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

 

 

My own company

Now this is something I’ve struggled with for as long as I can remember, I really do dislike being on my own and having to sit with my own thoughts, eeek!  In fact I’ve realised recently that I talk out loud to myself all the time and I think it’s partly so I don’t have to listen to my own thoughts and partly so I can separate the important thoughts from the jumble that is my own brain.

I find everything feels a bit more scary when I’m on my own, my anxiety is heightened and I catastrophize constantly, it’s also much harder to just dismiss negative thoughts.  For me this is a working progress and I do believe I’m better at it then I used to be but man I’ve got a long way to go.

So once again I don’t have a nice quick fix for this either, hummm.  I expect if I asked an expert they’d tell me I have to face it and just sit with the thoughts, feelings and inner ramblings.  Maybe eventually something more positive would start to come out?

I think when you have OCD intrusive thoughts it’s incredibly difficult to like yourself and therefore your thoughts, I think the version of yourself you see is completely different to the one everyone else sees and so you can’t understand why other people like you at all and you actually have no idea what they think of you.  Maybe they see more of the real you then you do, the you without OCD – if like me you have Pure O – now that’s a mind blowing thought!

So of course I must work harder on my self love and try to see all of the positives instead of the negatives.  I must push myself to do the things I know make me feel well mentally:

  • Get enough sleep
  • Do exercise
  • Eat well
  • Remove caffeine and alcohol
  • Remove any negative people who make me question my self worth from my social circle
  • Write a list of positives to read when struggling
  • Continue to write my blog
  • Appreciate all the beautiful things I have in my life
  • Live mindfully

So this is my little lecture to myself today to give myself that extra push that I know sometimes we all need.  Recovery is a marathon and not a sprint and boy don’t I know it, so until next time

Stay Strong xxx

 

 

Talking is only the beginning

I’ve been quite open about my OCD for a few years now and it is definitely a nice feeling to know I don’t have to hide it anymore, it’s also given friends an opportunity to come to me if they’re struggling as they know I won’t judge them and I’ll understand which is nice.

I do find however that talking and understanding are two completely different things, maybe I’m expecting too much from people who sometimes have never even heard of OCD?  I think I hoped once people knew, they would then understand why say sometimes it’s hard for me to go places, drive long distances and generally be out of my comfort zone however peoples expectations of me are still as high as ever and when I remind them of my OCD there’s almost a bit of pressure for me to ‘just get over it already’.

This has just been my experience of late and I don’t suppose it applies everywhere but in general I have found if something doesn’t effect someone directly then they tend to forget about it pretty quickly and I suppose that’s human natures way of coping with the information overload we get on a daily basis, the brain just can’t hold it all in.

So I suppose it’s down to me to keep the conversation going and to try and educate the people close to me as best I can.  OCD in particular I think is very hard for anyone who isn’t suffering with it to try to understand.  Superstitions has always been the nearest I’ve been able to get, you don’t really know why you do them but if you don’t that ‘Oh my god is something bad going to happen to me’ feeling doesn’t leave you for a good while.  Randomly I don’t do any superstitions, I see them as OCD intrusive thoughts and therefore I have treated them in the same way and ignored them.

I really feel it is so important to keep the OCD conversation going, awareness is so important, especially for young people who may not of heard of OCD and won’t understand what is happening to them – this was me for 7 years!!  My OCD has shaped my entire life and when I look back at the 11 year old me I feel quite sad as I know she has such a long and pretty dark journey ahead of her.

I realise this has been a bit of a mind dump but I hope it has made some sense and will give anyone struggling with OCD a really good reason to keep talking about it.

Stay Strong xxx

Mental Health after pregnancy

So I’ve just checked and it’s been a fair old while since I’ve posted on here.  I’m disappointed because this blog is really important to me but I’ve decided to be kind and forgive myself as the reason is I’ve just had no time to focus on it.  I have a newborn who seems to be allergic to sleep and therefore I’m trying to catch up with that in any free time I get!  My sleep is really important to my mental well being and therefore it comes first.

So shes currently having nap so I thought I’d go for it and see if I can manage to get to the end of a post.

So newborns and mental health, where to start?  This is my second child and so I knew a little of what to expect this time around but it still takes a massive toll on your mental and physical health no matter who you are and so if you’re someone already suffering from a mental health issue then it can really throw you off track.

I’ve found control and structure to be so important in my mental health recovery, things such as: eating well, getting enough sleep, socialising, exercise and routine are so important to incorporate into my daily life and when you have a newborn (and in my case a toddler as well) your self care can really go out of the window.  Some things for me have slipped this time around (this blog included) and at times it has been tough.  She still wakes up 3/4 times a night (at 7 months!) and an extended period of time with broken sleep can really takes it’s toll on, well, pretty much everything.  I am lucky that I have a lot of support from family but even so there have been days where I’ve just had to push myself through with will power.

There is a good side to all the madness though (and this is something I would never have believed prior to having children) and that is that I’m so busy that I don’t have time to dwell on OCD thoughts at all.  They come into my head and I honestly don’t think of them again, there just isn’t time.  I have never known anything better at grounding me then my children.  Yes there are other mental issues I am processing such as my anxiety and worry but I almost feel like they are slightly more ‘normal’, everyone seems to have some sort of worry/anxiety and so I don’t feel quite as abnormal for having them.  They’re still completely rubbish but I find other people are able to relate more easily to them and so when you’re chatting about them you don’t get the blank faces where someone is trying to understand why you think you ran over something on the way to meet them and have then completely forgotten about it, stupid intrusive thoughts!

Anyway, I have still been noting a few ideas down over the last few months so hopefully I can manage to write a bit more regularly now.  If anyone has any requests for information on coping strategies or OCD topics or pregnancy or post natal related OCD then I am more then happy to share my experiences so just say in the comments.

but for now,

Stay Strong xxx

 

 

Hello 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stay Strong xxx