger already. I’m using a combination of both going to the gym and obviously cycling. I try to do one or two big bike rides each week and then I go to the gym once a day either in the morning or evening but cycle to there rather than take the car.

I wish I had discovered cycling many years ago. I have found it to be wonderful for my mental state. My form of OCD is not about putting rigid structure in place and definitely not about keeping things tidy much to the chagrin of my parents who I am still living with aged 33(!). Instead I’d describe it as a personal mental torture as my thoughts constantly churn, evolve, demand attention and push towards negativity until there is nothing I can think of other than what is going to go undoubtedly wrong and what the end result for me will be. Since my counselling (I can never thank you enough Dr Liz – she might not be a doctor but I was never sure how to refer to her so that was comfortable) I’ve started to get a much better grip on these things, but they’re still there. From the moment a near flippant comment at the end of my first session provoked the response of “that sounds like OCD” from my counsellor, I’ve not looked back. Giving my evil a name gave me the opportunity to personify it and now when the thoughts come forward I write them off as poison dripped into my ear by my own Grima Wormtongue (if you don’t get the reference, watch and/or Lord of the Rings Parts 1, 2 and 3; you won’t regret it). When I am out on the bike though none of these thoughts ever appear. Do you know why? Because I’m travelling on a 17 kilogram bike and there’s massive cars speeding past! I can’t afford to get sidetracked thinking of the email I should have sent or whether I turned the light off.

This is the first of my tales of the road, pavement, country lane and towpath. I believe it is full of hope something which I would never have felt six months ago; but don’t be expecting fluffy pink bunny rabbits all the way. I’m feeling daunted by the task ahead of me. But it’s a task which will be completed. I’m not going to let down the person I’ll never know who needs CALM and is able to use it because of all the fundraising which has gone on. I would not be here to do this without the likes of CALM. It’s time to gladly repay a debt.