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



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


OCD – Knowing who you are

This is something I’ve struggled with for years and years as a result of my OCD.  When a mental illness has taken over your brain and life so completely, it’s hard to know who the real person in there actually is.

Is my OCD part of who I am or am I someone who happens to have OCD?  Do I accept that OCD will always be part of who I am or do try to work out who I would be if it wasn’t there?  Is that even obtainable?

In all honestly I really don’t know if I can separate myself completely from my OCD.  It truly has been a constant in my life for so long and even now when I can dismiss the thoughts I still have to push myself outside of my comfort zone on a daily basis with things such as socialising, driving, shopping, in fact most things which you would classify as ‘normal’ activities because of my anxiety, which is a result of my OCD.

So who is the normal me?  Who am I actually?  The person who wants to stay in or the person who forces themselves to go out?  So much of my life feels a struggle that I really have no idea – I laugh.

I feel incredibly lucky with my home life, I have an incredibly supportive husband and two beautiful children who keep me so busy that mostly I don’t have time to think about this question too much and perhaps that is when I truly am being my real self.  I just wish I could show that person to the rest of the world.

I feel like I’ve rambled quite a bit here but hopefully it’s made sense.  I think I made a mini breakthrough at the end, funny how by writing things down you can sometimes answer your own questions.

So if you’re like me and struggling to separate yourself from the OCD then maybe sit and think about the places you are most at peace and feel most happy, this is probably the version of yourself you are most comfortable with and would most like to be.

Sending positive thoughts to you all on what is world kindness day – a day late I realise!

Stay Strong xxx

OCD – Procrastination

Now I’ve been dealing with my OCD demons for a fair few years now (over 20!) and although I feel I’ve gotten to grips with them to a certain extent, I know if I really look at my life that they still hold me back in many areas.

I have, I believe, reached a sort of plateau or ‘comfy place’ in my life and though this isn’t necessarily a bad thing – to have a steady job, relationship and social life – it does make it quite easy to just coast along.  Never having to step outside of my comfort zone means some of my OCD ‘fears’ can just be left and never confronted so to speak.  It also means that when something does come along where I do need to step out of my comfort zone – say I have to drive somewhere new/faraway –  normally my first reaction is to feel anxious and think of all the things that could go wrong, catastrophize.

Another side effect of my ‘comfy zone’ is that I never seem to get anything unessential done, things are only sorted when they have to be, rather then when they should be and therefore normally done in a rush and without much thought.  I believe this stems partly from my fear of making decisions.  Final decisions can have OCD thoughts associated with them and so cause me anxiety, therefore I avoid them where I can, naughty, naughty I know.

I feel I do get overwhelmed quickly and it doesn’t take much for me to start spiralling out of control, it definitely makes achieving things tricky.  It can also make me lazy, if I can pass a decision/activity on to someone else then normally I will, not good for OCD recovery I know and ultimately very frustrating for me.

So less of my moaning anyway, lets see if I can try and implement some solutions rather then posing endless problems.

My overall aims are to become more confident, to not let anxiety be the first thing to hit me when trying something new, to find solutions rather than problems and tackle my OCD head on and not avoid it.

  • I think I might start with a list, by writing down all the things I have been putting off/avoiding and then finding a way to tackle them one at a time it will feel less overwhelming and more manageable.
  • It would also help to see new experiences as exciting rather than scary, after all if we never do anything new how do we learn/progress?
  • I should have more confidence and believe myself worthy of new experiences.
  • I should try and get to the route cause of what is causing the anxiety and tackle it head on.
  • Remember that uncertainty is a good thing, would we want to be certain about everything?  There is a good exercise for dealing with uncertainty here.
  • Looking towards end goals and achievements will help to spur me on.
  • Accepting the worse case scenarios so I have nothing to fear.

Wow, so that’s quite a list.  Even the list itself feels a bit overwhelming to be honest but by just trying to take one step at a time hopefully I will start to achieve more of my goals.

Hopefully it can help you too.

Stay Strong xxx


Mindfulness in Practice – Part 1

So a couple of posts ago I said I was going to start looking a bit deeper into mindfulness.  It’s something I’ve only really dabbled in previously but I have found that it seems to work, so wanted to see what else I could find out.  I haven’t made huge progress so far – having a one year old doesn’t give you much spare time – however I did read something today which I managed to use quite successfully, so I thought I would, as promised, ‘pay it forward’ so to speak.

