Beating OCD Top Tips

So this year I haven’t managed to post as often as I’d like, Covid-19 and my yoga course have taken most of attention and I do find the OCD isn’t affecting me as much.  Is this because I am so busy?  Partly I think yes but I am definitely not naïve enough to think it has gone away completely.  Some days I can feel it there at the back of my mind, ready to come back with a vengeance when things calm down and this is quite a scary thought.  

So I wanted you all to know that I haven’t forgotten about you and hopefully the yoga will come together with this blog to give me more tools to help us all in conquering OCD completely.  

I’ve looked back over the stats for the year and still right out in front is the post I wrote on Pure O and False memory OCD. It has double the views of any other post and to be honest having had OCD it’s pretty obvious why it’s up there in front.

I think Pure O and false memory OCD are arguably the worst parts of having OCD, they’re completely hidden from view so people don’t know they’re happening and the thoughts are so terrifying at times that just the idea of uttering them to another living sole can be completely debilitating.  In fact OCD works in a way that it will find your deepest, darkest fears and go to town, making you feel like the worst person alive – you’re not by the way.  

Here are a few things to remember;

  • The first thing is that OCD likes you alone and isolated, it wants to be your only ‘friend’. Laughable isn’t it, OCD is probably the worst friend you could possibly have, the one who just takes from you and only gives you shit in return, if we had a friend like that in real life we would get rid of them pronto! It might not feel like it at times but you are separate from your OCD and you can be in control of it.
  • However hard it is you must try and speak to someone, even if initially it’s just yourself.  This might sound odd but I’ve found even by verbalising the thoughts out loud their power is reduced. I think most of the time we know the thoughts aren’t real and so by saying them out loud  it can reinforce this.   
  • Always remember everyone has these thoughts! You should take comfort not fear in the fact that the thoughts repel you and make you uncomfortable, this is the natural reaction and 100% means you would never act on them.  
  • Believe in yourself, you are not a bad person – self love is essential for recovery.  
  • Be mindful and live in the now, it is all we have, your version of the past only exists in your mind.
  • Avoid alcohol and other mind numbing substances, they are only short term fix’s and will actually make the thoughts worse overall.
  • Write it down – when I started this blog it was for the purpose of passing on helpful tips to others struggling but surprisingly it has also become a form of therapy for me as well.  Putting things on here detaches them from myself, allowing me to look at them more objectively.  
  • Remember there is light at the end of the tunnel, I still have very dark days but I am far enough into my journey now to know that that feeling doesn’t last forever and the darkness does lift – even though at times it feels like it won’t.  
  • You are not alone – though at times you will feel like you are – around 750 thousand people suffer from OCD in the UK and that stat is closer to 2.2 million in the US.

Wishing you all the best Christmas and New Year, I’ll see you in 2021!

Lets hope it’s a good one!  
As always,
Stay Strong xxx

OCD – It’s all a way of thinking

OCD feeds off self doubt, loathing and negative thinking spirals.  It will make you think you are the worst person in the world, that you are capable of horrible things and that you don’t deserve love and happiness.  It will isolate you and drag you down if it can, so if you’re fighting this bastard every day like me then you have to get very good at telling it to go f*uck itself.

One of the best things you can do is simply like yourself (I’ve spoken about this a lot before), know who you are and don’t waver.  You are a good person who deserves good things to come to you and you are stronger then the thoughts in your head, yep that’s all they are, thoughts, not even something tangible or real.

I’ve recently tried to take the next step in my recovery.  For quite a while now I’ve been using my husband for reassurance when something happens that triggers an OCD spiral.  It’s worked so well for me, whatever it is I’m stressing about whether it’s something that’s happened on the drive home or in the supermarket or wherever I just run it past him, he just shrugs and that’s reassurance enough for me to know that I’m worrying over nothing.

