OCD Status

It’s been a while since I wrote about mental health, or more specifically, my mental health. I left group therapy at the end of November this year. It felt like time since early summer and after putting in a lot of thought and reflecting on where I stood in my biannual review with the group I set my mind to leaving.

The last week or so I have been undergoing, what I now realise, is a process of leaving that is pretty much part and parcel of the therapy I have had. I have been down, volatile, self-doubting but I have also felt lighter, self-aware and stronger. I appreciate my personal journey with OCD has not concluded and I may require more therapy in future but I am no longer taking any antidepressant or anti-anxiety medications and I feel in tune with my mental health needs.

It seems 2018 will be a very different kind of year for me in a lot of ways but I don’t regret the journey I took with psychodynamic group therapy and I am so thankful for sharing that journey with everyone who was part of it. My relatively active social life is part of me I reclaimed through therapy and will no doubt be a portal of continuing to be a happier me.

What Do  You Do When You Are Tugged Down The Rabbit Hole (again)? #mentalhealth #depression #weekendblogshare

Most of the time I manage to maintain a sort of equilibrium, but occasionally I slip into a darkness akin to what it would feel like if the dementors in Harry Potter were real. In fact, the depression I am currently suffering from is real. It takes a lot of insight and self-awareness to realise a low mood, flat effect and compulsive pessimistic thoughts are not quite a facile lifestyle choice.

I am lucky to have an excellent sounding board in a therapy group I deeply care for, but when in session I focus on others and pragmatic problem-solving rather than expressing what I feel. Circling emotions is easier than expressing them. It’s a fear of being ashamed of showing my true emotions that hold me back. I know I would tell anyone else that they have nothing to be ashamed of when expressing how they feel in a depressive episode, but convincing myself is harder.

It’s been a long time since I found myself feeling this low and I frightened myself this morning when I woke to utter the words, “I want to die.” I have no reason to feel this way. I am well supported, feel pleasure from doing many things as hobbies, I have the freedom to choose to do anything I wish, but alas that voice in my head tells me I’m not a doo-er. My reading has slowed since my mental health began to deteriorate early this year. For the first time I find myself behind three books in my Goodreads Reading Challenge. It’s taken me weeks to write a suitable blog post about the truth of my mood.

When in therapy there’s a special type of shame that comes with failing to remain optimistic. It’s seriously like I’m failing a course, but I cannot deny how I feel and I no longer have the energy to push it to one side. I’m circulating a crisis, but I’m not being furtive about it. If I was having an acute asthma attack it wouldn’t carry the shame I’m burdened with for having an acute depressive episode, and why not? Administering drugs to ease someone’s airways is heroic as opposed to acknowledging the darkness in their thoughts, which at best is indulging narcissism at worst aiding laziness, if you ignorantly believe anyone would want to feel this way.

I’ve been open and communicated my concerns about myself, now I have to rely on that old adage of time and the new mindfulness based cognitive behavioural techniques I have read and championed. Not so easy when I feel I’m being smothered in a lead curtain of impending doom.I’m tired of being me and no amount of reminding myself how lucky I am, the miracle that is life is so rare and precious, can convince me I have a purpose. 

This too shall pass, they tell me. Eventually. 

Emotional Bait and Switch #weekendblogshare

Whilst undertaking a couple of days of mindfulness, I battled away a few thoughts that persistently came to mind. The ones that stick out the most and stayed with me though were the fleeting memories I have of emotional bait and switch. 

Let me explain; as most of us know bait and switch is a term used to describe the situation where a merchant/seller gets your interest with a product but then when you purchase you get something of inferior quality or one which is more expensive. 

What I consider emotional bait and switch is when a group of trusted loved ones say, “if you want to smoke go ahead, we’re really relaxed about it.” However, after you take your first puff they tell you off for being disrespectful and smoking in front of your elders. So you were lured in with the promise of understanding and acceptance and then humiliated for faith and trust in what those you’ve known all your life were saying, rather than deciphering what they were thinking. Believe me it ruins the memory of your first ever puff irreparably.

