Comments And Reports From Participants
The following comments and statements from some participants of MBCT for OCD classes summarize lessons learned through this challenging and intense program.
I have discovered that OCD is not an invincible enemy, as many people, including therapists, had told me over the years. It’s just a bad habit that I can replace with new healthy habits through regular practice. This is probably the most important discovery of my life.
I was tired of always dealing with my OCD in the same way: a few sessions with a therapist, medication, a few months trapped in my obsessions and rituals, then the attenuation of suffering and goodbye till the next time. Mindfulness has been and still is for me a radically new way to deal with and overcome my problem. By stopping and paying attention, mindfulness helps me become aware of my life moment by moment. It’s amazing how by practicing mindfulness the meaning of things, behaviors, words, and the impermanence of events have become clearer to me. Each time I sit on my cushion it is always a different experience, an opportunity to learn something new. This is also what spurs me on to practice more. Now I feel that OCD is no longer a problem and that life is a unique opportunity that is given to us. We must not abandon it, we must welcome it, understand it, respect it and strive to make the best of it, paradoxically even just by simply doing nothing.
Mindfulness to me is like opening a door. A door that allows me to come back and become familiar with myself moment by moment and with my OCD, which is not “mine” anymore. It is just a state of mind that has been with me for too many years. Each day I practice I learn something. I learn to accept myself, respect myself, to change my perspective on my thoughts, emotions and suffering. The more I persevere with practice, the more I become myself, the more I persevere with practice, the more I strengthen and tone the muscle of awareness. The more I practice, the more I am able to appreciate this extraordinary gift we call life. When I end the formal practice, that door that has led me inside myself turns and points me towards the road to relate with others. By knowing myself better I can relate to others better because I see them with different eyes: my eyes are mirrored in their eyes, my breath exhales and inhales like their breath, my heart beats like their heart. It’s a door I can open when I want, if I want, any hour of the day and I hope to open it every hour of each day.
My first encounter with my disturbing thoughts dates back 18 years ago. I was very scared… very. At first it wasn’t an equal relationship … I gave in completely; I did everything they told me to do. The more I did, the more I suffered; the more I did, the more powerful and demanding they became. I went into therapy and for years I lived with ups and downs. I always had my Achilles’ heel scaring me. Only a few people knew about my problem. I was ashamed of it; I was afraid people wouldn’t understand, that they would judge me negatively. Then the turning point came: I met my therapist, my guide! He opened my mind to a new reality, he helped me understand. A few simple words: “Thoughts are only thoughts… a series of words that are created in our minds but which don’t necessarily correspond to reality”. He taught me to let my mind rest through meditation, a rested mind reflects better, it distinguishes better between reality and simple thoughts! I’m telling the truth: I needed a big stimulus to give me courage and make me more determined to start to understand, understand that it’s all very simple, that you don’t need to be afraid because, as I said: thoughts are just thoughts… simple words…not reality. I restate this concept because to me it’s fundamental. Now when certain thoughts come to me, I recognize them and just leave them, I continue with my life, if they want to interact with me I continue with my life and I focus on something real and certain that is available in that moment: my breath. I meditate regularly; meditation has become fundamental for me! I never thought I’d be able to persevere with this type of exercises. I compare it to a regular dose of medication, only it’s a totally natural medication, that has no side effects and offers many benefits. The group, my awareness of thoughts, meditation have changed my life! Sometimes there are still difficulties, but never comparable to the ones I had before, and even more than that, my life is now full of many positive emotions. Group therapy has given me unique benefits. Sharing my experience with others that have the same experience has been extremely positive to me. Sometimes you think you are the only one in the world with having a hard time! In the group, you experience therapy in a more carefree way and the sessions are more pleasant and interesting.
How many times, without realizing it, do we create a tale or a tragedy based on a thought that appears in our mind? Mindfulness is helping me to see a thought in its purity, as it really is. It allows me to slowly detach myself from past habits. Exploring one’s own interiority requires courage: it is not always fascinating, sometimes the emotions that arise (fear, sadness, guilt) are so strong that it seems easier to avoid them rather than deal with them for what they are. Persevering with practice is very important as well. We are always saying yes to everyone and everything, and because of our obligations it isn’t always easy to take time to practice daily. My motivation is that the practice is always different because each moment is different and I am different in each moment. Sound incredible? Well it’s not. It’s the simple truth. Mindfulness allows
me to stop more often than before and get in touch with the present moment, a time we believe we are living but that we actually live very little. And so I happen to stop and listen to a sweet sound and a deafening one, to enjoy an ice cream, to smell the scent of a flower.
If I think back to how I used to describe OCD before the group sessions, I am also surprised by the fact that I am kinder towards my OCD. Creating a friendly relationship with OCD helps me live with this problem better in a better way. I feel like it is lighter and I realize that I’m slowly transforming it. The mindfulness group helps me to not feel alone and to implement a strategy that is not pretending not to see my OCD, avoiding or fighting it, but rather that is keeping it close to me. Emotions, thoughts and physical sensations that arise are experienced and can be accepted as a mother welcomes her child reaching towards her for a hug after getting in trouble. Rejecting and fighting against one’s own inner states means amplifying them and triggering the confusion and repetition that don’t help to solve the problem, but just make it worse.
After twenty years trying to solve my OCD, I finally found a useful, albeit challenging program–I would recommend it to anyone who suffers from OCD.
This program was very useful for me. These methods were new and the techniques and ideas are effective.
This experience has been a true revelation to me. It has definitely helped me to overcome most of the difficulties related to my disorder. I wouldn’t have thought this would be possible at the beginning.
At the beginning I was hoping to reduce the rumination and continuous worrying. I have learned to accept myself more, with my limits, flaws and weaknesses that all human beings have, but I have also recognized my good qualities and resources. I had been chasing a ghost for too many years and this has been extremely liberating for me.
I began with the expectation of being cured of my OCD and I have realized that achieving this goal takes a lot of commitment, determination and perseverance. Now I feel I have improved a lot, that some of these principles have become my own, such as the fact that thoughts are just thoughts. I have also learned some useful tools to deal with thoughts in a healthy way. This was my main problem.
Nine weeks ago I was hoping to find help for the problematic relationship I have with my thoughts. I have gradually started to see things more and more for what they are and to observe thoughts without judging them. This is a radical change for me.
When I first arrived I found the idea of participating difficult. I was hoping it would be useful, but I was a bit skeptical after suffering for so many years. I didn’t know if I would be able to stick with it throughout the whole program. Now I can say that it has been a great help: I’ve learned to stay with my thoughts and emotions in a completely different way, even in situations that were really difficult for me before. Coming here was very challenging at the beginning, then week after week I saw that it was helping me. Now I see that my commitment was worth it.
There have been ups and downs in my experience with the group, but I have learned to believe in it, in the sense that I have slowly come to prefer certain exercises over others. I intend to practice them regularly in the coming months. I believe this is a beginning, not the end of the program, because I want to experience so many things on my own now after learning them in the group. I want to discover what I haven’t discovered about my life yet. I have noticed that it bothers me if I skip the exercises, I truly feel the need to set some time aside to practice every day. There have been difficulties–I have cried a lot and I want to point this out because I’m not someone who usually cries. This must mean something. It’s a start, perhaps also the beginning of a new life.
From Didonna F. (2018). Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy for Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Guilford Press.