OCD & Me

I can describe and give an in-depth, detailed account of the intricate ways OCD affects my mind all too well. My mind and the mechanics have always fundamentally been the same. Never once do I remember my mind being any different than the way it already is, was, and always has been. However, I've discovered focusing on this path too much ultimately only causes more confusion...and more problems. I’ve experienced how it leads you “down the rabbit hole” into an endless cycle of a game you can’t win. And I know, because I’ve played. Endlessly. Sure, you might win some battles, but it’s never long lived. Eventually, after each loss, you’re left more damaged and confused than the last time.

Not long ago, I was so focused and obsessed on figuring out my mind that I refused to quit, to a fault. No matter how much distress or added suffering it caused me I pushed on. Even though I’ve lived with these conditions my entire life, I had never actually stumbled upon anything tangible until a handful of years ago. I had become obsessed with the intrusive and unwanted thoughts plaguing my mind everyday. Once I discovered these “impostors,” I couldn’t leave them alone. I needed so badly to comprehend the entirety of these conditions. It was like I needed to know almost more than I needed to breathe, quite literally.

Ultimately, I have found that to truly grasp the totality of these conditions on a constant basis is impossible. Even if I could, to always have an answer for every unanswered question is literally hopeless. It’s draining and defeating. However, once I learned that OCD is largely hereditary and biological, it provided me with a figurative sigh of relief. I think it really helped to know that no matter what, these conditions are here to stay regardless of my attempts to fully understand them or not. In other words, it is irrelevant if I am able to understand the ins and outs of OCD if I’m going to let it completely consume me.

As I sit here trying to think of what aspects of my story to elaborate on; I find myself concerned that I won't hit on all of the insightful and significant aspects I've found most paramount to my recovery. I almost feel overwhelmed with the various ideas flooding my mind about the countless things I have learned from my experiences with mental illness. While I have been diagnosed with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, I have also been diagnosed with Depression and Anxiety. I do not suffer from the classic OCD symptoms such as physically carrying out compulsions (washing hands, locking/unlocking doors, extreme organization/tidiness, etc.) even though that's what the general public would assume when they think of OCD. I discovered that “Pure Obsessional” OCD or “Pure O” is the category I fit under most. Pure O describes individuals with OCD to purely have obsessions without physical compulsions, but only mental compulsions. I primarily deal with an onslaught of intrusive, unwanted thoughts, but use mental compulsions (avoidance, reassurance seeking, mental rituals, etc.) to seek relief. These thoughts initiate impulses or mental images of horrible, violent, immoral, or sacrilegious actions. Constantly. All day, every single day, of every single second, I am at the mercy to ALL of these frightening, torturous, and unwanted types of thoughts or images. Put me in any seemingly harmless situation or circumstance and my mind will quickly and quite literally figure out what the worst-case scenario would be. And then it will aggressively spend the rest of the time trying to convince me of this situation becoming a reality. This might include extreme embarrassment, death, ridicule, violence, or failure. Further, all of these same thoughts can and will happen in regards to people I deeply love and care about as well. It doesn’t matter. It could be any of the above. What ever happens to adversely affect me the most at that current point in time is what seems to gain the most strength and momentum over my psyche. Timing is key however. Most of these thoughts don't bother me in most circumstances because I usually can rationally gauge how unrealistic they are. However, very certain and specific thoughts at just the precise moment, in just the right environment, will still somehow knife its way to my heart. No matter how many walls you build or battle-tested strategies you implement, these thoughts never stop eating at you.

