Intrusive Thought Clouds

Screen Shot 2019-06-10 at 9.28.58 PM
Illustration by Ginny 

 

Sometimes when it rains, it pours.

Dark heavy intrusive thought clouds can be overwhelming, but clearer skies are on their way.  Like all massive storms, intrusive thought storms seem to last forever.  They can be scary, especially, when the storm intensifies with emotion causing more anxiety.

Whenever a storm threatens a perfectly good day, one can either seek shelter and wait it out in comfort or learn to dance happily in the rain.

It is completely up to you, how you choose to respond to your intrusive thoughts!  ❤ 

Advertisements

Stress vs Anxiety

Because OCD is an anxiety disorder, I thought stress would play a much bigger role in my OCD.  Interestingly though, stress does not affect my OCD brain at all.  I respond to stress much differently than I do to anxiety.  For me, anxiety affects my mental state (causing OCD episodes) whereas stress affects my physical body (causing tummy aches).  It’s strange, I know; especially, when anxiety and stress are pretty similar in nature.  

Screen Shot 2019-06-12 at 1.41.23 PM

My Unpleasant Vertigo Experience

The other day, I had a terrifying experience with vertigo due to stress.  I had difficulty detecting my surroundings.  The room was not just spinning in one direction, but in all directions like a free-falling space capsule plumenting towards an alien surface through uneven gravity.  Lying down was even worse, as it felt like I was on a tiny gondola in the middle of an ocean during a turbulent thunderstorm storm.  I also couldn’t detect the edge of my bed, thus making it dangerous to go to sleep without surrounding myself with a bunch of pillows to ensure I didn’t end up on the floor during the night.  The reason our bodies don’t fall off the bed while sleeping, is because our vestibular senses are aware of the ground at all times.  When our vestibular senses go out of whack, like due to vertigo, the body has difficulty detecting where the ground is and BAM!, you end up face to face with the floor!  Also, while I was going through this, not a single OCD thought stirred; I am guessing my OCD brain was too busy trying to fix it’s internal compass.  It was a crazy, absolutely no fun, experience that I hope I never have to experience again!

My husband and I are certain it was due to stress as we are currently experiencing an extremely tighter than usual financial situation (it’s happens).  Apparently, Life’s funky lemon tree unexpectedly decided to drop all its funky lemons on top of us, all at once, and we just didn’t have enough baskets to catch them all.  It’s truly nothing we can’t handle, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t stressful.

Stress vs. Anxiety

Although stress and anxiety seem to cause the same symptoms, there is a difference between them, for that they differ in “origin.”  Anxiety is generally caused by unplesant internal thoughts and ideas, whereas stress is generally caused by unpleasant external situations.  Furthermore, anxiety can lead to stress and stress can lead to anxiety.

When I think of the word stress, I think of physics, where a physical force is placed upon an object causing the object to bend or lean; with too much stress, the object is likely to break, fall over, or collapse.  I believe the same for mental stress.  External situations such as being in a financial rut, overwhelmed with a heavy workload, or being late due to heavy traffic; can create a mental force that has the potential to cause stress on the body.  When we internalize these external situations with “stinking thinking,” that is when stress turns into anxiety (worry).  Then, vice versa, whereas chronic anxiety due to “stinking thinking” has the potential to cause stress, physical effects on the body.  In short, stress and anxiety can intermingle with one another causing havoc on the mind, body, and soul.

Okay,  I am not at all satisfied with that explanation; so I would love to hear your thoughts regarding the differences between stress and anxiety?  

Acceptance Is Important In Coping With Stress

Despite having an anxiety disorder, I tend to cope with stress a lot better than I do anxiety.  Throw me into a bull-pen with a dozen angry bulls and I am as cool as a cucumber, using rational thinking to defuse a stressful situation.  However, I will be completely honest, I absolutely struggle to cope with stress caused by situations I have no control over; especially, situations that I cannot resolved right then and there.  Although I can make the best of a stressful situation, I often fail to accept that I am “stuck” in a stressful situation where there is nothing that “I” can personally do about it, not now nor perhaps even later.  Sometimes there are stressful situations that just can’t be resolved and it’s something I must let go or just ride it out til the end (off into the sunset I suppose).

