How Eleanor is using her experience of having OCD to help others in her new role as Expert by Experience at The Retreat.
When Eleanor Glanvill was asked to join The Retreat as an ‘Expert by Experience’, she jumped at the chance.
Here she tells us how The Retreat helped her manage her Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and how determined she is to use her experience to help others.
How it all began
“For as long as I can remember, I worried too much. Even at school-age, my behaviours were dictated by horrific intrusive thoughts and how to make them go away, with a lot of it centred on achieving perfection in assignment projects.
I never thought there was anything unusual about it, and proceeded to continue into higher education. For my Master’s dissertation, I explored the treatment of mental health disorders through time. This inevitably led me to research the work of late 18th Century Yorkshire Quaker, William Tuke, and his founding of The Retreat; a radically new form of psychiatric treatment focusing on self-care and wellbeing. This new form of treatment was a break away from the harsh punishment of the mentally ill of previous centuries, and marked a new paradigm of mental health therapy that continues to this day.
Ironically, the stress of the degree only exacerbated the anxieties I was fighting against and, less than a year later, I was attending Tuke’s Retreat as an outpatient with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD).
What is OCD and how I managed it
OCD comes in many forms and fears can manifest within almost any aspect of your life. For me, it was disease and infection, what is commonly referred to as Contamination OCD. I came to receive therapy from the Retreat a year ago, when my long-term disorder had worsened to the point that I was completely unable to live normally.
At the beginning of my treatment, I was at the lowest point in my life, I was too scared even to wear my own clothes and had lost three jobs as a direct result of anxiety, as well as having fractured all my relationships with friends and loved ones. I didn’t see a way out. My mind was so full of worry, that I struggled to pay attention in my first few sessions.
Using Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP), as well as techniques from Compassionate Mind Theory, the chaos in my head started to subside. It took a little under a year of regular sessions at the Retreat, and a lot of really hard work, but I can now say that I am well on the road to recovery. My life is infinitely better than it was at this point a year ago. I am able to perform tasks that I had avoided for years without even a second thought! I once again have the energy to be kind and care for others, and I am back in rhythm with my environment and at peace with myself.
Expert by Experience work
When invited to be an Expert by Experience, I jumped at the chance to help; the aim of this role is one very close to my heart; communicating hope for recovery in OCD sufferers. Throughout the many years that I struggled with this disorder, I never found a case study of positive recovery, or happy stories of life after OCD. This would only exacerbate the feeling that OCD was forever, and there was no real end to the pain and excruciating anxiety. I then decided that I would become that positive case study. I promised myself that I would get better and that, when I did, I would somehow find a way to reach out to the OCD community and show that recovery was real, attainable, and deserved. The Retreat has now given me that outreach opportunity, and I am incredibly grateful, as I owe this new lease of life entirely to my therapist there. I am so excited to advocate on behalf of this organisation that I would thoroughly and whole heartedly sing their praises from the rooftops if necessary, and so am very keen to do everything I can promote and develop this fantastic organisation.