Battling OCD on all fronts

At the moment, my OCD isn’t too bad – or so I thought. I’m not particulary stressed at the moment and that’s normally a sign my OCD is going to escalate. However, yesterday I noticed that my hands are getting red and sore – a sure indicator that I’ve been washing my hands too often, so I stepped back and thought about my recent behaviour.

By doing this I realised that for at least some of the time, I carry out my rituals and compulsions subconsciously. They have become such an automatic response that I don’t even realise I’m doing them! That’s what it’s been like for the past week or two and why I’ve got red hands.

When I step back even further, I see myself snapping at people for doing things like walking in the ‘wrong’ place in my bedroom. Thinking about it, I wouldn’t normally have a problem with this, but with Christmas coming up, I like to do all my wrapping on the floor in my room – and I don’t want to sit where someone has walked. Obviously this doesn’t trouble anyone else, so they shouldn’t be expected to realise it, but I do get short tempered with them which later annoys me as I shouldn’t expect them to be mind readers. It’s been worse than usual at the moment because our very old cat is not really very well and has taken refuge under my bed, so my parents keep coming to look at her. I’ve just had a set to with my Dad who came in and walked in the exact place I’d just told my Mum I didn’t want anyone standing. I said ‘please can you not stand there, can you just move over?’ he asked ‘why?’ – but didn’t move. As he knows I have a problem, I was annoyed that he didn’t move first and then ask the question, by standing there longer, it just made me worse. I know the best thing for me is to confront the problem in my head, but sometimes it’s just too difficult.

I should remember back to the time when I used to walk round the house in outdoor shoes and lie on the floor and never got sick, but it’s very difficult. My mind just says ‘that was then, this is now. There are more dangers now then there were’ – which I know isn’t true!

I really thought I was fairly in control at the moment. I was aware I had begun to get up at night more often to check on the noises that worry me, so I’ve not been getting to sleep much before 2am which I know is dangerous for me – a tired mind is less able to combat my OCD. But whilst I was consiously fighting off these compulsions, the others were sneaking in the back door like a distraction burglar. It made me reaslise I have to be aware of all my OCD tendencies at the same time and fight them off from multiple fronts.

I was wondering – does this happen to anyone else? Think you have a grasp on one part of your OCD only to find another has hit you without you realising? It would be great to hear.

 

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Rumoured OCD sufferers

I’ve been surfing the net again looking for celebrities who suffer from mental health problems. As usual, I’m finding little success finding people with confirmed OCD. However, I thought I would compile a list of those I’ve seen rumoured to have it to see if anyone can confirm or deny.

David Beckham
Katy Perry
Charlize Theron
Leonardo DiCaprio
Cameron Diaz (I think she’s now said she doesn’t clean the doorknobs anymore, so not sure how real her OCD is)
Donald Trump
Alex Baldwin
Charlie Sheen
Jennifer Love Hewitt
Billy Bob Thornton
Woody Allen
Roseanne Barr
Justin Timberlake
Rose McGowan
Jane Horrocks
Martin Scorsese
Harrison Ford
Penelope Cruz
Megan Fox
Steven Gerrard
Jeremy Kyle
Tim Howard

If anyone can shed any light on the above (especially links confirming actual OCD), I’d love to be able to add those with this condition to this page as it’s looking a bit bare at the moment. From what I can find so far, I think a lot of them are referring to it in that ‘a little bit ocd’ way which we all know isn’t true OCD. Some are trivialising the condition as it sounds like they prefer things to be tidy and what goes through their heads when facing a ‘situation’ isn’t clear, or others who say ‘since I had the kids I didn’t have time for that rubbish’. However there are a few, like Megan Fox, who may have the genuine thing.

Thanks!

Is OCD real?

I’ve just read a forum thread about whether or not OCD is real (you can read it for yourself here). For those of us fighting the battle on a daily basis, or know someone who is, this is a ridiculous question. Of course OCD is real. I’ve been living with it for 10years and it really isn’t a whole lot of fun. I wish it was made up so that I could take the day off from it and do all the fun things that it stops me from doing!

I think some of the problem is that many people still insist on using all mental health phrases incorrectly.

“I’m a little bit depressed” for when someone is just a bit sad for genuine reasons

“They’re schizophrenic” for someone who can be nice one moment and angry the next

“I’m a little bit OCD” for when someone is extra tidy and likes things their way

These, and other such phrases, are the ones that are thrown around general society – I hear them all the time and it doesn’t help those of us with the real problems. The phrases trivialise the issues far too much and put us off from speaking out because we know we’ll be ridiculed and not taken seriously. They also lead to questions like ‘Is OCD real?’

