Benefits assessments and tribunals (PIP)

In my last post I talked about my experiences with the mental health services and that my mental health had taken a dive.
Well, part of the reason for the dive will be explained in this post.
Please bear with me as this will be a fairly long post.

I have mentioned benefits assessments and issues on this blog before. I’d now like to share my experience of claiming personal independence payment (PIP) and the switch from disability living allowance (DLA). If you are in the UK, you might have heard of these benefits for ill people and some of you will probably have experiences with DWP (department for work and pensions) and their assessments.

I had previously been awarded DLA in 2012 at low rate care and low rate mobility. In December 2014 I had another assessment done and was awarded middle rate care and low mobility for 10 years (indefinite award) due to my issues with OCD. Both of those assessments did not require a face to face assessment and were done on paper.

In March 2016 I was told that I had to apply for the new benefit PIP and that if I didn’t apply, my DLA payments would stop in a month.
I made the initial phone call to PIP and got the ball rolling. This meant that DLA would continue until DWP had made a decision whether to award PIP or not. I would now have to wait for the application form/assessment form to be sent out to me.

The form arrived a few weeks later and I started to read through the various questions regarding preparing food/cooking, washing and bathing, dressing, socialising, walking distance and planning/undertaking a journey.
I decided that I needed help understanding and filling in these forms so I made an appointment at my local citizens advice bureau (CAB). Unfortunately, the appointments they could offer me were outside of the 1 month timescale which DWP give you to return the forms. I was able to get a 2 week extension which meant I could go to the appointment and then return the forms to DWP within the extra 2 weeks.

I decided to pick my friend up on the day of the appointment so that she could come with me and also add anything which I may have missed (and meet my family).
We went to the appointment and it all went very well. The advisor was lovely, filled in the forms and copied them for me and even sent the form off to DWP on my behalf.

About a month later I received a letter from ATOS (the assessment firm contracted by DWP to do medical assessments for PIP and ESA benefits) asking me to attend an appointment at a nearby assessment centre.

The assessment took place in June and the assessment centre was over 200m away from the nearest public parking.
I had asked my ex-foster carer to attend with me so that I had someone with me as I do not do unfamiliar places very well.
We arrived in good time, signed in and sat in the waiting room for the assessment time which was 10am. Luckily, there was no one else in the waiting room so my anxiety wasn’t as high. If there were other people in there I would have had to have waited outside as I can’t deal with busy or crowded places.

I was called in to the assessment room which was not much bigger than a small office and had a desk with a computer and a few chairs in.
The assessment started and the assessor introduced himself and said he was a mental health nurse. I was asked the usual sort of questions about my illness and how it affects my day to day activities.
Once the assessment was complete, I was told that the report would be sent to DWP for them to make the decision and I would hear something back in roughly 4-6 weeks.

2 days after the assessment I received the DWP text message stating that they had received all the information needed to decide my PIP claim and that I’d receive a letter once a decision had been made.

I contacted DWP a few weeks later (towards the end of June) to ask for a copy of the assessment report. They allowed the report to be sent to me and it arrived a few days later.
When I opened the report, I went straight to the last few pages. These pages are where the assessor ticks a box (descriptor) and allocates points based on which box they had ticked. I knew straight away from looking at those descriptor boxes that I would not be successful and my claim for PIP would be turned down. This would mean that my DLA would stop 1 month after the DWP had made their final decision.
On further reading of the report from the assessor, I noticed that there were some contradictions in the descriptors. One example was that the assessor had ticked the “no help needed” box but in the reasons box he had written about the help I did need for that particular activity.
There were also some things missing which I had stated in the assessment as well as on the initial application form.

In mid July, the dreaded DWP brown envelope dropped through my letterbox. I had been unsuccessful in my claim, scored 0 points across both sections and my DLA would stop the second week in August.
Just like DLA, PIP has 2 different awards. 1 is for daily living (care on DLA) and the other is for mobility (getting around and planning/undertaking journeys). There are also 2 rates for both of those components with PIP. For standard daily living, 8 points are needed across the daily living section and for standard mobility you need 8 points from the 2 questions in the mobility part.

It wasn’t just about losing the extra money from DLA. DLA affects ESA (Employment and Support Allowance) too. By losing DLA and not being awarded PIP, I would be losing a premium on my ESA award known as the severe disability premium (SDP). My housing benefit would also be affected (lowered) as the rules for housing benefit changed some years ago. If you are under 35 and living alone, you can’t claim the rate for a single bedroom property. You are only entitled to what is known as the shared accommodation rate which is a lot lower than the rent allowance for a single bedroom property.
An exemption to the under 35 rule is applied if you live alone and receive middle rate care (DLA) or standard daily living (PIP) components of the qualifying benefit.
This rule had applied to me for 18 months due to being in receipt of middle rate care component of DLA.
This would mean that from my reduced ESA, I would have to pay 1/3 of my weekly income towards the rent and still keep up with paying the bills and buy food.

Now the fight with DWP begins and I have to appeal the decision.

The first stage of appeal is to submit what is known as a mandatory reconsideration (MR). This means that you can request that your claim is looked at again by a different person (decision maker). There is a timescale of 1 month from the date of the decision to do this.
Having the report from the assessor made this easier for me. I was as able to pick apart the report and outline various aspects which were incorrect.
Once again I contacted the CAB for advice and assistance in submitting a request for a mandatory reconsideration.
An appointment was arranged and I went to it with the information from the assessor report and the points I was arguing against.
The form was filled out and a letter outlining my issues with the report and the decision was sent back to DWP at the end of July 2016.

A few months went by and I had not heard anything from DWP regarding my mandatory reconsideration request. I contacted them several times to ask for an update but was told that it had not been looked at yet and there was no set timescale for reconsiderations to be looked at.

At the start of October, another of the dreaded brown DWP envelopes was pushed through my letterbox. Once again the decision was not to award PIP to me. The reasons for not giving an award were exactly the same as the previous decision letter. It felt as if they hadn’t even read the letter I included with the request for reconsideration.

I had been doing some research into PIP and the criteria for an award. This included a breakdown of each question and the points which could be awarded for each activity such as preparing a meal, washing and bathing, dressing etc. I knew that I fitted several of the criteria required for points to be awarded for some of the questions.

So now my only option is to apply to the tribunals service to appeal the DWP decision not to award PIP to me. Once again I would only have 1 month to do this.

