Conquering OCD Turns Three!

So conquering OCD is three years old today and that’s a pretty momentous thing for me.  Thank you to to everyone who follows me I so appreciate your support.  Passing 100 followers towards the end of 2019 was a pretty magical moment for me as it was always a little target I had.

When I started this blog it was mainly to try and share some of the things I’d learnt along my OCD journey.  Things that had helped me in the hope that it would be able to help others too.  Unexpectedly for me it has also turned into a sort of therapy tool, somewhere I have come to process my thoughts, make sense of them, separate myself from them and then turn them into something useful to share with others – wow, I really didn’t see what one coming.

Over the last 18 months I haven’t spent as much time writing posts as I’d have liked, this is for two reasons I think:

  1. A very busy home life
  2. I haven’t been suffering as much with my OCD as I used to, yay!  I’m not a therapist so I don’t like to just preach, I like to have experienced something.  Then I am able to share how I made my way through it and out the other side, then hopefully that can help someone else too.

I have started my yoga teacher training now, which is amazing.  I’m hoping in the future I will be able to share some of the skills and practice I am learning to help deal with calming the mind and relaxation – we definitely all need a bit more of that at the moment.

For now, thanks again and as always,

Stay Strong xxx

Looking after your mental health

So a lot has been happening in the world since I last posted on here.  This is a terribly anxious time for us all regardless of whether you have a mental illness or not but if you are already trying to deal with something then this could be a particularly tough time.

I know a lot of my coping strategies have had to go out of the window recently because of social distancing and isolating and this is difficult.  I know if I look at the news too much or overthink what is going on I start to spiral and so I am doing what I can to stay informed without loosing myself in it all.

Things that have helped me so far:

Limiting News – Just reading headlines once a day – stay informed but don’t consume too much media

Distraction – whatever you enjoy doing (in the house of course), use it to distract yourself from your thoughts.  A few ideas are as follows:  Reading, writing, playing an instrument, watching Netflix, baking, playing with your kids, playing a game, creating, crafting, colouring, yoga, online exercise classes, FaceTime, WhatsApp, zoom, cleaning, gardening.

Mindfulness – This can be really simple things such as: feeling the sun on your skin in the garden, hearing your kids laughing, feeling the ground beneath your feet, bake something and smell the aroma.  Whatever you choose to tune into, do it multiple times a day and really feel and be in that moment.

Meditation – If you can meditate.  I know people find this one hard, I also find it difficult to calve out time for it specifically but I know if you can find the time (and you should) then it will help calm your mind.  Try and find an app or podcast to support you and talk you though the process, this can help to give it some structure and make it feel more achievable.

Move around – I have definitely found I’m not hitting my step count most days but it’s important to try and keep yourself moving so we don’t cause ourselves other issues.  I have some niggling sciatic pain at the moment and I know it’s from the dramatic change in lifestyle.

Yoga –  I would highly recommend Yoga as I personally love it and I’m currently doing my teacher training but if you can carve out some time to do some exercise this is going to boost your mood for sure.

Eating well – It can be very easy to comfort eat at times like this, but try to be mindful of the knock on effect it is going to have on your mental health.  Last week I had to work long hours to fit my work in around looking after my children.  As a result I drank too much coffee and I felt the effects of this for a couple of days.  It’s not always worth the short term fix and this week I will be sticking to my usual one coffee a day.

Look for the positives – Yes it’s a difficult time and at the moment the end is pretty hard to see but try and focus on the positives which are coming out of this situation, sometimes life can be about how you choose to look at it.  For instance, I am getting to spend a lot more time with my family which although at times is hard it’s also completely amazing and an opportunity I will probably never experience again in my lifetime.  There are also environmental benefits coming from the reduction in industry which shouldn’t be overlooked and a feeling of community coming out of people, knowing we are all in this together.

I really hope wherever you are and whatever you are currently facing that you’re all OK.  Now more then ever it is so important to,