Bait and switch is ultimate emotional betrayal. You think you’re getting acceptance, unconditional understanding/love/support, but the cold reality hits when you realise the ropes attached and perceived underlying love, understanding or whatever it is, was an illusion. 

Of course I didn’t see these situations at the time for what they were, I thought and was allowed to believe the fault lay with me for being unacceptably imperfect in the way I trust people, understand the world around me, was curious about smoking and my shocking inability to have children. 

Yes, even my endometriosis/infertility wasn’t spared the bait and switch but I don’t want to lower my mood further by going into the specifics of that exchange. 

There’s a huge gulf between what those I have trusted in my formative years have led me to believe and what I actually got, but I think most of us have complaints of this nature. I’m just glad I understand it for the cold emotional betrayal it was and maybe in a decade or so I will understand why anyone would bait and switch those they allegedly love. 

#MentalHealth Review #OCD 

Despite being seen three times a year by a psychiatrist to review the nuts and bolts of my OCD, depression and anxiety and the effect prescribed fluoxetine and anxiolytics are having on my general health, I now have another sort of review in my psychodynamic group therapy. Every six months we take stock of our goals, risks and achievements. I volunteered to go first in this new uncharted territory of therapy as it gave me less time to dwell on it and arouse the many critical thoughts that may have disabled me from benefiting from this event.

Reviewing myself or letting myself be reviewed, as a group activity, was odd, firstly because it is the only time, unless you want to have the spotlight in group, you are thrust into the group’s crosshairs. I was grateful for only having a week to ruminate over what initially felt like a bureaucratic hoop, but in all fairness I think I forgot about it by the weekend and only brought it back to mind the morning of my next session. 

Refusing to be cowed and rendered defeated by my thoughts I considered the individual points of the review in my allotted fifteen minutes at the start of the session and found that, without being completely aware I was doing so, I do actually keep a mental ledger of where I was at the start of my therapy and where I am now. With so much food for thought from each session over the weeks months and now years my mind has mulled over the problems presented to me, not just about my own psyche, but those reflected to me by others around me. I consider it one of my greatest achievements to take into account the way others might see me differently to my perceived view of myself and find I am able, albeit in an analytical fashion, to accept these observations to reflect and think about without drowning in a sea of my self-made negativity. 

I have never formally looked at what therapy is doing for me in such depth verbally or mentally, so viewing myself, my thoughts, emotions, goals and progress in this way clarified what my goals are from here on out. It was encouraging to see the positive work my ever chattering mind can do, even when I don’t feel in focus of the sessions I have weekly. It appears, as I have always suspected you don’t need a therapist to be with you daily but a mental voice that represents a therapist does exist in my cognitive choir. This maybe why I don’t feel defensive about the way I feel or come across and am altogether willing to consider the effect my behaviour has on others and on myself. 

To date I am grateful for the increased self-awareness I have developed in therapy. I am glad I appear to cope with the depression and anxiety I have more constructively whilst being more aware of their origins. Each session seems to increase my arsenal of tools to augment or mute my analytic thinking and self-reflection leading to a neuroplastic change that benefits me a little at a time. I am burdened with fleeting dark thoughts on a daily basis but I am finding more balance with the lighter thoughts I seem to be able to generate. 

I may have a few chronic illnesses, but my OCD and whatever else keeps it company, has to date affected me the most in my life and I have tools I am getting better at handling to cope with the condition. I know what my next step is in my self-development, and here’s hoping I generate the impetous to take it before the next review. 

Christmas Tranquility

I wrote and posted my Christmas cards out early December as well as sending gifts to my friends, so I could relax and just soak up the season which is my favourite as it brings back memories of belonging, partaking and childhood glee. Despite winter weather there’s a warmth to this time of year that unites and I totally love it. Feeling happy and positive lately has inspired me to take in all that I can locally, so I booked to go to The Lantern Festival but drew the line at sitting on Santa’s knee (maybe next year?).