At this point I decided to ask my local MP to get involved. I sent them copies of the DWP letters, the assessment report and a list of the points I believe I should have been awarded, which included a breakdown of each part of the report.
I also sent copies of the list of points to the tribunals service as well as a breakdown of how my illnesses affect me daily.
The MP sent a letter to the tribunals service stating that my illnesses were genuine and did have a profound impact on my day to day life and activities.
With my appeal date approaching, I contacted my GP surgery to ask for my records. Once I had obtained the medical records, I sent them to the tribunals service to ask for them to be included as evidence in my case.

The day of the tribunal arrives in mid May 2017. Once again I decide to ask my ex-foster carer to attend with me. This was for 2 reasons 1: so that she could provide some support for me and help ease my anxiety due to being in a strange place with strange people and 2: so that she could provide some input at the end of the hearing. My foster mum knows me better than anyone and has seen the struggles I go through.

We travel to the place where the appeal hearing will take place and find somewhere nearby to park. At this point I still had my vehicle on the road so I drove. Luckily we were able to park just across the street from the court.
We enter the building and are asked to empty our pockets and be subjected to a metal detection scan. We sign in and are told to go to the second floor where we would be met by the clerk to the tribunal.
When we get to the second floor, the waiting room is tiny and is packed with people. I had asked the tribunal to allow a separate space for me to sit but this hadn’t been put into place. I had to try and find a small space in the corner to sit whilst waiting.
The clerk to the tribunal comes across and introduces herself. She then goes through what will happen in the appeal and also tells me that the medical evidence I had sent to the tribunals service had only been received by the appeal panel the day before. She also told me that the panel decided to go ahead with the appeal knowing that they had not had sufficient time to go through my medical records. She also told me that a representative from DWP would be present in the hearing.

We are finally called through to the hearing room. Now this isn’t like a courtroom, it’s just a large set of tables in a room with the 3 panel members sitting at the other side. The 3 panel members are a judge (sat in the middle), a former GP or medical professional and also a disability specialist.
The hearing lasted about 40 minutes or so and I was asked various questions relating to my illnesses. This seemed to focus on my ability to prepare food mostly, one or 2 questions about my ability to go see my friend 2 hours away and how I do my food shopping.
Unfortunately, the disability specialist was trying to understate my issue with cooking and contamination. I was asked almost the same question 3 times regarding my decontamination rituals (which I have mentioned on a few previous blogs). Then, she tried to put ideas in my head and said why would I need to scald items if they had already been washed in hot water. She didn’t understand that washing items to me is not enough to ensure a contamination free piece of cutlery or a pan.

The DWP representative seemed to be more focused on my claim for ESA rather than my appeal for PIP. He asked several questions relating to ESA and being in the support group and did not ask any questions relevant to my PIP application or appeal.

Once the hearing had finished and they had asked all the questions, we were asked to go and wait whilst the panel discussed my claim and their decision.
Whilst the panel were discussing things, we popped outside for some air. When we came back upstairs, we were told that the panel couldn’t decide at that time and I would receive their decision in the post within a few days.

The appeal took place on a Friday in mid May. The next day the tribunal decision dropped through my letterbox. Once again I had been unsuccessful and the tribunal had decided that I should be awarded 0 points in all areas. This was despite having relevant medical records and letters/reports from therapists within the mental health services.

Unfortunately now there is not much that can be done. The DWP decided I’m not eligible for PIP (twice) and so does a tribunal. This is despite the tribunal having the relevant medical evidence and the letter of support for my case from my MP.

There is only 1 final course of action that I can take and that is to seek legal assistance in my case and appeal to the upper tier of the tribunals service.
Unfortunately this is quite difficult. You can only appeal to the upper tribunal if there has been errors in law relating to the case.
The first stage is to write to the tribunals service to request something called a statement of reasons from the tribunal judge. This statement of reasons (SoR) states why points were not awarded. You only have 1 month from the date of the appeal decision to ask for this.
I requested the SoR from the tribunals service. It took about a month for it to arrive.
Now I had to try and find some form of legal assistance to see if there were any errors in the tribunal decision. . Unfortunately, legal aid is only available if the upper tribunal accepts an appeal request. I had to find some other way of getting help to appeal the decision made by the tribunal.
I contacted my local MP’s office again, told them what had happened and asked if there was anything they could do to help me appeal the appeal decision.
The only thing that they could do was to refer me to something called the bar pro-bono unit. This would mean that someone would take on the case free of charge but it would be a long process. I only had 1 month to launch an appeal and there was no way that someone could be found within that time.
I notified the tribunals service that I was wanting to appeal the decision but was awaiting assistance to help me go through the paperwork so that any errors in law could be identified.

Towards the end of August 2017, I received a directions notice from the tribunals service which was signed by the judge from the appeal. This directions letter stated that they knew I wished to appeal, however I must set out the grounds for my appeal and that an extension would not be awarded in order for me to obtain this help. The letter also stated that I must send detailed accounts of the steps I have taken, when I had taken them and then a decision would be made on the merits of admitting the application late.
Unfortunately at this stage I was unable to provide the information they required. An application to the bar pro-bono unit had only just been submitted and that was all I could have done.
A month later, another directions letter from the tribunal judge arrived. Unfortunately this letter stated that as no valid application had been made for appeal to the upper tribunal, no further action would be taken by the lower tier tribunal and the paperwork would be marked for destruction.

After several months of sending this information to the bar pro-bono unit, I received a reply. They had accepted my case and were now waiting to see if someone would take my case on.

We are now into November and I still hadn’t heard anything from the bar pro-bono unit so I decided to see if there was a local charity or law centre which could provide some assistance. Unfortunately, the local disability charity couldn’t help as they hadn’t been involved in the original appeal.
I had found a number for a law centre in the next town over from me (my town doesn’t have one) and contacted them to ask if they could offer any help. They stated that they had someone there who dealt with disability appeals and disability law.
I received a call back the next day from someone at the law centre. I spoke to the nice chap and explained the situation to him. He said that he would like to have a look through my case and asked if I could possibly send him the appeal pack with all the evidence, tribunal notices and decision letters.
Unfortunately, photocopying over 150 pages would be costly so I spoke to the bar pro-bono unit to ask for them to send the documentation to him and to also close my case with them. The bar pro-bono unit agreed to close my case and send all relevant documentation to the gentleman from the local law centre.

The week before Christmas I received another letter from the tribunals service stating that they had received an application for permission to appeal to the upper tribunal against the original tribunal hearing.
It was decided that a new tribunal should hear my appeal and that the application did not need to be considered by the upper tribunal. The original tribunal decision of May 2017 would be cancelled and a new hearing would be arranged in due course.