There are lots of things I can do to reduce stress, but in the end, I think the most efficient tool in my stress-management tool box is the art of acceptance.  “Woosah!” (Bad Boys II movie reference)

Guided Meditation To Defuse Stress

I am feeling much better today, all because of THE HONEST GUYS!   The Honest Guys is a Youtube channel that provides meditation and relaxation videos.  I absolutely LOVE, LOVE, LOVE their guided meditations!  The CALM app I have is good, but these guys are even better and is a must share!  I feel grounded again!  I am smiling again!  I am energetic again!  I am no longer stressed out!   Thank you Honest Guys!

No affiliated links here, I promise!

Above is the video I’ve been playing to help myself get to sleep at night.  Lately for me, stress has been interrupting my sleep schedule and I find it very difficult to overcome stress when I’m tired and not thinking straight.  I also think stress and fatigue contributed to my little episode of vertigo.

Of course, meditations videos don’t work for everyone.   I totally suck at medtiation and I don’t like dry guided meditations without sounds of things I am suppose to imagine.  However, these videos include visual images with sounds that relate to the visual images to improve the guided meditation experience.

Anyway, whether you are looking for new meditation videos or need to try something new to help relax, I totally recommend THE HONEST GUYS Youtube channel.

How do you cope with stress?  Leave a comment below, I look forward to hearing from you!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sunshine Blogger Award Nomination

sunshine-blogger-award

A Huge Thank-You! 

Oh WOW!

This week Julie Krupp of Enhanced Perspective, a blog that I find uplifting, inspiring, and positive for the heart, mind, and soul, shared with me a link to her Sunshine Blogger Award Nomination post.  To my total surprise, Speak To The Brain is among the many other amazing blogs she has chosen as her list of nominees!

A HUGE Thank You to Julie Krupp- Enhanced Perspective , not only for this awesome nomination, but also for being one of the fantastic brains that reads my blog.

What Is The Sunshine Blogger Award 

I am totally excited to receive a nomination; however, to be a bit honest, I had no idea  what the Sunshine Blogger Award was all about until I did a little research (stuff I do best).  It turns out, it’s pretty cool and sounds like a lot of fun:

The Sunshine Blogger award is given by bloggers to bloggers who inspire positivity and creativity in the blogging community.

The rules are:

  1. Thank blogger(s) who nominated you for a blog post and link back to their blog.
  2. Answer the 11 questions the blogger asked you.
  3. Nominate up to 11 new blogs to receive the award and write them 11 new questions.
  4. List the rules and display the Sunshine Blogger Award logo in your post and/or on your blog.

11 Questions From Julie Krupp-Enhanced Perspective  

1. What is the best present you ever received?

  • The best present I ever received was my first Nikon DSLR camera.  It was the best present ever, because it motivated me to pursue my love for landscape photography.

2. What are three small sources of joy for you?

  • Three small sources of joy for me is watching B-rated monster movies, eating a Peppermint Pattie, and getting lost in the world of genealogy.

3. Where is the last place you traveled and why?

  • I recently traveled halfway across the state to have my teeth cleaned.  My parents live nearly 4 hours away and they insisted that I see their dentist, because they say their dentist is “awesome.”  Well, turns out, their dentist is awesome.

4. Where is your dream vacation?

  • My dream vacation is in Alaska.  I know, it’s not very warm nor is it very exotic- totally not flip-flop friendly.  I used to dream of vacationing in the Bahamas, but I really want to see the glaciers in Alaska, before they supposedly melt.

5. What did you want to be when you were little?

  • When I was little-little, I wanted to be a “singing doctor.”  I am not sure about the specifics though… like, did I want to be a doctor who sings to patients or a professional singer who had a degree in medicine?  I really don’t know.

6. When did you feel that what you said or what you did really resonated with your soul?

  • In the beginning of my mental health journey with OCD, I came up with a personal mantra to encourage me to keep moving forward.  It was something like, “Every journey starts with gravel under our feet, but eventually, we will have sand between our toes.”  It reminded me that some journeys can be tough, but they get easier towards the end.

7. What are you afraid of or what fear have you overcome? 

  • Having Pure “O” OCD, I have overcome many irrational fears.  However, I am honestly afraid of the unknown.   Like, I am not brave enough to put my hand through a dark hole in the wall just because Indiana Jones tells me there is a lever inside.  Nope, he would just have to wait until I get a stick first!    

8. What is one of your favorite books?

  • The Odyssey,” by Ancient Greek poet Homer.  It’s like one of the worlds oldest adventure story!

