Relapse and Recovery

So, I’ve been away for a while and I’m sorry about that but the title of this post might give you a little insight into why that’s been the case. 

I’ve had OCD for a long time now and I thought I was pretty resilient and to be honest I think I probably was but starting in November last year I went through a series of events which I did not see coming and in May this year that led me to a mental state which was scarily close to suicidal.  Even writing that world has given me chills and I still can’t quite believe it but there you have it.  I’m still on my road to recovery at the moment and some days are better then others but I am definitely not where I was six weeks ago and that is very good news. 

Now I’ve learnt a lot over the last few months and I am planning to share the good bits that could help you guys too but it’s going to take me some time as I have to protect my mental health and writing this blog, even though cathartic at times can be emotionally draining. 

So enough about me, how is everyone?  I think the world is such a tough place mentally at the moment and it’s very easy to feel quite down about things, especially if you have OCD, as we are generally more prone to seeing the worst-case scenario and looking for problems which confirm our negative thinking patterns.

I’ve been doing my best to notice and override these thinking patterns, so I thought I’d share some of the things which have helped me along the way:

  • Sitting at the end of each day and writing down the things which have made me smile.  Even if I’ve had a pretty miserable day there’s always been something and focusing on these is a great way to go to bed thinking more positively, it gives you a great list to look back on when you’re feeling low too. 
  • Gratitude can also help, I tend to do this first thing in the morning, I lie in bed after I wake up, take a big breath into my lungs and I am thankful that I am alive, that I can breath and feel my body move with my breath, I wiggle my toes and feel grateful that I can and then I open my eyes and feel grateful that I can, I give myself a hug and tell myself that I am proud of myself, that I love myself and that I am a good person.  All this takes about 60 seconds so don’t tell me you can’t do it to!  Connecting with your body and thanking it for working for you is so important.   
  • Being out in nature, for me this is a massive one, there’s something so nice about being away from all the hustle and bustle of daily life and just grounding yourself, it can make your worries feel very small and insignificant and can remind you that you are part of something a lot bigger then yourself. 
  • I would normally say exercise at this point and this has always worked for me BUT what happens when you can’t exercise?  This has also happened to me recently and it has taught me that you can’t be reliant on one strategy for your mental wellness, you have to have a bag full of resources to fall back on, so don’t put all your eggs in one basket!   
  • Breathwork, this has been something I’ve always rolled my eyes at in the past but I’ve started to integrate some breathwork into parts of my life, especially round situations where I get very anxious and it is amazing how you can change your whole state of being through breathing.  If you get quite anxious it is worth learning one or two breathing exercises which you can use when the situation calls for it.
  • Eating well, now this can seem a massive effort when you’re feeling at your lowest but start easy and build it up.  For instance, you can add an extra piece of fruit in instead of a sugary snack, you can still have a sugary snack but if you’ve already had two biscuits maybe substitute the third for an orange?  Yesterday I made myself a second coffee at 3pm, I knew this was a bad idea and even though my brain was saying ‘yes you want it’, I ultimately knew what would follow would be a jittery rest of the day, then not being able to get to sleep at bedtime and so yesterday I poured it down the sink and made myself a decaf instead but don’t get me wrong, there have been plenty of days when I’ve drunk it and suffered the consequences when I’ve felt less resilient or thought I would be OK, you learn as you go and you should never beat yourself up for these decisions once they’ve been made, accept them and move on, ALWAYS!!!!
  • Social interaction, this is so important and I couldn’t recommend it enough.  OCD has this nasty way of making you think you’re alone and you’re the only one suffering but it couldn’t be less true, the more I speak to people the more I realise that everyone has something going on, no one is acing life, despite what their Instagram feed may look like and you are definitely 100% not alone.
  • Get help, if you are really suffering don’t wait, I’m back in therapy now and that’s exactly where I need to be.

I have so much to share from the last few months and I promise to only share the good stuff in the hope it will help you too, no one needs more misery in their lives.  I really hope you’re all good and as always,

Stay Strong xxx

OCD – Blind Faith

So how is everyone doing?  It’s been a tough few weeks hasn’t it.

Today I thought I’d write about Blind Faith; this is something you may never of heard of but if you have then it’s probably been in a religious sense. The definition of Blind Faith, from our friends at google is as follows: 

Blind-faith… is lacking in some component(s) of information but still continuing to believe in something. …You can have faith that something will occur knowing that the evidence suggests the outcome…but blind-faith is having faith something will occur with no evidence or conflicting evidence against that outcome

Now if you suffer from OCD Blind faith is something you definitely need more of but you probably struggle with.

WARNING: there might be some triggers here, especially if you’re pregnant!!

When I was pregnant with my first child I was in a pretty bad way mentally for most of the pregnancy, too many uncertainties for my OCD brains liking.  I read up on everything (a mistake) and catastrophised everything! 

