Conquering OCD Turns Three!

So conquering OCD is three years old today and that’s a pretty momentous thing for me.  Thank you to to everyone who follows me I so appreciate your support.  Passing 100 followers towards the end of 2019 was a pretty magical moment for me as it was always a little target I had.

When I started this blog it was mainly to try and share some of the things I’d learnt along my OCD journey.  Things that had helped me in the hope that it would be able to help others too.  Unexpectedly for me it has also turned into a sort of therapy tool, somewhere I have come to process my thoughts, make sense of them, separate myself from them and then turn them into something useful to share with others – wow, I really didn’t see what one coming.

Over the last 18 months I haven’t spent as much time writing posts as I’d have liked, this is for two reasons I think:

  1. A very busy home life
  2. I haven’t been suffering as much with my OCD as I used to, yay!  I’m not a therapist so I don’t like to just preach, I like to have experienced something.  Then I am able to share how I made my way through it and out the other side, then hopefully that can help someone else too.

I have started my yoga teacher training now, which is amazing.  I’m hoping in the future I will be able to share some of the skills and practice I am learning to help deal with calming the mind and relaxation – we definitely all need a bit more of that at the moment.

For now, thanks again and 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

Consistency is the key to change

So we’ve made it to the end of January, hooray! Doesn’t it always feel like the longest month ever (apart from the last month of pregnancy of course, which is officially the longest month ever)!  Every year I find January a bit of a slog, I’m not sure if it’s the cold,
the dark, the post Christmas blues or a mix of all of these put together but it sucks!

The start of a new year always feels a little pressured to make change and be a ‘new you’.  It’s very tempting to try and make dramatic changes such as; crash diets, going to the gym every day, planning to run a marathon, giving up alcohol, going vegan, you know the sort of thing.  We all want to see a quick fix, why wouldn’t we?

Unfortunately it doesn’t normally take long for the motivation to die and for us to realise making significant changes is actually very, very hard work.  Anyone recovering from a mental health issue will of course already be very aware that there are no quick fixes but it doesn’t stop us hoping.

So here’s the bit you probably won’t want to hear. 

To make positive change you have to be consistent, you have to make small daily changes which you stick to, they can’t be massive changes as they aren’t maintainable.

Of course if you are recovering from something like OCD or maybe an addiction of some kind you really have no choice, you have to make the changes and attempt to stay on track.

The trick is not to give yourself a hard time, you will mess up now and again and that’s OK.  Never loose site of the path you’re on, no mater how slowly you’re walking it.  Accept that there may never be an end goal, it’s all about the process of moving in the right direction and getting closer to where you need to be.  Where you end up may look nothing like the way you thought it would when you get there and that could be a good thing.

I’m looking at moving careers very soon and I’m starting some training in March, it all feels very overwhelming at the moment but I just have to remember to do a small amount each day and it will eventually pay off.

Changes don’t have to be an all or nothing thing either, you haven’t failed if you slip up  or make changes gradually over time.

I’ve wanted to be meat free for a while now and more recently I have started removing meat from more and more of our weekly meals.  In the next couple of months the meat will disappear completely but for now if there’s a tin of tuna in the cupboard I’m not going to get stressed about it or throw it away I’m just going to use it up and not buy anymore.  I know even the small changes I’m making are heading in the right direction for me and over time they will pay off.  There is no big rush, life is a marathon not a sprint.

It’s very easy to just think about the goals and not enjoy the journey you’re on but we need to be more mindful about where we are in life and appreciate what is going on around us.  If we are living in the future then we aren’t really living, make every day count.  Go to bed each day feeling like you’ve taken a little step closer to where you want to be and that you are heading in the right direction.  Be kind to yourself and know you are doing the best you can.  Lets make 2020 a good one!

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

Pure O and False Memory OCD

I haven’t blogged solely about OCD for a while so I though it might be time.  I have been avoiding writing this post ever since I started this blog, it’s a really tough topic for me to write about as I still struggle with it myself at times and there’s always a fear that it may trigger something.

My first post on false memory OCD which I wrote over two years ago has been my most viewed post by a country mile and that just tells me how many people are struggling with this one.  It is I believe one of the most isolating parts of OCD and one which I would predict people are most terrified to talk about.  I wrote about it once with regards to my fears around driving and false memories/OCD thoughts that I might have hit/killed someone and not realised.  Today I take it a step further and talk about another completely terrifying topic the fear/false memory that you may have interfered with a child.

I would say thinking you are a murderer or a paedophile are probably two of the scariest and terrifying thoughts you could have.

OCD is very clever, because ultimately you know you haven’t done these things but because you cannot prove it 100% you spend hours obsessing over the fact you might have.  You spend hours googling things and pretty much driving yourself insane going over the same situation again and again and again, slowly withdrawing from reality.  You become irritable if distracted and are unable to function properly.  You are scared to tell anyone, as who would have these horrible thoughts and be ‘normal’ (whatever that is), and so you become more and more isolated and alone.

This part of Pure O and false memory OCD has made me think I’m the worst human alive and so scared to speak to others through fear of being judged that at times I have thought the only way out or release would be ending my life.

Pure O intrusive thoughts have made me too scared to give my niece a hug when I read her a story, scared to take my nephew to the bathroom and at times scared to bath my own children through fear that I might do something inappropriate.

False memory OCD has also played it’s evil part in this and at times has made me think I actually have acted inappropriately, which of course I now know is complete rubbish.

All this I am sad to say in the past has led me to withdraw from seeing my family and friends and made me feel like the only way out is ending my own life. The thought that I could harm some of the people in this world who I love the most has been completely horrifying and probably the worst part of my OCD over the years, hence why it’s taken me so long to write about it.

Having a thought does not make it real or you a bad person, we all have them. It does not mean that you will harm a child or do something inappropriate.
It can be extremely difficult to talk about these intrusive thoughts, particularly if they include people close to you or their children but it is unbelievably important that you do if you are having them.  Doctors are trained to hear about these thoughts and will not think you are crazy or a horrible person, they will be sympathetic and understanding, they will have heard it all before I promise you.

By talking to a professional and saying the thoughts out loud it takes their power away immediately, it normalises them as you see other peoples reaction is, just normal.

You have to believe in yourself and know that you are a good person.  You find these thoughts repulsive and so disturbing because you are a good person.  It is normal to have a negative reaction to the thought but you then have to let the thought go and not dwell on it.  This is what everyone else does because everyone has these thoughts!

I have come such a long way with these intrusive thoughts, I have gone from feeling like I can’t bath my son, to pushing myself to and ignore the thoughts, to now not even having the thoughts at all.  Bath time has actually become a fun time, splashing about and laughing.

You just have to know who you are, truly, you are not a bad person. If you know that then you will know you are incapable of acting on any of the intrusive thoughts coming your way, particularly these ones.  Work on liking yourself and you must speak to someone, I cannot stress how important this is, then you will be able to pull yourself out of the darkness like I did.

I hope by me putting this out there that it will help people in a similar position to feel less alone and seek help. This has been unbelievably hard for me to write about and has actually bought tears to my eyes but if it can help one person then it has been worth it.

As always (and this week I’m definitely talking to myself to),
STAY STRONG xxx