One of my main issues with what this person has written is that he questions whether it is a made up condition from attention seekers who clog up doctors’ waiting rooms pretending to be ill. I can only speak from personal experience, but my OCD makes me hate the doctors and avoid going there as much as possible. Apart from my initial diagnosis I’ve hardly spent any time in the doctors about my OCD. I had to go to yearly appointments to check how I was getting on, but for the past 5years this has been a couple of minutes on the telephone. So I hardly think I’m clogging up his time. More people are taking his time up with colds that he can do nothing for. I have also never taken a day off sick because of my OCD (I know I’m lucky here and that lots of others have had to be signed off from work). I pay for my own prescriptions so I hardly think I’m a burden on society – to myself and my family yes, but not the general world.

I wish there was a way to make those who doubt OCD (and other mental illnesses) experience what it’s like living with one for a week. I think they would soon change their minds. As there’s no quick pill we can give them to induce the horrors, we have to turn to education. My OCD is a constant. Sometimes it has a snooze and I can get on with my life as best as I can, but it’s always there waiting to wake up and paralyse me with fear, my mind going round and round and round with anxiety. I’m jealous of all those around me living what I see as ‘normal lives’, wishing I could be the same.

Mental health needs to be taken seriously. We need to talk about it more and people need to learn the correct terminology. No one would ever say they’re hyperglycaemic when they’ve eaten way too much chocolate. We have to get to a position where they’re using mental health phrases properly too.

I do think mental health should be discussed at school. I’m not aware that it is – it certainly wasn’t in my school. It should also be discussed more openly in the workplace. I don’t mean that you have to stand on a chair one day and shout ‘I have OCD’ but there should be regular days set aside for mental health where someone can go up to a volunteer (could be someone with a mental health problem, knows someone with one, the occupational health officer) and ask questions. It should be encouraged – there could even be a pop quiz making people think more seriously. (We did this at work recently with environmental issues the business faces and people’s eyes were opened).

In the meantime those of us who know the truth, must stand together and support one another. One day attitudes will change. We just have to hold on until then.

Sick Days

I have OCD. I’ve had it for 10years this summer. For me it’s very much like a rollercoaster. Sometimes, it’s at a nice low level, so although I have to still do all my rituals, it’s manageable – particularly in my head. However, there are times when it spirals out of control. Most of the time there’s a specific trigger for this, but there are times when there isn’t and I put it down to stress or overtiredness. There are times when I’ve been up pretty much all night fretting, trying to fight off the compulsions, but inevitably dragging myself out of bed to perform them. I wake in the morning to go to work and I’m just so mentally and physically exhausted that I can’t face it. But to this day, I’ve never had a day off sick because of my OCD.
In a way I’m proud of this (and know I’m lucky), that I won’t let it beat me but in a way I wish I could just have the odd day off just to regroup. I know a lot of people at work take time off when they’re feeling under the weather – be it because they’ve eaten something or because they have a bit of a cold, or even a migraine. That’s perfectly accepted by them and by others. No one other than immediate family, a couple of medical practitioners and the occupational health advisor at work know about my OCD and at the moment it’s going to stay that way. It shouldn’t, but it does take bravery to open up about a mental health problem, and I’m just not there yet. Therefore I would end up lying about why I’ve been ill and that’s not going to work. I sit next to my housemate at work so she would know instantly whether or not I’d been coughing all night or throwing up. I’m not that good an actor that I can pull that sort of thing off just to take a day off to help me catch my breath during a particularly bad phase.
That’s why I think it’s so important to have days like World Mental Health Day, where mental health can come to the front for a bit and be spoken about. Education is the most important part of dealing with it. How mental health conditions are not someone’s choice, any more than it would be for them to choose to have epilepsy or asthma. How it can turn someone’s life upside down. My life would be so much easier if I could choose not to have OCD. I would be able to go out with friends without constantly checking the cutlery at dinner or the glasses in the pub. I would be able to sit on a train without my anxiety levels soaring. I would be able to go to the park and sit on the grass and I might even be able to walk about bare foot again. I wouldn’t be up half the night worrying about whether I’ve checked doors and windows and whether my family are okay. I wouldn’t dread going to bed because of the thoughts that will wash over me and I wouldn’t hate going on a holiday. If I could choose not to have had OCD and all these worries about ‘what’s out there to get me’ then I would. Now I’ve had those thoughts though, I know the ‘dangers’ and I can never go back. OCD is all about the ‘what ifs’ and they play in my mind like a broken record. All I can hope is that I can manage my OCD through relaxation, meditation, distraction and medication. I’m much more aware of it now and that it is the OCD causing me a problem and that I can fight it. Social media has helped me learn I’m not alone and together we can fight this. If you’ve got OCD I urge you to talk about it with someone who understands – even if, like me, you do it anonymously. It really does help.

