Where have all the pyjamas gone?

I’d like to tell you a story. I spent last week on a training course to learn to teach mindfulness.
I was staying in a nice residential training centre. I’d paid a bit extra for a nice room with an en-suite bathroom. I was feeling suitably pleased with myself as I pottered around my room that evening in my pyjamas. I sat on the edge of my bed to send a text message to let people know I’d arrived and that I’d be turning my phone off from that point on. Whilst I was sitting there I noticed a stain. A red stain. BLOOD shrieked my brain. SOMEONE ELSE’S BLOOD it shrieked even louder. My heart started to pound and I could feel myself getting warm and then I became paralysed with indecision about what to do. I stood in the middle of the room like a deer in headlights trying to work out what the next best step might be (because well, you know, all good decisions are made like that)

I paced for a while, I probably muttered to myself a little bit. The sensible part of my mind that has been through CBT and ERP told me to just keep the pyjamas on and go to bed. The not so sensible part of me was already taking them off and convincing myself I’d never liked them much anyway. I walked down several avenues of thought. I could take them home and wash them on an extra hot wash. Nope not immediate enough, they would sit in my bag for a week festering away and just making the room dirty with their presence. I could throw them in the bin (that one was pretty high on my list if I’m honest) and so the thoughts went round. I thought I might text someone just for a little bit of reassurance. It couldn’t hurt my OCD brain wheedled, I’d be able to go to bed quicker that way and it wouldn’t ruin the course (yes I was already convinced that the course had been ruined by this point).
Then I caught myself. I could see I was stuck in a loop and I wasn’t getting anywhere far. So I struck a deal with myself. I wouldn’t throw the pyjamas away but I would rinse them out in the sink and force myself to wear them the next night and so that is what I did. Did it make sense? Nope not at all, I knew rationally that I wasn’t really making them any cleaner by washing them in a hotel sink but where there’s OCD there’s no logic. Was it ideal? No, not really. In an ideal world I probably should have rubbed the pyjama bottoms all over my face or some such business, all in the name of exposure.

So why am I telling this story? To show that even when you’ve been through recovery and months of CBT/ERP old fears can leap up and bite you on the arse (in this case it was a stain that bit me on the arse). Also to show that sometimes we don’t get it exactly right. I compromised on my compulsions and it was what I needed to do in that moment. I wore them for the rest of the week, it’s OK to not always get it 100% right.

I also thought I’d write it to show that there is no logic to OCD. Exactly a week later I left the course, went shopping in a charity shop and bought a really nice second hand skirt. I have no idea where it’s been or who it belonged to but I’m happy to own it. I will wash it of course but contamination? what contamination?

Emily xx

For more OCD related pyjama stories please check out Angie’s post here!

Liebster Award!

I’ve not been able to access my blog that much lately due to some internet issues and busy home life so I was so excited to log back in and see that I’d been nominated for the Liebster Award (not just once but twice!). Thank you to the lovely Angie over at the wonderful OCDinthefamily blog, she always takes the time to read and comment on my posts for which I am always grateful. My other thanks goes to the brilliant Ellen who writes over at Ellen’s OCD blog. Ellen inspires me so much, not only because she’s just 15 (I know!) but because she shares her recovery with others and writes about it so well. She’s also just made an amazing video to highlight that people with OCD are so much more than their illness. Please head over to both blogs and check them out 🙂 If I could I would nominate them both for the Liebster aware but as they’ve already been nominated I’ll just have to satisfy myself with saying a massive thank you 🙂

So without much further ado, here is my contribution to the Liebster Award. 

liebster-award31

Before I go on too far, I have the responsibility to post the Liebster Award Unofficial Rules.

The Unofficial Rules For The Liebster Award

1.  Thank the person who nominated you and post a link to their blog.  As I’ve mentioned both Angie and Ellen have nominated me for this award and I’d like to thank them both 🙂 As they’ve both given me a list of questions to answer and people might be a bit tired of me if I answer them all, I’ll answer Angie’s as they were the first ones I received. 