Now initially I didn’t even realise that this was a coping mechanism, it happened so organically over time.  Then a while ago I read something that basically confirmed if you do this to relieve a thought then it is a ‘coping strategy’.  Of course they’re right and ultimately I need to be able to process these thoughts on my own without my husbands help.  So I’ve been doing my best to do this, I’m going to be honest it’s super tough, it takes me longer to remove the doubt feeling but it does go eventually which is reassuring.

Last night something happened when I was picking my kids up from pre school and I immediately started to catastrophise it in my head.  I could feel the doubt pulling me down, all the ‘what if’s’ starting to flood into my head.  My mood started to drop and I could hear myself becoming irritable and snappy.

I made a decision that I wasn’t going to talk to my husband about it and that I was just going to sit with it and not think on it.  This was incredibly hard, I busied myself
with making tea when I got home and distracted myself as much as I could, the doubt feeling stayed with me all night, though it did start to loose it’s grip as time ticked on.  This morning the thought has popped into my head a couple of times but I have been able to dismiss it relatively easily.

Something that has really helped me to remove the thought is choosing to put a positive slant on the situation rather then a negative one.  I’m sure I’ve said this before but if you must catastrophise then do it positively!  Realistically if you are going to live your life fully then you are going to come across situations that are going to trigger OCD thoughts, FACT it’s impossible not to.  You cannot avoid them and you know what, even if you try to you will still hit them occasionally, avoiding OCD DOES NOT WORK (take my word for it, I’ve tried).  

The best thing you can do is look at a situation and think on it positively.  So don’t think ‘what if this could of happened‘ but think ‘that didn’t happen’ or ‘I reacted in the best way I could, now I know I can deal with the situation if it happens again in the future’. 

Know you can’t control or predict everything and that that’s OK, you probably wouldn’t want to even if you had the choice.  Know you are a good person and you will always do the best you can in any situation, that’s really all anyone can hope for.  It takes so much strength to overcome these thoughts but you can do it I promise.  Do not let OCD win, do not let it pull you down!

I really hope this helps, even getting it down is helping me process it.  Writing the experience down even though hard can help detach it from your mind, you can then go and burn it if you wish!  By writing it down it’s like an alternative to telling someone, it gets it out and then it’s gone, yes!

As always, Stay Strong xxx

OCD and Blood

Now I’m guessing this is a trigger for a few of us out there, I know for sure it’s always been one of mine.  There’s something about blood which just makes my mind go,

‘If you touch that you’re going to catch something horrible’.  

In the past if I walked past a plaster in the street it would play on my mind for the rest of the day. I didn’t even need to touch it, my Magical Thinking OCD could work out a way to make sure I could still catch something from it.  Sometimes it didn’t even have to be blood, just a red blob, it could be marker pen, jam, jelly, anything that could potentially be misconstrued as blood and my OCD would see to the rest.  I don’t know how many times I’ve thought about what I would do if I caught an infectious disease and how many hours I’ve catostrophised and stressed about all the possible outcomes, once again it’s actually very sad to think about.

Today I’m still battling these thoughts but I don’t seem to dwell on them or catostrophise about them anymore.  I still have an aversion to blood but that feels a little more ‘normal’, I’m not sure anyone likes other peoples blood on them or would want to voluntarily touch some.

One of the best things I heard when trying to combat this trigger (from my CBT therapist) was that,

‘diseases can’t live in blood outside of the body for longer then 48 hours’,

now I’m not even sure if this is 100% true, but I choose to believe it and it pretty much cured this phobia for me.  So if you see a plaster on the street that has blood on it, the likelihood it can hurt you is pretty much zero.

Once you can convince yourself of something then the thoughts are easy to bat away and eventually they stop coming all together.  All these things are a work in progress of course but I’ve found through my recovery sometimes you’ll hear something and it’ll just work for you and then that’s another trigger down.

Hopefully this one will help someone else out there.

Stay Strong xxx

OCD – Responsibility

I expect there is an official term for this type of OCD but I’m not aware of it.  Basically it’s intrusive thoughts which occur when asking other people to do things for you.

for example: Say I asked my husband to go and pick something up from the shop for me, I would then have intrusive thoughts about all the things that could potentially happen to him on the way or whilst he’s there and I would then feel responsible for those things: I asked him to go, he’s only there because of me. Therefore I am responsible for anything that happens to him during this time.