Stay Strong xxx

Be afraid and do it anyway

I am the queen of self sabotage, I seem to enjoy putting myself down, talking myself out of following my dreams and continuing to do things which I know aren’t good for me.
Why do I do these things?  Is it easier not to change and stay in my comfort zone? Am I scared of failure if I try?  Ummm well Yes but then if I don’t try then I’ll never grow or give myself the opportunity to succeed and is that worse?  I’m guessing a lot of us feel this way.
Recently I’ve decided to make a change, I am going to leave my job of 9 years and try for a new career.  Now this has not been an easy decision, I have worked in my current role for a long time and I am very much in my comfort zone.  I work with a great group of people and the work is stimulating enough to keep it interesting (I’m a software developer), I get well paid, have flexibility with being able to work from home and I live close to my office – am I mad to leave?  Well maybe, my mind has definitely been telling me that (got to love the chatter) but I know in my heart that I am never going to love this job and so I am never going to be amazing at it.  I don’t have the enthusiasm for it that I see in some of my work colleagues and I want that passion for something.
So I am starting my Yoga teacher training at the end of this month, Yoga is something I do love and do feel passionate about.  Realistically I won’t be making as much money for a while and so I have had to save and we will have to adapt to living on one income for a while but with my 35th birthday approaching I honestly feel like it’s a bit of a ‘now or never’ moment.
I will be leaving work at the end of May and I would be lying if I said I wasn’t terrified but I truly believe it is the right decision and so I have to block out all the chatter and negative vibes and believe in myself (always a tricky one for me).  The affect all this is going to have on my mental health has been another really scary consideration for me.  Work has always been a very secure anchor in my life and has kept me stable through really hard times but I have to stop my mental health getting in my way and know I am tough enough to do this.
For anyone else thinking about making a similar life changing decision here are a few positive affirmations for you, I know I will be using them a lot in the coming months!
  • It is never too late to be what you might have been
  • If you ever feel like giving up just remember quitting won’t bring you any closer to your dreams
  • Be afraid and do it anyway
  • You’re either fighting for your dreams or fighting for your excuses
  • Just relax nothing is under control
  • The real challenge is to overcome how we view ourselves
  • Just a little progress each day adds up to big results
  • Be obsessed with your own potential
  • If your dreams don’t scare you, they are too small – Richard Branson
  • If you never try then you’ll never know what might have been
  • Believe in yourself, you got this!
As always, Stay Strong xxx

Trying to Find Some Calm

To be honest I think I’ve stumbled at the first hurdle with this one when I’ve said ‘trying’ to relax.  Surely you’re not fully relaxed if you’re ‘trying’ to be.  Being truly relaxed is something that happens when we don’t even notice and so probably impossible to orchestrate and therefore out of reach for so many of us who want to be able to control everything, argh!!!!

So what can we do to set us towards this state without forcing it?  That is the million dollar question!

I’m going to start with making a list of things I enjoy doing and that I know make me feel calmer and do more of these things:

  • Spending time with my family
  • Being outside
  • Having the house tidy and organised
  • Eating well
  • Exercising – Doing Yoga
  • Watching comedy and laughing

On top of knowing what you enjoy doing having some good coping mechanisms in place is important.  Such as being able to deal with any situation that comes your way in a calm manner, this does take a lot of practice.  It involves being able to adapt and accept that you cannot control everything or everyone around you.  It also means you have to be able to let other peoples shit – which will be sent your way occasionally – wash over you and not effect your calm.  Some people will not be as emotionally mature as you are and that is their issue not yours.

If we don’t want to remove ourselves from society completely then we must find the best ways to deal with the situations life throws at us which we cannot predict, control or change.  Life is a roller coaster, there will be bad days as well as good, sad times as well as happy and if we can try to put a positive slant on every situation then we will be able to cope better.  Even the toughest times in life will teach us something.

Try and eliminate worry from your life, it is completely pointless.  Worrying about a situation doesn’t improve it, change it or help in any way.  If you are worrying about something and there is something you can do to change it then DO IT.  If there is nothing that can be done then you have to just let it go, know what will be will be and get back to living in the moment rather then the past or the future.  Worry really does spoil any calm you might have cultivated so don’t let it!

Write a gratitude list when you’re feeling low and appreciate all the things you have.  Always striving for the next thing and not stopping to appreciate what you already have is never going to bring you happiness and it’s very exhausting.

Life is full on nowadays and it can be difficult to switch off at times but finding the quiet in all the chatter is important for your brain, how can you relax unless you have time to stop for a moment?  Meditation is brilliant for this, unfortunately I think a lot of people hear the word ‘meditation’ and start to tune out, either because they feel they ‘don’t have the time’, or it’s a bit ‘hippie dippie’ for them.  I’ve thought both of these things in the past and I admit I still find it hard to find time to just ‘meditate’ and be with myself.  I manage to attach some mediation to my yoga practice and this feels a bit less intense to me but it can definitely be hard if you’re not a fan of your own company (and many of those suffering with mental illness aren’t) to find time to just be with yourself.

Mindfulness can be a smaller step in this direction and much easier to do immediately, just focus in on anything around you even just your breathing and off you go!

I hope you have a few more ideas on how to help find your calm and be more relaxed now.

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

Consistency is the key to change

So we’ve made it to the end of January, hooray! Doesn’t it always feel like the longest month ever (apart from the last month of pregnancy of course, which is officially the longest month ever)!  Every year I find January a bit of a slog, I’m not sure if it’s the cold,
the dark, the post Christmas blues or a mix of all of these put together but it sucks!