One of the more ironic aspects to my story is that while I can remember being effected by OCD as far back as I can remember, I literally had no idea that this is what plagued me throughout my life until I was about 23 years old. Looking back on it all, it’s almost like I always knew something was different about me, but I wasn’t willing to acknowledge it. And if I wasn't willing to acknowledge it, then I definitely wasn't willing to let anybody else either. I seemingly did a good job of hiding my symptoms seeing as nobody ever noticed anything “different” about me. The symptoms of OCD did not quite “debilitate” me as I was able to grow, progress, and develop adequately during the early years of my life which also might play a role in why nobody ever noticed anything. The most detrimental and debilitating effects did not hamper me until later in life. In fact, it was quite the opposite growing up. I happened to be pretty successful with almost anything I tried and would even go as far as to say I excelled in most areas. I always made honors student (college and high school), participated in competitive sports throughout my life, and always seemed to have plenty of friends. After graduating high school in 2005, I ultimately pursued a bachelor’s degree in Psychology and graduated in 2009. I then furthered my education and graduated with a master's degree in Social Work by 2011.

I don't say any of these things to boast or brag, not whatsoever, but mostly to emphasize how fortunate I was growing up. I truly believe that if it were not for my family's love, support, and cultivation for success, I would be no where close to where I am today. They never let me settle and always pushed me to fulfill my potential. They taught me how to work hard and empowered myself to achieve anything in life. I am forever indebted to them for these lessons. Always having everything I needed growing up, I basically lived as “normal” as a life you could imagine. However, the inner workings of OCD were well at play this entire time. Somehow, someway I was able to live with and manage the symptoms of OCD without truly questioning my organically overactive, over-analytic, obsessive, and ruminative mind. The endless attempts to slow down or stop unwanted intrusive thoughts had just become second nature. Unfortunately, this natural instinct eventually faded away.

I was around the age of 23 when I finally began to realize something wasn’t quite right. Ironically, this is about the time I started experimenting with street drugs. I was later officially diagnosed with OCD, Anxiety, and Depression at age 26. By that time, things had gotten a lot worse. My drug addiction had grown out of control and my symptoms were running rampant controlling my life. Only 2 months after my 26th birthday did I get fired from my job as a social worker. At this point, I seemingly had lost interest in everything (work, friends, girls, family, exercise, etc.). It got to a point where I simply had zero desire to ever want to get out of bed. I'm still ashamed to admit the only thing I ever looked forward to was sleeping or doing drugs...both of which became primary escapes of mine. I had become addicted to the fast guaranteed relief from my symptoms that drugs provided. By coping with drugs on and off for 2 years, I got lost in the facade that drugs can create. I had devolved into what I call some sort of functioning “drug addict.” I was always drawn to the drugs that made me feel most like I was “enough” and no longer inadequate which generally tended to be “uppers.” The lure of this pseudo-freedom became my primary means to escape from all of the pain my symptoms initiate. The blaring noise in my head of constant negative mental chatter, harsh criticisms, absolute discontent, and never-ending despair always left me desperate for an escape.

Of course, by the time I realized how much worse drugs actually made everything; things had already spiraled out of control. My symptoms of depression had severely heightened and before I really knew it, I began contemplating suicide. These thoughts occurred before I was ever fired from my job, but gained added traction from this most recent “failure” of mine. Never once had I given attention to the thought of ending my life until then, but once I had I couldn’t shake it. It was almost like I had become obsessed with the idea of dying. Here is where I by far experienced the darkest moments of my life.

By the end of my worst episode, all and any of my motivation had been sapped. I had lost all interest in doing things I used to consider fun or enjoying. It didn't matter how much I had loved to spend time with friends or family, go to the beach, or workout. I had lost interest in the hobbies most vital to my survival. I literally had come to lose touch with reality. I spent more time in my head than what was going on in front of me. I can tell you it’s not a fun place to be, at all. Nothing was important to me anymore and the more unimportant everything seemed, the more severe my suicidal thoughts became. It was as if the life I had was so far out of reach that it felt like nothing more than a mirage. My life had lost all meaning to me. For a while leading up to this, things were definitely tough sledding, but not until I hit rock bottom did I truly become suicidal. I was literally contemplating the ways I could take my life.