World Mental Health Day

It’s odd looking round the office this morning – everyone’s acting ‘normally’, however with the statistics and the numbers in the office, it’s more than likely that someone (other than me) has a mental health problem &/or has a relative with one too. Yet, there is no sign or mention of World Mental Health Day – or even any mental health issues at all. Anyone out there with a condition is keeping it tightly to themselves (like me). I don’t expect people to be running around shouting ‘I have OCD, I have Depression, I have GAD’ or anything, but I certainly know all about it if they’ve got a cold.

That’s why days such as this are so important. Too long has mental health been misunderstood, feared and swept into the shadows. It needs a voice and organisations such as Mind UK and Time to Change are campaigning to get this voice, but it’s a slow process. People need to be educated about mental health conditions – either because they’re going to run into someone with one, a friend, relative, employer/employee or they’re going to be one of the ¼ and suffer from one themselves. What we need to do it to make mental health conditions acceptable, so that people aren’t scared or embarrassed about going to the doctor for help; that they see it just as they would see going to a doctor for a chest infection or sprained ankle.

It’s the 21st Century yet the preconceptions surrounding mental illness – that Depression is just being a bit blue, that OCD is being a little bit tidy – are still common place.

Therefore I urge everyone who can, to speak out, to share their story, to educate. You don’t need to do this face to face, it can be anonymous if you like. Although I know I should speak out to my close friends and my manager, particularly so I get help when times are tough, but I just can’t do it yet. Their understanding of mental health is shockingly poor (even for the one who did Psychology 20years ago), despite me trying to explain things when they come up in conversation. That’s why I started this blog – so I can share and educate both those with OCD and those without.

I hope you can find the strength too and take that step.

I Hope You Dance

I love dancing. I always have – loved going to the ballet as a child each Christmas rather than the panto. I love the old singing and dancing films out of Hollywood and I always wanted to learn some kind of dance. I was in my 20s before the opportunity came along. I’ve now been going for over 10years on and off. I’m not brilliant – but that’s not the point. It’s exercise, I’ve made friends and it’s a good laugh. All of these things can help me when I’m going through a bad patch & they make the good patches even better.

I’ve known this song for years but going back to my dance class last night reminded me of it. I thought I would share it with everyone as I think the lyrics are really inspiring and I find them brilliant in getting my mind back in a good place. I also believe in the sentiments – when you have the opportunity – dance. Whether you’re good or not, dance like there’s no one watching you and you’ll feel better.

I hope you never lose your sense of wonder
You get your fill to eat but always keep that hunger
May you never take one single breath for granted
God forbid love ever leaves you empty handed
I hope you still feel small when you stand beside the ocean
Whenever one door closes I hope one more opens
Promise me that you’ll give fate a fighting chance
And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance

I hope you dance
I hope you dance

I hope you never fear those mountains in the distance
Never settle for the path of least resistance
Living might mean taking chances but they’re worth taking
Lovin’ might be a mistake but it’s worth making
Don’t let some hell bent heart leave you bitter
When you come close to selling out reconsider
Give your heavens above more than just a passing glance
And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance

I hope you dance (Time is a wheel in constant motion always)
I hope you dance (Rolling us along)
I hope you dance (Tell me who wants to look back on their years and wonder)
I hope you dance (Where those years have gone)

And for those of you who haven’t heard this song before – here it is performed by one of my favourites (even a little cheesy, he’s got me through some rough times).

Enjoy x

 

Can you think too much about OCD?

Okay, I’m back. It’s been a while – for many reasons. It’s difficult to blog at work because I don’t want people seeing what I’m writing and I can’t do it when I’m at my housemate’s because there I’ve only got my ipod and writing a blog post on that is ridiculously time consuming and frustrating.

I also began to wonder whether giving a lot of mental thought and attention to my OCD was counterproductive as it had become one of the few things that I was thining about – and to be honest OCD / mental health problems take up enough time as it is. So I thought that I would give it a break and see if I thought about OCD any less, and whether this was a good thing or just sweeping it under the carpet.

To be honest I’m still not sure. I think to some extent I have thought less about my OCD but I haven’t been giving in to every single one of my compulsions – at least not without some conscious thought. Since I’ve given my OCD the time and thought I’ve also been able to tackle it and face it head on a lot more.

