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 

Pure O During Lockdown

I have had OCD for the last 25 years (man that stat sucks) and generally I have become pretty good at keeping it at bay but more recently with everything going on in the UK I have noticed I am slipping more often and there just aren’t as many of my normal coping mechanisms around because of lockdown.

My mental health feels very fragile and it’s quite scary at times as I can see how easy it is to slip backwards, it doesn’t help matters that my physical health has also not been 100% and normal routines have slipped over the holiday period. I have felt my patience lower and my irritability rise along with reduced energy levels and motivation, all this has resulted in my resilience being lower for when the intrusive thoughts hit me.

I have had to sit back and reassess how to deal with a new outlook where not all my normal coping mechanisms are available to me. Normally I would throw myself into seeing friends and family, exercise and getting out and about but not all these are currently possible.

So what am I trying?

  • To get out everyday for fresh air and a walk with the kids and dogs
  • To spend some time on my yoga mat everyday, whether this is just sitting still for 5 minutes or doing an hours workout. I currently have some issues with dizziness and I am getting over a cold so some days all I can do is sit and I need to remember to be kind to myself and accept this.
  • I have ordered a wellness journal and I am hoping this will focus my mind on positivity and gratitude rather then negative self talk.
  • I am taking some vitamins, and looking a little more carefully at my diet, replacing fast food and easy sugary snacks with fresh fruit, salads and veg.
  • When the negative thoughts come I am trying to just let them be and let them go as I know this is the only way.
  • I have felt very up and down over the last few months and I am trying to learn to sit with the downs when they come and know that they are part of life, I know now that they do pass with time.
  • Making sure I get enough sleep
  • Drink more water, I have found a good way to do this is to drink warm water as it is easier on my sensitive teeth and is absorbed into the body more easily as it’s closer to body temperature. This has really helped to clear my head in the mornings.

I know we’re all finding the current climate tough, if anyone else has found anything that’s working for them then please share in the comments below.

Happy New year, I hope you’re all OK out there, you’re definitely not alone!

Stay Strong xxx

Beating OCD Top Tips

So this year I haven’t managed to post as often as I’d like, Covid-19 and my yoga course have taken most of attention and I do find the OCD isn’t affecting me as much.  Is this because I am so busy?  Partly I think yes but I am definitely not naïve enough to think it has gone away completely.  Some days I can feel it there at the back of my mind, ready to come back with a vengeance when things calm down and this is quite a scary thought.  

So I wanted you all to know that I haven’t forgotten about you and hopefully the yoga will come together with this blog to give me more tools to help us all in conquering OCD completely.  

I’ve looked back over the stats for the year and still right out in front is the post I wrote on Pure O and False memory OCD. It has double the views of any other post and to be honest having had OCD it’s pretty obvious why it’s up there in front.

I think Pure O and false memory OCD are arguably the worst parts of having OCD, they’re completely hidden from view so people don’t know they’re happening and the thoughts are so terrifying at times that just the idea of uttering them to another living sole can be completely debilitating.  In fact OCD works in a way that it will find your deepest, darkest fears and go to town, making you feel like the worst person alive – you’re not by the way.  

Here are a few things to remember;

  • The first thing is that OCD likes you alone and isolated, it wants to be your only ‘friend’. Laughable isn’t it, OCD is probably the worst friend you could possibly have, the one who just takes from you and only gives you shit in return, if we had a friend like that in real life we would get rid of them pronto! It might not feel like it at times but you are separate from your OCD and you can be in control of it.
  • However hard it is you must try and speak to someone, even if initially it’s just yourself.  This might sound odd but I’ve found even by verbalising the thoughts out loud their power is reduced. I think most of the time we know the thoughts aren’t real and so by saying them out loud  it can reinforce this.   
  • Always remember everyone has these thoughts! You should take comfort not fear in the fact that the thoughts repel you and make you uncomfortable, this is the natural reaction and 100% means you would never act on them.  
  • Believe in yourself, you are not a bad person – self love is essential for recovery.  
  • Be mindful and live in the now, it is all we have, your version of the past only exists in your mind.
  • Avoid alcohol and other mind numbing substances, they are only short term fix’s and will actually make the thoughts worse overall.
  • Write it down – when I started this blog it was for the purpose of passing on helpful tips to others struggling but surprisingly it has also become a form of therapy for me as well.  Putting things on here detaches them from myself, allowing me to look at them more objectively.  
  • Remember there is light at the end of the tunnel, I still have very dark days but I am far enough into my journey now to know that that feeling doesn’t last forever and the darkness does lift – even though at times it feels like it won’t.  
  • You are not alone – though at times you will feel like you are – around 750 thousand people suffer from OCD in the UK and that stat is closer to 2.2 million in the US.