2.  Display the award on your blog!  I’m going to create a separate award tab I think so this will be done shortly!

3.  Answer 11 questions about yourself, provided by the blogger who nominated you.  See below.

4.  Provide 11 random facts about yourself.  Again, see below.

5.  Nominate 11 blogs with less than 200 followers that you feel deserve the award. I’ll post a list below. 

6.  Create a new list of questions for your nominees.  OK, I’ve got my thinking cap on!

7.  Post these rules on your blog.  Done!

8.  Tag your nominees and let them know with a link to your post. I think I’ve done this, I hope so!

Answers to Angie’s questions

1.  What prompted you to start blogging? When my OCD and anxiety flared up and I deteriorated fairly rapidly I couldn’t make sense of what was happening (I’d never had a diagnosis of OCD up to this point even though I’d had it since I was 14). I spent a lot of time on the internet trying to find a solution to the way I was feeling and I came across lots of blogs. When I was on the internet it was the one time I didn’t feel overwhelmingly anxious (I guess because my brain was engaged in something else!) and so I decided I would do my own blog! It helped me feel less isolated, I never even really thought that people would read it but as time has gone on I hope now that other people find it helpful. 

2.  Do you have a favorite post you’ve written (and, if so, link us to it)? Ooh this is a difficult one. The post I’m proudest of is the I’m sooooo (paedophile) OCD post because it was the hardest one for me to write. I had a panic attack for the best part of that night and the following day after I’d published it but I pushed through, kept it up on the blog and now it’s the most read post (and most commented on!). 

3.  If there was one thing that you could change in your past, what would it be? Not sharing my OCD thoughts when I was a teenager. I kept them to myself because I truly thought they made me an awful person and as a result I ended up only starting treatment when I was 29. If one person reads this blog and shares their worries and gets treatment then it will have been totally worth it. 

4.  What is the one “takeaway” you’d like readers to get from reading your blog? That OCD and anxiety is treatable! 

5.  Share a funny moment. I was on the London underground and my skirt came undone, fell around my ankles leaving me standing there in fairly sheer tights! 

6.  Who, or what, inspires you? The OCD community that I’ve met through blogs and twitter inspire me on a daily basis. 

7.  If a movie were made about your blog, who would star in it? Oh wow that’s tough! Can I star in it, I’ve always fancied a go at acting! 

8.  Dark or milk chocolate? Dark chocolate on fruit, milk chocolate on biscuits 🙂

9.  If you spent a week in outer space, what would you take with you? My camera (copying Ellen’s answer!) but seriously that would be a dream come true and I’d want to take photos of it!

10.  What’s your favorite non-blogging hobby? I love playing my guitar, yoga/pilates, meditation and travelling!

11.  A long lost aunt leaves you a large sum of money.  What do you do with it? I would pay for myself to have some guitar lessons from a guitar legend so that I could become amazing on the guitar. I’d quit my job for a while and travel, maybe volunteer abroad. I’d give some money to my family too. 

Great questions Angie, thanks!

OK 11 random facts about me

* I’m left handed
* But apart from writing with my left hand I do most stuff with my right hand
* Including the UK I have lived in at least 4 different countries in the world
* I love Marmite
* My favourite word is “vicariously”
* When I was growing up we didn’t have a TV 
* I have never seen Monty Python (everyone seems to think this is v weird, though may be a UK thing!)
* I was once in an advert on TV (though you couldn’t tell it was me!)
* I get sunburnt easily
* I bought a car on Ebay once
* I’d like to write a novel one day. 

The blogs I’d like to nominate are:

 

OCDtalk – Janet writes a wonderful, informative blog about OCD. Her son has recovered from severe OCD and her blog is brilliant for providing useful posts with a personal touch. 

herlifewithanxiety – I found this blog in my early days of suffering from anxiety and it was eye opening to realise that someone else experienced some of my thoughts and feelings. Thank you for your words!

I don’t shake hands – I love Jenna’s writing, her capturing of the dark absurdity of OCD often has me laughing out loud, I just wish she’d write more regularly, as I’d definitely read them! 