This is another way OCD can isolate you very successfully, not only are you scared to go out yourself because of your OCD thoughts and anxieties, but you also become scared to ask anyone to help you in any way in case something happens to them, making you feel more and more alone.  OCD is such a bully, it wants you to be alone and suffering in your mental torment forever.  It can also make you come across as indecisive as you internally struggle with whether to get someone to drop the kids off at school or pick something up from the shops on the way home.

Unfortunately I don’t have an easy answer for this one either, sorry.  You just have to be stronger than it somehow.

  • Distraction is probably a good method, ask someone to do something and then do everything you can to keep yourself busy.
  • Having the knowledge that the other person has their own free will and that you cannot control everything.  I think that’s a big one with OCD and anxiety, you have to accept that you cannot control or know the outcome to everything and actually you probably wouldn’t want to given the choice.
  • Practice your mindfulness, be in the moment now and not in the unknown future worrying about things that will probably never happen.
  • Ride it out, anxiety can only be at it’s peak for a limited time, your body cannot sustain it for too long so breath and know it will pass.
  • Don’t catastrophise – which you obviously have if you’re in this situation.
  • Talk to someone, it could even be the person you’re worrying about.

Hopefully some of the above can help, I work on these things daily and slowly things get easier but it’s a long old road and some days it’s definitely tougher than others.  Remember you’re not alone and as always

Stay Strong xxx

 

Breathing

So I’ve done Yoga for many years and for anyone who’s done Yoga at all you’ll be aware that there’s normally a bit of meditation involved and some deep breathing and to be honest I normally find this part a bit dull.  I’ve also been on courses where I’ve learnt about the importance of breathing to get through fight or flight and all about the parasympathetic nervous system and the sympathetic nervous system and how to balance them, I’ve learnt about heart math and it’s benefits and I’ve even blogged on here for over two years about how important breathing and mindfulness is but it wasn’t until today whilst listening to a Happy Place podcast with Rebecca Dennis that the impact of my breath on my entire life really hit me.

A good few years ago when I first met my husband he used to say to me quite often:

‘You’re holding your breath again’

Now, I just used to find this ‘pointless’ information annoying but today it REALLY hit me that this is actually the root of all my issues.  This is why yoga and meditation when I do them actually help me A LOT.  I hold my breath literally all the time, I’m doing it NOW, whilst writing this post, I can feel myself doing it!

I honestly think this is going to change my life.  I have been doing my meditations more (admittedly not everyday) but even that is starting to help and I am definitely going to continue with it.

Just stopping now and listening to my breath, its not smooth its not even, I’m surprised I’ve lasted this long to be honest!

I am sure I will need to do some work on what has caused me to hold my breath in this way but at least now I am aware of it and I can move forward.

Hopefully this will help someone else too,

Stay Strong xxx

 

Yoga

I cannot speak highly enough about yoga, I flipping love it!  I have done it for years just as a hobby really but it’s benefits for me are huge.  It relaxes me, improves my mental head space, it gets me more in tune with my body, it also helps with my Ulcerative Colitis, it strengthens my body and improves my flexibility, the benefits are endless.  If you’re struggling mentally for whatever reason or actually even if you’re not and you’ve never given yoga a go then you should really try it.

More recently I haven’t been doing as much exercise in general (this includes yoga) mainly because of a lack of time and energy (having just had a baby recently) but I am just starting to feel like I can get my head back into it and I have been bringing myself right back to the basics.  It’s amazing how much you can forget, even the small things like how to breath properly and hold your core muscles. The foundations are so important – in everything not just yoga – you have to put in the time and effort at the start to make sure you reap the benefits at the end.  Like with mental health recovery it is a marathon not a sprint but boy is it worth it in the end.