Wishing you all the best Christmas and New Year, I’ll see you in 2021!

Lets hope it’s a good one!  
As always,
Stay Strong xxx

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

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

 

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

 

 

OCD – Coping when you’re not 100%

So when you’re feeling on top of the world it can be relatively easy to stay on top of your mental health as well but what happens when something out of your control comes along and knocks you sideways, how are you supposed to cope?

I wouldn’t be surprised if a considerable number of people suffering from mental health issues have some sort of other health issue as well.  I personally have ulcerative colitis and I know when it flares up it definitely becomes tougher to hang onto that positive attitude which is so important in mental health recovery.

If you’re feeling generally tired/low it can be hard to find the energy to eat well, exercise or go out and see people.  If you’re unwell you might not even be able to do these things for yourself at all and through no fault of your own you can start to spiral downwards.  This has happened to me on a number of occasions and it really can turn into a vicious cycle if you’re not careful.

I feel low –  I eat badly – my stomach problems flare up –  I feel lower –  I don’t want to go anywhere – etc etc

and so I spiral down and down and the weight of it all just starts to devour me.

I’ve also learnt recently with my research into serotonin that digestive issues can effect the absorption of serotonin into the body.  So during a bad ulcerative colitis flare up this could be another factor affecting my mood and therefore recovery which I hadn’t considered before.  Looking after yourself is so important, particularly what you eat – but I realise not always easy.

So if you’re unwell and unable to get out and do all the usual fixes – exercise, socialising, etc what do you do to keep/get yourself back on track?

Well I definitely think it’s worthwhile having a think about this sort of situation before it actually occurs – if you can of course – and getting a plan of action in place.  Have a think about what you enjoy doing that is possible in the house, here are a few ideas:

  • Invite someone round
  • Phone someone who you enjoy talking to
  • Watch your favourite series
  • Read a favourite/new book
  • Listen to music/podcasts/audio books
  • Use a mindfulness app
  • If you’re creative you could draw/write/blog
  • Do your very best to avoid high sugar, quick fix foods such as takeaways, alcohol and caffeine.

If you have less time to plan and something has literally come from nowhere – maybe you’ve broken your leg – then try not to panic.  You may be fine, try to be calm and think about how you can set things up to work for you.  Long periods alone can be pretty tough to deal with for anyone but incredibly difficult for people with mental health problems, especially when you’re trying to process pain/discomfort as well.

Try to fill the time productively if you can, this always makes me feel more positive and like I’ve achieved something.  Accept that you will probably have low points but that they will pass.

Remember recovery is an ongoing process, some days will be better than others.  Maybe you could blog about your experience, get it all out.  This can be incredibly cathartic and no one else has to read it, it can just be for you.  If you do want to share your story perhaps it will help someone else in the same situation. Now that will definitely make you feel good.

As always, Stay Strong xxx

 

OCD – Letting Things Slip

Recently I seem to have let things get on top of me a bit, life has been so busy and I caught a few bugs over the winter period which have set me back a bit.

OCD recovery is a very delicate balance, it is really important not to take your eye off the ball but if you do it can start to slip before you really notice.

So the results of not feeling great and having less time have been that I’ve:

  • Eaten more junk food
  • Exercised less
  • Not worked on my mindfulness
  • Not given myself any time

All of this has resulted in my anxiety levels rising and my motivation to get out and do things falling.

So now I’ve noticed that this is happening (yes, I didn’t notice straight away) what can I do to get myself back on track?

