Say hello to the Cyclists

Say hello to Ashley, Lisa and Paul who later this year will cycle 1250 miles from John o’Groats to Land’s End in aid of the charity, OCD-UK. In their own words, this is why they are getting involved, spending much of the year to train and giving up three weeks in August for people with OCD.

Ashley Fulwood

Ashley Fulwood

Aged: 39
Occupation: Chief executive of OCD-UK.
Location: Based in rural East Sussex, perfect cycling country.

Dr Lisa Marnell during the 2013 ride4OCD

Dr Lisa Marnell

Aged: 33
Occupation: Teacher of mathematics.
Location: Liverpool.

Professor Paul Salkovskis during the 2013 Ride4OCD

Prof Paul Salkovskis

Aged: Still in his fifties. Just.
Occupation: Professor of psychology.
Location: Bath, but grew up in the borders of Scotland.

Why Ashley will Ride4OCD
Ashley Great Notts Bike Ride 2014

Ashley Great Notts Bike Ride 2014

Why am I doing a 19-day ride for an OCD charity? Well let me tell you a little story first, go on, indulge me and read on.

Having suffered with OCD since my late teens, for the majority of my 20s and much of my 30s OCD has completely dictated and dominated my life for much of that time. I would not be able to use the toilet without an overwhelming fear of germs and contamination from my own bodily fluids, which would be so strong I would have to wash and shower my entire body until I ‘felt’ clean, and the more you try and ‘feel’ something, the less certain you become so those washing rituals (or compulsions) would take a long time, on average 60-90 minutes, at times multiple hours, sometimes more than once a day. Because of that my entire day was regimented so not to eat when out so not to have to use the toilet until I was home and even when home I could not use the toilet without immediately going straight into a bath. So planning days out was a military operation, and often avoided much of the time.

Fast forward a few years to my late 30s and OCD was still with me I as controlling it better and I described it ‘that I control the OCD rather than it controlling me’. I was now able to use public toilets, and be out for a day, but the OCD was still ever-present, and showering although not long in terms of time, there were still too many. The first time I chose to use a public toilet without needing to shower I was working in London at Bloomberg’s, it was the most liberating experience ever, not many people go to use the toilet at work and come out smiling and laughing! Ok, I over washed my hands then, but I did it, I used a public toilet!!!! Of course my colleagues had no idea I had just climbed mount Everest.

My OCD stagnated for a few years then, not getting worse, but not getting better until the last three or four years when I have made much more progress. I still have a fear of bodily fluids, I still wash myself if I think I have any urine on me, so I still have some work to do.

Being out all day still represents a challenge (that it shouldn’t, I should not have to worry about where I go to the loo), so that is exactly why I want to do another Ride4OCD. Cycling is something I enjoy and I want to spend 19-days cycling to be able to stick two fingers up at OCD and say, ‘I am doing something I love, you will not stop me’. Equally, it also represents a great opportunity to challenge myself OCD therapy wise, to have to use the backs of tree’s to relieve myself, to not to be able to wash my hands, to face the risk of urine splashing on my legs, to have to apply lube to the nether regions (to prevent saddle sores) without washing my hands, to have dead bugs stuck to my sun-creamed arms and legs and at the end of each day to get to shake Paul’s hand knowing his hands would be equally as gross as mine!

If I can do all that then I will be taking another step towards reclaiming all my life back from OCD. I don’t want to tell people I am controlling my OCD, I want to tell people that I no longer suffer with OCD, and one day I WILL be able to say that, I am determined to make that a reality.

That is why I will Ride4OCD this August.

Why Paul will Ride4OCD
Paul cycling down Dartmoor in 2013

Paul cycling down Dartmoor in 2013

This will be the second long distance cycle ride I have done with and for OCD-UK. There are several motivations for me. I originally thought that I couldn’t do such a long bike ride (I wasn’t even a cyclist at that time), and then decided that I b****y well should, as I am constantly asking people to do things which they feel they can’t do! The idea of the day after day slog reminded me of the day after day slog people with OCD have to endure, but that with every slog if its towards an achievable (if faraway) goal, then there is satisfaction in progress. Also, my experience was that, although tough at times, anticipation of tackling it (training and the big ride) was always worse that actually doing it. That also reminded me of the experience of people who set out to beat their OCD one day at a time.

Which takes me to another reason; there were so many brilliant moments meeting people on the journey, including people with OCD but also people who wanted to know about it, people on bikes and off. We did some awareness sessions last time, but I’m determined we will do a lot more this year. I benefited from (and was at times humbled by) the stories I heard.

This time we are going to do more awareness activities including meetings, formal and informal, media and so on. That’s of course why we are doing it “the long way”, zig-zagging to take in places where we can meet people with personal experience of OCD. I don’t think we met enough therapists and mental health professionals last time. People who are supposed to work with those who have OCD all too often simply don’t understand, and inappropriately pessimistic and simply don’t know enough about it. This has to change, and that’s part of my reason for reaching out on the ride to my colleagues.

And then there’s the fundraising: OCD-UK does a great job, and needs funding to continue its work, so many reasons why I will Ride4OCD.

Why Lisa will Ride4OCD
Lisa cycling in 2013

Lisa cycling in 2013

There are a number of reasons why I’m taking part in this year’s Ride4OCD. Firstly, it’s a really important charity that deserves to be recognised for all the hard work that goes on in providing people with the knowledge and encouragement to seek out good treatment that can give them back their life.

Secondly, I would like to give the thousands of sufferers out there the hope that a life free from OCD is possible. Whether this be a conversation along the way about my own personal experience of OCD and the obstacles I’ve overcome along the way or just a friendly face to touch base with.

Furthermore, when I originally did this tour two summers ago, I was just getting my life back on track after what had been a difficult time in terms of admitting my problems with OCD and anxiety. This journey for me, represents another step forward in the recovery process and hence living my life to the maximum, something everyone should strive to do.

Of course I also get to spend two weeks introducing Ashley to “super” cocktails (not his favourite tipple of Coca-Cola) and other refuelling essentials as well as dealing with Paul’s cleat issues, in addition to generally ensuring the boys are well fed and watered when I’m not cycling with them myself.

Come join us along the way, it will be a great experience regardless of your cycling ability.