Wanting to kill your self and not wanting to live are two very different things. I didn’t really want to live at times, but this was different because I wanted to escape the pain, forever. Yet, there is a profound quote that really sums up this whole situation and became the groundwork to digging myself out of this black hole. It says “Suicide doesn’t end the chance of life getting worse. Suicide eliminates the possibility of it ever getting better.” This is such a true statement and inspired me to not give up. In addition, what helped drive me even further is another quote saying “Suicide does not take the pain away; it only gives it to someone else.” The idea of giving my family my pain because I didn’t want to bear it anymore empowered me to never let that happen. I couldn’t imagine how negatively it would have impacted my mother especially. I couldn’t stand the image of horror she would have to withstand caused by my own actions. Ultimately, I dedicated myself to be 100% committed to my recovery, being sober, and spending time with my family. It felt like eons before I began making progress, but I soon saw the fruits of my labor by making headway into my recovery. Once I overcame feeling suicidal or having any inclination to hurt myself, I still did not have much of a desire to live. I knew that my life had changed for the worse without a doubt and I was not hopeful or confident in my ability to regain my life again.

It was still all too easy to beat up on myself. I would get caught up with analyzing how far I had fallen and then wallow in my own pit of self-despair, shame, and guilt. I always had ambition and already held myself to a high standard. So, when I realized how far off I had dropped, it only compounded more feelings of guilt, negativity, and doubt. I was having an extremely difficult time believing it was even a realistic possibility to live a normal life again. I had barely survived up to this point. Any improvement seemed impossible because I knew it would require never-wavering determination and persistence, as well as patience. I was no stranger to working hard but, even then, a deep convicted belief in your self is absolutely paramount, which is an uphill battle I wasn't sure I was prepared for.

You see, once you’ve lost hope, you’ve damn near lost it all. Hope for a better future is what gets you out of bed in the mornings. Hope allows you to persist and continue on even after defeat. Having hope will always give you a chance, no matter the odds. Without hope, you lose belief in all and any of your capabilities regardless of what your track record has been. However, facing these odds and overcoming them does not have to be impossible even though that's exactly how it felt. As I sit here typing this, I realize that it’s imperative to point out that losing all hope does not have to be a death sentence. I can say that while it seemed like a death sentence at the time, I’m living proof that it doesn’t have to be. Come to find out, you can actually make progress when you feel hopeless. I found improvement to be a possibility. Although the improvement was very minor, it was still progress. No matter how small, improvement and progress is nothing to underestimate. I had to re-learn how to find satisfaction from even the most minimal of strides, but it was necessary in order to ever build from it. Here is where I truly learned the wonderful value of building momentum from the progress we make. I developed a true appreciation for the value of progress, not perfection. I had come to full-circle to finally grasp the idea that perfection is the enemy of progress. I found that the more progress I made, the more momentum I began to create. And the more momentum I gathered, the more confident I began to feel which allowed me to start re-gaining power over my life again...Now I’m fast forwarding a bit, but this is definitely where the turning point started and I began recovering. I was unemployed for about 6 months where I focused on my mental well-being and overall health until I obtained another job as a social worker and haven't looked back since.

Understanding that OCD has a prominent biological component was important for me to comprehend because it played a large role in my recovery. I needed to know that this wasn't “my fault” so-to-speak. I had spent my entire life striving to be “perfect.” I always strove to be the best that I could be, while never tolerating short-comings or inadequacies. Failure, or even average, was not an option. Yet, I had to understand that I didn’t do something “wrong” and that I never did anything to bring upon such debilitating conditions to myself. I had to understand these things because it constantly gave me something to fall back on. It allowed my mind to rest as I sort of had my “answer” as to why I was the way I was. Grasping these concepts also taught me a very hard fact of life. A fact of life we all have to accept at some point if we want to be happy, ourselves. I had to accept that a part of me (a large part) was “flawed” no matter how much I tried to fix it, erase it, or run from it. It’s a hard pill to swallow knowing that no matter what you do, you can never rid yourself of this mind cancer. There’s just some things that are out of your control. However, this was a very insightful revelation to my recovery because it taught me about a very powerful word. Acceptance. By grasping how to accept certain facts of life, such as myself, I came to realize that I am already perfect in my own right. To me, true acceptance of yourself means you can acknowledge your faults, but know you are no lesser of a person because of them. Once you have done this, I believe you have achieved true beauty. However, to do so is more of a marathon than a sprint and to completely love your self as a whole (e.g. mind, body, soul) is always a work in progress. I have learned through experience that no matter how hard we try to plan or predict life, we will never ever achieve “perfection.” Just as will we never have EVERY answer to every situation or circumstance. We will never be able to always be right...no matter how hard we try not to be wrong.

