Zombie?

Well where are we, three weeks into medication and two therapy sessions down, I’m feeling positive.

Part of it is the medication, it relaxes me, calms me down and turns my anxiety into something manageable. It doesn’t stop it, I still fret, feel guilty if I don’t think I’m working hard enough, if the house isn’t clean or if I didn’t run far enough but I’m not paralysed by it.

Take for example this evening, I planned to run but had to work late, a few weeks a go I would have run, anxious about getting fat and never running again. Instead, as I’m doing a running challenge over the next month, I resolved to rest, I stayed in, still busy, tidied the house, cooked dinner, decorated the tree, did some Christmas shopping and wrote the cards but I’m not consumed with fear and guilt. I feel bad for not going but not bad enough to make me go.

Now that’s the thing I’m scared of with medication, if it means I’m not all that bothered about missing something I love, what else could it mean? Will I soon become an unfeeling zombie? Will I stop working properly because I can’t be bothered and be fired? Will I cheat on Gary because it doesn’t matter? I don’t know.

I’m keeping on the medication whilst I learn the CBT techniques properly so when I do come off the medication I’m equipped, able to handle the anxiety the way normal people do. Medication scares me, I’ve steered clear of drugs as I’m worried about what it can do and yet here we have a mind altering tablet I take each day. I have no idea what it’s doing, not really, will it have lasting effects? Will I ever be off it properly? I just don’t know.

But for now, it means I’m able to get through the day without crying, able to handle an intrusive thought without descending into a ruminating mess and able to feel a bit more positive.

I’m happy to chat and if you would like to then do reach out on the ‘Contact’ tab, however I am not a mental health professional and if you would like this support please see the ‘Support’ tab.

Sorry I’ve been quiet

It feels an age since I wrote anything here, to be honest I’ve been cheating on my blog. I’m speaking at a mental health get together thing this weekend so my mind has been focussed on writing my presentation for that. The presentation is now all written, just need to learn it! I don’t want it to sound like I’m repeating it parrot fashion however I also don’t want to stand there with no clue what to say, sweating as random strangers stare at me. Therefore I’m aiming for well rehearsed winging it.

How am I? Ok I think, I’ve been nice and anxious about several things. Started the new job and loved the herbal sleeping tablets which are a habit I need to kick, I’m at least not mixing them with alcohol so that’s a step. However my will power is weak at half 1 in the morning when I need to be up before 6 and the anxious sweats are not fun. I’ve also started dreaming about the wedding next year, so far it’s included the hotel not having my room and needing to bunk in with my mum and step-dad followed by my dad getting drunk with the chef and refusing to walk me down the aisle. If this is how it is a year out, I can just predict how bad I’ll be next year. Goes hand in hand with this, naturally I’m panicking about Gary, do I love him? How do I know? Can I put up with his bad habits forever? When will I cheat on him? Will we end up hating each other? I’m powering on regardless, trying to ignore the thoughts. I stayed away from home the other day at a sales conference and I was terrified of cheating on him. It’s not unheard of me to hook up with a colleague on a night out and so the evidence is there to say I have acted that way before, why wouldn’t I do it now? Do I love Gary enough? Who bloody knows.

I’m also feeling the pressure, the thought of children is suddenly becoming very real, this time next year I’ll be a wife and society immediately starts asking you when you’re going to have kids. I mean, my sister-in-law got married at the beginning of this month and I’ve already asked her when she will have my little niece or nephew. I don’t feel ready at all, I’m exercising a lot to try and burn off my little belly without reducing the amount I eat and I won’t be able to exercise as much with a child, will I hate the way I look? I don’t like my body now, it depresses me and I don’t feel attractive, will this only get worse?

So there we have it, I haven’t been here but I’ve definitely been struggling. There’s a lot going on and I think writing the presentation has brought to the fore unresolved feelings that I haven’t wanted to face the feelings. If I put them down here I have to start processing them, see them for what they are, whereas leaving them in my head I can just brush them to the side.

So sorry I’ve been quiet, I’ll try to be more talkative going forward!

If you’d like to chat, feel free to reach out via the ‘Contact’ tab, however I am not a mental health professional and if you would like this support please see the ‘Support’ tab.

World Mental Health Day

It’s World Mental Health Day i.e. my time to shine!

