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

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

 

 

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

 

 

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 – Transference

So I’m not completely sure whether transference is the best term to describe this type of OCD but it feels like the best word to use for now.  When I think about OCD transference I think about a belief that someone else’s issues/problems can be ‘transferred’ onto you by just hearing about them/coming in to contact with them.  I would say it’s very closely linked to magical thinking OCD where there doesn’t have to be any actual factual link, your mind has just associated the two things together and triggered the anxiety and from then on you’re just back peddling.

I get this a lot, I mean A LOT.  It’s almost like when I hear something new, say on the news or in the paper I have to self assess myself to see if I am capable of what I’ve read or if there’s any event in my past that I can link to what I’ve seen.  Sometimes there’s even a fear that I could do what I’ve heard in the future.  So yes, it pretty much covers all bases.

Something I have found really helpful with getting through this type of OCD (which pretty much still hits me daily) is liking and believing  in yourself you have to know yourself incapable of unthinkable acts.  It does get a bit trickier when it’s something out of your control like a fear of contamination or a health issue.  We can spend so much time worrying about things happening to us that we forget to live.  This is probably one of the saddest things about OCD, I know I have missed out on a lot over the years through fear.  It’s so frustrating for me to look back now and I really try hard not to let it get to me anymore.

Having an awareness of what is happening can help, I’ve had OCD for a long time but I probably had it for nearly 10 years before I really understood what it was that was happening to me.  Without the understanding the anxiety and fears are more real because you just ‘go with them’, your body is telling you to be scared so you are.  I am now so aware of my irrational reactions to things that sometimes I am combating them before they even hit me.  Obviously it would be amazing to get to a stage where I have no reaction to the news etc but I’m not sure if this will ever be possible for me.  There’s only so much you can change the way your mind works.

So one of the things about transference is that a lot of them time you know the associated thought is irrational, I’m going to use an example sorry.

Say you have found out a friend has cancer, when you are hearing about it you think of yourself and then you have a fear that you will also get cancer unless you neutralise the thought with a ritual of some sort. 

You have transferred someone else’s issue onto yourself.  It’s quite a basic example but you get the general gist.  What can also happen for people with Pure O is that you realise the thought is irrational and you have to try and work out why your brain has linked it and why it’s completely irrational, therefore giving the thought time and making it stronger and more distracting.

I’m sitting here writing this now and I don’t like the fact that I’ve used myself in the example.  As by writing it my OCD is telling me that it could make it more likely to happen, which I know is completely irrational but still, the thought is there and I’m so tempted to change my example but I’m not going to!

It’s tough, this sort of OCD because you can’t avoid it, you have to face it.  Try to live in the now as much as you can, don’t think about the past, at all.  Try not to think too much about the future because you can’t truly know what is going to happen and you have limited control over it.  If you can take a  positive action then do it but otherwise let it be.

  • Make the most of what you have, write a thankful list each day to help you realise all of the good things that you have and how lucky you are.
  • Seek out the positives in life and don’t let other people drag you down.
  • Always do your best to fight the thoughts, it will get easier over time.
  • Use every tool you have to stay on course through your recovery.
  • Eat well and exercise if you can
  • Don’t use alcohol to drown out the thoughts, this never works!

Stay Strong xxx

Magical Thinking – OCD

It feels weird to actually put proper names to things which have been part of me for so long.  ‘Magical thinking OCD’ is, I think one of the hardest parts of OCD for someone without it to understand.  For someone with ‘Magical thinking OCD’ it is one of the most terrifying parts, there is no rhyme or reason to it.  You are aware as someone with OCD experiencing the thoughts that they are completely irrational but the feelings inside our so strong you can’t not believe the thoughts somehow.

With a very quick google this definition came up, which for those who don’t have ‘Magical thinking OCD’ I thought summed it up quite well:

” Magical thinking is an illogical thought pattern characterized by the linking of unrelated actions or events. Individuals may become preoccupied with lucky or unlucky numbers, colours, words, actions, sayings or superstitions and link them to catastrophe or ‘bad things’ that might happen”

I have had lots of these ‘magical thoughts’ over the years.  I hated the colour red (blood, contamination etc) and certain words like AIDS (still hard to even write it here).  I have also had massive issues with the ‘finalisation’ of things.  Such as thoughts associated with leaving somewhere for the last time (maybe a holiday cottage) or clicking the ‘buy’ button online, as if a horrible thought comes into my head whilst I was doing it, such as: ‘You’re going to die from cancer’ then because I can’t repeat the action (compulsion) it creates anxiety and all the associated OCD baggage.

I still get a lot of these ‘Magical thoughts’ but it has been a long time since I’ve given into any of the associated compulsions.

Over the years it has made doing almost anything particularly stressful and taken the pleasure out of pretty much everything.  Wedding dress shopping, venue picking, holidays, travel, work, driving, well everything.

It is one of the hardest aspects of OCD to kick and it’s one of the most embarrassing to talk about because you know in your heart of hearts that the thoughts are irrational but you just can’t get your mind to believe that.

Getting over ‘Magical thoughts’ does take some determination and will power I’m afraid. You have to ignore the horrific outcomes that your brain is throwing at you and just do things.  It’s unbelievably hard and getting over the anxiety afterwards is also hard but

IT IS POSSIBLE!!!! 

You can do it and I am living proof.

Little tricks that have helped me include:

  • Mindfulness – I cannot express enough how amazing mindfulness is at bringing you back to reality and away from the irrational thoughts.
  • Acceptance – That you cannot control everything and bad things as well as good will happen, this is life after all.
  • My little trick from a good few blogs ago of opposite thinking

‘If I go back and repeat the action then does that make the outcome more likely to happen?’

You could argue that this is still magical thinking in a way but it does seem to nicely mess with my OCD thoughts and in a good way!

  • Like yourself:  It depends a little on what the associated thought is but if it’s something you’re scared you will do like say:

‘Stab someone’

Then learn to like yourself and so know yourself incapable of the thought/action and therefore you can dismiss it more easily.

  • Talk to someone – no matter how out there the thought may seem, by voicing it out load – this can even be initially to yourself – it will start to loose it’s power over you.  This sounds like it wouldn’t work but it definitely does.
  • Let the thought be – Do not query it, question it, poke it, anything.  Just distract yourself and get on with the next task.

The more you let the thoughts be, the easier it becomes every time.  Even though the thoughts still come, you will be able to dismiss them quicker and quicker, like a ‘normal’ person would (I put quotes around normal as I don’t actually think normal exists) and an hour later you won’t even remember the thought you had, hard to believe I know but this is true.

If I’ve had a bad nightmare, then in the morning I consciously make an effort not to think on it at all when I wake up.  If you then asked me at midday what the nightmare was about I wouldn’t be able to tell you. However if I go over and over it in my head when I wake, I will definitely remember.  This can be used with intrusive thoughts just as well.

You really can beat ‘Magical thinking OCD’, it’s hard but anything in life worth having is hard right?

You can do this!

Stay strong xxx