It's the exact same revelation and “coming to” that I think most people have to experience after being tossed and turned by the waves of life. It's almost like I have been forced to laugh off life's idiosyncrasies simply because life isn't always supposed to be logical or “make sense” all of the time. After struggling so much with the anxiety caused by my control issues, I finally realized that it's impossible to be in control of every single area of your life during every waking second. No matter how hard you tried or how much effort you sacrificed. Sometimes there is simply just nothing you can do about the circumstances life gives you. That's it, though. There's nothing less, yet nothing more to think about. It is what it is. You accept it, eventually. You have to. Through acceptance, you achieve transcendence. Accept anything and you can transcend everything.

No matter what happens to us, at the end of the day, we always get a choice. We may not have control over everything that happens to us, but we CAN have control over how we react to EVERY thing that happens to us. Our reaction is a choice. It always has been and will be. We might not be able to control what someone does to us, but they will NEVER control how we decide to react either. We have the option to exercise that choice every single day of every single moment. After whatever life (or mental illness) happens to throw at us, it’s at our discretion to decide what we do or don’t do. To decide how happy or sad we will let something make us. So long as we believe and have faith that things will always work out for the best, they will. By always seeing the silver lining and choosing to be optimistic, we will greatly increase the odds of success simply by believing it to be so. I know that sounds so cliché, but it reminds me of a quote that helped ground me at times by Deepak Chopra saying “The best use of imagination is creativity. The worst use of imagination is anxiety.”

I can’t emphasize enough how important our perception and mindset is to our success in overcoming our symptoms of mental health. This same mindset and perception is what will give you an edge in life as well. If you'll notice, your attitude determines your altitude in everything you do. These two components are directly correlated with each other. We always can decide and dictate what type of attitude we have, which means it’s something that’s always in our control. And if our attitude is always directly in our control, then so is our level of success (i.e. altitude). No matter what we believe, it can always be changed for the better. And if we believe we can be better, we can DO better. Remember, whether we believe we can or can’t, we are right.

Even though, I thought I couldn’t get better (or recover) and although it felt like climbing a mountain of impossibility, I was able to change these beliefs. It's not a quick process and definitely will not happen over night. Not until I was able to put in a little bit of time and effort, but I can promise that if you’re willing to climb the mountain (work), the view from the top will be breathtaking (results). Finding a way to stay consistent and motivated to keep making progress is the only barrier you’ll experience once you have began to create momentum. Plateau's are 100% to be expected, but it will be up to you and you alone to continue building off your momentum. What you do with your potential and where you take it is up to you and nobody else. Never lose sight of your dreams because your potential is limitless. Take it from me because I've been there. Even though I was certain things would never get better, here I am living my life to the fullest and pursuing my dreams.

-Catlin A. Palmer, MSW

Breakdown or Awakening

For as long as I can remember I’ve always felt like I was in a hurry, wasting time and had to get back to work.
I now think what the hell for. It was an unnecessary pressure that I had overlaid on myself, through a society

and industry that made me feel like I had to keep going as hard as I could to get ahead in the hope that one day
I would just get to a point where I would be able to stop, be content and just relax. This explains why I could
never truly relax on holidays. As I’ve found out the hard way life isn’t like that, it’s a journey and balance all
the way through, not a race. I am very grateful for this learning and can not believe I got caught up in the true
definition of ‘rat race’ as I did. I do blame our modern day society for that, which is so out of touch with the true
realities of our human needs. I had forgotten to stop and smell the roses, I had become numb, I had turned into
a robot, just like the computer I was glued to every day for ten hours.

