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

Alcohol – the social pressure

A complicated topic this one, I think.  I very rarely drink nowadays and to be honest I don’t really miss it but with the Christmas season coming up and the inevitable works Christmas party on the horizon I am feeling the pressure a bit more.

I’ve mentioned to my work colleagues that ‘I won’t be drinking at the Christmas party‘ during a conversion about ‘what we should drink on the train on the way there!‘ and I was met with, ‘once you have one you’ll want to drink‘ and ‘but your so much fun when you’re drunk‘ etc etc.  Now don’t get me wrong I work with a good bunch of people and I know they respect my decision but it has highlighted to me that you are definitely going against the grain if you don’t drink.

So why is it such a taboo and why is our culture so focused on drinking as a social MUST to have fun? 

Are we just all too nervous to relax in social situations otherwise or is it just the love of drinking away the realities of the world for a few hours (was that a bit deep?).

I’ve definitely used alcohol as a way to escape the realities of my life in the past.  I drank massively to excess during my 20’s, partly due to my OCD but also partly because in our culture today it really is just the done thing.

Nowadays I don’t mind not fitting in, I know who I am and I am happy with that, I don’t need to conform but through my 20’s I was not confident.  In fact I kind of hated myself a lot of the time (thank you OCD) and so I drank like everybody else.

There’s definitely a bit of dedication involved in not conforming but still partaking in life.  It’s not healthy to cut yourself off from social situations completely to avoid drinking, especially if you suffer from mental health issues, being on your own is going to do you no favours (Obviously if you have a serious problem this could be different for you and you should get some help).

It is difficult as you can come across as being awkward or difficult a lot of the time.  I hardly drink and I don’t eat dairy so I’m never having a bit of the birthday cake or sip of the celebratory champagne and occasionally I do feel like I’m being anti social but you just have to own it and enjoy the fact that you’ll be the one with the clear head in the morning.

I’m not sure whether I’ll ever completely give up alcohol but I think I’d like to.  In the past I would have terrible memory loss after a night out drinking and that mixed in with false memory and magical thinking OCD was a very, very scary mix, especially if you don’t have a good mate to fill in the blanks for you.  These are definitely days I’d happily leave in the past.

I know this sort of memory loss can be terrifying for people with OCD but there’s no way around it other then just not drinking.  If you’re using alcohol to block out bad thoughts then I can tell you now that it’s only a short term fix and it will not work, but you probably already knew that didn’t you?

Recovery is a slow process but it’s worth it and things will start to get better I promise.

Stay Strong xxx

 

OCD – The thief

So I’ve recently realised that I haven’t really posted anything OCD based for a little while and this is because I haven’t really had much to write.  My OCD recovery is going well within it’s ‘safe limits’ – and by this I mean that day to day I’m pretty good but if you were to take me way out of my comfort zone and plonk me in the middle of a very crowded London underground train or something similar well then I could quite easily  end up in a ball on the floor having a panic attack – I know of course that recovery comes in stages and if you’d told me three years ago that I’d be able to drive to the local supermarket or a friends house and then not obsess about the journey for the rest of the day, maybe week, sometimes month or even years (yes years!) after, then I probably wouldn’t have believed you so it’s all about perspective.

I have found more recently that because I have been so insular over so many years that I’ve missed quite a lot of personal growth which most other people my age will have done organically over time.  I haven’t travelled that much, gone on trips away with friends, I don’t have close friends who I tell everything too and can rely on for anything etc etc.  I notice that people talk to me about things – local shops, bars, news and I don’t have any opinion because I’ve been so unable to function outside of my bubble for so long that I’m not even aware of these things, I feel that people must find me really quite boring.  It really is remarkable how much OCD has stolen from me over the years and actually is still stealing.

‘A life lived in fear is a life half lived’

A famous quote from strictly ballroom but it rings very true for me, OCD has held me back a lot along the way and ultimately it does all come down to me being scared of what might happen if I step out of my comfort zone too much.  I have known this for a while now and I do try to my best to push myself to do things that in the past I would of avoided, once again it’s a marathon not a sprint and I must remember this and not give myself too hard a time, we must always remember to be kind to ourselves and of course as always,

Stay Strong xxx

 

 

Mental health week 2019 – body image

So in the UK this week it’s mental health week and this year it’s focused on body image.  Such a humongous topic and something that I think probably effects everyone of us in some way shape or form (no pun intended).

I have had my own journey with body image along the way, if you’ve read anymore of my blog you may have read about my low moments when I tried to make myself sick, this makes me so sad when I look back now.  Our bodies are so amazing after all and yet we can treat them so badly at times.

I am once again on my own journey with my body having just had two babies in three years it has changed somewhat but I have a new found respect for how amazing it is and I will never hate my body in the way I have previously.  I also have an autoimmune disease (ulcerative colitis) which demands I respect my body to feel well so I have no choice really, I have to take good care of myself.

I feel like the media has a lot to be accountable for for the unrealistic and unachievable goals it sets us, who are they to say what the most desirable body image is anyway?  I look around my local high street and how many people do I see who look like someone from a magazine, zero, that’s right ZERO!  Perhaps the people in the magazines are the unusual looking ones and not us?

Anyway I digress a little from OCD and I do have one incident from my past which I can remember quite vividly which involves eating and my OCD.

So when I was younger and my compulsions were really bad I had to do everything four times and I mean literally everything!  I remember standing in a local shop wanting to buy a bag of chocolate – like a selection pack with multiple bars in – now this is the sort of thing you would normally only want one of.  I stood there trying to decided which one to buy for what seemed like ages, every time I made a decision – I’ll buy this one – an OCD intrusive thought would come into my head and be associated with it – magical thinking OCD.  Long story short I ended up buying four of these bags of sweets – and probably spending most of my pocket money at the time on them – and then of course I had to eat them all too – so bingeing as a result of my OCD – the result of which, predictably was that I felt full, sick, guilty, ashamed and all the other rubbish that comes with eating too much and did it help relieve my intrusive thoughts, of course not!

