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

OCD – Setting yourself up to fail

So once you’ve had OCD for a while you start to know what your ‘triggers’ are.  These ‘triggers’ can then start to control your behaviour.  For me, public toilets, driving at night and drinking are just three of the things I can think of that can cause me anxiety, even before an event occurs.  Most of this anxiety is triggered I guess, from past experiences.

If I go into a public toilet and there’s something on the seat, this will cause anxiety, intrusive thoughts etc but I’m going to take a punt and say not many people would like to sit on something unknown on a toilet seat?

Unfortunately for me that’s just where it begins, if there is a mark on the toilet paper dispenser or on the toilet roll itself – here’s betting most people don’t even look at the toilet roll – these can immediately trigger intrusive thoughts which can stay with me for at least the rest of the day.  I’ve already mentioned in a previous post that I always rip off the first piece of toilet roll wherever I am through fear of contamination.  If someone has placed the toilet roll on top of the sanitary bin or on the floor then that can be game over, I just turn around and walk back out.

I’ve already blogged about driving and some of the anxiety it causes me but at night I would say everything is multiplied and it’s much harder to dismiss, potholes, bumps in the road, noises from the car etc.  I would say every time I drive somewhere at night I get back home and there’s some sort of intrusive thought on my mind which I just can’t budge, so frustrating.

So if you start to get anxious before you even get to your ‘trigger’ situation you are completely setting yourself up to fail.  Your mind is already putting the thoughts into your head before you’ve even tried and so it creates a viscous cycle, which causes reluctance to do things and go places and so starts to create behavioural changes.

I’m not sure I will ever completely free myself of some of my OCD intrusive thoughts and thinking patterns, some of them are so ingrained in me after so many years.  I do still make myself face them day in and day out but who knows if I will ever completely win.  I guess the fact that I’m not letting them stop me doing things nowadays is a win in itself.  To live life without the thoughts at all is the battle.

So the point of this post was to try and find a way of avoiding the preemptive anxiety, somehow trying not to fail before you’ve even tried.  It’s such a tricky one because as soon as you start thinking about the situation you’ll probably start feeling anxious about it, another one of those ‘don’t think about the pink elephant in the room’ situations.

I would say the best way to try to combat the preemptive anxiety would be mindfulness.  If you are living in the moment then you shouldn’t be worrying about whats happening later.  If you know you have one of your triggers coming up, then do everything you can not to think ahead to it until you have to, this should help to stop the anxiety kicking in too early.

Every time you face one of your fears and succeed make a mental note of how amazing you are for beating the OCD and anxiety.  We never give ourselves enough credit when we do well and we always beat ourselves up when we are weak – human nature I guess. Make a list of every win and refer back to it every time you are struggling.

Stay Strong xxx

 

 

Reflection

So I’ve been writing this blog for 6 months now.  This for me is a massive achievement as I find it incredibly hard to concentrate on anything for a sustained period of time.  I get terribly excited about the idea of things but when I realise I’m going to have to apply myself and my mind fully, often I find myself unable to.  Focusing my mind on something, really concentrating, has always been difficult for me, my mind is quite often off, distracted, somewhere else.

There have been many reasons for this over the years, at times my OCD would apply fears/thoughts to actions.  I can remember practising my piano when I was younger and having to keep playing the same piece until I’d managed to get through the whole thing without a bad thought entering my head.  Sometimes I would have to play the piece four times because that’s how many members of my family there were at the time and if I didn’t then something bad would happen to one of them.

I like baking but if I am making a cake and I see a little mark in one of the eggs or perhaps a crumb gets into the mixture then the whole activity can become hugely stressful.  I don’t know how many cake mixes I’ve thrown away over the years through fear of them being contaminated.

The list goes on and on, I find it so hard to get my head into an activity and apply myself  without having to deal with some sort of OCD thought along the way.  I am guessing this is quite common for people with OCD?

OCD makes everything more difficult, cooking, relaxing, driving, decorating, seeing people, going places, work, relationships, pregnancy, events, absolutely everything I do is just a bit harder and over the years I’ve just had to get stronger and stronger to deal with it.

So how have I dealt with it?   