It all started on what’s become a very symbolic new years day of 2015. I’d flown into town for two weeks to
reunite with family and friends after living away for the last three years, including abroad for the last six
months. I’d taken a high flying job in a Asian country and was doing my best to adjust. The pressures were
high, the adjustment was difficult, the expat drinking culture was excessive. As much as I did get culturally
frustrated, I took it in my stride and did enjoy the experience and exposure to a new way of life. The prospects
of a long stay and signing a full–time contract had become daunting. I was driven by the generous salary and
benefits of saving for what I now identify as a sickness of ‘getting ahead’.

I can’t say I was really enjoying my new job, but I was doing my best and it wasn’t all that bad. I’d been briefed
on what was the biggest responsibility I’d had to date. The hours were ridiculous with very little support.
Every time I’d complete a task, a new one would arise. The management process was horrendous and I
was frustrated. I’d felt some confidence following successful meetings and was determined to turn around
the frustration of the client. I did my best to not get overwhelmed with the responsibility and the literally
hundreds of people that were effected by the work I was doing. Due to the pressing demands it was also tough
to negotiate time off over Christmas. They eventually gave me the leave.

I arrived back home in Melbourne quite stressed. My first week was jammed packed catching up with family
and friends. I had a constant underlying sense of growing apart from all these people by living abroad.
I caught up with as many people as I could; breakfast, lunch and dinner. I struggled to relax and when I did
have some downtime I worked. Relaxing and turning off was something that had become unfamiliar. It was
as foreign as the place I was now living. I’d somehow got to a stage in my life where I was operating on a
dangerous high level of stress, without even knowing it. I thought it was normal.

On new years eve I was exhausted after a full day of social rounds, this included tennis in the scorching heat,
de-hydration and even missing meals. We had pre-drinks at a friends place before hitting a club in town. It
was a great night, plenty of dancing and too many gin and tonics, aided with a minimal amount of additional
illicits. I was having a great time and felt good. I met a nice girl at the bar and we ended up back at her place.
I hadn’t slept for what seemed like less than an hour before the sun was up. I struggled to put my shoes on. I
opened the front door and stumbled into the brightness of morning. I knew were I was, but felt incapable of
going anywhere let alone organising a taxi. I turned the corner and before I knew it a paramedic was slapping
me on the face. ‘Wake up she said, you’ve had a seizure’. I’d cracked my head on the ground, bitten my tongue
to shreds, and was sore and fatigued all over. My memory however was clear. A passer by had seen me fall
to the ground and have a 30 second fit on the concrete footpath.

At the hospital I had a recurring seizure, they kept me at bay for a couple of days. It felt lucid and surreal.
They ran medical tests and everything was ok. Regardless they put me on anti-seizure epileptic medication,
with a prescription for the next six months. I’d had an alcohol related seizure once before, six years
earlier, and epilepsy had been discounted. Regardless I stayed on the medication. The following days I felt
odd. I was confused as to whether these were symptoms of recovering from the seizure, the stress I had been
under, or the effects of the medication. Two weeks passed and I decided it was time to fly back to work. The
demands were pressing and the additional time off was making things difficult for the client and company.

The day I flew I’d made the ill-informed personal decision to stop taking my medication. I’d come to the
conclusion that I didn’t need it. This was a mistake. The flight there was groggy but I was reasonably at ease.
When I landed however something happened with my anxiety levels that I’ve never experienced before.
It didn’t feel right, the place looked different, the humidity seemed punishing and claustrophobic. I didn’t
want to be there and went into a state of fear and wanting to go straight back. I pushed on, sweating and
doubting in my mind, the tree’s and light looked surreal, I felt as though I was hallucinating. I got back to
my apartment and felt some relief when greeted by familiar faces. I still however felt an incredible unease
and a unwillingness to be there. I couldn’t relax or switch off and my mind was racing at this strange state of
consciousness. I cried from fear that I was losing my mind. I was convinced I was going crazy or had gone
crazy. I felt there was no turning back. I took tranquillisers to ease the anxiousness. This eventually got me to
sleep but come morning it was on all over again, the same feelings and disordered thinking. My frustration
grew and I didn’t know what to do. I tried to run, cycle, yoga, tennis and swim it out, all to no avail.

