A Letter To Yourself For When You’re Struggling

A while ago now I wrote a blog post on if I could write a letter to my younger self what I would tell young me from what I’ve experienced so far, you can read that HERE. It lead me to this similar idea that may be helpful for when you struggling. You can write a letter when you’re happy for when you are next down in the dumps e.g depressions getting you down, anxiety bad or OCD is being a pain, whatever the reason as a reminder that these feelings can pass and it’s not as bad as it feels right now, to give you hope when you’re lacking it. Little tips of things you’ve learnt/ know how to deal with but in that moment find hard to remember and turn to.

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Dear Me,

I take it you’re having a tough time as you’re reading this letter. As you are writing this you are feeling quite positive, you’re OCD isn’t that bad and you have been dealing with it really well. You’ve been succeeding in not seeking reassurance so much and that’s a really big step for you. I know you’re probably feeling like crap but what you’re feeling will pass. I mean those feelings aren’t that bad for you right now as you type this which means they can pass again. Remember everything you learnt at therapy and remember no matter how scary OCD is being, it’s just the disorder and you know how to beat it.

♥ Remember anxiety and panic can’t hurt you, it feels awful but it’s just a chemical reaction in your body. Try to stay calm and If you can’t it will pass, you’re not losing control, your panicking.

♥ Remember Anna ‘the more you think, the deeper you sink’ – Sharon Davies from The OCD Treatment Centre. You can ruminate about that scary, uncomfortable OCD thought you just had but you’re only going to make yourself feel worse, feed OCD and never come to an answer on whether that’s your true self speaking or if it was just a random OCD thought. You cannot think yourself into inner peace, inner peace comes through living in the moment.

♥Remember to practice Mindfulness, to calm you down when the anxiety is too much.

♥Remember there is no such thing as the thought police, there is nothing wrong with the thoughts themselves, it’s the belief you have attached to the thoughts. E.g certain thoughts mean you’re a bad person, if you don’t do such and such something bad will happen.

♥ Any compulsion you feel compelled to do relating to your OCD’s topic, ignore, it WILL be OCD. No what if’s, buts or maybe’s it will be. Any thought that makes you feel anxious relating to your OCD topic, will also be OCD, no ‘what if this time it isn’t OCD’ that is OCD speaking. A thought, followed by anxiety, followed by feeling the need to do something a certain way, seek reassurance or ruminate WILL be OCD.

Remember everything you’ve been taught and try to teach everyone else,  you can get through this.

Love from,

Positive and  currently at peace, You.

My Experiences With Treatment For OCD

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I want to start this post by saying this blog post talking about my experiences with CBT is to share with people who might of had the same experiences as me. This is not to put anyone off seeking help, because you need help and treatment to learn how to cope with severe OCD.

Grab yourself a tea or coffee its going to be a long one.

Are you sitting comfortably? then I will begin (haha)…

So lets start from the beginning which was my first experience under CAHMS the mental health team. I was diagnosed with OCD and started going to CBT for my fear of sick and the rituals that went along side that. I didn’t really get on with the therapist that I was working with I found them very emotionless for someone treating people with mental illness. I didn’t find them very motivating or caring and I think its important you feel cared about and trust the person who’s treating you with CBT. As OCD makes us feel so scared about our thoughts, feelings and not performing rituals, its important we trust the individual enough to not engage in OCD. I went there once a week and if anything it was more like a counselling session, where I would talk about everything that had gone on and what I was struggling with. When I was assigned tasks to complete at home such as ‘write down your thoughts before performing a ritual’ or ‘keep a diary of your rituals’ I found it too hard. I didn’t really understand how it would help and I had so many rituals and thoughts I didn’t see how it was possible to write them down. Baring in mind I was about 14-15 at the time, I thought I understood OCD but I didn’t at all. I needed someone to explain it to me, to motivate me and explain clearly what they wanted me to do and why. It was getting harder to fill the hour session we had together up, I felt like I just sat talking. Which maybe I had the wrong idea of therapy, but I would have liked the therapist to tell me how therapy works, guide me and correct me. So long story short eventually the therapy stopped and I felt no better of. I discussed with my mum and the psychologist that I didn’t feel like the therapist was right for me and my personality which is bubbly and chatty.