Anxietyingeneral – Lisa writes about GAD something that I suffer from too and I’ve always found her posts so uplifting and heart warming. 

Obsessively Compulsively Yours – Lottie writes a great OCD blog which I’ve always really enjoyed (again another one I came across when I was initially doing all my internet hunting!). She was also kind enough to feature one of my posts. Go check her out! 

OK there are so many more blogs but it’s time consuming featuring them all so I’m going to leave you with this lovely bunch. 

My questions to my nominated bloggers are: 

1) What is the hardest thing you find about blogging?

2) If you could have a super power what would it be?

3) If you were stuck on a desert island who would you like to be with?

4) Name a talent that you have

5) Do people in your life know that you blog?

6) If you could do any career what would it be?

7) What cause/charity do you feel passionate about?

8) What is your pet peeve?

9) Do you remember your dreams?

10) If there was one thing you could change about yourself what would it be?

11) Do you have a favourite band or musician?

Compulsive habits

When I was a teenager I had contamination fears. To deal with these I came up with some rituals which helped ease my mind. I was never an excessive hand washer particularly but I had other little routines to enable me to do things such as use a public toilet. Over the years my contamination obsession faded away, to be replaced with other more intense obsessions, but my toilet routines remained – except now they were just re-labelled as “quirky habits”. They weren’t extreme, they didn’t take up hours of my day and I wasn’t particularly distressed by it but I still needed to do them in order to be comfortable in certain hygiene scenarios.

I got thinking about these “habits” towards the end of my CBT and ERP. I think it could be an important part of CBT that when identifying your compulsions, that a good look is taken at “habits” that slip through because they’ve been given a more palatable name. Rightly so, in CBT I focused on my extreme compulsions related to my more current obsessions, that were taking up hours of my time. But now I am no longer having regular CBT I have decided that a useful next step is to challenge some of my other old ingrained beliefs and “habits”. This weekend, we have people to stay and I am doing some exposures around using the toilet when I know that strangers (I don’t know these people very well) have used it. How do I know it’s an exposure? Because not doing my usual “habits” leaves me feeling pretty uncomfortable. My anxiety isn’t through the roof but I’m left with a lingering feeling that something isn’t “right”. So those compulsions all those years ago (15 years ago!) that just became a habit? Turns out they’re just compulsions by another name. They’re ideas and beliefs that I never challenged. 15 years on it’s just a fact in my mind that I can’t touch the flush with my bare hand and so on. Yes, it’s very mild and yes a lot of people who don’t have OCD may have certain things they will and won’t do in a public toilet but why not challenge it? Why let OCD have the final say?

Emily x

“Something good comes with the bad, A song’s never just sad, There’s hope, There’s a silver lining…”

I’ve been thinking about silver linings a lot recently. It helps that I love this song by First Aid Kit quoted in the title. It was then suggested as a blog hop topic too by @FightAgainstOCD

It has always seemed a complete anathema to me that there could be anything positive about OCD. It felt a bit like saying that Hitler was just a bit misunderstood. OCD – you know the monster that convinces you that you’re some sexual deviant harbouring murderous tendancies that’s also likely to contract HIV, nope not much fun to be had in any of that. Let me be clear, having OCD is miserable, I would never try and argue otherwise, but since recovering I have grudgingly started to see some silver linings.

1) My blog – I have always thought that I like to write and would like to do more of it. It’s been the kind of thing that I’ve told myself throughout my life, a fact about me, as true as I’d like to do an open mic night and I’d like to dye my hair a brilliant red. All of which have never happened. If it wasn’t for OCD and anxiety I would never have set up a blog, I would never have started writing regularly and as much as it pains me to say it I am kind of thankful for that.

2) Support network  – Through having the blog I went on to set up a twitter account. I have connected with an amazing twitter community and have met some lovely people (some in person and some online).  I would never have known that lots of other people have the same thoughts as me and that there’s a whole little community if OCD hadn’t reared it’s head and pushed me in that direction. I can’t honestly say it’s been all awful when I’ve met such wonderful people who have really made a difference. Actually scrap that, I can say it’s been awful but it’s been made a whole lot better by the lovely people out there. I actually wouldn’t change that for the world.