I was quite surprised by this letter as I hadn’t sent the tribunals service any requests to appeal. The gentleman from the law centre had looked through my files and drafted an appeal request on my behalf. Once I knew this, I contacted him and asked if he could possibly send me a copy of the appeal request.
He sent me an email containing the letter he sent and it made some good reading. Not only did it contain my points for appeal, it also stated that the tribunal had breached disability law by not making reasonable adjustments where necessary to enable me to seek the assistance I required. The letter also stated that they had breached this law when sending out the directions notice because they had not included any timescale to submit the relevant information to the tribunal.

I was given a new tribunal hearing date (April 2017) and I sent a few other pieces of evidence to the tribunals service which included a copy of my previous DLA award (the DLA files had been destroyed) and also a brief statement from my latest ESA assessment which stated that I had severe OCD and that it had an intrusive impact on my ability to function.

The day of the tribunal arrives. I had asked my ex-foster carer to come with me once again as she had been with me throughout the PIP process. Unfortunately I was unable to drive this time as my car had been off the road for almost a year at this point. This was due to not having the money to be able to keep it running due to the loss of the DLA and the ESA disability premiums.
My foster mum drove us there and we were able to park across the road from the court.
We went into the building and had to again go through the process of signing in, emptying our pockets and going through the metal detector (the handheld one, not a full scanner like at an airport).
We were instructed to go up to the second floor again where the tribunal clerk would see us.
Now, here’s where the experience changed. This time we were greeted by the clerk and, as requested, we were moved into a small room at the side of the waiting area. This was the first positive, they had listened and adapted to my needs due to the contamination fears.
The clerk came in and sat down and again explained the appeal process and who the panel would be. Now we just had to wait to be called.

We were called in a few minutes later and it was in the same room as the previous hearing. Sat in front of me were 3 new panel members who were willing to listen to me discussing my mental health and my claim for PIP. The panel judge also stated that this was a completely new hearing and anything from the previous hearing (SoR etc) would not be used. There was also a DWP representative sat on the same side as us.
After about an hour and the end of the hearing, my foster mum was able to say a few words about me and how things affect me. Once this had been done, the hearing was adjourned whilst the panel discussed my case and made their decision. We were asked to leave the room whilst this process was going on so we decided to go get some fresh air. I then bought my foster mum a coffee from the machine whilst we waited.

After about 15 or so minutes, the clerk came over to us and called us back into the room. There on the table where I had been sitting was a piece of headed paper with the decision.
When we sat down I didn’t want to read the piece of paper. I was preparing for another failed attempt at claiming PIP.
The judge then told us her decision and the reasons why.

Finally after 20 months of going through the PIP application process, the mandatory reconsideration and 2 appeal hearings, I had been successful. I had finally been awarded something.
The decision actually came as a shock to me. Because of the issues I have with preparing food, washing and bathing and socialising, I had been awarded 12 points in the daily living section and the award was for 5 years (until August 2021). This 12 points meant that it was an enhanced level award. I wasn’t awarded anything for my mobility issues because I can go out, I can make journeys and I can walk. Being honest, I was just grateful that the whole thing was over. Being awarded anything was just a big relief.

When we left the court and were returning to the car, I was in tears. The fight was over for another 2 and a half years (although I am concerned I may have to fight when it comes to ESA).
I was crying tears of joy. I think my foster mum may have also shed a few tears for me.

The DWP could appeal this decision in the same way I had by finding an error in law.

Now comes the good part. Because the DLA had stopped in August of 2016, PIP should have been awarded from the day after the DLA ended. Because I had to appeal etc, no payments had been made. The tribunal decision overrides the original DWP decision from July 2016 and meant that PIP should be paid from August 2016. This meant that DWP would have to pay the claim from that date and would result in a large sum of money being paid to me for the period that PIP was not paid.
Also, because of PIP now being awarded, the severe disability premium for ESA should be reinstated, as should the single bedroom rate of housing benefit. This would also mean that there would be some money due to be paid back to me from ESA and housing for the period where it was not paid.

The PIP department from DWP contacted me about a week after the appeal hearing asking for my bank details. This meant that they would not be appealing the decision and they would pay the outstanding money to me. Being honest, this was really quick and the money would be in my account the following week.

Now things get a little complicated with the housing benefit and ESA.

The disability premium of ESA had been paid to me for 6 months after my DLA had ended. This was an error on DWP’s part as they had not been notified that the DLA had ended. Once they were notified that PIP was in payment, the premium was reinstated and they were going to backdate the payments to when the DLA stopped. Unfortunately, this would have resulted in an overpayment as 6 months of it had already been paid to me.
I had to contact ESA and explain that their figures were incorrect and that an overpayment would result if they issued the full amount. It was passed on to a supervisor to investigate and a few days later they got back to me stating that I was correct and that they had amended the payment for the period and it would be paid into my account the same day (which it was).

The issue I had with ESA also applied to the housing benefit. When they were notified that PIP was in payment, they were going to issue the money to me. However, they had calculated in the same way that ESA had and were going from the date the DLA ended and not the date that they stopped paying the single room rate. Once again it would have resulted in an overpayment. Housing benefit had already tried to claim this money back from me the previous year but, upon further investigation, it was deemed as their error and it was written off, meaning that I would not have to pay anything back. This was due to the fact that I had notified them the month before the DLA ended and explained to them that the DLA was ending and PIP would not be paid.
It took the housing benefit department a week to finally figure out that I was correct and they would indeed be making an overpayment to me if they didn’t recalculate the benefit from the date they started paying the lower rate.
They issued the payment but made another mistake. Instead of paying me the whole amount back (which I had requested), they split the payment and sent most of it straight to my landlord (my housing benefit is paid directly to the landlord due to financial issues 5 years ago).
I then had to contact my estate agent to try and recover the rest of the money from them. This process took 2 days but finally I had all the money owed to me from PIP, ESA and housing in my account.

After spending nearly 2 years of only just getting by, I was now able to start paying bills fully again. I would finally be able to get back out on the road and I would finally be able to go see my friend again and do things for myself. I would no longer have to rely on family to take me to the shops to get food in as I would be able to put my car back on the road or find another (newer) one to replace it.

Going through all the above did have an adverse effect on my mental health. I was worried about not being able to pay bills, I couldn’t go out anywhere unless someone took me and I couldn’t see one of my best friends who understands my issues. In fact, during the period between June 2017 and May 2018, I barely saw anyone. The only time I saw people was when my foster mum took me shopping or I popped across to see them when other family members visited (mum and sister).

