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

 

Hello 2019

Happy New Year all, did we all have a good festive period?  I always think it’s a rather odd time of year to be honest, all routine goes out of the window, people eat too much, drink too much and generally loose control.

For people with a mental illness who require routine to stay stable this can be really hard.  I have two children now which requires you keep some routine but in the past this time of year has been difficult for me, particularly new year, I would go as far as to say new years eve is the worst day of the year for me.

My OCD has always had a strong connection to endings, – if I have an intrusive thought when something is about to happen for the last time, maybe I’m about to click the ‘buy’ button online, leave a holiday cottage for the last time or the end/beginning of a new year then of course this thought is going to come true – go figure.  This has always been a big one for me and over the years I’ve become better at ignoring it but it’s hard!

The festive time can be amazing for some people but I know for others it can be incredibly hard, breaks in routine, long periods of time possibly on your own and lots of alcohol just to compound it all.  I hope it hasn’t been too rough for you all.

I’ve found my OCD creeping back in here and there over the last few weeks, changes in circumstances can bring new intrusive thoughts which can catch you off guard.  After you’ve had OCD for over 20 years – man that stat sucks – there’s not that many new things your brain can throw at you day to day but change your circumstances a bit, say have a baby and new situations/thoughts can arrive and you’re not always as equipped to deal with them.  Now I already have one child so this time around I’ve been a bit better but there’s still the odd thing that can catch you off guard.  I’m just trying to take one day at a time at the moment and not be too hard on myself.

So this all feels like I’m rambling but this blog has actually become a sort of therapy in itself for me – oddly I really didn’t see that coming when I started it – just by letting all the junk in my mind out it starts to make more sense and rationalise what is an anxious mess in my head.

I really hope it can be of some use to someone else too but whatever happens it is helping me!

Here’s to a good 2019 – if it hasn’t started off as well as you’d hoped like mine then don’t worry, you can start each day a fresh it doesn’t have to be a new year.

Stay Strong xxx

 

OCD – Coping Strategies

So this appears to be one of the main searches that brings people to my site – not too surprising I suppose – so because of this I felt like it deserved it’s own post.  It does feel like a pretty big topic to be honest and I guess for everyone the answers will be slightly different.  There are a few different types of OCD and what will be a trigger for some people won’t be for others.  I guess ultimately none of us want to just cope with OCD we want to conquer it but for now here are a few things I’ve learnt along the way.

Lets start with a few facts

  • Believe and know that EVERYONE has intrusive thoughts.
  • People with OCD intrusive thoughts do not act on them EVER!
  • You are not a bad person for having these thoughts, the fact that they repulse you/that you fear them actually means completely the opposite – that you are a good person.
  • A thought cannot hurt you

1. Talk to someone, anyone (even if it’s yourself initially)

Counselling was so useful to me, talking through my intrusive thoughts and realising just by saying them out loud that they lost some power straight away.  Saying them to someone else and expecting a huge reaction only to be met with a normal expression was a complete revelation to me, what had I been worrying about all those years?  Medical professionals have seen it all before, you might think you’re the only one having these OCD thoughts but I promise you you’re not.

It can take some time to build up the courage to seek medical help, for me it took over 10 years but the sooner you go for it, the sooner your recovery can start.

2. Take one day at a time

Unfortunately OCD recovery is not a quick fix, you will need to take it one day at a time and it won’t be a straight line, there will be set backs but each time it will be a little easier to get back to where you were, always be kind to yourself, you’re only human after all.

3. Be mindful

Mindfulness is something which is fantastic for grounding you.  When you feel the anxiety starting to build and you feel trapped in a thought try to take yourself out of the situation (if you can safely) and breathe deeply, focus on something in the room and try to describe it to yourself, what does it look like, feel like, smell like etc

4.  Don’t spend time alone

One of the worst things you can do is sit in on your own trying to diffuse the thought.  Don’t even think about touching google, giving the thought time will only give it more power over you.  The best thing you can do is give your mate a call and get out the house.  Unable to do that then put a movie on, sing to a favourite piece of music, just don’t give that thought anymore of your time, I promise you, it won’t help!

5. Don’t be self destructive 

It’s very easy when you have a mental illness to want to try and escape it in any way you can. For most people this will mean alcohol, drugs, sex – anything really that gives you some short term relief.  Unfortunately these activities will not make the problem go away and in fact will probably make them worse.

