Mindfulness

Have you ever found yourself in a room full of people but feeling like you can’t connect with anyone or almost like you’re seeing the world from behind glass?  You’re there but not there, so to speak.  This happens quite often for me, dissolving into your own mind is incredibly common with OCD, especially when you’re trying to ‘reason’ with an OCD thought – like you even could (I laugh).    In fact I often find I miss parts of or sometimes complete conversations because I am so absorbed in my own thoughts, very annoying for the person I am speaking to I expect.  I often wonder if people just think I’m being rude.

It can sometimes happen so naturally that I don’t even realise I am doing it straight away, but when I do realise the resource I always go to is Mindfulness, it’s so simple and completely amazing.

 

Mindfulness is all about the here and now, it’s about being in the present moment fully, 100%.  You are not thinking about what happened yesterday, this morning or even 30 seconds ago, you’re also not thinking about what could happen tomorrow, tonight or in the next 30 seconds.  You are living in the moment, enjoying each one for what it is.

So how to do this when you have an OCD thought badgering away at you?

The trick is to simplify your surroundings, pick something, anything to focus on and then really focus on it.  It could be your breathing, your clothing, the person who’s speaking to you.  Then start to notice all the things you would normally just take for granted about that item.

So for example if you were to pick your breathing you could notice the air coming in and out of your nose/mouth, focus on how it makes you feel, if you can smell anything, what that smell reminds you of, notice how your chest moves when you inhale/exhale.  By refocusing your mind on something you should be able to break away from the inner thoughts.  Now I feel a bit hypocritical writing this example, as personally for me I have to focus on something external for mindfulness to work, something such as the sky, the trees, my pet dogs, the grass, someone else’s face, the list probably is endless.  Focusing on something internal isn’t a big enough break away from my thoughts but I guess that’s the beauty of mindfulness, it’s a tool for you to use how you wish, to make it work for you.

So I think I’ve just proven that I’m definitely not an expert at this yet and so here’s a link to a really great resource which explains it better than I ever could.  I hope it helps.

Everyone has intrusive thoughts

For me CBT (Cognitive behavioural therapy) had it pros and cons.  Not all the methods worked for me but one piece of information which really stuck with me and which I believe to be vitally important for anyone battling OCD is that:

EVERYONE HAS INTRUSIVE THOUGHTS!

You are not weird or strange for having them, you are just less able to dismiss them. During one of my sessions I was given the below information which I am now passing on to you in the hope it will help.

normal intrusive thoughts

The table below shows the results of research findings from a survey of 293 students (198 female, 95 male), none of who had a diagnosed mental health problem. The column on the left shows the type of intrusive thought and the 2 columns on the right show the percentage of women and men who said they had experienced that particular thought.

  item female % male %
1. driving into a window 13 16
2. running car off the road 64 56
3. hitting animals or people with car 46 54
4. swerving into traffic 55 52
5. smashing into objects 27 40
6. slitting wrist/throat 20 22
7. cutting off finger 19 16
8. jumping off a high place 39 46
9. fatally pushing a stranger 17 34
10. fatally pushing friend 9 22
11. jumping in front of train/car 25 29
12. pushing stranger in front of train/car 8 20
13. pushing family in front of train/car 5 14
14. hurting strangers 18 48
15. insulting strangers 50 59
16. bumping into people 37 43
17. insulting authority figure 34 48
18. insulting family 59 55
19. hurting family 42 50
20. choking family member 10 22
21. stabbing family member 6 11
22. accidentally leaving heat/stove on 79 66
23. home unlocked, intruder there 77 69
24. taps left on, home flooded 28 24
25. swearing in public 30 34
26. breaking wind in public 31 49
27. throwing something 28 26
28. causing a public scene 47 43
29. scratching car paint 26 43
30. breaking window 26 43
31. wrecking something 32 33
32. shoplifting 27 33
33. grabbing money 21 39

 

  item female % male %
34. holding up bank 6 32
35. sex with unacceptable person 48 63
36. sex with authority figure 38 63
37. fly/blouse undone 27 40
38. kissing authority figure 37 44
39. exposing myself 9 21
40. acts against sexual preference 19 20
41. authority figures naked 42 54
42. strangers naked 51 80
43. sex in public 49 78
44. disgusting sex act 43 52
45. catching sexually transmitted disease 60 43
46. contamination from doors 35 24
47. contamination from phones 28 18
48. getting fatal disease from strangers 22 19
49. giving fatal disease to strangers 25 17
50. giving everything away 52 43
51. removing all dust from the floor 35 24
52. removing dust from unseen places 41 29

Purdon C. & Clark D.  Obsessive intrusive thoughts in nonclinical subjects. Part 1 Content & relation with depressive, anxious & obsessional symptoms.  Behav Res Ther 1992;31:713-20

A problem shared is a problem halved

I think one of the things which sets OCD apart from other mental illnesses is the shame it can generate within the sufferer.  The thoughts can be so repulsive to the person suffering that they don’t even want to admit them to themselves, let alone tell someone else.  This is why so many people with OCD suffer silently for so many years on their own.  Which is so sad as once you start talking about your thoughts they start to loose their ‘power’ over you.

It took me 20 years to go to the doctors and ask for help, 20 YEARS!!!!!!  Even then I wasn’t sure I could.  The thing that finally pushed me to go was my partner.  They were having some anxiety problems of their own and instead of suffering they just made an appointment with the doctors and went, as if ‘why wouldn’t you?’  I sat there and thought, you’ve suffered for a few weeks and you’re getting help, I’ve suffered for 20 years, I need help, I want help and so I went.  But to this day if they hadn’t gone, I don’t think I would have.

I can remember sitting in the waiting room at the doctors (they were running late of course)  getting more and more wound up.  When I finally got to see the doctor I’m not even sure what I said, I had, after all 20 years worth of thoughts to throw their way, but they understood straight away and they were very understanding.

I had some CBT therapy, (there is normally a wait for this, all the more reason to go sooner rather than later).  Did CBT therapy work for me?  Yes it was good (and I will go into more detail in a later post), but what helped me more then anything was sharing my thoughts, every time I talked to someone about one of my thoughts, it lost it’s ‘power’.  I know my OCD thoughts are irrational and by sharing them with someone who understands OCD, that was confirmed and therefore the thought diminished.  For me the saying ‘a problem shared is a problem halved’ couldn’t be more true.

OCD is quite a personal thing, what works for one person may not work for another but what will help everyone, I would guess without exception is talking about it.  If you can’t talk to a professional talk to a close friend who you trust, a family member who knows you well.  Just don’t continue to suffer in silence.