I’m sorry this post was so long but I had to let you all know what had been happening and let people read about my experiences with claiming PIP.

Thanks for reading and I hope to start writing here more.

Nick

Mental health service experiences

Hello all.
Once again I want to apologise for not posting much on here. As I mentioned in the previous post, my mental health has been getting worse. There are quite a few reasons for this which I will try to explain in the following posts.

I guess the first thing I should bring up is my experience of the mental health services.

You may recall from a previous post that in 2014 I had seen a therapist from the local CMHT (community mental health team) who would only deal with my OCD. He wasn’t interested in the other issues causing me issues with my mental health. All he would offer was CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy).
Back in March 2016, I went to see my GP to discuss my mental health problems (not OCD) and to see if there would be any help available. The GP was reluctant at first to refer me back to the CMHT via something called SPA (singe point of access). After a few different telephone calls, he agreed to send a referral to SPA so that I could be seen and assessed by the CMHT.

In May, I was offered an appointment with another therapist under the adult psychological therapy service (APTS) to discuss my issues. The therapist was actually quite good and listened to things I had to say regarding my non-OCD issues. I had about 3 or 4 appointments with him and he did help me to understand some things about myself.
Unfortunately, as he was only a therapist, he was unable to diagnose anything or give any possible diagnoses.
On my last appointment with him in June 2016, he asked me to fill out a questionnaire. This questionnaire was different from the usual ones they ask you to do at the start of the sessions. This questionnaire was to identify possible autism, aspergers syndrome or another autistic spectrum disorder. When going through the questionnaire answers with the therapist, he gave me a score and a result.
The results did show that there was a possibility that I could have autism or another spectrum disorder as I scored quite highly. However, as stated above, he was unable to offer anything concrete as he is not qualified to diagnose.
His recommendation was that I should be referred to the adult autism services for further assessment and he would write to the GP.
However, this would not be simple as my local area did not have any services in place for adult autism assessments at that time. This would have meant having to be referred out of area to the nearest assessment centre which would have cost the local NHS trust more and a special request for funding would have had to have been made.

So, I found out later on (after seeing my medical records) that the recommendation to be referred to adult autism services was never put on my file, nor was it written down on the letter from the therapist to the GP.

A few months later I decided to contact the GP again regarding my mental health issues. Once again, the GP seemed reluctant to refer me to anywhere for assessment. I managed to get referred back to the CMHT via SPA and was sent an appointment letter a few weeks later.
The appointment was for an initial telephone call to discuss my issues.
Once this telephone call had been completed, they told me they would discuss what steps to take and contact me via letter.
I was then sent an appointment letter which stated the appointment would take place at my flat due to what had been discussed in the telephone call.
Unfortunately, I had to contact them and ask if I could move the appointment to somewhere other than my home (due to the OCD issues and not allowing people into my flat).
The appointment was changed to where the CMHT were based which was better for me.
The day before the appointment, the person who was going to carry out the assessment called me to tell me there had been a change of plans. Unfortunately he was not going to be available that day but one of his colleagues would be doing the assessment instead. The appointment location hadn’t changed and would still be at their offices.

The day of the assessment arrived and it was snowing. I set off in good time to get to the location due to the weather, even though I knew where the hospital was.
It had been arranged that the person doing the assessment would meet me at the reception as I had never been there before and it was quite a large building.
I had the assessment and that was it. The person doing the assessment said that he would put a recommendation forward to have some sort of therapy (day therapy, possibly a group one) and I would get a letter soon.

After a few weeks I get a letter asking me to go to a follow up appointment at a new location (the CMHT were moving into a new building and all services would be under one roof).
I attended the appointment and talked to the 2 people there. It was at this point that they recommended that I should see the psychology team to do some further digging into my past to see if there might be an explanation for my mental health issues. They would arrange a referral. They also agreed that at that time, it wouldn’t be right for me to be placed into therapy until further information had been discussed.

I then was given an appointment with the psychology department about 6 weeks or so later (February 2017). During the appointment I explained that I wanted to see a psychiatrist so that I could at least get some kind of diagnosis. They agreed to this and so the appointment ended.

About 2 months later I received a letter saying that an appointment had been scheduled for me to see a psychiatrist. I thought it was about time but the appointment was still 6 weeks away (May 2017).

The psychiatry appointment lasted about 40 minutes and not much was discussed. At the end of the session, the psychiatrist mentioned BPD or EUPD traits and that was it. Nothing else was said or suggested. Autism was mentioned but no referrals were suggested. It was suggested that I chase up an autism assessment with the GP.

No further psychiatry appointments were offered and I had been told that I would be referred back to the psychology department after that appointment but I heard nothing, nor was I given anything to suggest that it would happen (no letters, no recommendations or even leaflets).

After a few days, I contacted the CMHT to find out what was happening and whether or not I was going to be referred back to the psychology department. There were no notes on the system at that time so they had to call me back.
I then got a phone call from the person who had done the assessment on me and he stated that I should have been referred back to psychology but it hadn’t been done. If I wanted to be referred back I would have to speak to the GP again and arrange it. I had been discharged from all services under the mental health team.

To be honest, at that point I had given up wanting to even try talking to my GP or even trying to get referred anywhere.
I really felt like each department was passing the buck and not actually wanting to do anything to help me.

I have not had any contact with the CMHT or my GP since May 2017 (except for a few minor physical issues). I did request all the medical records from them though but most of the things contained within the files are just the same letters and referrals which are on my general medical records (I will mention the reason why I asked for my patient records in my next post).
There are some hand written notes contained in the files but I can’t read or understand them.

To be completely honest, I’m not sure if the diagnosis of BPD/EUPD is actually confirmed or not. I know the OCD is documented and mentioned on my files, as is depression but I have never had a straight answer when it comes to BPD or any other diagnoses.

I’m sorry I rambled on a bit and that this post is a long one but I needed to get this out there. I hope that I will be back very soon to continue talking about the last 18 months and my experiences in that time (some good, some bad, some positive and some negative).

Thanks for reading.
Nick

It’s time for an update

Hi there everyone.

I’m sorry I haven’t blogged here recently. Things have been getting on top of me mental health wise but a lot has happened since the last update around 2 years ago.

So, where do I start?  Well, I guess I should start with the OCD seeing as that is what the main theme of this blog is.

I’m not going to say my OCD has improved or become worse because it hasn’t done either of those. It has been pretty constant with the same main contamination fear over the last 2 years. I would say that it is what I like to call balanced, especially when at home. If I have to leave the flat, the anxiety level rises as I fear that the risk factor is increased because I am around unknown people.