My mood starts to fall on Christmas Day when the countdown to all things good about the festive season starts to end and we go back to a bleak existence without the lights and tinsel. It doesn’t help that I’m essentially alone for Christmas Day as my husband works the extra long shifts that take him away when families are together, but I have the cats and sole possession of the remote control. However, if it was the festive season continually we would no doubt find it less special when it comes around. 

Being well organised this year and finding myself not pressured, but relaxed and open to positivity and possibilities, not even my dwindling exercise tolerance and erratic peak flow measurements make me want to stay in. I might walk at a snail’s pace fighting for my breath but I feel excited and alive. I’ve taken the pressure off myself to enjoy myself and it’s definitely worked. What’s really gratifying is seeing my husband laugh and crack jokes rather than look at me with concern and anxiety.

I hope others too who have struggled with depression and anxiety catch the positivity and warmth of the season and no matter how you feel, know you’re never alone. Now it’s time for cheesy Christmas films.

Where Did My Usual Schedule Go?

I am still waiting for a sedate weekend, or even a sedate day would suffice, as I seem to have to leave the house for one thing or another everyday.

Wednesday I had to get up early as I had to pick up a rental car to get to my appointments that afternoon. My husband was on a course in Stratford-upon-Avon and had to take our car.

Thursday we had nice weather and I was persuaded to hang out at the Hilton in Stratford-Upon-Avon for the morning and then enjoy sunny day by the river.

Friday, I had to admit the CPAP was getting increasingly uncomfortable and was giving me a sore throat from the constant dry air via the face mask. Rather than not complying with the therapy I rang the Sleep Clinic and requested a humidifier, which just slots onto the side of my current device and feels a lot more comfortable.

If the weather remains fine tomorrow, I fear there will be more temptation and further disruptions to my reading and reviewing schedule. However, by Sunday evening thunderstorms will no doubt give me an opportunity to plough on with my reviewing.

I suppose what I’m really trying to cope with is adapting to changes in my current circumstances. Nothing at all remains the same as it did six months ago and I’m not sure I am alright with the changes in me and my environment.

I can only be optimistic and hope to bring you more great book suggestions.

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Kick-starting Your Reading Mojo and Avoid Reader’s Block

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Ever since I started this blog, back in very late 2012, I have periodically suffered emotional and intellectual fatigue from reading. This condition is doubtlessly exacerbated by reading books that are disturbing, emotive and just damn good, but equally a book I don’t like can seriously drain my reading mojo too.

As I read a lot (don’t want to keep bringing it up but I read 235 books last year), I often suffer from periods of what I call reader’s block, when I cannot take in what I’m reading and it’s difficult to get interested and into the next book. The ideal remedy is that exceptional read that reminds you why you love reading so much, but if you have towering to-be-read pillars of books like me it’s difficult to find that one book that will reach these high heights without picking up another disappointing read. The best remedy is to reset and move on.

I have moaned about reader’s block, aka losing my reading mojo, a few times here, but this post is about how I have managed to avoid it since the beginning of 2016.

Usually it’s around about now, roughly one quarter of the way through the year that I get my first reader’s block. I was expecting it sooner as I have been reading fractionally more books per month this year. However, I have found indulging other interests and not having a book open immediately after finishing one has helped. Basically the time I have spent reading nothing and not feeling pressured to read, has helped me read more.

It can quite honestly feel like a milestone around your neck if you constantly feel pressure to be doing something all the time. Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing I love more than reading but if the drive to read comes from necessity rather than passion it becomes somewhat diluted.

Other things I do when I’ve finished a book that has affected me range from watching TV shows I would otherwise not bother with and therefore have no idea what people are talking about, as I do not watch much television, to picking up my crocheting and going back to my colouring books. I also have watched more films at the cinema this year and am looking into a few festivals.

As I have mentioned before I have scheduled dates with my husband where wireless devices are banned and we are taking it upon ourselves to get to know what’s going on around us more locally, discovering new eateries, farmers markets and even car-boot sales.

These few days of total breaks from reading seem to galvanise me to attack my reading list with joy and enthusiasm rather than fatigue and world-weary irritation. So no matter how much you read, total breaks where you are preferably physically more active only aids concentration in my personal opinion.