3) I have learnt to say “No” – I’ve always been someone who thought that I ‘should’ be doing various things in my life. I’ve never been good at saying no to invitations or truth be told putting myself first. Last year that all changed. I was forced to re-consider my priorities, figure out what I did and didn’t like doing and what felt right for me. This came about through duress, anxiety made it impossible for me to do all the things I had done previously but actually I’m realizing that something good has come of this. I’m now able to say no with few qualms to things I don’t fancy doing and without feeling like I’m missing out. I put my health and well-being first so if something doesn’t feel right for me I am able to choose. Anxiety and OCD pushed me to the edges of myself but with that has come a greater understanding of who I want to be.

4) Mindfulness – I’d always had a fleeting interest in meditation (in the same way that I’ve decided I’m going to become an epic knitter only for it to be discarded after a few half-hearted attempts). When my anxiety and OCD reared it’s head I decided out of desperation to give it another go and so has begun what I really think will be a life long daily practice. It has taught me more about myself than I imagined it would and has given me a quiet confidence that I have the answers within. It has helped with tackling the cycles of rumination and compulsions beloved to an OCD sufferer. Not only that but it has given me a new career route – I have decided that I would like to train in facilitating Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy groups and am currently going through the necessary steps to start this. This will complement the work that I already do but now I will be able to do something that is a passion. It got me out of the house when I couldn’t face doing anything as the only thing that didn’t seem too daunting was sitting in a group of people who smile serenely and don’t say anything to you! In the same way that I have learnt to say no, through mindfulness I have also learnt the simple pleasure of just ‘being’. I love sitting quietly these days and have shaken off the false ideas I had that to live a happy life I must always be constantly busy, always on the go. By going through the experience of having a mind that has been filled minute to minute with horror, like a record stuck on the worst bit of the song, I now have glorious minutes where there is just peace and quiet and whereas peace and quiet perhaps once struck me as a bit dull it is now music to my ears.

It is as if now I have known absolute misery I can know absolute happiness. Mindfulness helps me see those moments. I notice and observe things in more detail; objects, views, music – things that previously I may not have paid much attention to I now enjoy with the pleasure of a thirsty person coming across water. Rose Bretecher sums it up perfectly for me (and more eloquently than I could ever hope to) in her article for the Guardian when she says:
“If it wasn’t for the comparative cacophony of pure O, I wonder, would these moments feel so impossibly beautiful in their sheer, simple unthinkingness?”

Emily x

“There are no facts, only interpretations”

Last year I became preoccupied by the idea that I didn’t want to socialise with certain friends of mine. It wasn’t anything that I could put my finger on but I seemed to have this lingering feeling that perhaps they weren’t the “best” people for me. It drove me to distraction trying to figure out why I felt this way. Why did I suddenly feel anxious about seeing two of my oldest friends? What was the right thing to do? Part of me wondered if it was related to my OCD (a slight coincidence that it became an issue when my OCD was bad!) and it did in some way appear to be related to a worry about being a ‘good’ person but it wasn’t a clear cut thought that I could put my finger on, it was a blurry sensation – like an out of focus photograph.

On the other hand, I had also had some experiences with these friends that had left me feeling uncomfortable and so I wondered if I was just realising that they weren’t the right people for me. I wondered if perhaps I was just moving on. I was seeing a psychotherapist at the time who felt that it was related to changes I was going through and that this was my instinct/subconscious telling me that these friendships weren’t the right thing for me anymore. On the other hand when I started seeing a CBT therapist she offered the view that perhaps I was just trying to seek a certainty about my friendships, looking for perfection and that perhaps these thoughts and feelings were intrusions related to OCD.