I remember going away for my birthday in March when I was about 14 weeks pregnant and going for a walk with my husband.  We got stuck in the muddiest field full of cows, lots of their poo and sheep with their new born lambs and I honestly had the biggest breakdown/panic attack where we ended up back at the hotel, me in the bed in the foetal position crying – pregnant women are supposed to avoid mud because of bacteria in the soil and new born lambs because of an infection that can be transmitted to pregnant women – I hadn’t touched any of the lambs but of course my OCD completely catastrophised the situation and the weekend was all down hill from there. 

Later that day we went down for an evening meal and there was fish on the menu, needless to say I was already in a pretty bad way and my resilience was none existence by this point.  The fish on the menu was seabass – fine for pregnant women in moderation – but my magical thinking OCD kept telling me it was swordfish – to be avoided by pregnant women. I don’t know how many times I checked the menu and of course I had my phone out googling; ‘fish you can eat whilst pregnant’, for most of the meal. I was a stressed-out, anxious mess the whole time and I don’t remember one thing we talked about that evening because I was so distracted by my intrusive thoughts – sound familiar anyone?  

I remember looking over at my husband and asking him why he was so calm and he said the following words to me,

‘This is not in your control, you just have to have blind faith that everything is going to be OK’

and he was absolutely right (don’t tell him I said that!).

Of course I’m relating all this to my pregnancy, where you really do have very limited control over what the outcome will be and you have to just trust that your body knows what it’s doing. However this can be related back to any OCD intrusive thought/situation and I still use it most days. 

Remember we don’t really have any control over how our life is going to turn out, what events we’re going to be caught up in (Covid) or whether we’re going to be well tomorrow (my BPPV – vertigo which I just suddenly woke up with), we really only have now and that’s it.  We are all living with uncertainty and the more we can just trust and accept that we have no control but that we will get through whatever comes our way, only WHEN it comes our way then we are winning!

This is the resilience which we should all aim for and focus our energy on. Instead of worrying about the what ifs and the maybes we should be focusing on building up our resilience so we’re prepared for anything that comes our way.

So the next time an intrusive thought comes your way why not have a bit of blind faith that by not fixating on it/acting on the compulsion everything will be OK.

Sending love to you all at this crazy time, remember we’re all in this together!

Stay Strong xxx 

Post Lockdown Anxiety

So how is everyone?

Sorry it’s been a little while since I’ve managed to find the time to write something, I’ve been meaning too but full time childcare and yoga teacher training has taken over my life for the last few weeks and I just seem to have no time at all!

So lockdown is finally easing in the UK and this is good news right?  Well yes of course it is but unfortunately for me I have really noticed my anxiety about getting out and about has gone through the roof.  I am an introvert with OCD so not a great combo to start with, add in Covid-19 and well you’ve got an anxiety inducing nightmare for me.

I have worked incredibly hard over the last 2-5 years to build up the courage to do just simple things like; drive to new places, go to the supermarket, meet friends at playgroups and now it feels a little like I’ve gone backwards.

I haven’t managed to get out with the kids without my husband or mother in tow yet which makes me extremely sad.  When my second child was born it took me 7 months before I had the courage to get out on my own with the two kids so this is a bit of a blow for me.  I have friends who have never had mental health issues before who are feeling the anxiety at the moment so I realise it’s probably to be expected that it’s going to hit me a bit harder but still it’s a tough pill to swallow.

There’s also a sort of loneliness about getting out at the moment, in the past we would always be going out to meet friends and socialise but the kids are a bit small to understand social distancing currently.

So I guess I go back to taking baby steps and being kind to myself, I need to remember all the tools that are so useful when things get overwhelming.  Simple things like mindfulness, remembering to breath and even just putting a smile on your face can help.  Eating and sleeping well, not drinking and trying to get some exercise in where you can.

I think it will be a while before I manage to get to a shopping centre but the local park should be achievable right?  I know I am lucky in so many ways and these are the things to focus on for now, the rest will come over time.

I wonder if anyone else is feeling like this?  Hopefully my post will make you feel a little less alone if you are.

Let’s all try and be kind to ourselves in what is the strangest of times,

As always, Stay Strong xxx

 

Just smile

OCD and anxiety can be so isolating at times and the more time you spend alone the stronger their hold on you becomes.  One of the things we need to fight constantly is to keep going out to places, being social and interacting with people.  This of course is more easily said then done.

One of my biggest hang ups has always been supermarkets, I hate them.  I hate the carparks full of people walking in any direction they fancy, the busyness inside, people walking into you with their trolleys, having to make decisions on food choices and
ignore all the associated OCD thoughts.  I will admit for a long time I avoided them completely, I’ve only recently started to go back into them now and I still wouldn’t dream of doing a whole weeks shop.  This is something I’m working on and in the mean time I am so grateful for online shopping!
Anyway I’m digressing, if you are an OCD or anxiety sufferer I am sure you have places that trigger similar thoughts for you, whether it be the car, driving, shopping centres, wherever.