9. What is your favorite type of cuisine?

  • Italian.  I cannot get enough pasta, garlic, and bread.

10. What is one of your favorite songs?

  • “Boom Boom Pow,” by Black Eyes Peas.  Whenever I hear this song, I just can’t help but move to the beat.  It gives me happy feet!

11. What is one of your favorite movies?

  • Surprisingly, one of my favorite movies is Kung Fu Panda.  I know I am an adult, but who doesn’t like a good Jack Black movie!

I nominate the following…

Okay, I don’t have exactly 11 nominees, but these are great reads.  I enjoy following them.  Each one of them has a spark of positivity and creativity.  This list of bloggers often brighten my day, as it is a mix of everything I enjoy from creative photography and art to positive mental health and psychology.

Are you ready?  These are my 11 questions: 

  1. Why did you start a blog?
  2. How long have you been blogging for?
  3. In your opinion, what do you think is the key to happiness?
  4. What made you laugh today?
  5. Have you ever posted something on your blog that received a lot of surprising attention?
  6. If you could travel anywhere in the world for lunch, where would you go and what would you eat?
  7. Who do you most admire in life?
  8. What is your favorite comfort food?
  9. What hobbies do you enjoy (other than blogging, if blogging is a hobby)?
  10. What is something you do to help yourself wind down from a long stressful day?
  11. What positive advice do you have for beginner bloggers?

Overcoming OCD: A Theory

What good is a blog about overcoming the suffering of OCD, if there is no straight-to-the-point information about overcoming the suffering of OCD?

Available now, in the menu to the right, is a new tab: Overcoming OCD: A Theory.   

This page contains a personal theory of mine about Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and thoughts on how I believe one can overcome the suffering of OCD.

Please feel free to check it out.  Comments always welcome.

 

My Weirdest OCD Ever: Whale Poo

This Memorial Day weekend, I took my girls to Sea World…all by myself.  You would think my OCD brain would have been on fire with anxiety.  Surprisingly, I was okay.  It wasn’t as stressful as I thought it would be; plus, I wasn’t the only brave (insane) parent who decided to bring their kids to a crowded amusement park all by themselves.  Sure, I was a bit anxious (who wouldn’t be), but having fun and making memories with my kids was way more important than getting stuck on a worrying-spree.  I tell ya, my OCD brain didn’t know how to handle that, and thus, I got the weirdest, most ridiculous, silliest OCD episode EVER, about whale poo!

Allowing OCD Thoughts & Feelings To Just Flow

I rarely “suffer” from OCD anymore.  I have OCD, so what I mean is that the intrusive thoughts and feelings from my OCD rarely ever cause me emotional “distress” anymore.

For me, my OCD is just there.  OCD is just something my brain does and I have accepted the fact that there is nothing I can do about the wiring of my OCD brain; however, I do have full-control on how I respond to my OCD.

Being able to recognize when my brain is “OCD-ing,” gives me better control over how I respond to OCD and thus, reduces the emotional distress caused by my OCD.  With lots (LOTS) of cognitive practice, I have learned how to let my OCD thoughts go, laugh at them even, and do my very best to move on with my life.  Of course, there are some OCD thoughts and feelings that are more difficult to let go than others, but in the back of my mind, I understand all my OCD episodes are triggered by real sources of anxiety, in which my OCD brain misinterprets, and holds on to by strong emotions.  In this particular case, I recognize the real source of my anxiety to be my kids.  I was anxious about the crowds and worried about how my kids were going to do at the park.  Understanding the real source of anxiety also gives me control over my OCD.

Allowing OCD thoughts and feelings to just flow, is an interesting experience.  It is almost like watching a suspenseful action-adventure movie, where you are on the edge of your seat, with your heart-pumping with adrenaline, excited for the next scene, but you have no worries at all, because that is totally not you in the movie being chased by bad guys or something (simply not your problem-kind of feeling).  When I am aware of an OCD episode, my OCD thoughts and feelings kind of just play in the background.  It’s really quite an interesting experience.