How great is this?! Every radio station I’ve listened to, website I’ve been on and Instagram story I’ve seen today has been on mental health and encouraging people to talk. Naturally I got involved and chucked my two cents in because mental health is my bag, sharing a post about needing to be ok with not being ok and focussing on talking. It really is wonderful see people of all shapes, colour and creed humming the same tune for a day and wanting to make a change.

I’ve received work emails about numbers I can call if I’m struggling and groups I can reach out to. I’ve seen giant companies sharing initiatives on how to improve your own mental health. The best thing, I heard on Radio 2, stories of attempted suicide and methods people used to get them through the dark days.

Hopefully, and this is everything crossed, looking up to the sky as I count my lucky stars, it continues. Typically speaking, humans are creatures of habit, we resist immediate change and I know one day of let’s all talk isn’t going to all is a sudden cause an onset of sharing. But it’s a start at least, the fact that it was so prominent in the media means that here in the U.K. at least we’re taking it seriously and beginning to bring it out in the open.

Lots of people come to me to share their mental health concerns and it simply shows how many people it affects, the variety of people it affects and how so many of us bury it deep out of shame or embarrassment. I’m hugely ashamed of my OCD, I hate the illness with every fibre of my being and will clam up when asked about it. However I know that being ashamed and embarrassed is not going to change things, I’ll still have OCD whether I shout about it or not. Just shouting about it makes me feel better so I’ll only get louder I’m afraid.

As ever, my message is one of talking, in whichever guise suits you. I find talking through my hands to a blog is the best way for me to express my mental health concerns. Yours may be speaking with a friend, therapist, writing it in a journal, just get it out somehow. Find what works for you and express yourself. You matter and you are not alone.

I am always happy to chat and you can drop me a message on the ‘Contact’ tab however I am not a mental health professional and if you would like this support please see the ‘Support’ tab.

 

 

Guilty pleasures

Few things in an OCD life are without spoils. Everything gets overthought, analysed and considered. Lunch with friends, am I talking to much? Focussing too much on me? Did I say the wrong thing? Running with my club, they all think you’re fat and slow. As I indulge over the weekend, disgusting, fat and unattractive. As I sit enjoying a coffee with my family, they’re only here because they have to be, they don’t like you.

But one thing remains untouched. Now I may be jynxing this, but somethings I just enjoy, pure, unadulterated enjoyment. One of these things is my all time favourite movies. I don’t watch a whole load of movies, my attention span isn’t that long, I don’t like watching violence or gore, not only does it trigger me, it’s just gross. I do love soppy movies, those that are ridiculously predictable and make you fantasize for that kind of true love, the kind of arguing and making up in the rain with grand gestures, not arguing over the dishwasher and falling asleep on the sofa but I guess that’s reality.

I have two favourite films, they’ve been my faves since I was a child and I have memories of singing the songs and practising the dances. The first is ‘The Sound of Music’, I bloody love it and know all of the songs by heart. My ultimate favourite is ‘Dirty Dancing’, I’ve probably seen it over a thousand times, can recite the entire film and piss off Gary as I say the lines before they arrive and swoon over Patrick Swazey. As I’ve grown, you notice a lot more that goes over your head as a child and your perspective does change as Baby is ultimately a child messing in very adult topics but I remain unfaltered, my favourite film.

It’s also entirely unspoilt, it makes me feel better, a kind of therapy for my soul. Taking me back to being a child when times were simpler and I’d sit on the floor then order my younger sister to be my dance partner.

Mental illness is cruel, it takes so much of your life, I can’t even eat my favourite sweets or have a gin and tonic without feeling guilty, so if you find something that keeps you sane. Keeps you at your core, then grab it with both hands and hold it tight.

I’m always happy to chat, so feel free to reach out via the ‘Contact’ tab, however I am not a mental health professional and if you would like this support please see the ‘Support’ tab.

Talking

OCD is an exclusive club. 2% of people have OCD in some format and we range on a spectrum – some housebound, some like me bugged occasionally by breakdowns and some with barely noticeable symptoms.

I’ve joined a WhatsApp group for people with OCD and honestly it’s refreshing, already in the space if a morning I’ve met people with very similar symptoms to me. Not exactly the same of course, OCD is different in the sense that it molds and shapes itself to the individual which why it’s so difficult to shift, it’s our own greatest fears, our own nightmares. But it is as always, a relief to find there are others like you, I’ll never be bored of knowing I’m one of many, my battle unique, my army of the masses.