Unfortunately there’s never an easy fix for these things (sorry!) and what we have to do is reprogram our minds and get to the root of what is so anxiety inducing about these situations.  I know for me there are a lot of OCD triggers in supermarkets but I am slowly working my way through them, taking time to breath when someone knocks into me and knowing I will be OK. Picking up the first carrot I see rather then wondering what each little mark on it may be and giving myself time to let the anxiety fade as I know we cannot stay in an elevated state permanently.

A new strategy I’ve recently learned which I am starting to try in the hope it will help is to smile, sounds simple I know.

The brain is suspended in darkness and can only react to the feedback it receives from the senses.  If you are heading towards a situation that would normally make you anxious or you are experiencing some anxiety/OCD thoughts for whatever reason then try  and smile your way through it.  It is reassuring for the brain, it thinks you are happy and it helps to reprogram your automatic responses to situations.
There’s also the added benefit that a lot of the time if someone sees you smiling then they will smile back and then you get more positive reinforcement for your brain that you are safe and happy and that there is no need to trigger any fight or flight anxiety inducing responses.

It’s so simple and so easy to do and can be so powerful.  I know sometimes smiling probably feels like the last thing you want to do but just give it a try, I know I’m going to.
I hope it helps and as always,

Stay strong xxx

OCD – Responsibility

I expect there is an official term for this type of OCD but I’m not aware of it.  Basically it’s intrusive thoughts which occur when asking other people to do things for you.

for example: Say I asked my husband to go and pick something up from the shop for me, I would then have intrusive thoughts about all the things that could potentially happen to him on the way or whilst he’s there and I would then feel responsible for those things: I asked him to go, he’s only there because of me. Therefore I am responsible for anything that happens to him during this time.

This is another way OCD can isolate you very successfully, not only are you scared to go out yourself because of your OCD thoughts and anxieties, but you also become scared to ask anyone to help you in any way in case something happens to them, making you feel more and more alone.  OCD is such a bully, it wants you to be alone and suffering in your mental torment forever.  It can also make you come across as indecisive as you internally struggle with whether to get someone to drop the kids off at school or pick something up from the shops on the way home.

Unfortunately I don’t have an easy answer for this one either, sorry.  You just have to be stronger than it somehow.

  • Distraction is probably a good method, ask someone to do something and then do everything you can to keep yourself busy.
  • Having the knowledge that the other person has their own free will and that you cannot control everything.  I think that’s a big one with OCD and anxiety, you have to accept that you cannot control or know the outcome to everything and actually you probably wouldn’t want to given the choice.
  • Practice your mindfulness, be in the moment now and not in the unknown future worrying about things that will probably never happen.
  • Ride it out, anxiety can only be at it’s peak for a limited time, your body cannot sustain it for too long so breath and know it will pass.
  • Don’t catastrophise – which you obviously have if you’re in this situation.
  • Talk to someone, it could even be the person you’re worrying about.

Hopefully some of the above can help, I work on these things daily and slowly things get easier but it’s a long old road and some days it’s definitely tougher than others.  Remember you’re not alone and 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

 

Never forget how far you’ve come!

It’s so easy to give yourself a hard time!  I do it constantly, I’m definitely my own worst critic.  This week I was in the supermarket, it was really busy and I could feel the anxiety sitting there in my chest.  The car park was packed with people everywhere and inside wasn’t any better.

On top of the anxiety I then started getting frustrated with myself that small, normal day to day activities like shopping are still difficult and stressful for me.  Everyone else can do it, why can’t I, gurrrrr!

When I got home I had to sit down and remind myself that actually a couple of years ago I wouldn’t even of made it into the car park let alone the supermarket and actually I have come such a long way.  Even being able to recognise the anxiety and OCD thoughts when they are happening is progress.

Recovery is a marathon not a sprint (unfortunately), there will be set backs and days when we find it harder than others.  Always try and keep this in mind, never forget how far you’ve come, OCD is a bully and it won’t give up so you mustn’t either.

So how do you deal with these low points when they occur? 

I guess you have to be realistic, it is naive to think you’re not going to have bad days along the way and having a plan of action in place is key.

Always be kind to yourself and don’t catastrophise events/situations.

For me this week the shopping was something I had to get done, as we all know we have to face our anxieties head on and not run away from them.  I used breathing mostly to get through my anxiety on this occasion.  Deep breaths in and out to keep myself calm and relaxed.  I also took my time, I wasn’t in a rush so I took the opportunity to take a step back and think about what it was that was causing me to be so anxious.

The process for me on this occasion was more about getting through the shopping trip rather then relieving the anxiety, as this didn’t pass until I was home later and all the thoughts had gone but even being able to function with the anxiety is essential for recovery.  Not being completely paralysed by the fear, thoughts and the physical reaction is also an achievement in itself and by writing this now I am only just realising that myself.

It’s so frustrating to have to be on a journey – man I hate that word – but like it or not I am on an OCD recovery journey and I hope some of the things I am learning along the way are helping you guy’s out too.

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