I still wash up items multiple times before preparing food and then scald them under boiling water from the kettle. Depending on what food I am preparing, it takes an average of 1 hour to do the washing up and scalding of items before use and then there’s the actual cooking or preparation time on top. Even for a simple thing like a sandwich, the whole process of washing up, preparation of items and then the food preparation takes roughly one hour and thirty minutes. If I do this twice per day, it gets exhausting and, being honest, there are times when depression kicks in and I don’t even want to go through all that so I don’t end up eating at all or I end up eating snack foods such as crisps or biscuits.
I will also say that I am still able to use plates to eat from and cutlery to eat with (unless not necessary), hence the washing up and scalding of items which I will be using.

Then there’s the handwashing side of things. I have mentioned this in previous posts, especially when it comes to using the toilet. I’m not going to go into detail about that but all I will say is that it takes me 45 minutes to wash my hands enough to feel clean.
I will say that since the post describing this information (March 19th 2013) not much has changed.
I still wash my hands after touching pretty much everything so I still go through a lot of antibacterial hand wash.
Until recently I had been able to cut down on the handwashing after touching things by using specialist antiviral and antibacterial wipes and hand sprays after touching or using certain items but the use of this has unfortunately dwindled due to no longer being able to afford it.
I will explain the reasons behind that in another post soon.

Until the end of May this year, I had been able to get out by myself to do things like visit the supermarket once a week or go see my friend (who also has OCD and BPD) roughly once a month because I had a car. Even though going out was rare, it was still an option for me. Even just going out for a random drive somewhere and taking in the views when my mental health was dipping helped me through some low points.
Unfortunately this is no longer the case. I still own a car, I just can’t drive it because I can’t afford to run it (again, this will be explained in another post).
I’m back to having to rely on family members to take me to the supermarket for my shopping. This poses problems for me because I am no longer able to go when I know that the store will be quiet (early morning or early evening time). Although I don’t show it when my foster mum takes me to the supermarket, I am very anxious because I know that the store will be busy and there are people around me. I try to be as quick as I can and get in and out as soon as possible. I still won’t touch the trolley handle with my bare hands (partly because I now do not have the antiviral hand spray) and use my coat sleeves. I also use the self service checkout so that nobody else has to handle my items.

Unfortunately, not being able to get out of the flat has had a knock on effect with my depression. I am barely leaving the flat. In fact, the only times I leave my flat are when my foster mum takes me to the supermarket and that’s usually around once per fortnight. I haven’t even been out in the garden just for a few minutes for some fresh air.
I basically just sit in my flat all day and do nothing, often wearing the same clothes for days on end and having no motivation to actually do anything at all including cooking, tidying and cleaning.
Of course, this isn’t going to do me much good and it often triggers the BPD to the point where I am fed up of everything and see no point in anything.

Because I don’t get out now, I am not really able to continue one of my hobbies of landscape photography but I do sometimes take photos of the clouds, the moon or night sky from my window, some of which I’d like to share with you at some point.
My other hobby of building plastic model kits has also suffered recently. I’ve not had much motivation to actually continue building them or start new ones but I do still do bits of them every once in a while.
Since I started making the model kits back in August 2014, I have produced some 59 kits in total. Most have been of aircraft (planes and helicopters) but I have also built quite a few car kits too. Again, I hope to be able to share some of these with you.

I want to briefly mention foods now as I have touched upon food preparation earlier in this post.
Until recently, there were very few foods I would actually eat and pretty much none contained meats, except the pork pies and sausage rolls I ate as snack foods or comfort foods and pepperoni or ham and pineapple pizzas.
In the last few months I have been gradually introducing meat back into my eating habits. This doesn’t mean I am able to handle raw meats such as mince or chicken but I have been bringing in ready meals which contain meats.
I have to say, the anxiety levels surrounding ready meals containing meats has reduced over the few months I’ve been eating them. I actually enjoy some of them, particularly cottage pie or shepherd’s pie. I also quite like steak pie in gravy with chips (fries) and mushy peas or steak pie with vegetables and gravy. I actually buy more ready meals containing meats now than I did before and have even tried things that I haven’t had for years, things like sausages with mash potato and onion gravy.
It actually made me realise just how much of a hold OCD had on me with foods and that I’d only eat vegetarian meals or non-meat alternatives (except for the sausage rolls etc). It also made me realise just how much I missed eating those foods and how much I used to enjoy them (home cooked versions, not the ready meals).

In some ways, I am slowly starting to try combating the OCD and the hold that it has on me with foods, but in other ways I just can’t escape the hold it has over me such as the handwashing or going out to places like the supermarket without someone being with me.

Anyway, I suppose that’s enough from me for now but I will be writing further posts soon regarding other things which have been happening since I last updated this blog.

Take care.

Nick

Another big adventure

Following on from my previous post (A big adventure), here is another post about another adventure (road trip) I have had recently.

On October 10th, myself and a friend embarked on a road trip. This was for 3 reasons. Firstly, we rarely get out of the house at this time of year because of the contamination fears, secondly because I try to visit her once a month and thirdly because it was a very special day.

Most of you know I love aircraft and building model replicas of them. Well, one particular aircraft was embarking on a nationwide farewell tour over 2 days (first day north, second day south) on this day. Sadly, she is being retired from the air because of her age and for technical reasons so this was one of the final opportunities, if not the final opportunity for me to see her. This would be my third time seeing her fly as I have seen her fly twice before at her home airport (video footage is available on YouTube of the previous 2 trips).

I set off from my flat at around 8 am for the 2 hour, 90 mile trip to visit my friend and arrived at about 10 am (ish).

I had decided that we would go see this iconic aircraft on her farewell tour at the point nearest my friends house. Her dad lent me his camera so I could get some images of the aircraft flying because mobile phone cameras just aren’t good enough.  

So, we set off on the 30 mile journey to a nearby airport. When we got there I found a great place to park (less than 100ft from the end of the runway) and there was already someone there waiting.
At this point, we still didn’t know what time she was due to fly over the airport (she wasn’t landing) so it was a case of waiting around.

After talking to the gentleman that was already there with his camera, we agreed that the best vantage point to see the aircraft was in a field next to where we had parked.

We had about an hour and a half to wait until she was due to fly over us so we went into the field to find the best vantage point. The field had been ploughed recently so it was a little muddy and rough but we still made it to the edge of the field.

