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.

A week in the making.

Well, what a difference a week makes.

I’m in no way better, in fact I feel generally more anxious than I was last week about everything but I’m making steps.

I have a therapy session next week, am doing a little CBT each day, back on the medication and focussing on feeling more positive each day. Even started meditation! It’s quite relaxing, just need to keep it up and fit it all in.

I seem to have found the reason, or at least the theme to my anxiety. The things I get really anxious about are all things I can control, exercise, food, work. I can control how much I exercise, what I eat and how much I work. Problem is, it becomes something I have to do and don’t enjoy it. Now, I say ‘have to’ with a pinch of salt, I get that we have to work and exercise but I mean I actually cannot stop. The moment I stop, I panic and I’m not giving myself a break which is only going to put me in hospital.

The reason I’m doing it, I have so little control over the OCD that I think I’m trying to find something I can control, something I can manage. Life unfortunately doesn’t work like that and whilst I can control all of this, I’m not happy, I’m not enjoying life and I’m not facing it. I’ve written it down to cover it off with the therapist next week, my need to be in control and being responsible so hopefully we can get somewhere.

I’m 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.

And so it begins.

As expected, doing the OCD presentation a couple of weeks ago brought up all kinds of feelings and I entered last week just feeling anxious.

Every day, anxious about something and it was the urgent kind of anxiety. If we don’t do the washing now the world will go to shit kind of anxiety. It also messed with my sleep, I’m used to not being very good at sleep but it’s fair to say I’ve not handled it properly. Like my OCD symptoms, I’ve bumbled through them, crying through the bad days hoping to hell it’s only short.

I usually manage my sleep, if I need to get up early with herbal sleeping tablets and if I can get away with it, a large gin. Now usually it’s not enough gin that I’m passing out drunk, it’s more of a extra large measure enough to take the edge off and allow some calm in my mind. I’m almost certain it acts as a placebo as I can usually sleep about 10 minutes after the gin sans juice meaning it’s unlikely to have actually done anything at all but I feel better for it.

That is until the morning, when I wake utterly despondent I’m unable to sleep normally like the snoring Gary next to me. Why can’t I sleep like everyone else? Why do I have to be different? Ordinarily, that night I won’t have to wake early the next day and I go back to normal, however not this time. Not because I had to be up early, but because I’m ready to tackle this.

I resolved, contacted OCD Action for support, contacted a therapist and started reading a CBT book and actually started doing a bit of CBT each day.

We’ve ran into a problem mind, therapy, they don’t exactly fit the schedule. I work Monday to Friday normally 9-5 depending on where I’m travelling to and so do therapists. I found one that works Tuesday night, exactly the time I have running club which helps body and mind for me so I’m in a bind. They also cost a fricking fortune, I want to go private as I’ve not had great experiences with the NHS near me and the current wait time is about 6 months. But they’re charging on average £80 an hour! £80! Now I get it, I should look at this as a long term investment, small injection of cash now and long term health, forever. But seriously, no wonder we have a mental health problem in this country, most people don’t have that kind of money, £320 a month! That’s nearly half my mortgage. It hurt that private treatment is restricted to the wealthy. The problem is that they’re in short supply, there was a list of perhaps 2 or 3 CBT therapists within a half hour drive of my house. If I lived in central Cambridge the number ups to 10-12. That’s not many really, in Ely there are about 25,000 people meaning about 6,000 people will have some form of mental health problem annually and 3 private therapists and I looked, no NHS therapists. Disgraceful. I’m now looking into ‘virtual’ therapy, see if that helps. If those with mental health problems find the strength to seek help, there bloody well should be help available.

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

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.

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.

Exposure

So I believe I have mentioned exposure before, it’s a technique taught in cognitive behavioural therapy and essentially means facing your fears. OCD is an anxiety disorder centred around thoughts that something bad may happen and then using compulsions to either avoid or attempt to stop it coming true.

Exposure looks at saying screw that, hear that thought, do it. Not do it in the very literal sense, that would be disastrous but let’s not do your compulsions and see what happens. I had my chance at exposure this week.

As you’ll know, a lot of my thoughts are based on paedophilia and violence. Now I’ve been off work and in a fit of positivity I texted my sister-in-law and asked if I could babysit my niece, cue the yes response, the second of excitement and the crashing reality of OCD. Paedophile, molester, danger. Cue the tears, the fear and the dread about the day. I wanted to cancel but my sister-in-law had changed plans so I could have her so it was awkward of me to change, I had to deal with it. A week between asking and babysitting. I was anxious, stressed, and very flippant with Gary, I actually stopped talking to him at one point because my head was a mess. I then started OCD behaviour and looked for something to do, to keep us busy and around people which looking back I shouldn’t have done but still, I contacted a friend and agreed to have a playdate for a few hours. The day rolled around and after a night of visions and fear, I was scared but knee I needed to get through the day. I pick up my niece, needed to change her which was what terrified me the most and generally felt on edge. I took her to mine and slowly the anxiety began to subside as I was facing my fear of being with her, so OCD kicks it up. We have cats, 2 of them, they haven’t had a huge amount of exposure to kids and my niece is 1 and naturally heavy handed, she pets the cats harder than they are accustomed, they take it as playtime and start to play claws out. I hit them both on the noses, not hard, but enough to say stop. One took the warning, one took it as playtime and was promptly removed from the area. Then my head is filled with animal abuser, you’re going to snap and kill one, they’re gping to run away, cat killer. I was like for f*cks sake, this isn’t fair, I’m protecting my niece, she doesn’t understand her heavy handiness and cats don’t understand all humans are not to be played with. OCD had me in a corner, I was everything that day, I so nearly cried as I hugged my cats tight promising I loved them and hugged my niece tighter promising to always protect her.