So what is the truth? I am learning that perhaps there isn’t one truth. My psychotherapist had one view, my CBT therapist another and so clearly the truth is only the truth from that perspective. I continue to see these friends (although not as frequently) and try to just tolerate the discomfort this brings with the idea that perhaps I am investing time in relationships that have moved on and conversely sit with the worry that perhaps I am drifting from close friends for no real good reason. The truth of the matter is that perhaps I will never know the truth (now THAT’S a difficult truth to swallow!)

In my experience it is one of the hardest things about OCD, this feeling that you can no longer trust your instincts or know that you can rely on yourself to know what the truth is. But I have realised that if I can sit with that then I can probably overcome just about anything (now that is a good truth to have!).

I’d be interested to hear other’s experiences and thoughts in the comments section of trusting yourself when you have OCD 🙂

Emily x

Blog hop – Favourite quote

This month’s blog hop is being hosted by the lovely Ellen and she’s asked us all to talk about our favourite quotes.

I have quite a few but this one is my quote of the month:

Image

 

I love this idea of perfectionism being a person. One of those irritating, slightly smug, never a hair out of place people who is always wearing shiny shoes. I hate those people, I far prefer the person with the messy hair, smudged make up and wrinkly tights so I have had to ask myself why for so long Mr Perfectionism has been my sought after companion. I should be clear and say I’m not a perfectionist in all areas of my life (I’m fairly sure my maths teacher didn’t see my perfectionist streak once) but certainly when it comes to being a “good” person I have strived to be the best – the kindest, the most thoughtful (no prizes for guessing that I work in a caring profession) and no wonder then that my OCD has always hooked me in with worries about being a “bad” person. 

This is classic black and white thinking. In my mind I’ve never even entertained the notion that perhaps I could be both – perhaps one day a kind person, maybe the next a little bit mean. One morning I may be happy and that evening I could be beetroot with rage and that both these things are OK. I love people who are open about their mistakes, happy to share where they fail sometimes and quick to giggle at the things they get wrong. Those people are awesome to spend time with so I’ve made a decision to dump Mr Perfectionism (he never did me any good) and I’m off to hang out with Ms Imperfection.  

Emily x

“The only thing we have to fear is fear itself” – Roosevelt

 

I have a fear of relapse.

There I’ve said it. Not all of recovering from OCD/anxiety is smooth sailing. It seems to be the case that the more I head towards recovery, the greater my fear of relapse is. I have more to lose now it seems than when I was only at the beginning – there is further for me to fall. I have a bad day and I become convinced and anxious that I am slip sliding my way back into the pile of mud at the bottom of the slide. It reminds me of the game ‘Snakes and Ladders’ that I used to play as a child – move forward a couple of spaces and before you knew it you’d landed on a snake fast on your way back to the bottom of the board.

It terrifies me that my brain could go back to where it was and not to really know what may set it off.  It scares me that my brain can do as it pleases without a heads-up (surely it would have just been common courtesy to warn me what it was planning?!). What really terrifies me is that I feel that I can’t trust my mind. I have spent quite a long time trying to work out what caused my OCD to escalate so badly. I analyse all that was going on in my life at the time and for a while I have made changes according to that. Perhaps it was the friends I was socialising with at the time. Simple, I just won’t see them. Stress at work? I’ll just do the bare minimum to keep stress levels low. Flat situation getting me down? I moved out and in somewhere else. I have fortunately reached a point where I have realised that this perhaps isn’t the healthiest of mechanisms. Of course it’s useful to look at where you can make positive changes in your life and I actually think moving out of a slightly toxic flat situation probably did help. But what I’ve really realised is that this fear of relapse is all part of my OCD thinking. I want 100% certainty that I won’t relapse. I want an absolute answer as to what caused my OCD and really what I know (I should know) after months and months of CBT is that maybe I have to be able to tolerate the uncertainty. Maybe I will have another OCD struggle on my hands in the future. Maybe I will face more stress that might trigger another OCD outburst. Maybe just maybe I’ve done enough work (emotionally/psychologically) to stand me in good stead. So what I keep trying to remind myself is that if I can’t ever really know for sure then maybe there’s just no point in worrying about it at all. 

Emily x