Relapse and Recovery

So, I’ve been away for a while and I’m sorry about that but the title of this post might give you a little insight into why that’s been the case. 

I’ve had OCD for a long time now and I thought I was pretty resilient and to be honest I think I probably was but starting in November last year I went through a series of events which I did not see coming and in May this year that led me to a mental state which was scarily close to suicidal.  Even writing that world has given me chills and I still can’t quite believe it but there you have it.  I’m still on my road to recovery at the moment and some days are better then others but I am definitely not where I was six weeks ago and that is very good news. 

Now I’ve learnt a lot over the last few months and I am planning to share the good bits that could help you guys too but it’s going to take me some time as I have to protect my mental health and writing this blog, even though cathartic at times can be emotionally draining. 

So enough about me, how is everyone?  I think the world is such a tough place mentally at the moment and it’s very easy to feel quite down about things, especially if you have OCD, as we are generally more prone to seeing the worst-case scenario and looking for problems which confirm our negative thinking patterns.

I’ve been doing my best to notice and override these thinking patterns, so I thought I’d share some of the things which have helped me along the way:

  • Sitting at the end of each day and writing down the things which have made me smile.  Even if I’ve had a pretty miserable day there’s always been something and focusing on these is a great way to go to bed thinking more positively, it gives you a great list to look back on when you’re feeling low too. 
  • Gratitude can also help, I tend to do this first thing in the morning, I lie in bed after I wake up, take a big breath into my lungs and I am thankful that I am alive, that I can breath and feel my body move with my breath, I wiggle my toes and feel grateful that I can and then I open my eyes and feel grateful that I can, I give myself a hug and tell myself that I am proud of myself, that I love myself and that I am a good person.  All this takes about 60 seconds so don’t tell me you can’t do it to!  Connecting with your body and thanking it for working for you is so important.   
  • Being out in nature, for me this is a massive one, there’s something so nice about being away from all the hustle and bustle of daily life and just grounding yourself, it can make your worries feel very small and insignificant and can remind you that you are part of something a lot bigger then yourself. 
  • I would normally say exercise at this point and this has always worked for me BUT what happens when you can’t exercise?  This has also happened to me recently and it has taught me that you can’t be reliant on one strategy for your mental wellness, you have to have a bag full of resources to fall back on, so don’t put all your eggs in one basket!   
  • Breathwork, this has been something I’ve always rolled my eyes at in the past but I’ve started to integrate some breathwork into parts of my life, especially round situations where I get very anxious and it is amazing how you can change your whole state of being through breathing.  If you get quite anxious it is worth learning one or two breathing exercises which you can use when the situation calls for it.
  • Eating well, now this can seem a massive effort when you’re feeling at your lowest but start easy and build it up.  For instance, you can add an extra piece of fruit in instead of a sugary snack, you can still have a sugary snack but if you’ve already had two biscuits maybe substitute the third for an orange?  Yesterday I made myself a second coffee at 3pm, I knew this was a bad idea and even though my brain was saying ‘yes you want it’, I ultimately knew what would follow would be a jittery rest of the day, then not being able to get to sleep at bedtime and so yesterday I poured it down the sink and made myself a decaf instead but don’t get me wrong, there have been plenty of days when I’ve drunk it and suffered the consequences when I’ve felt less resilient or thought I would be OK, you learn as you go and you should never beat yourself up for these decisions once they’ve been made, accept them and move on, ALWAYS!!!!
  • Social interaction, this is so important and I couldn’t recommend it enough.  OCD has this nasty way of making you think you’re alone and you’re the only one suffering but it couldn’t be less true, the more I speak to people the more I realise that everyone has something going on, no one is acing life, despite what their Instagram feed may look like and you are definitely 100% not alone.
  • Get help, if you are really suffering don’t wait, I’m back in therapy now and that’s exactly where I need to be.

I have so much to share from the last few months and I promise to only share the good stuff in the hope it will help you too, no one needs more misery in their lives.  I really hope you’re all good and as always,

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

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

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