I Feel Fine, I Think

Contrary to popular belief Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is not just about hand washing and house cleaning. It’s much, much more. Imagine every decision, no matter how small, being second guessed. For years I thought of this trait as a lack of confidence or indecision, but it’s not. It’s about attaining a perfection that morbidly does not exist.

It wears me out mentally to keep going over what I said and what I did, superimposing thoughts of what I should have said or done, yet my mind won’t leave it alone, except to show me other situations of where I was yet again imperfect. It never goes away, it doesn’t stop and it rarely lets me sleep. Even in my dreams the imperfections and negativity haunts me.

Every action or reaction I have is skewed in a negative way and where possible my perception is manipulated, by me ironically, to reinforce my negative self-image and thoughts about myself. Basically, it’s like living with person who hates you the most, the one who wishes you were never born and you didn’t exist. Nothing hurts more consistently everyday. What would you do escape?

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Things I Wish I Could Go Back And Tell Myself Before My OCD Manifested

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Standing alone and being alone is not a bad thing and solitude has a peace you will come to love.
Isolation should be used in moderation for self-reflection and meditation, never as a punishment.
Denial is an expensive luxury you cannot afford.
Inaccuracy is a common currency, you want to avoid.
Sincerity is a priceless commodity, insincerity is obvious, vulgar and tacky, choose wisely and don’t follow the examples you see.
Truth is flexible, not as absolute to other people as it seems to you.
Love is not, and nor is it required to be, reciprocal.
Karma is far from the only bitch you will meet, unfortunately.
Family can also be opaque, elusive, incomprehensible and transitional.
Don’t stick around people who try to or make you feel bad about yourself, your choices and your life.
If they can’t see the fault in their own behaviour, it’s not your problem, step away to preserve your peace.
Giving more than you get is an opportunity you should never pass up, but save what you need to function.
Your cats will teach you to care about something other than yourself, your wealth and your future.
Your pain, physical and emotional, is inspirational to those who love you and those who hate you, but the energy needed and generated to either love or hate, is theirs not yours.
When the self-proclaimed pious are judgmental, don’t forget who they bow to is your God too and his/hers is the only judgment that matters both right now and ultimately.
Religion, laws, conscience, compulsions, rules and  morality will seem to only  apply to you, in the strictest sense, everyone else will seem free to do what they damn well please, but make choices you want to live with.
Only one person you meet in a whole lifetime will even come close to understanding you, if you’re lucky, but that one person is all you need.
Things may not go to plan, but you will still be happy.

Lost For Words…

The last four entries on my blog have been re-blogs, they are fine blog posts which I enjoyed reading and sharing and I say a big thank you to the respective bloggers for their great posts.

Those who have been reading my blog for a while may have noticed a change in content. The reason for this is that I can no longer share thoughts relating to my mental health on my blog, I must take these to formal group therapy. This is a condition of the psychodynamic treatment I am receiving. I have been humbled by the response I got to my posts about mental health, it was heartening to realise I was not alone from the messages I got and still get from people who can relate to the emotions, low mood and inner conflict of being anxious and depressed. Although I can no longer post about my OCD, anxiety or depression I am still happy to answer queries from those with questions.

Not being able to write about anything related to my own mental health is hard as I have shared so much on this blog. I don’t regret a single post I made nor do I regret talking openly and honestly about having OCD, anxiety and depression. It is with great reluctance I removed some of my posts but I need to symbolically remove this blog as an emotional outlet for now. The act of removing them was difficult for me as I do not go back on what I have written and I have only ever presented the truth from my point of view for which I make no apology. I simply wrote what I observed and experienced, I didn’t force you to act this way so I could blog about you.

I will be sticking to book reviews, Slimming World and my experience of skincare, make-up etc., just things of a lighter nature as I enjoy blogging and will not be giving it up after all the hard work I put into this blog for 18 months. I wish all my readers a good day and hope you will continue to tune in when I post. Thank you for being there.

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