I decided that the best view was in the corner of the field next to a small tree. The tree would act as a buffer/safe zone between us and fellow viewers. I could also then move to the other side of the tree to capture the aircraft moving over the airfield and away from us.

As the minutes counted down towards the aircraft approaching, more people started to turn up. Luckily for my friend and I, they stayed at the other side of the tree away from us.

I kept checking Twitter on my phone to see where the aircraft was and to judge how long it would be before she was flying over. The Twitter feed is slightly delayed but was very useful to find out where she was. Unfortunately, I was unable to track the aircraft on the flight tracker apps because she often flies at low level so the radar system can’t pick up her location.

Then, I heard someone say she’s almost here and as I looked into the distance, I saw a small dot. This dot was trailed by smoke and I instantly knew that it was the aircraft.

I grabbed the camera, took off the lens cap and powered it up. I then started taking multiple shots of her approaching the airfield (burst images).

After a few minutes you could hear the distinctive roar of her engines getting louder as she approached us and you could pick out the distinctive delta-wing shape. Yes, the aircraft we were all there to see was Avro Vulcan XH558, the only remaining example of a flying Vulcan bomber aircraft anywhere in the world. The Vulcan is a British aviation Icon made by the Avro corporation in the 1950s (they also made the famous Lancaster aircraft used in bombing runs during WW2).

We all stood there in silence as she flew across the runway line at low altitude just feet away from us. The noise pounding through our bodies as she passed us and started to turn on her journey northwards followed by the distinctive black exhaust smoke. A few seconds later, she was gone and the airfield fell silent once again.

We waited around whilst the many people made their way back to their cars and I looked back through some of the images I had taken. Unfortunately some didn’t show the aircraft because it is difficult to take images and track at the same time, especially when taking multiple images without releasing your finger from the button. There were a few gaps in the images where I had released my finger momentarily to allow the images to be saved to the memory card (which took several seconds).

Well, it was worth the drive out there and worth the wait we had to see her possibly for the last time. My friend actually liked seeing her fly, despite getting very bored by me talking about aircraft and the Vulcan.

So, what to do now? It was only 2pm and we still had quite a few hours to do things before I would set off to return home.

I decided that it would be nice to go for a drive and visit some of the places I had spent time at when I was in my teens doing my Duke of Edinburgh’s award.

We set off from the airport and started driving south. After a few miles we got stuck in traffic but were still talking about seeing the Vulcan and how it was a shame that after October 30th, she will no longer grace the skies. We also talked about places to visit and how we were going to be driving across the moors on a lovely autumnal day.

The first place we visited was a youth hostel I had spent many a weekend at. It was a converted mill right on the edge of the moors in a small village.

Next, after driving around the village and looking at some of the places I had walked to, we set off over the moors on the single track roads. Now, the distance between the 2 places was small (about 12 miles) but because of the roads, it would take quite a while because they are narrow and twisting in places.

Once over the moors we stopped at the side of the road to admire the ruins of Rievaulx Abbey. A beautiful abbey that now lays in ruins, much like most of the other abbeys in England.

We then continued driving around the area and I decided to visit something I have heard about but never visited. 

Just on the edge of the national park is a horse carved into the sandstone of the hillside and covered with limestone. This is the white horse of Kilburn. I have never visited or seen the lovely white horse and I have to say, it is beautiful. It is visible for miles around and has been on the hillside for over 150 years. 

Next, it was time to eat. My friend needed something to eat so we stopped by a local market town. I know this town well as it was used as a base for my DofE (Duke of Edinburgh) award. I knew of a chip shop that has great reviews and so I recommended that my friend try them out whilst I bought food from the little Co-op in the town (I didn’t end up eating the items I had bought). The town was busy but we both managed to control our anxiety. We had a little drive around the town and we also decided that one day, we would walk from the town to Rievaulx Abbey and back just to get us out and in the fresh, country air. 

After this, we headed back towards my friends town and stopped off in another market town to see the castle there. Unfortunately, the castle was closed so we couldn’t see it but one day, we will go see it. We carried on driving back towards her home town and again pulled over to take some photos of the scenery and then we drove to the supermarket so I could get a snack and something to drink. 

We then drove around the town and went to a little seaside village just a few miles away to look out to sea. Then we went back to her parents house so I could return the camera and show my photos off.

Now, here’s the thing. For the first time since I have been meeting my friend, I went into her parents house. I normally stay outside but I used this as an opportunity to challenge my ocd and go into houses. We stayed for a while and chatted about our day, showed off the photos and then I took her home.

I went into her home for the second time to say goodbye and use the loo (again, something I can’t do at other peoples homes). She showed me her hamsters (all very cute) and let them play for a while whilst we talked.

I then said goodbye and set off on my 90 mile, 2 hour journey home. By this time it was dark but I was able to manage the drive home (a lot of it is dual carriageway and motorway so it is quicker). I was able to manage the drive home because now I am used to travelling the route so it makes it easier and the anxiety of travelling on strange roads is less, especially at night. 

It was a very long day but it was enjoyable for both of us. We don’t normally get out at this time of year but, we both know that we wouldn’t put each other at risk (contamination wise) so we were ok. 

I will leave you with some of the photos from the day.

The Vulcan Bomber on approach

The Vulcan Bomber on approach with smoke trail

The Vulcan bomber on approach with smoke trail

The Vulcan bomber on approach with smoke trail

The underside of the Vulcan with her distinctive delta wing shape

The underside of the Vulcan with her distinctive delta wing shape

The Vulcan banking away to continue on her farewell tour

The Vulcan banking away to continue on her farewell tour

A close up of the Vulcan banking away as she continues north on her farewell tour

A close up of the Vulcan banking away as she continues north on her farewell tour

Some moorland scenery

Some moorland scenery

Some more moorland scenery

Some more moorland scenery

The beautiful ruins of Rievaulx Abbey

The beautiful ruins of Rievaulx Abbey

The White Horse of Kilburn carved into the hillside

The White Horse of Kilburn carved into the hillside

The hole of Horcum on the moors between Pickering and Whitby

The hole of Horcum on the moors between Pickering and Whitby

Looking towards Whitby from the moors

Looking towards Whitby from the moors

Thanks for reading and I look forward to writing more about some adventures I have soon (as well as other updates on mental health).


Nick

A big adventure

I forgot to post these a few weeks ago so I’ll post them now as two separate posts. 

As some of you know from my last blog post I am now driving again and able to go out to places. I have finally been able to meet a friend who I have been talking to for 2 years after meeting her in my OCD facebook group. We both have similar mental health issues and both have emetophobia and contamination based OCD. 