From the age I stopped therapy about 14-15 I didn’t have CBT again until I was 17. To fill in the gaps, I still suffered with my OCD and went on to Setraline tablets to help with this which I didn’t stay on for very long. I’m not sure why or how but over time my OCD which related to sick seemed to calm down. I feel like one of the main reasons I got over this fear was from facing it by being sick in front of people I wasn’t that familiar with in a car. Although it was an awful experience I do think this aided in this particular fear being less prominent in my life. OCD tends to merge and latch on to new fears and the next  was being a bad person, a psychopath and worrying I would do ‘bad things’ or ‘psychopathic things’. My first experiences with this new to me form of OCD was probably to date the worst experience of my life. I was desperate to get help and understand what was happening to me, so I went for another round of CBT with a different therapist. This time, was more positive, I really liked the therapist and found them easy to get on with and less dull to be around. I found this round of CBT a little more effective although not greatly. I’m not sure if I just didn’t engage in it effectively or what. I found it mostly useful to talk about my thoughts and feelings and learning that they are more normal than I think. We also done other exercises such as writing a list of good things I had done in the past week and the bad, to show I do good things all the time which means I am not a psychopath. This was helpful and reassuring for me. Which I think is the problem, I felt reassured to have someone to tell all my thoughts and fears to,  for them to then respond and tell me that’s OCD, it was like a form of reassuring me because I doubted I had OCD. I don’t think I believed the treatment would work and I don’t think I trusted the therapy enough to not partake in rituals and to not listen to OCD. Once dealing and getting used to what I was experiencing with this form of OCD, I guess things were a bit better but not manageable.

Skipping a few years to the age of 19. I still had my fear, but this time it wasn’t just the thoughts and feelings that bothered me it was the rituals. I didn’t do rituals myself, I would ask people to do everything for me which in itself was a ritual. Everything I done I felt anxious about like if I didn’t do it ‘Something bad would happen’ or ‘I would be a psychopath’ you can read more about my OCD in my ‘OCD Story’ blog post which you can find HERE. Remember people with OCD do know that what they do has no effect on what happens, the OCD just makes us feel like it does and so does the anxiety and doubt. This was my first ever CBT treatment with in the Adult mental health team, so I was a little more optimistic that they may take me more seriously and work with me a bit better. This time I loved the therapist I had, I felt comfortable around them and like we were on the same wave length. Being older I expressed my concerns that I didn’t want to just sit around and talk about it, I needed her to guide me and tell me if I’m talking to much. I trusted them and felt like they actually cared and understood what I was experiencing. Although I still struggled to partake in  exposure exercises. Which involved not asking someone to do something for me or not taking things I felt anxious about back to the shop, or  to not confess and seek reassurance about things I had thought or done. At this point I felt reassured that I had someone to discuss all my latest thoughts and worries with, but again I feel like I used it as a part of my OCD to seek reassurance. My compulsions were still bad and my life felt out of control and everyone around me were also feeling as much despair as I was.

I watched the Extreme OCD Camp on TV (BBC3) and couldn’t help but wish there  was somewhere around here that done treatment like they did. My mum done some research about places around here, where you could pay for treatment specialising in OCD as we were all at a loss of what to do with me next, I’d had enough of living like this. She came across ‘The OCD treatment Centre’ which was based in Taunton but had a variety of therapy packages available, where they also will travel to you. I wasn’t keen on the idea of doing group therapy or travelling up there the way I was feeling. It was expensive but my family said if it would help me they would pay for it (which I am very lucky and grateful for). We got in contact with Sharon who runs the OCD treatment centre, I spoke to Sharon via phone before making my decision to take the plunge. I felt like she really knew what to say to me as she had experienced OCD for herself and also dealt with her son’s OCD. Skipping a head of time a bit, me and my mum made our way to Taunton to stay in a hotel for 5 days, for me to receive treatment. I was so scared. During my 5 days of treatment Sharon taught me about my brain and about my OCD. I thought I already knew everything there was to know about my OCD but I was very wrong. I learnt so much that I felt like I was finally coming to terms with having OCD, I always knew I was diagnosed but I don’t think I really believed I had it due to the doubt I experienced from OCD itself. The environment was relaxed, I got to sit on comfy sofas and sip on cups of tea. After 2 or 3 days of learning about my OCD I felt ready to fight it, It was a combination of  being sick of living the way I was and what I had been taught and trusted. I knew this was my opportunity to make the most of the money my family had paid and I felt like it was my last hope.