6. Look after yourself

Eat well and exercise when you can, the body is a machine and you need to take care of it for it to work properly.  If you have a bad day then let it go and don’t allow yourself to spiral, no body is perfect.

7. Stop looking for normal

I really hate the word normal, I’m pretty sure it doesn’t exist to be honest.  Stop striving for something that is not achievable and just aim for the things that make you feel happy and content, this is your normal.

8. Be careful what you watch

This can be anything from the news to social media.  If you are someone who’s mood is massively affected by watching the news – I know mine is – or by looking at other peoples ‘perfect lives’ on Instagram or Facebook then don’t look, or give yourself a cut off – no social media after 9pm.  Most of it isn’t real anyway and they could be just as unhappy as you are.

Wow I really could rant on and on I think but unfortunately I’m out of time!  It really is tricky to find half an hour at the moment with looking after a baby (who’s currently sleeping) but I hope the above list can be of some help to you, perhaps I’ll try and do a part two next month if there’s enough interest but for now

Stay Strong xxx

 

 

Conquering OCD on Instagram

So more recently I’ve been finding it tough to find the time to write complete blog posts.  Having a newborn and a toddler life is pretty full on, however this has been getting to me as I think it’s so important to keep the conversation going.

Therefore I have opened an Instagram account, I’m hoping it will be easier to post pics and tips rather than write whole posts.  The blog isn’t going anywhere, there will just be less regular posts until I have more time to dedicate to it in the future.  Please follow me on Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/conqueringocd/  I am so grateful for all your continued support.

Stay Strong xxx

OCD – 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 – Control

Firstly a little apology that this post has been a while in the making, a newborn really does make getting things done tricky at times!

Something that is particularly hard for me  – I think I have mentioned it before in previous posts – is staying in control of my OCD when life events don’t allow you to control everything.  I can only speak of my personal experience but for me knowing what is coming next – although potentially a little boring at times – allows me to stay calm.

I think we all know life isn’t always predictable and so how can we prepare for the times when it throws us a curve ball?

Recently I’ve seen the return of my UC (Ulcerative colitis) which is an autoimmune disease.  Very conveniently it goes away during pregnancy but I’m now 8 weeks post pregnancy and it’s starting to return.  I’m feeling tired already and this reoccurrence – although not completely unexpected – has taken it’s toll on my positive outlook and energy levels.

Trying to stay positive and calm when you’re feeling under the weather is extra tough as it can seem unfair and motivation to do anything can be low.  When it’s just a cold there is an end in sight but with a long term condition it can be hard to see light at the end of the tunnel.  However it is important to try, particularly when you have people relying on you.

The last couple of weeks I’ve had to have some little talks with myself and reflect back on some of my previous blog posts to remember all the things I need to do to stay in control of my OCD.

Normally one of the first things I like to do when I’m feeling low is to get out of the house – four walls are not your friend – however this isn’t always possible when you’re feeling poorly.  If it’s not possible to get out then do what you can to improve your mental outlook.  If you can:

  • Open a window to let in some fresh air
  • Turn on the lights, potentially invest in a SAD lamp which helps with seasonal affective disorder – I am particularly sensitive to light.
  • Take a multi vitamin to give yourself a boost
  • Make sure you’re eating well and drinking enough water
  • Get your head phones in and listen to some of your favourite tunes
  • Call a friend or family member and have a chat or even better get them to come over
  • Try to avoid alcohol, smoking and caffeine
  • Make sure you’re getting enough sleep but not staying in bed all day
  • Try to have a shower and get dressed
  • Look at online blogs where people are in similar positions to yourself, this can make you feel a lot less alone.
  • If you can do some exercise
  • Write a thankful list of 5 things to be grateful for.  This can help to refocus your mind onto positives rather than negatives.
  • Use mindfulness and meditation.

There are so many things you can do to keep yourself on the right path but at the core of it all you have to want it, even in the toughest of times never loose your focus.

and of course, as always,

Stay Strong xxx

 

OCD – Combating the affects

So I’ve had a little break from blogging over the last month.  Really because my life just got stupidly busy but also partly because I find it easier to blog when I am having an OCD ‘episode’ for want of a better word.  It’s much easier to be honest and helpful rather then preachy if I am experiencing what I am blogging about at the time.  I guess one of the only downsides of recovery is that this happens less often and therefore I have less to share.