  • Well the first thing I’am doing is writing this blog post, hopefully this will really help me pay attention and take action.
  • I am going to make a conscious effort not to reach for the snack food first and up my fruit, veg and general healthy food intake.
  • Get out at least once a day in the fresh air and try and do it mindfully.
  • I am going to try and carve out some time for myself, this one is hard when you have a family but I really do think it is important, after all if you’re not on top form how can you give the rest of your family 100%.

One really important thing to remember not to do (and which I am currently telling myself) is beat yourself up for slipping.  It happens to us all, recovery is not a straight line, the important thing is to notice and get yourself back on track asap.

So a bit of a post for me this week, hopefully it might help someone else too, perhaps I can add writing more inspirational blog posts to my targets too!

For now please bear with me you wonderful people and as always,

Stay Strong xxx

 

Happy New Year!

So we made it to 2018, woohoo!  For most people the festive period is a time to celebrate and relax but I am more then aware that when you have a mental illness a big break in routine can be terrifying, especially if you don’t have the required support at home.

I’ve talked before about having a plan of action in place for this sort of event.  It’s also important to not let yourself fall backwards or be tempted by things you know may make the situation worse, such as drinking too much.  Try as hard as you can to be in control.    Not always easy I realise.

Know what your triggers are and do your best to avoid them.  If you can’t avoid them completely then prepare for them but don’t overthink it, this can cause anxiety in itself.

If you know for example, that you will be on your own the whole of Saturday then plan in things you enjoy to break the day up.  Go for a walk, do some baking, sewing, watch a movie (always a good way to use up 2-3 hours), read.  Identify the things that you find relaxing and have a day to enjoy them.

If you find your OCD sneaking in, change the activity or distract your mind with something new.  Call a friend or family member for a chat if you can.  If that’s not possible try to think of a time when you did feel calm and relaxed and know that the anxiety and thoughts will pass with time.  Know that the body is unable to sustain heightened emotions and anxiety for long periods of time and breath through them.

I now realise that potentially this post has come a week to late and I’m sorry about that, it has been an especially busy Christmas period this year.

Looking forward to 2018 and all the new opportunities to beat OCD and become stronger.  The great thing about new year is that it’s a fresh start but don’t get too caught up in the whirlwind as it can put a lot of pressure on you.  Setting a new years resolution of

I will fight every OCD thought which comes into my head this year and win

can really be setting yourself up to fail.  If you want to set targets, make them realistic and always remember to take every day one step at a time and that each day can be a new beginning as well as each new year!

I still fight every day and every day it gets easier but I’m sure this year will hold some new challenges for me, I will do my best to continue to share successful strategies as much as I can.  We must all go forward knowing we can win!

Stay Strong xxx

OCD – Unexpected Events

So these are always fun.  You’ve been coping nicely with your OCD and you think you have everything under control and then bam, out of nowhere, something unexpected happens.

This happened to me this week, it snowed and we got loads of the stuff.  Normally this would be an event for celebration as it would mean, time off work, lots of fun to be had, perfect bliss but when you have a 1 year old who has only just learnt to walk and isn’t terribly keen on walking in 6 plus inches of snow and you can’t get your car off the drive then you are faced with a potentially stressful situation.

Most people who have suffered from some sort of mental health issue will know that getting out, even if it’s just for a walk is very important.  Being stuck in with only 4 walls as your friends can be unwise and so I’ve got to say the last 5 days have really tested me.

My normal routine (something that helps keep me grounded) was thrown out of the window.  My food shopping delivery was cancelled twice and so I’ve had to improvise there as well, working on limited supplies and having to adapt to new food brands and shops (as anyone with OCD will know familiar things bring calmness).

You know what though, I have survived and I have been able to adapt and so what I should draw from the last 5 days is that I am more adaptable now then I have ever been.  Even by writing that statement I am now looking back more positively on the last 5 days.  My perspective has been changed and so maybe this is the lesson I should pull from this experience.

Everything we go through teaches us something.   If we can look back on past events and try and find a positive lesson from the experience rather then a negative one, then maybe our memories will be more positive and we will look back happily instead of negatively.  I personally don’t have many good memories, most of them are tainted by OCD but perhaps I can now reflect back and see if I can put a positive slant on them?

Hopefully this can help you too, try and see the positive lesson from a bad OCD experience/memory.

Stay Strong xxx