I’m constantly amazed by how brave these people are who are able to share so openly, I do not see myself as brave mind, rather, having little choice, if these thoughts don’t come out this way, they may never. they may fester, linger and permeate, forever keeping me trapped. So I speak for my own sanity.

I’ve also noticed I’m reluctant to write in my diary, I don’t know why, but I end each night disinterested in wanting to jot down my thoughts. Hopefully I was using my diary as a coping strategy and that not writing in it each night is a good thing but you never can tell with these things!

Regardless, I’m not fancying it.

Should yo wish to talk, feel free to reach out vie the ‘Contact’ tab, however, I am not a mental health professional, so should you wish to seek professional help there is some information available on the ‘Support’ tab.

I don’t have to be beautiful like you…

It’s something I wrote a few months ago on an old blog but wanted to bring the words here, as think they’re becoming increasingly important in the world of filtered selfies and zealous over-sharing of only the good things in life.

“I’m beautiful like me.’

Words I read this morning.

I don’t plan what I’m going to write on these blogs, I wanted to write today but didn’t know what to write about. I like to wait until something inspires me or something happens. Something inspired me today. I was scrolling through Facebook, and there was the usual, cats, dogs, cakes, gin, someone went on holiday, someone got engaged, etc etc etc. Then a video of a larger set woman posing in a bikini in a changing room with her daughter in the corner also trying on a top when she asked her mother if she agreed that she looked beautiful. The video started explaining their trip to the shop that day, how the girl had been polite, kind and complimentary to everyone she met. Why? She was imitating her mother, her mum was kind, polite and complimentary to those she met, friends and strangers, the young girl had watched this and learnt that this was the way to treat people.

Her mum had also told her every day that she was beautiful, so the girl thought nothing else. She was beautiful. The mum was going to comment on her own appearance, say she felt fat and ugly, but bit her tongue, if the child would pick up on the positive behaviour she would almost certainly pick up on the negative behaviour. So she said she was beautiful, she felt fat, but said she was beautiful. She didn’t want her daughter thinking anything else, she was beautiful. The mother realised how important what she said and how she acted was on other people.

If she was mean, rude and offensive, her daughter would copy this, if she felt bad about herself and consistently said negative things about herself, her daughter would copy this. Then it’s only a case of falling down a rabbit warren of the thoughts becoming your own reality. True or not. The mother then realised she was beautiful, not in someone else’s definition, but for her own definition. She was kind, polite and had raised a child to be this also, she has confidence, self-esteem and empathy, she is beautiful.

I, naturally, related this to me. I have low self-esteem, my brain has a split personality of incredibly arrogant and pitifully low self-opinion. I want to be thinner, I won’t, my bones won’t allow it. I want to be kinder, more generous, more careful, thoughtful, less shallow and worried about what people think. I want to be beautiful like you, not beautiful like me. But I think the words have such power, 7 billion people in this world and only one Serena Moden. Actually is, I’ve checked, but even if there were more, I’m Serena 1.0, the only one, the one with OCD and from Ely, the one with a crazy family and a penchant for being witty, the one that likes gin and cries when someone else cries. I’m the only one and that in itself is beautiful. I will soon be beautiful like me, not beautiful like you.

You do you, you’re smashing it and I’ll do me.”

If you’s like to chat, feel free to reach out on the ‘Contact’ tab however I am not a mental health professional and if you’d like to speak to a professional, please see the ‘Support’ tab.

Request

Morning all, how are we? Sleeping well? No, because it’s so hot here in the UK, bored of the consistent sweating now thanks.

So, other than all that, I’m working with my local mental health organisation Talking FreEly and we have a blog, which we try and feature guest bloggers each week, now if any of you reading this would like to write something to feature then feel free to drop me a line and I can sort this out for you. We will of course promote your blog in the piece also so you’re getting something out of it!

Now for a personal request, does anyone follow any groups, individuals or hashtags on Twitter and Instagram that they would recommend, looking to get involved in more conversations and help raise awareness as much as possible so if people have any then do let me know!

Finally, feel free to request the same of me, happy to write introduction to OCD pieces, or OCD coupled with anxiety and depression if you need anything for your local causes!

 

What If?

What if? What if? What if?

Possibly my most used phrase, that and how do you know?

Why do I say it? It’s the phrase that enters my head if I’m trying to disprove a thought, my brain goes ‘yea, but what if you are? What if we didn’t check? What if we didn’t avoid that child? What if we are alone?’

