Presentation

Well I did my presentation and I think it went ok! I’ve never spoken that openly about OCD before, essentially told a group of strangers my fears around being a paedophile. It was daunting and I did tear up, need to sit down and just read my notes for a bit to get through it but it’s done.

Afterwards people came up to me to thank me, congratulate me and tell me their stories. One has very similar fears, several were concerned for their children as they could see things happening that we adults hide so well. They sought me out for reassurance wanting to feel better. I got asked if I felt better for being diagnosed. Yes I did, for a moment as it meant I wasn’t a dangerous person just an ill one, then reality hits of being mentally ill and the burden that goes along with that, the stigma people would now place on me. They sought me out for diagnosis, I do this, does this mean I actually have OCD? Sorry but I have no idea, I’m not a doctor and I’m not going to advise you.

I received several thanks, calls that I was brave and even a hug. I did feel immensely proud of myself after I had done it, something I have kept silent for so long up there for all to see. Stood in front of people telling them my ultimate flaw, open entirely to their judgement, I was so completely vulnerable but yet I wasn’t scared. Nervous yes as public speaking is horrendous but scared of what they would think, no. There was no need, I’m already my greatest critic and think the worst of myself that it doesn’t matter what a stranger thinks of me. I’d purposefully told friends not to go, I didn’t want their judgement, their eyes on me as I said these words, couldn’t handle it. Gary was there, of course he was, he always is and it didn’t bother me. There’s nothing I would have said up there that was new to him and I know he loves me in spite of it all.

It left me exhausted, like a therapy, an intense exposure session I felt lighter yet shattered. I lay on the sofa all afternoon and dozed, I was drained. Now a few days on, it’s a distant memory, confined to the corners of my mind. It’s not something I would want to do again but it’s certainly something I’m glad I did.

I’m not a mental health professional and if you would like this support please see the ‘Support’ tab but if you want to talk, I’m happy for you to reach out via the ‘Contact’ 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.

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.

Still proud

We’re out of the World Cup, to be honest I only watched one game and that’s because it was Father’s Day and my dad had it on, I have however had the John Barnes rap in my head for 2 weeks straight, think I know it by heart now.

I’ve never liked watching football, I used to play as a kid and was quite good, even trained with Cambridge United for a while under a coach called Jesus, but the interest died out as I got older. To me it’s just a game, something kids do at the park and middle aged dads do on a Tuesday before several drinks in the pub that they’ve definitely not earnt.

I dislike the culture, the lad, lad, lad culture. I dislike and yes I’m stereotyping, the drunken idiots on Saturday who chant obscenities with little regard for who is around. I also hate, absolutely hate how much professional players are paid. I appreciate the supply and demand culture, companies sponsor them due to a large audience but they don’t deserve it, this goes across the board for all athletes I must say but footballers seem to be paid the most. You should not earn nearly £2 a second for kicking a ball, it’s absolutely absurd which is why I will not support it. They do give money to charity, but this is mandated and I’m not sure all of the English team would unless they had to because to be honest, and this is a limited impression, but they don’t seem to come across as nice people.

However, all that being said, it has been a very united few weeks. Regardless of whether you like football or not, it’s been undeniable that most of the country has got behind them and supported them. The country is generally speaking, in the shit, everywhere you turn there is hate, even today as the orange one descends on the UK there will be protests of hate, pride month was ruined by anti-trans protesters spouting hate. You could post a picture of a kitten, a puppy and a baby and someone would have something negative to say, probably, who is the irresponsible parent who let such wild animals near a defenseless baby?

It’s generally assumed the UK is disliked by most of the world and we don’t even like ourselves. But for the last few weeks, we’ve been proud, felt hopeful, excited and it’s difficult not to be swept up in it all. It’s been great to see something we all have in common, be displayed on the world stage. We usually go out early but this young team was able to go above our expectations and create a real air of celebration.

In the aftermath of the defeat, the atmosphere here is not one of regret or loss. But pride and gratitude. We’re proud we had something positive to discuss for a few weeks, a distraction from the grit of life, to the England team we don’t beat you down. We stand with you, thankful.

Plus, it just goes to show that even with the world against you and your own side lacking in belief, we can achieve more than we expected. Our history does not define us, it gives us reason to keep fighting.