We went out in to the town in Taunton, where I done some exposure work and learned even more about myself and my fears. I had to do silly things in public, to open myself up to not caring what people thought of me etc. We also went out about and exposed me to my particular fear and tested out my theory that I might be a psychopath. Sharon would say ‘You see these two ladies walking towards us, if you’re a psychopath don’t move out the way, bang in to them if they don’t move because you’re a psychopath and don’t care about other people’ of course I moved straight out the way. All these little things helped me believe I had OCD. By the end of the week I had stopped asking my mum to do anything for me, I still wanted to occasionally but knowing I had 24 hour care and I could just call Sharon if I was having a OCD meltdown, or talk to her and work on the problem the next day was comforting. I enjoyed the therapy and my mum also did, she learned lots about OCD and how to help me, it was also a lovely week for me and my mum to spend time together and experience a new place. I feel like this treatment was the one for me. I felt like I had taken so much away from the week and I finally felt like this could be a turning point in my life. I was scared about going home but excited to tell everyone what I had learned and put it into practice. Months on now, I still struggle with trusting I have OCD and believing I am not in fact a psychopath because of things I think and feel. But I am in a much better place than I ever have been. I feel like I have OCD but OCD no longer has me. I have more control now. I have struggled with reassurance seeking from Sharon via text and emails but I am continuing on working on that and I am doing pretty well at the moment. Having follow-up sessions with Sharon has also been a massive help, being able to recap and reinforce what I have been taught.

This is just my experiences with therapy, don’t let what I have said about CBT put you off. You need to seek help to get better, it’s very hard to do it on your own. Some people have amazing experience with certain therapies others don’t  It just depends on YOU, and you won’t know until you try. I think it also depends on whether you’re ready to get better, sounds weird as you hate your mental illness and would do anything to get better. But when you’re so afraid of not engaging in OCD behaviours and have so much doubt its hard. You can also become stuck in a rut and not being the way you are seems slightly alien to you now.  When you’re ready and I mean truly ready to commit and trust in the therapy you’re receiving that’s when you can start recovering. Don’t give up if one therapy or therapist doesn’t suit you, keep trying. Look at me its taken ages and I’ve only just realised that I wasn’t trying enough, I didn’t understand my mental illness as much as I thought, but now I do, I am feeling the most positive I have done ever. I feel like I now have the tools and motivation to truly put what I have learnt into practice. I hope some of you relate to my experiences and find them useful! I also hope you’re still awake after all that reading!

Links

http://ocdtreatmentcentre.com/

http://www.ocduk.org/ocd-treatments

Stay Strong,

Anna

Recognising YOUR OCD Thoughts

One of the biggest steps to recovering from OCD and dis arming OCD is recognising your OCD’s topic. When you have OCD your fears, thoughts and compulsions usually stem from a particular topic, wether it be harm, contamination or relationships etc to start recovering from OCD you have to learn what this topic is and how it comes into your mind, so you can then recognise these thoughts and feelings as OCD and label them exactly that so you can work on refocusing on anything but that topic. It’s not easy to recognise OCD when your brain is so busy with thoughts and doubt, and then you doubt its OCD which leads you to give in to your OCD and complete compulsions and ruminate over and over your thoughts and feelings!

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 When I went to intensive therapy I learned  a lot of my thoughts come in as questions about my particular worry ‘What if?’ ‘Could I?’ ‘Do I want to?’ ‘Am I?’ and before this I just thought that was me trying to work everything out, but my OCD makes me feel like I have to answer these questions and if I can’t there is something wrong with me and that I need to find an answer because without it how will I ever know I’m not bad, this is a compulsion. I now know any question, thought, image, urge to do with my topic of OCD, I have to ignore and immediately label it OCD and try refocus my attention on anything but what I’m experiencing anxiety over.

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Once you know your triggers, don’t question if its OCD, 99.9% of the time it will be, OCD might kick you and try to get your attention by giving you more anxiety and making you feel like you have to answer the questions in your head or you have to do the compulsion but you have to be smarter than OCD.  You have to trust your knowledge, which can be very hard because of the doubt OCD creates, but when you can  trust yourself and your therapist, you will notice the better you get at recognising OCD the easier it becomes and eventually it will be second nature to do so!

When I was facing this problem I had to just trust myself and think ‘from now on until my OCD isn’t so strong I’m going to have to trust that ANYTHING to do with my OCD topic is OCD, no matter what the question, thought, feeling or urge is, if its to with my particular fears, I have to label it as OCD’ . I am getting so much better at it, I do sometimes get lost in my head and caught up in OCD’s traps, but each day I feel like I am becoming stronger than OCD. When you become an expert on your own OCD it becomes easier to fight it and you no longer fear this awful disorder your suffering with.

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Its hard but with the right help and knowledge on OCD you can do it, I am doing it and if I can you can too, I belive in you. Become an expert on your OCD and be mindful of what your OCD involves and how it comes into your head and by mindful I mean just be aware of your thoughts and feelings but don’t think into them and get lost in them.

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Check out my other OCD, Anxiety and Depression posts to read more about my experience with OCD and tips on recovering from OCD!

Stay Strong ♥

Anna x

OCD – Your thoughts are not the problem, your beliefs about the thoughts are.