I have visited her a few times now and we usually stayed around her local area. 

On the 2nd September we decided to go further out and go to a museum to see some aircraft because of my interest in aviation. 

Now, my friend doesn’t really like me talking about aircraft but, despite this, she actually enjoyed visiting the museum, seeing the collections of aircraft and also asking me questions about them. 

We both don’t like going to busy places and prefer to be outdoors away from people to minimise any risk of contamination, especially at this time of year. Luckily most of the museum exhibits are displayed outdoors as some of them still run but cannot fly and some are being carefully restored by volunteers. 

We had an enjoyable time at the museum and I actually sat in 2 cockpits (no longer attached to the aircraft) despite others having been in them a few moments before me. My friend also sat in one aircraft despite it being in an enclosed space (luckily there was only me and her in there as we waited for people to come out). 

After visiting this museum, it was still early in the day so we decided to drive 20 miles away to another museum which was a former POW camp from the second world war. 

This museum is more enclosed than the air museum as the exhibits are in the old dorm huts from the camp. Some of them have recreations of things in them including streets, destroyed houses and submarines and they are quite dark. Despite this, we still decided to carry on and go.

Now I can deal with things like that (dark and noisy) but my friend has some difficulty. A few times during the visit she started panicking and I was able to calm her down and I even managed to get her through some of the dark, smokey ones. I basically let her grab my arms and told her to keep hold of me. I kept reassuring her that she was safe and she was with me and that nothing would happen. 

I was able to calm her down and she did actually enjoy seeing some of the displays and learning about them

The museum was quite busy and we did have to hurry through some of the huts so that we didn’t get so close to other people as we both don’t like busy places (as mentioned before).
There was a bit of an incident between us whilst at the museum but we were both able to carry on after having a bit of time to ourselves to calm down. 
I was able to calm down after thinking about the situation and understanding things from her point of view. 

The final place we were going to visit was a corn (maize) maze which was back near the air museum. 

We drove back towards the museum and got into the car park of the maze. Unfortunately we were 10 minutes late for the final entry time so we couldn’t go in. This was a shame because it was laid out like an aircraft from one of my favourite childhood TV shows, Thunderbirds (it was Thunderbird 2).

Feeling a little disappointed, we headed back towards her town. It was then a quick decision to go visit a local village that was used as part of a long running TV series called Heartbeat. 

Whilst driving down the narrow moorland road towards the village, I noticed steam in the distance. There is a preserved railway that runs across the moors and I was lucky to get a glimpse of a restored steam locomotive. A big blue train called “The Sir Nigel Gresley”, an LNER class A4 Pacific steam train (restored) which is the same type as the word record holder “Mallard”

After this, we drove on through the village and a few others, then headed back to her house. 

We said goodbye and I set off home after having a long but good day out. 

In my next blog, I will be talking about another big adventure that we have been on more recently.

I will leave you with a few photos I took during the day.

A replica of a Mk1a Supermarine Spitfire aircraft on display at the museum

A replica of a Mk1a Supermarine Spitfire aircraft on display at the museum

A Tornado aircraft on display at the air museum

A Tornado aircraft on display at the air museum

An English Electric Lightning jet on display at the air museum

An English Electric Lightning jet on display at the air museum

A Jet Provost aircraft on display at the air museum.  I sat in the cockpit of an aircraft of this type

A Jet Provost aircraft on display at the air museum.
I sat in the cockpit of an aircraft of this type

A De Havilland Vampire T.11 aircraft

A De Havilland Vampire T.11 aircraft

A Douglas Dakota (C-47) on display at the air museum.  This aircraft is under restoration and visitors can enter the rear and look around

A Douglas Dakota (C-47) on display at the air museum.
This aircraft is under restoration and visitors can enter the rear and look around

XL231 (Lusty Lindy) A Handley Page Victor bomber used during the cold war and part of the UK's V-Force nuclear deterent

XL231 (Lusty Lindy) A Handley Page Victor bomber used during the cold war and part of the UK’s V-Force nuclear deterrent

A V1 (Doodlebug) rocket used by the Germans in WW2 on display at the POW camp museum

A V1 (Doodlebug) rocket used by the Germans in WW2 on display at the POW camp museum

During WW2, road signs were removed to confuse any enemy spies or invaders

During WW2, road signs were removed to confuse any enemy spies or invaders (on display at the POW museum)

The restored A4 Pacific locomotive named "The Sir Nigel Gresley" used on the NYMR

The restored A4 Pacific locomotive named “The Sir Nigel Gresley” being used on the NYMR

Thank you for reading and keep looking out for my next post about another big adventure.

Nick

A very good day and a dream achieved

Hi everyone. This will be a long post and might bore some of you as it is talking about aircraft.

I just wanted to share something very special with you all.
Some of you may have read my blog post a few days ago regarding exposures.
Well, it all worked out today and for the first time in years, I ventured away from my normal areas and went to see something very special. I have wanted to be able to do this and see this for a long time and yesterday (6/6/15), it finally happened.

At 10am I left my flat and picked up my nephew. I stayed and chatted for a bit and then I then drove (with my nephew in the car) for over an hour to an airport, pulled over on the side of the road at the bottom of the runway and stepped out to the perimeter fence.

There was a fair few people there waiting for the departure of an iconic British built aircraft which had been restored to flight over several years. Unfortunately at the end of summer, this aircraft will never fly again and will become a museum piece at the airport. There are other Vulcan aircraft on display at various museums but none of them are airworthy and cannot fly. 

I’ve never been able to see or hear this aircraft fly because I haven’t had transport to get to airshows and also with the contamination issues of being around people who I don’t know. Yesterday I got my chance. I put my issues with contamination around others aside and joined these people at the bottom of the runway, standing there for about 40 minutes waiting for take off. I even chatted with some of them about the aircraft.

I was finally able to see the Avro Vulcan bomber (XH558) take flight from her home base (now a commercial airport). I filmed the take-off and even hung around for another few hours to watch and film her land. I did move to another position for the landing as she was landing into the wind to help braking.

It was a fantastic day and well worth putting my issues aside and I met some lovely people, all Vulcan and aircraft enthusiasts (I guess you can call us plane spotters). I’m now planning more trips out to see her fly (as long as I have someone with me) and I know on other days when she is doing her displays, there will be many more people around me. My ultimate goal this year is to actually go to a full airshow, see the displays and the many aircraft on offer but, the Vulcan will always be my favourite aircraft with her unique design that could have influenced the design and building of Concorde (delta wing shape).