This happened a lot to me over the years and so not only was my mind out of my control but also my body and it did take an awfully long time for me to stop eating in this way, my poor body.

Learning to love yourself is I think a life long journey but we must focus on the things which are amazing about ourselves and not the things which aren’t our best features.  If you’re someone who loves every part of yourself then you’re a very lucky person.  I think when you can realise that no matter what you do you’re never, EVER going to look like someone in a magazine then you can start to move on and accept who you are and how beautiful you are because no matter how much you diet or work out it is completely unachievable because:

  1. They’ve been airbrushed – they don’t even look like that!
  2. They spent like 3 hours in make up as well!
  3. They had someone come and do their hair and make up for them – I’d look amazing if I had that too.
  4. All models are different too, there’s no way you can be, white and Asian and Mediterranean and 6 foot tall and petite and have blue eyes and brown eyes and blonde hair and brown hair – no one can have all those things.
  5. No one gets it all, I promise.
  6. We are beautiful because we are unique, if we all looked the same life would be dull, dull, DULL!

Mental wellbeing is essential for your body and body image to be positive too, if you can get your head in the right place then the rest will follow.  On those days when you’re feeling low just take little steps towards making yourself feel calm, right down to the basics of breathing if necessary and don’t beat yourself up for the odd off day, we all have those I promise.

Stay Strong xxx

Mental Health after pregnancy

So I’ve just checked and it’s been a fair old while since I’ve posted on here.  I’m disappointed because this blog is really important to me but I’ve decided to be kind and forgive myself as the reason is I’ve just had no time to focus on it.  I have a newborn who seems to be allergic to sleep and therefore I’m trying to catch up with that in any free time I get!  My sleep is really important to my mental well being and therefore it comes first.

So shes currently having nap so I thought I’d go for it and see if I can manage to get to the end of a post.

So newborns and mental health, where to start?  This is my second child and so I knew a little of what to expect this time around but it still takes a massive toll on your mental and physical health no matter who you are and so if you’re someone already suffering from a mental health issue then it can really throw you off track.

I’ve found control and structure to be so important in my mental health recovery, things such as: eating well, getting enough sleep, socialising, exercise and routine are so important to incorporate into my daily life and when you have a newborn (and in my case a toddler as well) your self care can really go out of the window.  Some things for me have slipped this time around (this blog included) and at times it has been tough.  She still wakes up 3/4 times a night (at 7 months!) and an extended period of time with broken sleep can really takes it’s toll on, well, pretty much everything.  I am lucky that I have a lot of support from family but even so there have been days where I’ve just had to push myself through with will power.

There is a good side to all the madness though (and this is something I would never have believed prior to having children) and that is that I’m so busy that I don’t have time to dwell on OCD thoughts at all.  They come into my head and I honestly don’t think of them again, there just isn’t time.  I have never known anything better at grounding me then my children.  Yes there are other mental issues I am processing such as my anxiety and worry but I almost feel like they are slightly more ‘normal’, everyone seems to have some sort of worry/anxiety and so I don’t feel quite as abnormal for having them.  They’re still completely rubbish but I find other people are able to relate more easily to them and so when you’re chatting about them you don’t get the blank faces where someone is trying to understand why you think you ran over something on the way to meet them and have then completely forgotten about it, stupid intrusive thoughts!

Anyway, I have still been noting a few ideas down over the last few months so hopefully I can manage to write a bit more regularly now.  If anyone has any requests for information on coping strategies or OCD topics or pregnancy or post natal related OCD then I am more then happy to share my experiences so just say in the comments.

but for now,

Stay Strong xxx

 

 

Hello 2019

Happy New Year all, did we all have a good festive period?  I always think it’s a rather odd time of year to be honest, all routine goes out of the window, people eat too much, drink too much and generally loose control.

For people with a mental illness who require routine to stay stable this can be really hard.  I have two children now which requires you keep some routine but in the past this time of year has been difficult for me, particularly new year, I would go as far as to say new years eve is the worst day of the year for me.

My OCD has always had a strong connection to endings, – if I have an intrusive thought when something is about to happen for the last time, maybe I’m about to click the ‘buy’ button online, leave a holiday cottage for the last time or the end/beginning of a new year then of course this thought is going to come true – go figure.  This has always been a big one for me and over the years I’ve become better at ignoring it but it’s hard!

The festive time can be amazing for some people but I know for others it can be incredibly hard, breaks in routine, long periods of time possibly on your own and lots of alcohol just to compound it all.  I hope it hasn’t been too rough for you all.

I’ve found my OCD creeping back in here and there over the last few weeks, changes in circumstances can bring new intrusive thoughts which can catch you off guard.  After you’ve had OCD for over 20 years – man that stat sucks – there’s not that many new things your brain can throw at you day to day but change your circumstances a bit, say have a baby and new situations/thoughts can arrive and you’re not always as equipped to deal with them.  Now I already have one child so this time around I’ve been a bit better but there’s still the odd thing that can catch you off guard.  I’m just trying to take one day at a time at the moment and not be too hard on myself.

So this all feels like I’m rambling but this blog has actually become a sort of therapy in itself for me – oddly I really didn’t see that coming when I started it – just by letting all the junk in my mind out it starts to make more sense and rationalise what is an anxious mess in my head.

I really hope it can be of some use to someone else too but whatever happens it is helping me!

Here’s to a good 2019 – if it hasn’t started off as well as you’d hoped like mine then don’t worry, you can start each day a fresh it doesn’t have to be a new year.

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