The day was tough, exposure is needed, I needed to spend time alone with my niece and make her laugh, look after her, show myself I could do it and OCD backed me into another corner which I’ll expose another day. It’s hard, but it’s the only true way to recovery, taking the power from OCD and back in my hands. I’m sorry my little niece that you have been exposure, but I love you, I wouldn’t hurt you and I hope if you ever need me, then I will be there, plus we had a lovely day.

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

Podcasts

Again with my radio silence, I’ve been enjoying a work and blog free week, one more week off work then it’s back to the grind!

Now I don’t know about you, but when I’m running, commuting and pottering around. I listen to a variety, ‘Guys We Fucked’ which is about female sexual confidence or anti-slut shaming. It’s two unapologetic American comedians chatting to a variety of people, be it men they’ve slept with, those on the LGBTQ spectrum, other comedians or someone else and it’s a dose of reality mixed with comedy. Other podcasts include ‘Mad World’ by Bryony Gordon which is a mental health podcast and more recently ‘GriefCast’ by Cariad Lloyd to discuss grief.

Podcasts are great, they’re essentially putting you as a fly on a wall of an intimate conversation between a couple of people. I’ve laughed, cried, learnt, been shook, disgusted and awestruck. The most important thing being, it’s all real, it’s not a piece of fiction. These are real people, having real conversations and I love it. I get lost in them.

I get lost in books, but they’re to escape the real world, I can get lost in music, but the rhythm moves the body and soul. Podcasts have a way of moving my very being.

So the point, other than to turn everyone on to podcasts, is that I’m on one! My half-sisters cousin (tangible!) Is starting a podcast for people to discuss what they’re passionate about and for episode one, he picked me! I’m passionate about, shock, OCD. It’s alot of who I am and I know alot about it over my many years of having it so yea, I can talk about it for a while. It was also, cheekily, great exposure for me. I don’t usually talk, physically, about my OCD, I like to hide behind a screen but there I was in front of a person laying it all bare for the lovely public to listen to. I haven’t listened to the episode and I don’t think I will as I hate the sound of my own voice but I’m glad I did it.

Arrogantly, I felt important to be picked, happy that the work I’m putting in to removing the stigma around OCD is being recognised and hopefully beginning to make a difference. It was a great experience, being sat in a garage surrounded by gym equipment with two microphones and a laptop! Would highly recommend it if you get the chance, otherwise take a listen to some podcasts, they’re definitely worth it.

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 some of the links available on the ‘Support’ tab.

The good in the world

So often we look around and everything you see is bad. Natural disasters, terrorist attacks, violence, hate and crime.

It seems like the world is spiralling towards our own apocalypse where we destroy ourselves but this week out of a shitty incident, I’m reminded there is good in the world.

There seems to be a flurry of stories on Facebook at the moment with animal cruelty. I just don’t understand, I’ve always been an animal lover and I can see myself soon becoming a vegetarian as I reconcile the meat with the animal more as an adult and as a kitten mother. Pictures flood Facebook of tiny, defenceless kittens and puppies used as bait for fights, starved and beaten animals at the hands of someone I can’t describe as human. The desire and the buzz from hurting something weaker astounds me.

The reason for my post is that with an OCD brain I’m incredibly pessimistic and I look for the bad in the world so that when the light comes along, I’m blinded. When a good deed, even if it’s comes from something bad, makes me feel positive.

The story, out with my running club last night on a rural route, we spot 4 men hare coursing in a field, which is catching and harming hares with a starved dog. The men then set fire to the presumably stolen vehicle they used to get into this field and in the process start a couple of fires in the field of the unknown farmer.

We could have done nothing, criminals tend to have a nothing to lose attitude and react with violence. We could have gone on our merry way. Instead, we alerted the police, the fire brigade, the farmer and blocked the main exits to the field ensuring the men were diverted across the boggy field delaying their exit.

Now, it’s no heroism, we didn’t save lives or achieve anything great but we showed the criminals that good stands in their way. We wordlessly stood together to achieve the right thing, the right outcome.

I doubt we’ve moved them away from the path they’ve chosen but at least disrupted them.

It was heartwarming to see that there are good people in the world and a fair few of us. We get all consumed in the bad, the negative and the wrong, yet I remind you, there is good. There are people who will stand for the right thing, stand for the good in the world.

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