The start of a new year always feels a little pressured to make change and be a ‘new you’.  It’s very tempting to try and make dramatic changes such as; crash diets, going to the gym every day, planning to run a marathon, giving up alcohol, going vegan, you know the sort of thing.  We all want to see a quick fix, why wouldn’t we?

Unfortunately it doesn’t normally take long for the motivation to die and for us to realise making significant changes is actually very, very hard work.  Anyone recovering from a mental health issue will of course already be very aware that there are no quick fixes but it doesn’t stop us hoping.

So here’s the bit you probably won’t want to hear. 

To make positive change you have to be consistent, you have to make small daily changes which you stick to, they can’t be massive changes as they aren’t maintainable.

Of course if you are recovering from something like OCD or maybe an addiction of some kind you really have no choice, you have to make the changes and attempt to stay on track.

The trick is not to give yourself a hard time, you will mess up now and again and that’s OK.  Never loose site of the path you’re on, no mater how slowly you’re walking it.  Accept that there may never be an end goal, it’s all about the process of moving in the right direction and getting closer to where you need to be.  Where you end up may look nothing like the way you thought it would when you get there and that could be a good thing.

I’m looking at moving careers very soon and I’m starting some training in March, it all feels very overwhelming at the moment but I just have to remember to do a small amount each day and it will eventually pay off.

Changes don’t have to be an all or nothing thing either, you haven’t failed if you slip up  or make changes gradually over time.

I’ve wanted to be meat free for a while now and more recently I have started removing meat from more and more of our weekly meals.  In the next couple of months the meat will disappear completely but for now if there’s a tin of tuna in the cupboard I’m not going to get stressed about it or throw it away I’m just going to use it up and not buy anymore.  I know even the small changes I’m making are heading in the right direction for me and over time they will pay off.  There is no big rush, life is a marathon not a sprint.

It’s very easy to just think about the goals and not enjoy the journey you’re on but we need to be more mindful about where we are in life and appreciate what is going on around us.  If we are living in the future then we aren’t really living, make every day count.  Go to bed each day feeling like you’ve taken a little step closer to where you want to be and that you are heading in the right direction.  Be kind to yourself and know you are doing the best you can.  Lets make 2020 a good one!

As always, Stay Strong xxx

The chatter

I’m pretty sure this is something that we all suffer with and if you don’t then you are incredibly lucky.  My internal chatter has been pretty loud of late, it’s something that I am incredibly aware of and have been for a long time because of my OCD.  Anyone with OCD will have a very loud internal chatterbox, it’s so hard to escape the noise inside your own head!

I have become pretty good at quietening mine down with practice over time.  Nowadays I try to speak more positively to myself, I have become very aware of my pessimistic,  glass half empty attitude so I have been pro actively trying to be more positive and change my natural thinking patterns.  I have been being pretty successful and have had some really great days but one place I don’t seem able to tune out the negative chatter is at work.

I went back to work about 5 months ago after having my second child.  Whilst I was off there have been a lot of changes to the way we work and I am struggling to keep up with the pace (or so my mind keeps telling me), my boss is amazing and all the stress is self imposed but I can’t seem to get myself out of this hate cycle where I just think I can’t do my job anymore even though I’ve been there for nearly 9 years now!  I have HUGE episodes of impostor syndrome where I just feel like everyone thinks I’m ridiculous and can’t do my job and the amount of times I thought about leaving as surely someones going to notice I can’t do my job at some point soon anyway!

I have made such huge strides forwards in my personal life and OCD recovery but work wise I just can’t seem to think positively.  It’s a huge vicious circle as well, as the time I spend worrying I’m not actually focusing on work!

So what to do about all this?  It’s a good question, I think to start a list of all the reasons to give myself a break and be a bit kinder to myself:

  • I’ve had 2 babies in the last 3 years and have had two years off work, its going to take a bit of time to get back up to speed
  • I only work part time now and don’t have the same amount of time to commit to work anymore
  • You’ve done your job for 9 years, you are able to do it
  • All the pressure is self imposed and is only coming from you
  • If you focus your mind on the new work rather then worrying about it you will be able to do it quicker – stop worrying, start doing
  • Be realistic about what is possible and stop trying to be perfect, you’re not going to keep up with the 18 years old’s who have all the time in the world!
  • Try to add in some daily relaxation
  • Be kind to yourself
  • Use positive affirmations – you can do it.

I’m pretty sure if one of my friends came and talked to me about the same situation I would tell them to be a lot kinder to themselves and stop expecting perfection.  Why are we so hard on ourselves?

Hopefully I can put some of this plan into action and start enjoying work again soon!  I hope some of this is helpful to others out there too, we probably all need to be a bit kinder to ourselves.

Happy new year all (can I still say that or is the 16th too late?), here’s to a fab 2020, and as always,

Stay Strong xxx