I have a lot going on at the moment and I have found that it’s come with a barrage of OCD and anxiety, oh joy!  One of the upsides of being very busy though is that I don’t really have any time to give to the thoughts and so although they are coming at me, I am able to bat them away with relative success.  This is obviously also a result of a lot of hard work over the years as in the past it wouldn’t matter how busy I was, the thoughts would still consume me.

So even though I’ve been doing my best over the last month I have had a couple of little ‘blips’ which, luckily I have managed to shake off but still it’s a very unwelcome reminder of how easy it is to slip back and how all consuming OCD can be.

I think the word consume is quite fitting when it comes to OCD, when a thought gets me that I just can’t shake for one reason or another it feels like all the light, joy and happiness has been sucked out of my world and there is just an all consuming darkness which comes over me.  I would imagine this is a bit what depression must feel like too.  It doesn’t matter how much good stuff you have going on, you just can’t break free.

Getting things done while suffering from OCD has always been tough for me.  As each activity throughout the day normally has some sort of associated OCD thought.  It can be a lot easier to avoid doing anything, this is definitely something I still battle daily.

Confidence is something else that my OCD has robbed me of and I am really unsure about how I will ever truly rebuild this part of my personality.  It has been pretty much ripped to shreds by a mental illness which is completely relentless.

Right so I don’t mean to moan, this blog is all about finding ways to combat OCD, including all the things I’ve just mentioned above.

So we have the:

All consuming thoughts

Well if you have OCD you’ll know how hard it is to combat the all consuming thoughts, after all this is pretty much what OCD is.  I’ve talked about lots of ways to fight thoughts in this blog but I’ve got to say I think the some of the things that work the best for me are:

  • Be mindful, somehow bring your thoughts back to what is right in front of you and don’t let your mind wonder onto if’s, but’s or maybes.
  • Distract yourself with a new task/conversion/activity/anything to bring your mind  away from the intrusive thought.
  • Accept that the darkness/doubt feeling won’t lift straight away, you need to be patient with yourself
  • Breathe

The procrastination from fear

The procrastination unfortunately is something you just have to face head on.  There is no way around it, you just have to go through it.  I quite often find that the anticipation is worse than the actual event and that once you have got something done sometimes the thoughts just disappear.

Sometimes they don’t and you have to work on dismissing them the other end but if you move strongly from one task to the next and don’t give yourself time to think on the past event, then sometimes you can’t even remember what it is you were worrying about, how wonderful!  Being busy is definitely your friend and OCD knows this and tries to stop you doing things, don’t let it!

The lack of confidence

The confidence thing is something I really need to work on, because of my false memory OCD it is really hard to to truly believe and trust in myself and my own judgement.  There aren’t many people in this world who want to build you up and you really have to believe in yourself to succeed.  It’s something really worth working on, it’s all about baby steps I guess and knowing that you’re just as good as everyone else.  Don’t let that OCD bully knock you down.

I hope some of my thoughts have been of use, OCD really is an ongoing daily battle but it can really help to know you’re not battling it alone and so thanks for all the positive feedback.

Stay Strong xxx

 

Brain Fog

This is so interesting and something I’ve only become really aware of very recently.  I have suffered with ‘brain fog’ my whole life and I still get it pretty much daily now.  It’s normally worse in the mornings but I can suffer from it all day.  It makes concentrating on anything stupidly difficult and it makes me very unproductive which is incredibly frustrating and can make me very irritable.  I procrastinate for hours at work, I find it hard to get into hobbies such as piano, sewing, reading, even having a productive conversation is difficult at times because I am so restless and unable to focus.

I found this brilliant article this week which really explains a lot about brain fog and the links to diet and mental health disorders.  It also highlights a link between inflammation (which I personally have because of my ulcerative colitis) and food intolerance (which I also have as I’m lactose intolerant).  It really has revolutionised how I’m thinking about what I put into my body and how that is affecting my mental and physical health.  This line in particular

“Nearly every cell, tissue and system in the body, especially the gut-brain connection, suffers from an unresolved sensitivity”

in regard to food intolerance’s is just staggering for me.  The body is such a well balanced machine and I’m basically messing up that balance constantly and then wondering why I don’t feel great.

Something else mentioned in the article is the link back to hormone balance and  serotonin which I’ve mentioned in my previous posts.

I would be interested to know if anyone else suffers from ‘brain fog’ and what they do to help alleviate the symptoms.  I don’t suppose it will be a quick process to completely change my diet but I am definitely going to start trying.

