Is it me or the situation?

This is something I think I was already aware of but has been bought to my attention again recently by my new working schedule.

Just over a year ago I wrote about how I was going to leave my job in May 2020 and pursue an alternative career in Yoga. I wrote this post click here to view on March 4th 2020, just before lockdown and if lockdown hadn’t happened I think I would of followed through but lockdown did happen and everything flew up in the air!

I am happy to say I did manage to get my yoga qualification and I am now a Yoga instructor however the course ran for longer then was first planned and I had to continue to work at my old job throughout. There were too many unknowns just to quit, I guess this is a great example of not knowing what life is going to throw at us.

I now find myself in a double working life at two extremes of the spectrum, my part time day job as a software developer and my evening job as a yoga instructor but what I have noticed even more is that I take better care of myself on the days I do my yoga then when I’m just sat at my desk.

Why is this I ask myself?

Is it because I’ve been doing my software development role for a long time and there are certain habits which I have mentally attached to my software development working day? Such as always making a hot drink before going into a meeting, having a sweet snack at 10.30am to break up the morning, or not bothering to get up and walk around enough – even though I feel my fitbit giving me a hard time every hour!

These little habits have become so ingrained in my working day that I hardly even notice myself doing them. However on yoga days I think more about what I’m going to eat, I tune into and listen more to my body and I have to concentrate more to get it right and not just go onto autopilot like on other work days. Potentially as time goes on the yoga will become easier and more ingrained but I hope not.

This pattern has led me to look at other things in my life like my OCD. At this stage when I’ve had it for 25 years, there are definitely some little ‘ticks’, shall we call them, which have become so ingrained in me that I don’t even notice them anymore! They’re small things which don’t have a negative effect on me particularly but they’re still there. An example of this would be that I like to rip off the first piece of toilet roll – this has been a thing for ages and I’m pretty sure I’ve mentioned it previously – it’s a really small thing but it still stemmed from an OCD compulsion.

Now what if I changed the situation….? What if I only put a small roll of toilet paper in the loo at any one time, I would have to use it more sparingly and not waste any, right? If I change my situation then I can change my ingrained OCD compulsion? Worth a shot maybe?

Work wise I think I will eventually leave my software job behind, once life is a bit more ‘normal’ and the yoga is a bit more established. In the meantime I am going to try and put a new slant onto things, mix things up a bit and see if it improves my attitude to my self care on my non yoga days. Maybe I’ll do a bit of yoga whilst the kettle boils or work out a chair yoga routine to do daily.

Has this post made you think of anything you do which you know is your OCD but you let it slide because it’s been around for so long? If you’re in a good place in your recovery it may be a good time to challenge these set behaviours like I am.

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 

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

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

Alcohol – the social pressure

A complicated topic this one, I think.  I very rarely drink nowadays and to be honest I don’t really miss it but with the Christmas season coming up and the inevitable works Christmas party on the horizon I am feeling the pressure a bit more.

I’ve mentioned to my work colleagues that ‘I won’t be drinking at the Christmas party‘ during a conversion about ‘what we should drink on the train on the way there!‘ and I was met with, ‘once you have one you’ll want to drink‘ and ‘but your so much fun when you’re drunk‘ etc etc.  Now don’t get me wrong I work with a good bunch of people and I know they respect my decision but it has highlighted to me that you are definitely going against the grain if you don’t drink.

So why is it such a taboo and why is our culture so focused on drinking as a social MUST to have fun? 

Are we just all too nervous to relax in social situations otherwise or is it just the love of drinking away the realities of the world for a few hours (was that a bit deep?).

I’ve definitely used alcohol as a way to escape the realities of my life in the past.  I drank massively to excess during my 20’s, partly due to my OCD but also partly because in our culture today it really is just the done thing.

Nowadays I don’t mind not fitting in, I know who I am and I am happy with that, I don’t need to conform but through my 20’s I was not confident.  In fact I kind of hated myself a lot of the time (thank you OCD) and so I drank like everybody else.

There’s definitely a bit of dedication involved in not conforming but still partaking in life.  It’s not healthy to cut yourself off from social situations completely to avoid drinking, especially if you suffer from mental health issues, being on your own is going to do you no favours (Obviously if you have a serious problem this could be different for you and you should get some help).

It is difficult as you can come across as being awkward or difficult a lot of the time.  I hardly drink and I don’t eat dairy so I’m never having a bit of the birthday cake or sip of the celebratory champagne and occasionally I do feel like I’m being anti social but you just have to own it and enjoy the fact that you’ll be the one with the clear head in the morning.

I’m not sure whether I’ll ever completely give up alcohol but I think I’d like to.  In the past I would have terrible memory loss after a night out drinking and that mixed in with false memory and magical thinking OCD was a very, very scary mix, especially if you don’t have a good mate to fill in the blanks for you.  These are definitely days I’d happily leave in the past.

I know this sort of memory loss can be terrifying for people with OCD but there’s no way around it other then just not drinking.  If you’re using alcohol to block out bad thoughts then I can tell you now that it’s only a short term fix and it will not work, but you probably already knew that didn’t you?

Recovery is a slow process but it’s worth it and things will start to get better I promise.

Stay Strong xxx

 

OCD and Blood

Now I’m guessing this is a trigger for a few of us out there, I know for sure it’s always been one of mine.  There’s something about blood which just makes my mind go,

‘If you touch that you’re going to catch something horrible’.  

In the past if I walked past a plaster in the street it would play on my mind for the rest of the day. I didn’t even need to touch it, my Magical Thinking OCD could work out a way to make sure I could still catch something from it.  Sometimes it didn’t even have to be blood, just a red blob, it could be marker pen, jam, jelly, anything that could potentially be misconstrued as blood and my OCD would see to the rest.  I don’t know how many times I’ve thought about what I would do if I caught an infectious disease and how many hours I’ve catostrophised and stressed about all the possible outcomes, once again it’s actually very sad to think about.

Today I’m still battling these thoughts but I don’t seem to dwell on them or catostrophise about them anymore.  I still have an aversion to blood but that feels a little more ‘normal’, I’m not sure anyone likes other peoples blood on them or would want to voluntarily touch some.

One of the best things I heard when trying to combat this trigger (from my CBT therapist) was that,

‘diseases can’t live in blood outside of the body for longer then 48 hours’,

now I’m not even sure if this is 100% true, but I choose to believe it and it pretty much cured this phobia for me.  So if you see a plaster on the street that has blood on it, the likelihood it can hurt you is pretty much zero.

Once you can convince yourself of something then the thoughts are easy to bat away and eventually they stop coming all together.  All these things are a work in progress of course but I’ve found through my recovery sometimes you’ll hear something and it’ll just work for you and then that’s another trigger down.

Hopefully this one will help someone else out there.

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