My first day back at work was also a surreal experience, it didn’t feel or look the same. I remember going up
the escalator thinking what the hell is going on with me. This scared me. People at work looked different,
I forgot some names, I apologised to people for some of the tougher times. I was emotionally irrational in
meetings, and had moments of extreme panic and fear. It felt crazy. I also kept replaying that I could and
would have a seizure at any moment. I saw some specialists and they concluded that it was too early for me
to be back at work and the best thing for my recovery would be to go home. I decided to do this and after a
punishing week, full of tranquillisers, fear, panic and disorder that felt like madness, I boarded a plane and
somehow made it home.

On return I went into a complete psychological breakdown. I felt my life was over. I felt frustrated and
crazy. I could not drive or even leave the house. I felt haunted daily by a reoccurring seizure that would be
triggered by my own disordered thoughts. I kept thinking about work and what needed to be done. I couldn’t
understand or accept how I ended up here. I was back in the home and neighbourhood I grew up in.

My emotions and memories were rampant and it tore me up on the inside. I cried for days. I was
overwhelmed and couldn’t make any sense of it. I’d always been able to make sense and be in complete
control of my fate. This time I couldn’t. It was all foreign to me and I was convinced I would not recover.
I was punishing myself with frustration and could not accept my situation. Even though I was told with time
I would heal, I wanted and needed this time immediately, the process of patience and waiting was torture.
I was looking for answers, blaming individual things, rather than looking at the holistic picture, and the
crossroad of multiple factors that had collided to create this event in my life.

I’m almost at the one year anniversary of this catalyst and it is a time to reflect with some relief, reward and a
growing sense of clarity. It is only now that I can look back with some hindsight. I was living an unsustainable
life, my priorities were out of line for what I truly needed to be at ease, content and happy. For me work
should never have come first. I’ve been fortunate enough to take the whole year off and reflect. I feel awakened
to all my negative habitual patterns. I feel like I’m truly beginning to understand my own mistreatment and
self punishment and how that has effected my psychological and spiritual wellbeing. I’ve learnt more about
myself this year than my previous 40 years. I feel as though I can genuinely relax, every now and then, like I
did when I was a carefree kid. I can see the positives of what I have experienced and in many ways it has made
me a much better person. I feel competent in my ability to understand and manage my anxieties and darkness
when it does arise. It’s all a work in progress. I have never felt so aware and consciously present as I am now.
I feel somewhat awakened and eternally grateful for everything I have.

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The lack of ‘what to do’ guidance on this subject left me feeling even more helpless. I was desperate for some
learnings and help on what I needed to do to recover, even though I felt and thought that I never would.
Here is a list of my own daily learnings that continue to assist with my recovery. They may not be ideal for all.

SEEK HELP


• Finding someone that had a similar ‘breakdown’ experience helped me greatly,
I wasn’t alone and felt an ease that I could recover.
• Counselling; working with a Psychologist to establish my personality traits and negative
behavioural patterns. This was a grind and my patience ran short many times as I was not seeing
immediate results. I can now see the benefits of the long term learnings and gains.
• Kinesiology; looking outside of conventional medicine, this is a spiritual journey.
I felt great benefit and release from identifying my emotional blockages.