The more I put names to my symptoms and research these things I’ve been experiencing for years and years the more I am starting to understand my mental health and how it all fits together.  It’s just a shame it has taken me so long to get to this stage.

Has this shed any light for anyone else?  It would be so interesting to hear.  I will report back on any progress I make and if I find any effective ways of combating ‘brain fog’ I will of course share.

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 – Recovery & Serotonin

I’ve talked about recovery not being a straight line quite a bit recently but it is so important to remember for anyone going through a mental illness.  You will have good days and bad days, sometimes I feel like I’ve got it all sorted, I feel positive and hopeful and I can’t even remember what it feels like to have OCD at all!  Other days my OCD can be triggered without any warning by the smallest thing, it can hit me quite suddenly and from the most random of places and this can really knock my confidence.

For times like this it’s good to have a plan of action in place and I’ve found over time it does get easier to get through these periods.  With practice, a plan, my knowledge of recovery and the methods to use I’m getting there but frustratingly for me I can’t seem to avoid my OCD completely.

Now I don’t really know anything about the brain science behind OCD but I am 100% convinced that when I get hit by my OCD, a chemical change occurs in my brain.  It’s almost like someone covers me with a black veil and I just can’t see out of it, no matter how hard I try to think positively and do all the things that are good to dismiss the thoughts, this huge veil of doubt just sits on top of me and I cannot shift it.  On top of this I find the next day I am anxious and unable to concentrate easily, my brain just won’t focus on anything and I get incredibly restless and distracted, almost like it is recovering from the affects of the previous days veil.

This happened to me just yesterday, all triggered by something in my yogurt which I didn’t recognise and there was just nothing I could do to stop it rolling in. I didn’t let the thought linger and therefore today I don’t feel the ‘doubt veil’ anymore but currently I am trying to work through the anxiety sitting in my chest and the restlessness which just won’t let me focus.  I am at work finding it really hard – hence why I am writing this rather than working.  I’m hoping by writing it down I will be able to let it go and move on but I only have so much power over the internal workings of my body unfortunately.

 

I haven’t mentioned medication much, if at all on this site.  I’m not a huge one for popping pills but I did try SSRI’s (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor’s) for a brief period of time.  The only thing I found they helped me with – hence why I’m bringing them up now –  was the ‘doubt veil’ which comes over me.  Logically if you don’t have that doubt, then the thoughts are easier to dismiss and recovery is easier but I think I always reasoned that I didn’t want to be on them forever and at some point I would have to face the veil myself anyway and so I stopped taking any medication a few years ago.  I do however think it has it’s place and I know it helps a lot of people through really tough times.  It’s a very personal decision.

I’m not sure if I have any advice particularly on how to fight these episodes, all I can say is by having a plan of action and trusting the tools you have to fight the thoughts, you will come out the other side quicker each time but it can be very hard when you are in the throws of a thought to believe this I know!

Natural serotonin production

We all know serotonin is the happy hormone and SSRIs are designed to stop the re-uptake of it but there are natural ways you can increase and maintain this hormone.  I’ve been doing a bit of research myself on this subject as I’m really interested in how to increase it naturally.  Here are some of the ideas I got from a quick google and the reference link they’re from if you want a bit more information:

  • Exercise
  • Diet
  • Sunshine/bright lights
  • General positivity
  • A massage
  • Reduced stress
  • Reduced sugar
  • Emotional healing
  • Focus/Sense of achievement

reference link – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2077351/

Looking down the list there’s nothing particularly new here, we all know in the back of our minds whats good for us but I think when you’re feeling low it becomes incredibly hard to look after yourself properly which is of course at the exact time when you need to most.

So how to fit some of these things into your daily routine?

  • I think we all know exercise is good for us but it can sometimes be hard to get motivated particularly when you’re feeling low/out of sorts.  I am going to start with a daily walk as this knocks two of the items off the above list: exercise and sunshine.
  • I also love that general positivity is on the list, by having a more positive outlook this then comes back to you and rewards you, how wonderful.
  • I’ve recently found that a sense of achievement really helps with my overall fulfilment and therefore well being as well.  I have started working towards a music exam which I have been meaning to get for years.  The fact that I am getting closer to achieving it rather then continuing to put it off has really improved my sense of self worth.
  • You could probably group together reduced stress and a massage if you feel like giving yourself a treat as well.

So hopefully some of this has been helpful, as always we’re all in this together.

Stay Strong xxx