When you have OCD and you have constant bizarre, scary and anxiety provoking thoughts it hard too look past them and we often find ourselves thinking there MUST be something wrong with us for thinking the way we do. I learnt what I am going to talk about at the OCD Treatment Centre and it’s really eye-opening, so I thought I’d share what I was taught with you guys!

From my personal experience  whenever I had thoughts I considered bad I used to instantly think I must be a bad person to think such horrible things.  Which is one of the main reasons OCD is a problem with our beliefs about ourselves and the meaning of our thoughts. Thoughts are just thoughts, the meaning we attach to the thoughts is the problem, e.g ‘If I have a bad thought I am a bad person’ so is the thought we had actually bad? not really thoughts are harmless they are just brain activity, we have created a belief that certain thoughts are bad and should not be thought about.

Often OCD sufferers like myself get stuck in something called ‘Thought-Action-Fusion’  also known as magical thinking which is basically thinking a thought, is just as bad as acting on it or it happening, which is  no wonder we feel so much anxiety and guilt if we think about certain things or  do not perform mental or physical rituals. How could you not feel anxiety when your brain is saying ‘If you can think about that, you must be a psychopath’ ‘If you don’t do this then your family could die’ its because a lot of the time thinking these things to us is as bad as it happening, or thinking these things means it is almost certain to be true. which you can find out more about HERE as well as other factors of OCD.

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I have always been told everyone has intrusive thoughts, but people with OCD get stuck on them, unlike people without OCD who don’t take any notice or can easily dismiss them as ‘silly thoughts’, but that’s because they haven’t attached any meaning/belief  to them, to them they are just ‘thoughts’ but to people with OCD like myself, they MUST MEAN something. A belief is nothing more than what you have told yourself or been enough times that you believe it, often beliefs are irrational and unhelpful, but hard to get rid off.

An example of this is Person 1 has a belief that the colour red is lucky, person 2 has a belief that red is unlucky. Person 1 is going to have happy, pleasant and positive thoughts and feelings towards the colour red, because they have the belief its lucky. Person 2 on the other hand is going to have horrible, negative thoughts and feelings towards the colour red because they have the belief its unlucky. Person 1 will like red and want to be around it, person 2 will want to avoid red. So whos belief do you think is correct, person 1 or 2?… neither its purely a belief they have both attached to the colour.

Which is the same with a person with OCD and without, the person with OCD will have a thought, feeling or urge and see it as a negative thing that means something about themselves, or that they need to do something about e.g perform a ritual.A person without OCD will have a thought and still be at peace with themselves, because they have no meaning or belief attached to the thoughts. A good thing I got taught by Sharon Davies from the OCD Treatment Centre was that it’s not the story or the content that’s important, a story is just a combination of thoughts, It’s the meaning we have attached to the story’s/thoughts, it’s what we do about the story (thoughts) which becomes the problem.

Which is true it’s not our thoughts, feelings and urges that are the problem it’s what we do about them, whether we choose to acknowledge them and be sucked in by OCD. So when you think about it,  a thought is just a thought, if we get rid of the meaning and belief we have attached to the thoughts, OCD couldn’t survive because we would no longer be bothered by the content of the thoughts and without our attention OCD cannot survive. Trying to change a belief you have had for so long can be really hard, as I have found out and still am, but once you realise you have an irrational belief that’s the start of  getting rid of it. Remember if you no longer believed your thoughts, feelings and urges meant something bad, where would your OCD be? Gone.

tumblr_ly6h4j0szt1qmyf2uo1_500      Stay Strong, Keep fighting ♥

Pet Therapy.

So the other day I was snuggled on the sofa with my fluffy pooch curled up on my lap, (probably because I picked her up and made her sit with me) and I was thinking of how if I’m down in the dumps, just stroking her and snuggling in to her fluff makes me feel so much better!

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There is something so therapeutic about stroking an animal, feeling how warm they are and feeling loved by an animal, knowing they will never judge you, they just want to be loved like we do, I do apologise for the soppiness in this blog post! Maybe it’s because we feel comfort in the fact animals never worry, except for about when their next getting fed, their calm, so we feel calm, especially when I feel anxious it sort of helps me refocus on stroking my dog rather than what I’m feeling.

Anyway this led me to thinking about if there was such a thing on the NHS called ‘Pet Therapy’ and I couldn’t help but have a giggle! Imagine you walk in the room and instead of a couple of chairs and a desk, there’s a room full of cute fluffy animals, rabbits, cats, dogs and guinea pigs etc and your allowed to just walk, play, feed and stroke them for a couple of hours! I don’t think anyone would feel nervous about going to therapy if it was just going to see animals, and I think I would leave feeling pretty happy! So if anyone reading this is thinking of starting a new therapy, feel free to use this idea!

Me and my pooch, aren’t we cute, well she is ♥

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