  1. I’ve talked to people
  2. I’ve had CBT therapy
  3. I’ve faced it head on
  4. I’ve learnt to control my thoughts better (most of the time)
  5. I distract myself
  6. I breath through the anxiety when it hits.
  7. I remove myself from stressful situations (when I can)
  8. I’ve read blogs
  9. I’ve started to practice mindfulness
  10. I’ve read books
  11. I’ve learnt what my triggers are
  12. I’ve learnt what relaxes me
  13. I’ve learnt to appreciate what I have
  14. I understand that the thoughts and anxiety will pass in time
  15. I’ve learnt to like myself more
  16. I’ve learnt to be kinder to myself
  17. I’ve educated myself

To be honest this list could probably go on and on.  It makes me realise how far I have come since I was 11, scared, not knowing what was happening to me, completely alone, feeling out of control and upset.  This was the reason I started this blog, no one should have to feel the way I did, ever!

Actually this blog has been very cathartic as well – which I didn’t see coming – so I would probably add ‘write’ to the list above.

I hope by sharing what I am learning and what I have learnt I will be of some help to others.  Life can be pretty tough at times and we all need to talk more to each other about whats going on inside our minds.

I feel like OCD in particular is a hard one for people to talk about as there’s normally an element of being ashamed of or embarrassed by the thoughts.  I guess if they were ‘normal’ thoughts there wouldn’t be an issue.

We must remember that everyone has intrusive thoughts, most people are just able to dismiss them straight away and so they never take hold.  As soon as you notice the thought and give it some time it makes the thought stronger and then if you keep thinking back to it, even if it’s only to think ‘why have I had that thought’ then it will get stronger and stronger and so the viscous cycle continues.

So to sum up the last six months have been a huge learning curve for me, thanks for everyone who’s followed so far, I really hope it’s been of some use.  Here’s to the next six.

Stay Strong xxx

 

OCD – Driving

So this has been a huge one for me over the years and it still affects me today.  I guess with OCD there’s an element of wanting to control as much of your surroundings as possible and when it comes to driving, even though you have control over the car itself, you have no control over anyone else on the road, pavement, carpark etc etc and so my OCD is able to go a bit crazy.

Checking mirrors multiple times, not driving to certain places because I don’t like the road or car park, avoiding driving at night and driving back to check roads where I’m sure that a pot hole was me driving over a person/animal.  I’ve done it all through the years and at times I’ve felt like giving up driving completely  – luckily I am a bit stubborn.

I do think there are lots of crossovers with this one.  I definitely know people who also get quite anxious and worried about driving in general, who don’t have OCD but the difference is when they get to their destination, they can switch off and know they arrived safely.

For me I find I’m calmer in the car but once I’m done and get out, that’s when the OCD thoughts start to kick in.  Obviously I can’t remember every single step of the journey therefore how can I know that I didn’t hit anyone/thing etc etc.  For me this has been one of the most limiting parts of my OCD, its stopped me going places, seeing friends, it’s trapped me in the house for days at a time, while I wait for the police to come and arrest me, so they can tell me what I’ve actually done.  Gosh writing it down sounds crazy but when you’re going through it, it feels so real.

However on a brighter note I do believe I’ve made progress when it comes to driving this past year.  I’ve had to push myself to go to places I would of previously avoided, which has pushed me to face my fears.  Sadly as with most of the things that cause us stress, facing them head on is normally the solution.

Talking to my husband about the thing that’s stressing me out has also helped, particularly if he’s in the car at the time, as he will know whether it’s happened or not – this one should be used with caution, as obviously there won’t always be someone else in the car and you need to be able to overcome your fears on your own but sometimes just saying it out load can diminish the thoughts power over you.

Trusting yourself is another solution, this one can be really hard but knowing that you are a good driver and will be able to react to changing situations if you come upon them is essential for confident driving.

Knowing that it’s actually more dangerous to be continually checking your mirrors and not concentrating on the road ahead properly.

One of the things that makes driving particularly tricky to master is that it’s a constantly changing situation, every time you go out in the car the circumstances will be different.  You have to learn to trust yourself and your reactions.

As with most of the things I blog about, I am still wading my way through them myself, so I hope the above has been helpful.  As I find new ways of coping with driving, I will share them on here to try and help others.  Please feel free to share any tips you have for overcoming driving with OCD in the comments below.

Stay Strong xxx