Most of you know that I like aircraft and build plastic models of them but this is a totally new and different experience for me. Being honest here, I got a totally new feeling being there at the end of the windswept runway, hearing the howl of the engines and having the aircraft fly directly over my head.

I think today has not only helped with exposures for my ocd but has also helped my borderline personality disorder too. I haven’t felt like this for a long time and the buzz of this won’t wear off anytime soon. I have achieved one of my goals, a goal that I set myself when I initially saw the Vulcan sat in a hangar being restored 8 years ago (before the major mental health issues) when I was working. The goal then shifted when I found out that she was flying again but the ocd had taken hold of my life and I was unable to go anywhere. Until this year, the goal to see her fly was a long term thing but after finding out that 2015 was her last ever flying season, I knew I had to do something about it so that I could achieve the target and see this fantastic, iconic plane.

I just want to say a few things to you all now.
My contamination issues and anxiety levels were still very high during the day but I pushed through them.
I also want to add that by doing exposures at my own pace, I can control the anxiety. The ocd will always be part of my life but, with the controlled exposures, it becomes easier and I’m already planning my next big adventure.
I also want to tell you that, I only wiped my hands once during the day with my wipes and I didn’t shower when I got home like I would normally do. I just washed my hands a few times, got changed and continued the evening as if I’d never been out.

I think I’ve bored you enough now but for those of you who are interested, I have posted some videos on YouTube and I will link them here (3 in total)

A few very big exposures for my OCD

Well, it’s been a long time since I posted an update here and I wanted my first post to be a positive one.

Some of you will know that I rely heavily on my family to help out with things (transport, shopping etc). A few months ago I decided to start saving up for a car. Now, I’ve wanted to get back behind the wheel for a long time, but I just haven’t had the money. 

So, after a few months of saving, I started looking round at used cars. I saw a few advertised and took an interest.

On the 17th May, I asked my foster mum if she’d be available to take me to a few places to look at some cars. She agreed to help me look and we met up.

When we got to the car place, I went in to find out about the car I was interested in. This car place wasn’t a dealer but a large showroom trader (cars bought cheaply at auctions and sold on).
After a while of looking around at cars, we decided to leave. The place was not nice looking and most of the cars looked like they were ready for the scrapheap, not the road. Most were un-valeted but I still looked around at them. 

So, looking at the cars in this place was a big exposure for me but there was also the fact that my foster mum had told me that she wasn’t feeling too great (she told me not long after I got into the car to drive to the car place). I decided to ignore the thoughts going round in my head and carry on anyway. 

Now, onto my second big exposure of the month (again this involves vehicles).

Yesterday (4/6/15) I went to look at another car that was local. I went with my foster mum again (as she is my transport).

We got there and had a look at the car inside and out. There were a few scratches on the paintwork but for the age of the car, you have to expect a few cosmetic issues. I even shook the guys hand when we met. 

Anyway, I got in the car and actually drove it with the trader (my foster mum stayed at the trader’s yard). Normally, I never get in a car with anyone, especially someone who I have only just met, but I wanted to see if the car was right for me. 

So, big exposure there with not only driving the car but with having someone completely unknown sat next to me. 

After driving the car, I decided I liked it and that I’d buy it. This meant getting back in the car and driving to the bank to pay him. So, I even went in the bank (something I don’t normally do).

I drove the car back to his yard and sorted the paperwork out. This also meant that I was touching paper and also pens that others had used. 

So, I’m now the owner of a vehicle, albeit a cheap one. 

After I’d sorted the paperwork, vehicle tax and insurance, I drove to pick up my nephew (it was only a few minutes away from the car place). 

Here comes another exposure. I normally wouldn’t have anyone in the car but as I’d already been in the car with the trader, I thought I might as well let my nephew come in it with me. Plus, he could help me with fitting a radio and subwoofer in the boot. 

Before fitting those items, I needed to go to the petrol station and the post office to renew my photocard driving licence. I drove to the petrol station and without even thinking, picked up the nozzle and put some petrol in the car without using gloves or wipes. Then I drove to the post office and left my nephew sitting in the car whilst I went in.

Another exposure here as I had to stand in a photobooth to have my picture taken and I also had to use a digital pen for my signature. I got all that done and my licence was sent to the driving licence agency (DVLA).

Next, I drove to Halfords to select a new radio/stereo system for the car (I wanted one with bluetooth and USB compatibility). Luckily the store was quiet and the radio I wanted was in stock. 

I drove home and installed the radio and subwoofer. 

After this, I decided to go for a drive and took my nephew home so he could get a lighter (he smokes and I don’t as I use an electronic one now). I ended up picking his girlfriend up too and we drove around for a few hours. 

Whilst we were out and about, I went to visit my mum. For the first time since December 2013, I went to her house (she normally comes to see me with my sister and we go to my foster mums).

I was out in the car for over 6 hours in total yesterday and, I only wiped my hands 3 times in total using the medical grade wipes I buy every month. I didn’t even use my specialist cleaning spray in the car so it was one big exposure day yesterday.

Obviously when I got home, I showered but that was because yesterday was quite warm. 

For the first time in almost 4 and a half years, I was driving again and, it felt good. Having this car now means that I will be less reliant on family members to help me do things like shopping. I can gradually build myself up to going to the supermarket alone (it will be early morning or late night though). It also means that I can get myself back out into the countryside and start walking again, I can go to places to photograph clouds and the weather and, I can go visit people including one friend I have never met but talk to very regularly.

I did make 1 big error yesterday, which I guess I can class as another exposure. 
Some of you know that I like to check that my doors are locked multiple times before leaving the flat. Unfortunately, yesterday afternoon when leaving to go to my nephews house (after fitting the stereo etc), I didn’t check that I’d locked the flat door. When I got home 4 hours later, I found my door was wide open and unlocked (big oops). Luckily, nothing was stolen. I guess I’m lucky because my door is hidden away from normal view so no-one knows that it exists. My flat looks just like a house from the road and my door is hidden away from view. I think that the excitement of having some freedom was partly to blame for me failing to check the door was locked before leaving home.

So, a very eventful day and full of exposures too. Sometimes I guess excitement pushes the ocd thoughts to the back of your mind, especially when it is something that you really want to do and have dreamed about for years.

Thanks for reading and I hope that this new era of freedom will help me control my ocd and also show that with some effort, progress can be made towards a life that is relatively free from ocd. 

Take care of yourselves and remember the words of one UK supermarket
                               “Every little helps”

Nick