Tatjana's story

"My values have undergone considerable changes since I began receiving treatment for my obsessive thoughts. Today, I view a day spent without obsessions as a piece of luck. I talk with other patients about my experience, and welcome any job I can handle as a chance to be active and communicate with others.

My mental problems started from early childhood. I was very shy and prone to obsessive thoughts as a child, which developed into a regular disease at the age of 25.

The whole thing was brought to a head by a minor bodily disorder. I am very much of a hypochondriac, but was too shy to go to the doctor or say anything to my parents or friends. As a result, I developed a fixed idea about my condition. I kept silent about it for a year and suffered a lot, until I finally went to see a psychiatrist, who dispersed my fears about a physical disease. Since that episode, it has been impossible for me to control my thoughts and fantasies.

The problem is, I am excessively immersed in my inner world, which makes it difficult for me to communicate with others, and decide between two options. I am prone to lying on a couch for several hours or a whole day, dreaming and making up fantasies. The pleasure I derive from this is similar to the enjoyment a drug addict gets from his drugs, but my “dope” is inside my head.
Now I have both obsessions and compulsions, and have been taking psychotropic medicines for them since the age of 26.

Apart from my psychiatric problems my backbone and joints are out of order, and my orthopaedic prognosis is not good. I have all the grounds for applying for a disability degree, but am in no hurry to do so.

As for my professional life, I was trained as a soil scientist and ecologist. I worked as a researcher in a small ecological laboratory after my graduation, and at the age of 27, I returned to University as a post-graduate student. For two years I collected a lot of data for my PhD, but my mental illness interfered with my work, and I was never able to write my thesis.

So how can I live with this rather harsh predicament that I am in? What helps me in life? The answer is spiritual peace, and to keep active.

It was my condition that forced me to turn to God and religion, and to become a Christian. I am seriously limited in my mobility and working capacity, but God loves me, and I believe that diseases are given to me in order to change my soul for the better, and to train fortitude and patience. God bestowed me with my misfortunes, but he also provided me with all the necessary strength to cope with them. I am not “showered” with disaster, but I am sick to the very degree that I can manage. When it all felt too much for me at one point, I soon experienced a relief.

At the moment I don’t have pains that could spoil my mood, and I am convinced that if I live a Christian life I will be able to endure any pains that come to me.

I have found a job within my competence, and even if my obsessions persist, on the whole my treatment has been beneficial during these last eight years. I work as a proof-reader, which I stick to, even though it stimulates my obsessions, since it is one of the rare jobs I can manage physically. (I cannot work with a keyboard because of hand arthrosis, and as a proof-reader I can work from home.)

I like to be passive and just lie and dream, but the medical treatment gives me strength to defeat my laziness. My strategy is to change passiveness for action. To do something, even if the result is remote and obscure, is far better than deceptive rest.

One of the things I have accomplished is gathering and systematizing my abandoned scientific data, and preparing an article that I intend to publish on the Internet. I resumed my English studies in order to use my spare time fruitfully. Now I have the FCE First Certificate in English and feel confident when I am abroad, and my advice for all active patients is: learn English, it gives you a lot of possibilities for international contacts.

For my part, I have participated in the seminar Patients for Patients Safety, organized by the WHO in Dublin. The participants of the seminar were chosen in an open contest, the conditions of which were published on the Internet. You had to answer a series of questions like “Did you try to change the health care system in your country?” and “What lessons did you learn from your efforts?”.
On the first day every one of the thirty participants talked about his or her personal experience, and on the second day we were joined by officials from the medical area. Day three we worked together to define goals and priorities for the patients’ movement. However, the agenda of the seminar was not as important to me as meeting active patients and their relatives.

My arthrosis has prevented me from mastering the blind method of typing, but I have succeeded in doing 68 exercises out of 100. I could not work in accordance with my education, but I studied proofreading on my own, and next I am going to try to take a correspondence course at a polygraphic college. My doctor forbade me to read so as not to aggravate my obsessions, so I do embroidery with glass beads to pass the time. I don’t want to gain weight because of the medication, hence I do my morning exercises. I used to go swimming as long as my joints allowed me to, and I (try to) observe a diet.

It is easier to fight the obsessions when people around me are informed about my struggle and sympathize with me. Since it is important to have a chance to “boast” of one’s accomplishments, I have participated in some self-help groups, and have sometimes lead some of them.

I talk to other patients about my experience and they ask me: “Is it worth living this way? If you like to lie and dream, why don’t you just do it instead of forcing yourself to be active?”

Of course it deprives me of a certain amount of pleasure to combat my “spleen”, but I have the chance of experiencing the joy of defeating my illness, which is a joy of a different kind."