I am currently reading: Mindfulness: A practical guide to finding peace in a frantic world at the start of this book there is a section about how your posture, movement, facial expressions etc can affect your mood and the moods of others.  So for example if you smile – even if you don’t feel like smiling – you will feel happier, other people will see you and smile back.  The same goes for more depressed postures, if you are slouched with your head hanging low you are more likely to feel low and pass this on to others around you.  Obviously the book goes into it in much more detail but you get the general gist.

So today I drove to a roadshow – I think that’s the right term?  Basically an event where, lots of businesses come together to sell you things.  For me something like this is filled with anxieties: driving somewhere I’ve never been before, actually finding the place, parking, talking to lost of strangers, crowds (man I hate crowds), I could go on and on and to add to all the pressures, I had my one year old with me as well, nothing like putting yourself out there.

So I’ve been making big strides forward with my recovery and I know to get over a lot of mental issues you have to face them head on – that’s what I keep preaching on here right?  So when I tried to think of a reason not to go today, there really wasn’t an easily justifiable one.

Anyway I digress.

To be honest it mostly went well, I got lost once on the way but found it eventually and even found a double parking space, yippee!  When my little boy started to run around the presentation and wanted to get up on stage, I coped and everyone seemed to find it funny rather than irritating but eventually it all got a bit much for him and he really started to play up.  I can’t really blame him, it’s not the most exciting place for a one year old.

The challenge however really came when I got back to the car, he’d definitely had enough by this point and flatly refused to get back into his car seat.  I could feel the stress which I’d managed to keep in check up until this point starting to rise, could feel myself getting hotter, how was I going to get him back in his seat, everyone’s watching, argh!

Then I remembered what I had read in the mindfulness book, if I’m getting stressed my little boy will feel stressed, if I’m getting angry, my little boy will just get angrier too and so, I laughed, I looked up at the sky, took a long deep breath and started to laugh and do you know what happened?

My little boy started laughing too, all of the anger and tears of frustration which he had been displaying just seconds earlier just disappeared – well for long enough for me to get him strapped in anyway.  I’m not gonna lie I did have to sing nursery rhymes all the way home.

I know in that moment I was so happy I had read that chapter this morning.

Well that turned into a bit of an essay so I hope it all made sense.  Mindfulness really is incredible and by just being aware of how you are projecting yourself you can completely change a situation for the better, what a powerful tool to have.

Stay Strong xxx

OCD – Everything in a Rush

This for me is one of the most annoying parts of my OCD.  As pretty much anyone suffering from OCD will know, your mind can easily link thoughts with actions.

So for example:  If you’re washing something up and all of a sudden you have the thought of someone you love dying, it is very difficult to not want to rewash that item.

I have found that certain tasks I have to do daily, such as the washing up, cooking or cleaning have – for me – a sort of anxiety associated with them which hangs above me. Almost like I’m holding my breath whilst I do them, I have to get through the tasks (because they have to be done) but I never have time to relax and do them properly, in my own time, as I constantly feel on edge until the tasks are completed.  There are just too many things that can occur which could send me spiralling.

There are things which help me through most days – which I’m pretty sure I’ve mentioned in my previous posts – music is particularly good, if you’re singing away to a tune you’re less likely to be stressing about what you’re actually doing but I still find I feel anxious every time.

It would be amazing to be able to relax and enjoy tasks more.  I have noticed recently that I rush in so many parts of my life, nothing can be done in a relaxed way.  Decorating, sewing, gardening, piano playing, even going for a walk into town.  There aren’t many things that make me feel calm and relaxed and so anxiety has started to become a feeling I live with.  Some days it’s better than others, some days I feel like I have someone sitting on my chest it’s so bad.

I try to be mindful as much as I can, things that make me feel peaceful are: open spaces, forest walks, running, exercise in general, the rain – I love the rain- , hugs, reassurance, love.

Having a mental illness, any mental illness is a daily battle.  When you find something that helps, that makes you feel calm and happy, make a mental or if it helps a physical note of it.  Turn to it when you feel low.

So this post probably hasn’t offered much useful advice but maybe it has helped someone feel less alone.  I know that that in itself can sometimes help.  Over the next few weeks I plan to delve further into mindfulness, anything useful I discover I will of course share.

Just one last thought before I sign off this week to World Suicide Prevention Day which was yesterday.  I may be a little late but it’s never too late to be aware of such an important issue.  It is so sad to think that people feel they have no other option, suicide is preventable and we should raise awareness where we can.