My own company

Now this is something I’ve struggled with for as long as I can remember, I really do dislike being on my own and having to sit with my own thoughts, eeek!  In fact I’ve realised recently that I talk out loud to myself all the time and I think it’s partly so I don’t have to listen to my own thoughts and partly so I can separate the important thoughts from the jumble that is my own brain.

I find everything feels a bit more scary when I’m on my own, my anxiety is heightened and I catastrophize constantly, it’s also much harder to just dismiss negative thoughts.  For me this is a working progress and I do believe I’m better at it then I used to be but man I’ve got a long way to go.

So once again I don’t have a nice quick fix for this either, hummm.  I expect if I asked an expert they’d tell me I have to face it and just sit with the thoughts, feelings and inner ramblings.  Maybe eventually something more positive would start to come out?

I think when you have OCD intrusive thoughts it’s incredibly difficult to like yourself and therefore your thoughts, I think the version of yourself you see is completely different to the one everyone else sees and so you can’t understand why other people like you at all and you actually have no idea what they think of you.  Maybe they see more of the real you then you do, the you without OCD – if like me you have Pure O – now that’s a mind blowing thought!

So of course I must work harder on my self love and try to see all of the positives instead of the negatives.  I must push myself to do the things I know make me feel well mentally:

  • Get enough sleep
  • Do exercise
  • Eat well
  • Remove caffeine and alcohol
  • Remove any negative people who make me question my self worth from my social circle
  • Write a list of positives to read when struggling
  • Continue to write my blog
  • Appreciate all the beautiful things I have in my life
  • Live mindfully

So this is my little lecture to myself today to give myself that extra push that I know sometimes we all need.  Recovery is a marathon and not a sprint and boy don’t I know it, so until next time

Stay Strong xxx

 

 

OCD – Coping Strategies

So this appears to be one of the main searches that brings people to my site – not too surprising I suppose – so because of this I felt like it deserved it’s own post.  It does feel like a pretty big topic to be honest and I guess for everyone the answers will be slightly different.  There are a few different types of OCD and what will be a trigger for some people won’t be for others.  I guess ultimately none of us want to just cope with OCD we want to conquer it but for now here are a few things I’ve learnt along the way.

Lets start with a few facts

  • Believe and know that EVERYONE has intrusive thoughts.
  • People with OCD intrusive thoughts do not act on them EVER!
  • You are not a bad person for having these thoughts, the fact that they repulse you/that you fear them actually means completely the opposite – that you are a good person.
  • A thought cannot hurt you

1. Talk to someone, anyone (even if it’s yourself initially)

Counselling was so useful to me, talking through my intrusive thoughts and realising just by saying them out loud that they lost some power straight away.  Saying them to someone else and expecting a huge reaction only to be met with a normal expression was a complete revelation to me, what had I been worrying about all those years?  Medical professionals have seen it all before, you might think you’re the only one having these OCD thoughts but I promise you you’re not.

It can take some time to build up the courage to seek medical help, for me it took over 10 years but the sooner you go for it, the sooner your recovery can start.

2. Take one day at a time

Unfortunately OCD recovery is not a quick fix, you will need to take it one day at a time and it won’t be a straight line, there will be set backs but each time it will be a little easier to get back to where you were, always be kind to yourself, you’re only human after all.

3. Be mindful

Mindfulness is something which is fantastic for grounding you.  When you feel the anxiety starting to build and you feel trapped in a thought try to take yourself out of the situation (if you can safely) and breathe deeply, focus on something in the room and try to describe it to yourself, what does it look like, feel like, smell like etc

4.  Don’t spend time alone

One of the worst things you can do is sit in on your own trying to diffuse the thought.  Don’t even think about touching google, giving the thought time will only give it more power over you.  The best thing you can do is give your mate a call and get out the house.  Unable to do that then put a movie on, sing to a favourite piece of music, just don’t give that thought anymore of your time, I promise you, it won’t help!

5. Don’t be self destructive 

It’s very easy when you have a mental illness to want to try and escape it in any way you can. For most people this will mean alcohol, drugs, sex – anything really that gives you some short term relief.  Unfortunately these activities will not make the problem go away and in fact will probably make them worse.