Before I started my blog and twitter I kind of accepted I had OCD and just learnt to deal with what it threw at me. Since confronting it I’ve been able to see it better for what it is, that it is the OCD that is causing me problems and that I am able to fight it. Being able to label certain things as my OCD rather than ‘reality’ has made a difference to how I think about it and how I go about my daily life, trying not to give in to everything. I still do a lot of my compulsions, but I’m more conscious about what they are and why I’m doing them. Hopefully this will mean over time that I can challenge them and overcome some of them at least.

I’ve also been able to discuss it more openly with my parents, particularly my Dad which has made some circumstances a lot easier to deal with. Before the blog I didn’t even really think about my OCD myself, or do much research – just going over what I studied at university.

However, at the same time, I do think I was almost become obsessed (shock horror) with thinking about the condition so much, about what I was going to blog about, what I was going to read next, what I was going to try – so I think the break was also helpful.

In conclusion, I think it’s a question of balance. I don’t think ignoring my OCD (or any other mental health condition) is a good thing, but nor do I think giving it 100% attention is very healthy either. It’s now up to me to find that sensible balance. Perhaps a weekly summary of how I have found the week – what have been my high points and victories, and what I have found difficult. I can then also include ‘special posts’ if anything specific comes up or I want to discuss.

It would be interesting to hear from other people whether they’ve found opening up so much a good thing or a bad thing.

Let me know.

This week’s battle with & tiny victory over OCD

I realise I’ve neglected Twitter and my blog over the past week or so. Part of this has been because I’ve had family staying but the bulk of it is to do with my OCD.

Last Thursday I went to the dentist and was told I needed one of my wisdom teeth out. This was a big blow – not because I particularly need it, but because of the repercussions. I had to have 2 wisdom teeth out at hospital once and it was not a very nice experience at all and there was a threat of having to go in again. This sent my anxiety levels soaring. I also have a major issue with sterile conditions – ie I have major doubts. Even going to the dentist had stressed me out so much that I had already increased my medication to prepare for the onslaught of bad thoughts & obsessions.

Having the family over generally helped – they kept me distracted most of the time. Saturday wasn’t brilliant – everything the kids did added to my spiral as I mentioned in my last post. My pills make me more sleepy so I was trying to make sure I went to bed on time (ie by 12.30) and I was having a few lie ins. I know everyone else was thinking I was being lazy but I didn’t care – I knew I needed that sleep.

Tuesday and the day of the dentist came. I’d never been to this dentist before. In fact I hadn’t been to Thursday’s dentist before either, but his wife who has left to have a baby. But my Mum goes to him and is a nervous wreck at dentists and rates him highly. I don’t hate dentists as such. In fact as a child I loved going and never minded if I needed treatment or even extractions. It was the experience in the hospital and my OCD worries about cleanliness that have made me hate going so much. I admit I was better than usual. I didn’t shake in the chair as much as I was expecting and was told that was likely to be the adrenalin in the anaesthetic. I was comforted by the fact I could hear packets being opened before tools were used. I’m always in a quandry do I try and ignore things in the belief ignorance is bliss, or do I try and see everything to remove as much doubt as possible?

But with OCD there is always doubt. And there is this time. I carried on taking my full dose of medication rather than the half dose that I’m normally on. My pills help me stop thinking. I think that’s the point – they stop the bad thoughts and generally the limited time I’ve been on the full dose has helped. However, the amount of thinking space that’s been taken up by trying to not think about the bad things, plus the amount that has been quietened by my OCD medications, plus the strong painkillers I’m on because of my tooth – hasn’t left much space for much else! That’s why I’ve been so quiet. I haven’t had room in my brain to think about good blog subjects or to keep up on Twitter.

I’ve now reduced my medication again and although there is always a few days lag time (depending on how long I’ve been on full dose for) I feel like I’m waking up again. So, hopefully I should be a little bit more present in the weeks coming.

I don’t know whether it was because of the increase in OCD medication or just trying to copy what my friends do and be more relaxed in the house I share with my friend, but yesterday we had a group of friends over. It was a happy occasion – celebrating one of my friends going off on maternity leave. Unlike the last time we had a party at the house I didn’t freak out this time. It may have been that it was more confined and there was less of them – plus I knew everyone there, but I coped so much better. I didn’t mind they were sitting on the part of the sofa I normally sit on, I didn’t mind they had their handbags on the chairs, I didn’t mind them having their shoes on and I didn’t mind eating the crisps from the bowls the packets had been in. The only time I really had a ‘moment’ was when a friend put one of my cookbooks on the floor. As I’m loaning it out to my housemate I’m sure similar things will happen again and again, but as long as I don’t see it, it doesn’t bother me so much. It was only a small victory but a victory none the less. The week that started with quite major OCD issues ended up with me having a small triumph over it!