I’ll explain, I’ve previously mentioned that OCD is centred around intrusive thoughts, thoughts of harm and danger to ourselves and others. These thoughts may be one in a billion chance, but what if, we were that one? It would be careless to not do something about it right?

For example, taking myself here, I have never, ever, knowingly and purposefully harmed a child, never, nor an adult. It’s just not in my current nature. However, I also know I have done things in my past that I knew at the time were wrong, I also know I have changed since I was a child, a teen and a young adult. Now, who is to say, with 100% certainty that I would never, ever knowingly and purposefully harm a child in the future? You can’t. You simply can’t, no one knows what the future holds and whilst in my current state I would never do anything, there could be a million things that could happen that would lead me to be the person that could.

I’m not a special case, I’m not unusual in this. All of you, every single one of you, cannot say that statement in all honesty, difference between me and you, you have learnt to accept that you live in the grey, you cannot predict the future and that you can live life with this haze of uncertainty, you’ve probably not even thought about it. Oh how I envy you.

I cannot, or could not, I should say, I’m better at it now, live in the grey. I know with every fibre of my being I do not want to be the kind of person who would harm a child. I could ask every person that knows me and they would agree I am not currently, nor could they reasonably predict that I would not become that kind of person.

But what if I do? What if I am that person and I’m just waiting for a trigger exactly the same as how OCD was triggered? What if OCD is just an excuse I’m using to make people think I’m really a safe person so they don’t get suspicious? What if I stop trying to prove these thoughts wrong, does that mean they’re true? What if they are? What if everyone was wrong? And the mind circles, until you come to the exhausted conclusion, that you should continue to act as though the thought is true and make certain it doesn’t come true.

I’m not a mental health professional, if you would like this support, please see the ‘Support’ tab, or if you’d like a chat, feel free to leave a comment or reach out via the ‘Contact’ tab.

Control

Had a few days off blogging as been at the in-laws caravan by the coast and the signal is notoriously bad, but back today and suitably depressed in the colloquial form. Currently fed up of life. I’ll go into more detail later but currently, fed up.

Anyway, after my last post, I received messages from my running community about how they had all felt the same at some point, defeated and struggling, so I thought I’d help. I’ve recently seen Steve Bull at a conference and reached out to him for advice. If you don’t know Steve Bull, he’s a sports psychologist and author of ‘The Game Plan’. He’s worked with Olympians and sports teams like the England Cricket team keeping them focused when the anxiety bubbles. I wrote an article on a previous blog about Steve’s piece at the conference and how it had helped me, there were two main themes – attitude is a choice and controlling your controllables.

Essentially, if you’re stressed or having a bad day, it helps to strip things back to those two themes. Attitude is a choice first, I’ve always taken with a pinch of salt as someone with mental health issues as often, if I could change my attitude I would but it is grounded in rituals, avoidance behaviour and doubt but when, like today, I wake and immediately dread the day, it takes me a while but eventually I go, ‘pull yourself together, this day will only get better if you make it’. I don’t miraculously turn into a pillar of positivity but it does kick start me.

The second, control your controllables is misleading to an OCD sufferer. I’ve been taught through CBT that I am not in control of my thoughts and to try to control them is only going to make the situation worse, so when I heard this I did reject it. But as I listened to Steve, it began to make more sense, this isn’t about controlling everything, it’s controlling what you can control. He gave the example of an Olympic high jumper he worked with ahead of the gold medal test, eyes of the world on you and the pressure mounting. In that time, the Olympian is taught to focus on three things, and three things only. There is so much out of our control and this is often what causes anxiety, focussing on things we can do nothing about. As someone with an anxiety disorder, in the midst of a panic attack it’s difficult to remember this and harder to believe it but it’s true. The Olympian can’t control the weather, the other Olympians, the noise in the stadium or what people will say and think. He can control his legs, the motion in his arms and leaning back. So in the moments before his go, he is taught to focus on these three things only, high knees, pump arms, lean back. High knees, pump arms, lean back. Very simple.

I reached out to Steve for advice for those with specific mental health issues, he responded naturally with a disclaimer, same as I put at the bottom of most posts, that he is not a mental health professional but could offer some words. He’s said that controlling your controllables has proved effective when he has worked with those with mental health issues. Choosing things very specific and achievable to focus on create an air of confidence and mean you are less likely to get distracted but also, keep it simple. Plus, it may help to create small goals each day that as you achieve them will help to build confidence.