PERSONAL WELLBEING

• Take time out immediately, work on yourself and do what you really love doing.
• Be careful with prescription medication. They weren’t right for me and in my case contributed
to my condition.
• Meditate daily; feel your body, let your mind sway ‘away’ from your cognitive mind as often as you can
• Smell, taste, feel, touch, see; be mindful and remind yourself of your senses, you’re alive and not a robot.
• Love; trust your heart.
• Look at the beauty in nature and wildlife
• Eat vegetables and good organic food
• Drink water by the load, clean out the toxins in your body
• Stop drinking coffee and alcohol completely
• Limit refined sugar intake
• Be mindful of being be driven by adrenalin
• Spend as much time with family and friends, and don’t feel like your wasting time
• Walk everyday in the morning or exercise
• Laugh, watch comedy
• Let go of resentments against others. Focus on the small amount of people in your life
that really care and matter.

MANTRAS


• Accept your situation
• Be kind to yourself, don’t be hard or self punishing
• Remember that with time things will get better, this time will pass
• Remember and recount what you are grateful for and pray
• Pray for yourself to be happy and free from suffering
• Pray for all beings to be happy and free from suffering
• Remember we are all a work in progress

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It really is an unbalanced world out there in many ways, it’s very easy to lose your way. I actually look at
other peoples ‘crazy’ and unsustainable lives now and feel much more sane by having had this experience
and realisation. I hope this article can offer you a sense of ease, even if it’s for a single moment, and I truly
wish you all the best in your recovery.

Regards,
D.

My Story

As a child I felt different from others, feeling uncomfortable in social settings and out of place at home. I would feel restless and irritable in any situation that required interaction with others. Always needing to put on a persona to fit the surroundings, feeling a struggle to fit in. 

Life at home was difficult, mum was not in an emotional position to have a son and therefore I was moved in and out of foster homes. Always returning home only to be moved on within 6 months. This left me with an underlying feeling of abandonment and not being good enough or belonging. At the time I was unable to identify with these feelings/emotions. I was just in a permanent state of restlessness, irritability and discontentment. 

In my teenage years I discovered alcohol. I had found my solution! or so I believed. My relationship with alcohol for many years was to use it as a social lubricant. It allowed me to relax and feel a sense of comfort around others. I was able to have a productive career during the week. But on weekends I need to relax and the only thing that would give me a sense of ease and make me feel comfortable in my skin was a few drinks. For 15 years this worked well for me, but in my mid 30s alcohol no longer worked. I was in a position where I could not live with alcohol as it was destroying my health, relationships … life. I also could not live without it, as it was the only way I could get a sense of ease and comfort. 

For the next 7 years I struggled with not needing to drink, anytime a situation caused major anxiety I would rely on alcohol. Always regretting the binge it would trigger and wondering whats going on and what do I need to do. I would always think that it was alcohol that was the problem. Not understanding that it was merely the relief symptom to the anxiety problem I was suffering from.

My recovery, like all recoveries has been a long journey. Each step allowing for more growth and insight. A major turning point was identifying that I suffered from anxiety. It wasn’t a light bulb moment but rather a slow realisation. It’s a journey that I am and will be on for many years. And that is ok, I now have tools to help me whenever I feel anxious. Acceptance I would have to say is a corner stone. I know what I have and what I can do to ground achieve a sense of comfort in my skin.

Tools that have been shown to me include:

a. Grounding in the moment, I do this through regulated breathing and pressing my feet on the ground, getting in touch with my body.

b. Talking to someone who has also suffered from anxiety, letting them know how I feel. They can relate, offer solutions, lend an ear and make me feel normal. 

c. Participate in life and not isolating, at home or in my head. 

d. I exercise releasing endorphins making me feel energetic and positive. 

e. Cooking, It allows me to get out of my head and focus on something that I love! Finding activities that bring me happiness is very important, I feel alive and apart of something greater that me or my thoughts. 

f. Accepting who I am at any given moment, I no longer wish to be someone or somewhere else. I am who I am. I can strive for improvement and progress is fine. Progress and not perfection!

g. Try and not please everyone, that a tough one for a people pleaser like me. But if I don’t I end up burned-out, feeling empty and removed from who I am. Expressing my views allows me to know who I am.

h. If I’m down, helping someone always makes me feel good about myself. It is even better if they are unaware of what I have done. Doing it from a place of not needing recognition.

i. Write a gratitude list, recognise all the positive things in my life.

j. Talk to my partner, connecting to another person revealing my thoughts and feelings.