Stay strong xxx


OCD – Having a Plan of Action

This is something which came from my Cognitive Behavioural Therapy or CBT for short.  As the therapy came to an end a plan of action was put in place for times when I’m maybe not feeling as strong as usual for some reason.

I have found that it is vitally important to know what to do when you can feel the doubt kicking in.  It’s also really important to be aware of your triggers so you can be prepared to deal with them straight away.

For me a massive trigger is time on my own.  I know that if my husband is away for some reason and I spend longer then a day on my own, then the OCD thoughts, doubts and associated anxiety will start to creep in, sigh.

So, I do my best to prepare in advance and plan activities which I know will keep me busy.  For me socialising is massively important, it makes me feel normal somehow to interact with people.  I have to keep this in mind when my head is telling me that I don’t want to go out in the car in case I crash (worry) and that I don’t want to go somewhere new in case I’m faced with a situation I can’t handle (anxiety) and I don’t want to get dressed this morning because I’ll have to find an outfit which doesn’t have some sort of negative connotation (OCD).

OCD and it’s associates does everything it can to keep me locked away in the house with just my thoughts, but all this causes is a downward spiral which I know, after many years is the worst thing for me and so I have to push myself past them all and go for it.

Of course it’s not always possible to prepare for these situations and even if you try to sometimes every single person you know will just happen to be busy on that day.  In cases such as these you need to find a way to cope healthily on your own.  Again this isn’t always easy, my first step is always to get out of the house.

I say to myself, ‘put your shoes on and go‘ (baby steps).  Most of the time just by walking out of the front door and taking a deep breath I feel slightly better.

I then try to be mindful as I walk, notice things in more detail than I normally would.   The sky, the buildings, the grass and trees, whatever is around me I take it in and appreciate it.  I remember how lucky I am to be alive and free enough to do these things.

Next I think about what makes me happy, just something small and see if I can incorporate it into my walk.  A warm drink at the local cafe, a book from the local library, (maybe combine the two), sometimes I treat myself to a magazine, a chocolate bar or a piece of cake (maybe all three).  Whatever I do, I try to appreciate it and do it mindfully.

Small acts of kindness are another thing I’ve come to appreciate recently, if you can repay them it can make you feel good.  Hold the door open for someone, offer your seat on the train to someone more in need.  It’s a bit sad that I’m still always surprised when someone does something unexpectedly nice for me.  I have found if I’m feeling particularly negative a small act of kindness can quickly change my perspective on things for the better.

OK so to summarise:

Prepare for situations you know will be triggers for you with activities you enjoy.

If you have no time to perpare

  • Get outside
  • Be mindful
  • Think of something you enjoy and do it and try to do it mindfully
  • If there is an opportunity along the way help someone, it will make you and them feel better.  Who knows perhaps they’re having a bad day as well.

I hope that this has been helpful, I’m just trying to pass on the things that help me in the hope that they can help you too.

Stay strong xxx

Mental Health Crossovers

One of the most interesting things for me when I finally got myself into some counselling was the realisation that what I was suffering from wasn’t just OCD but actually also anxiety and worry.  I had always just blanketed all of my thoughts and feelings under the OCD umbrella and it was enlightening to break it down and understand it all on another level.

I sometimes find it really difficult to differentiate between worry and OCD.  I will try now with a couple of examples:

A worry:  

‘I have to drive to the supermarket to do my shopping, what if I crash the car on the way or hit someone in the car park?  ‘  

An OCD thought after visiting the supermarket:

‘There was a pothole in the car park that I went over when leaving the supermarket, what if that was actually a child and I didn’t see them?  ‘  

Once you start to break the thoughts down, you can start to look at how to overcome them.  To be honest a lot of the methods work for both worry and OCD but there are some separate tools which could be useful.

For worry there is a tool called ‘The Worry Tree’, best shown by an illustration here.  I have personally found the worry tree very useful in helping to dismiss worrying thoughts when they come along.

Worry and OCD are also incredibly closely linked to GAD (General anxiety disorder) and the intolerance of uncertainty.

I’ve recently found the APPLE acronym  (Acknowledge, Pause, Pull Back, Let Go and Explore) which can be used to help combat GAD.  I’m going to be giving it a go (More information in link above page 2).

As always I hope this helps, Stay strong xx