6. Look after yourself

Eat well and exercise when you can, the body is a machine and you need to take care of it for it to work properly.  If you have a bad day then let it go and don’t allow yourself to spiral, no body is perfect.

7. Stop looking for normal

I really hate the word normal, I’m pretty sure it doesn’t exist to be honest.  Stop striving for something that is not achievable and just aim for the things that make you feel happy and content, this is your normal.

8. Be careful what you watch

This can be anything from the news to social media.  If you are someone who’s mood is massively affected by watching the news – I know mine is – or by looking at other peoples ‘perfect lives’ on Instagram or Facebook then don’t look, or give yourself a cut off – no social media after 9pm.  Most of it isn’t real anyway and they could be just as unhappy as you are.

Wow I really could rant on and on I think but unfortunately I’m out of time!  It really is tricky to find half an hour at the moment with looking after a baby (who’s currently sleeping) but I hope the above list can be of some help to you, perhaps I’ll try and do a part two next month if there’s enough interest but for now

Stay Strong xxx

 

 

Conquering OCD on Instagram

So more recently I’ve been finding it tough to find the time to write complete blog posts.  Having a newborn and a toddler life is pretty full on, however this has been getting to me as I think it’s so important to keep the conversation going.

Therefore I have opened an Instagram account, I’m hoping it will be easier to post pics and tips rather than write whole posts.  The blog isn’t going anywhere, there will just be less regular posts until I have more time to dedicate to it in the future.  Please follow me on Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/conqueringocd/  I am so grateful for all your continued support.

Stay Strong xxx

OCD – Control

Firstly a little apology that this post has been a while in the making, a newborn really does make getting things done tricky at times!

Something that is particularly hard for me  – I think I have mentioned it before in previous posts – is staying in control of my OCD when life events don’t allow you to control everything.  I can only speak of my personal experience but for me knowing what is coming next – although potentially a little boring at times – allows me to stay calm.

I think we all know life isn’t always predictable and so how can we prepare for the times when it throws us a curve ball?

Recently I’ve seen the return of my UC (Ulcerative colitis) which is an autoimmune disease.  Very conveniently it goes away during pregnancy but I’m now 8 weeks post pregnancy and it’s starting to return.  I’m feeling tired already and this reoccurrence – although not completely unexpected – has taken it’s toll on my positive outlook and energy levels.

Trying to stay positive and calm when you’re feeling under the weather is extra tough as it can seem unfair and motivation to do anything can be low.  When it’s just a cold there is an end in sight but with a long term condition it can be hard to see light at the end of the tunnel.  However it is important to try, particularly when you have people relying on you.

The last couple of weeks I’ve had to have some little talks with myself and reflect back on some of my previous blog posts to remember all the things I need to do to stay in control of my OCD.

Normally one of the first things I like to do when I’m feeling low is to get out of the house – four walls are not your friend – however this isn’t always possible when you’re feeling poorly.  If it’s not possible to get out then do what you can to improve your mental outlook.  If you can:

  • Open a window to let in some fresh air
  • Turn on the lights, potentially invest in a SAD lamp which helps with seasonal affective disorder – I am particularly sensitive to light.
  • Take a multi vitamin to give yourself a boost
  • Make sure you’re eating well and drinking enough water
  • Get your head phones in and listen to some of your favourite tunes
  • Call a friend or family member and have a chat or even better get them to come over
  • Try to avoid alcohol, smoking and caffeine
  • Make sure you’re getting enough sleep but not staying in bed all day
  • Try to have a shower and get dressed
  • Look at online blogs where people are in similar positions to yourself, this can make you feel a lot less alone.
  • If you can do some exercise
  • Write a thankful list of 5 things to be grateful for.  This can help to refocus your mind onto positives rather than negatives.
  • Use mindfulness and meditation.

There are so many things you can do to keep yourself on the right path but at the core of it all you have to want it, even in the toughest of times never loose your focus.

and of course, as always,

Stay Strong xxx