Thank you for allowing me to share my story. I hope that someone finds some useful tools above that might help them enjoy life for a moment. I know how had it can be at times, not knowing if the anxiety will ever pass. From my experience it does …. and it can be a most amazing life!

Asylum For Lost Souls
Asylum For Lost Souls

Having OCD day in and day out makes you appreciate the little things in life. Things you’d ordinarily take for granted, like a laugh, a smile, a deep breath in and out or just taking 5 minutes to slow down and watch the world go by.

The OCD mind is really like an asylum for lost souls. One minute you are walking along, feeling fine and out of nowhere … WHAM! Another horrific intrusive thought begins to smother your mind. You feel your knees weaken, your chest tightens, your breaths become shallow and forced and your stomach begins to churn as anxiety builds. You know it’s the OCD, spreading through your mind like a parasite so you push on. You push on because you know that eventually it will pass, like it always does, and you just have to hold on.

For this time, you’re held prisoner to your OCD. To you, it’s an eternity before it passes and allows your normal self to take control again. You can always find an anchor though, something or someone to hold on to when your lost in your OCD. Picture this, when you’re feeling crippled and alone and you will come out the other side.

My point, as bad a day as you can have and as bad as the intrusive thoughts get, you’ll get through. You’ll get through every time, no matter how long it takes to pull yourself back from the edge. And you’ll come out stronger, more mindful.

Learning your triggers and accepting your flaws will help you to regain the strength in your mind and soul.

Always look for that glimmer of hope, that flicker of light breaking through the cracks. Faint as they may be, I promise you, they’re there. You just need to find them.

Stand Strong & Hold Your Ground

Cheers,

Az

https://harmocdmyjourney.wordpress.com/

 

 

Anxiety And I
By Robert

Never do I really know how to write this sort of thing. One doesn’t want to over-share like a guest on <I>Oprah</I>, but at the same time one doesn’t want to be unduly clinical. Ah well, here goes then.

My name is Robert; I am a white single heterosexual Australian, 54 years old; and I have been all my life crippled by anxiety, OCD, and, to a lesser extent, depression. This has resulted in repeated hospitalisations, in the sabotaging of most of my employment prospects, and in levels of isolation that I would not wish upon my worse foe. Perhaps, rather than go into details about my own background, I can provide a few suggestions as to how others might cope better than I have done.

In some ways things have substantially changed for the better, as far as public awareness of mental illness is concerned. Perhaps they have changed too much, in that one has certainly encountered individual hipsters using ‘bipolar’ as if it were some kind of merit badge. But even that, problematic though it is, surely constitutes an improvement on the ‘Ignore it and it will go away’ attitude which was very common in the New South Wales of my youth.

As regards how much one should reveal concerning mental illness in one’s own life, my attitude – the result of hard-won experience and many mistakes – has been: don’t be surprised if even trusted friends and trusted employers can’t cope with your revelations. Professionals in the mental health sector are used to hearing such tales of misery without being wigged out by them. One shouldn’t expect a similar level of compassionate detachment to characterise those who lack similar experience of dealing with ill people.

To the extent that I’ve been able to overcome the worst effects of my condition, I can attribute this to nothing more obscure or glamorous than exercise (in moderation: I’m no gym-rat), forcing myself to social outings, and keeping busy, preferably with paid work, but with volunteering if paid work fails to materialise. I would love to be able to say that I’d been helped by CBT or by attending an ashram or by climbing Macchu Picchu, but that would be false.

The need to keep busy is why unemployment and underemployment are such tortures to an anxious person. As the Italian philosopher Benedetto Croce put it: ‘Unless a capacity for thinking is matched by a capacity for acting, a superior mind exists in torture.’ Or even a common-or-garden mind, such as my own.