I have found his work very helpful, for example, if I’m struggling, just remembering to breathe is enough, control your breathing, deep and slow it down. My goal each day is to drink 2.5 litres of water and to make my bed. Small, but the first ensures I’m looking after the body and mind, the second means no matter what, I have accomplished something each day. Small, specific and achievable.

Ultimately, having a mental health problem is like being the Olympian. We are both facing what appears to be an insurmountable challenge, we could spend our time worrying about what everyone else thinks, pressure building, worrying about the many different outcomes there could be, focussing on failing. Or, we can boil it down to something simple, three things we can do and do our best.

If you want to chat, feel free to reach out using the ‘Contact’ tab, however, I am not a mental health professional and if you’re looking for support then please see the information available on the ‘Support’ tab.

Mental Health and Running

I have several great loves of my life but one as a child I never thought I would have because I hated it, is running. I’ve mentioned it before, I run to keep myself skinny but I actually love it.

I started properly a few years ago when I hit 25 and all of a sudden jeans that fit easily were getting tight, hangovers got a lot worse and stairs became even more difficult. I tried zumba and cycling but it never stuck so I thought I’d give running a go. I downloaded the Couch to 5k app, went out with my old trainers, cotton t-shirt and shorts, ran for 30 seconds and honestly thought I would die. Over 10 weeks, my fitness slowly increased and at the end, like the app promised, I was able to run 5k without stopping, not very fast or at all well, but I could do it. Then, the addiction starts, I can run 5k, let’s try 10k and slowly but surely you are regularly running and begin to build up your wardobe so you own more exercise clothes than normal clothes.

As normal, I got bored of running by myself and sought out my local running club. I joined with arrogance thinking I could definitely run better than most. Turns out I was distinctly average however, there were now people like me, I was trying new routes, meeting new people and happily paying for something I can do for free. Three years later, I plan my life around running, regularly participate in races and my running friends are some of my best friends, plus the online running community are some of the most supportive people I’ve come across.

However, there is another reason I run, when I was in and out of the doctors for panic attacks about sleep aged 19, looking back it was OCD, but they ‘prescribed’ exercise. Again when I was going back on medication they recommended exercise and a few weeks later I was running.

Exercise is ‘prescribed’ for many reasons, the main one being endorphins, after a run, regardless of how it went, I’m always glad I went. Even if it’s just to get outside. It forces me to remember that there are good things in the world, it might be as simple as seeing an owl early evening or watching a lightening storm as you run in the rain. It’s beautiful. Secondly, it tires the body so that when we rest we are not restless and to knacker the body forces the mind to rest. Finally, it’s just generally good for you, as you force yourself to look after your body, the rest follows, I eat better and drink less to make sure the work I’m putting in is maintained.

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Looking happy with the world at Cambridge Town and Gown 10km

However, it’s difficult. My mind is constantly telling me I’m not good enough, can’t do things and should give up. This is also the antithesis of my naturally competitive nature. Sometimes when I’m in a good place, I can run happily for miles, I am the most dogged determined person so I will get a good run done. Other times when I’m feeling low, be it due to anxiety, an OCD breakdown or just a standard bad day then I’ll struggle, really struggle. I’ll stop, walk, beat myself up, even to the point when I’m crying because I can’t do it, shouldn’t do it, feel stupid for wanting to do something I am no good at. I run with a watch and my times/distances get uploaded and I’m stupid worried about people laughing and judging me for how slow I’m going or little I’m doing, so I go faster, longer, harder, then get injured and can do nothing! But on the other side, I also cannot give up, I’ve never been a quitter, never been able to give up which usually is a great trait but it means I don’t give myself a rest.

Running is about listening to your body and mind, mine so frequently tells me if I don’t go I’ll get fat and no one will like me, tells me if I don’t go, my running friends would lose interest in me, if I don’t go then I’ll get laughed at for not even being able to run, meaning if I’m struggling, I don’t listen, don’t give myself a break.

It’s ultimately a great love of mine, but something I struggle with like most things in life. Also, remember there may be many other runners and exercise addicts out there that also struggle and it’s something to be mindful of.

If you would like to chat, feel free to reach out in the ‘Contact’ tab, however, I am not a mental health professional and if you would like professional help, please see the ‘Support’ tab.