Keeping it from the kids

I’ve had a week off work as holiday. It’s been marvellous – lots of Olympics and a few lie ins. We’ve had family staying too. My sister and her 3 boys. They’re great kids really and my sister has some similar ‘rules’ that I do. ie the children have to take their shoes off when they come into the house and wash their hands.

However, the boys, being boys & children, don’t always do what they’re told. They forget to wash their hands, they crawl all over the floor where their shoes have been – they set off my OCD. When we’re out they’re often picking up things I wouldn’t, again they touch floors in shops, collect random things from paths in woods, lie all over various things we come across on day trips – be it chairs, tables, shop displays, country house furniture. All the time red alert lights are flashing in my mind as I desperately resist the urge to shout at them not to do it. Sometimes I can’t help it. Sometimes it’s more valid than others – there are some things they shouldn’t touch when we’re out, but not for the reasons my mind is screaming. So, somethings I can get away with. But I can’t get away with everything. This means my stress levels sore & I don’t cope with my OCD very well when I’m stressed – it’s a negative spiral.

Being 6, 6 & 10 the boys don’t understand about OCD. They know there are a few things ‘Aunty’ doesn’t like, but although educating youngsters about mental health is important, I don’t want to force too much onto their brains just yet. The oldest in particular is already showing some signs of obsessive behaviour – he likes to wash his hands a lot – so I don’t want to make things worse. I’m hoping this is just a phase and he’ll grow out of it. He doesn’t seem to be exhibiting any of the instrusive or bad thoughts yet so I don’t want to give him ideas.

One of them is currently counting coins on the floor. I hate handling all kinds of money – I just see it as covered in germs. It is stressing me out considerably. Most of the coins probably haven’t been out of the house for several weeks but that doesn’t matter. It doesn’t help much that he’s counting it in amongst the shoes – one of my other real hates.

The only way I can really handle things is to take myself out of the situation completely. I feel quite antisocial sometimes, or like I’m sherking my responsibility of looking after the kids – but at times it’s that or me shouting at the kids over something no one else has an issue about, or having a complete meltdown myself. At the moment I’m already struggling a little bit, and have decided to up by medication slightly for a few days – because I’ve got to have a tooth out at the dentists in a few days (I’m highly worried and anxious over the cleanliness of the instruments) – so I’m trying to get back onto an even keel. Sadly the boys right now aren’t helping. I have taken myself off to my own room and am trying to distract and calm myself.

It’s so difficult trying not to display too many OCD behaviours in front of children. We don’t know if it’s genetic or learned or even a combination. Whichever it is, I think they’re a bit young to be exposed to it at the moment, I don’t want them picking up by bad behaviour (and they do copy me quite a bit) and it’s not their fault they’re doing things I don’t like. There’s nothing wrong with most of what they do, and if there is, they get into trouble. I hate losing my temper with them because of the OCD but I do find myself doing that from time to time.

Have you had a similar situation when you’ve tried to keep your OCD (or other mental health issue) from young children? How have you coped?

Results – Mental Health in Families Poll

A couple of weeks ago I blogged about my interest in the nature vs nuture debate in mental health issues and I set up a very unscientific poll to try and do a spot test to see if people on Twitter and in the blog world, had relatives with mental health issues. The results are now in:

Almost 75% of those who responded who have a mental health condition also have at least 1 other member of their family with a mental health condition. In face 60% of them have more than 1 relative with an issue.

This does seem to suggest there is some family link and this could, of course, be genetic. However, it is also possible to be learned behaviour so I asked the second question – ‘is the mental health condition the same or different as yours?’

The results for this question were much more even:

33% = same as theirs

37% = had members of the family with both the same and different conditions

30% = different condition

This suggests to me that whilst some mental health condition behaviours can and might be learned, that this is not always the case. With one-third of people having a relative with a different mental health condition you could ask how is their condition learned? However, you can also ask where did the genes come from? With mental health being so little talked about, I do wonder if we know all there is to know about mental health in our own families.

I’m a firm believer that you can’t take either nature or nurture on their own. I do believe there is an important mixture that plays a part. However I will leave you with this puzzler:

I know a family that had identical twin boys. They had exactly the same genes and exactly the same upbringing. In their 20s one was diagnosed with schizophrenia and 20 years later committed suicide, whereas the other brother never had any form of mental health issue. It would seem here there is no nature or nuture involved. Perhaps just an anomaly? What do you think?