A Biologist’s Busted Dream

I love the ocean!  In high-school, I studied Marine Biology and I was set on becoming a Marine biologist; sadly, there just isn’t much marine life in a hot, dusty, and dry desert.  I did have the opportunity to learn to scuba-dive in a swimming pool, but I never finished my certification due to having Asthma.  My marine biology dream bubble was kind of busted by my physician who is a retired Navy physician.  He kindly explained to me that divers with Asthma are at high risk of collapsing their lungs due to the high pressures underwater.  Unfortunately, asthmatics often suffer from the “Bends” aka “decompression sickness,” more often than non-asthmatics.   So, the closest I am going to get to deep-sea marine life is in an Aquarium.

 

Please Don’t Blackfish Me

Screen Shot 2019-05-28 at 11.36.28 AM

How dare I bring my kids to Sea World, haven’t I ever seen Blackfish? 

Yes, I have!  “Blackfish” is a very heart-breaking, eye-opening,  documentary about the Sea World Amusement Parks and their alleged mistreatment of their Killer Whales (Orcas).  And, yes, I am very angry at Sea World!

Honestly, I find it extremely inhumane to keep not only one, but several massively large  marine creatures in a large swimming pool.  It is especially wrong, considering that each Sea-World park has a man-made lake for their water-skiing / boat shows that is 1000 times bigger than their Orca habitats.  Seriously, I would expect the Orca and dolphin habitats to be as big or even bigger as their man-made lake.  Basically, I just think captive Orca and dolphins deserve acreage in their tanks not square-feet.

So, why take my kids to Sea World?  Well, for the experience and to also learn about ocean conservation.  Sea World, I must give them that, has a decent ocean conservation program.  Although they teach the public about how to protect marine life in the wild, their undesirable captivity program (animals in the park) kind of makes me want to protect marine life even more in the wild; especially, if it could result in keeping animals in the wild instead of having to end up in captivity for rehabilitation or even for entertainment purposes.   Just a thought.

To be honest, I had no intention on dragging my kids to any Sea World shows.  When I was a kid, the trainers swam with the Orcas, in which was super fun to watch; however, due to tragic incidents where Orcas have attacked and drown trainers, trainers no longer swim with the Orca (highly understandably).  Unfortunately, the Orcas rarely do anything during the shows anymore.  Spoiler Alert: The entire show is sitting in front of a large tank listening to trainers recite Orca facts.  The Orca jump out of the water maybe once or twice during the entire show and at the end, they splash the audience.

OCD-ing About Whale Poo

My oldest was intent on seeing a whale, so, of course, I was going to make sure she saw a whale (mommy reflex).  BTW, Orcas are not technically whales, so I should have taken her to see the Beluga Whale instead, but that is a debate for when she is much older. I have learned to never argue with a preschooler!

When we arrived in the Orca stadium, my youngest dragged us all the way to the bottom (Splash Zone) to watch the Orca circle the tank.  They circled around the tank like sharks.  Although sad, they were still magnificent creatures to look at.  Anyway, as one swam by us, it pooped.  It was super gross!

We watched the entire show and at the end, we got splashed by 3 large Orca’s!  OMG, it was a lot of water!  A lot of cold, super salty, and in the back of my mind, poopie water!    My OCD brain was totally focused on the whale we saw poop in the water before the show.  That was just one Orca…there were 3 Orca’s in that tank!  That means, there were 3 large pooping Orca’s in that tank, splashing their toilet water all over us!

Before I saw the Orca poop in the water, my brain was content with the ignorant idea that Orca just don’t poop where they swim.  It’s just something I never really thought about before.  It didn’t ruin my day or anything, but the thought did linger in the back of my mind all the way home.

I thought about our drenched clothes, covered in Orca toilet water, have now contaminated the car seats.  Then, when we got home, we all went to bed without showers, because it was late and we were all exhausted!  I had a lingering thought that now our beds were contaminated with whale poo too!

I did have the compulsive need to wash everything as soon as possible, but, I didn’t, I was too tired to worry about whale poo.  We had to just live with it and surprisingly to my OCD brain, we survived without having to scrub everything clean.  Although we all took showers the next day, the clothes are still in the dirty laundry waiting for their turn to get washed.  The car seats need to be washed too, but not because I fear they are contaminated with whale poo, but mostly because they smell extremely salty.  3.5% salinity, to be exact.  Wow, I actually remember something from high-school. 🙂

So, that was my weirdest, most ridiculous, silliest OCD episode EVER!  If anything, it has taught me to think twice before sitting in the Splash Zone ever again.  🙂

Do you have any weird OCD stories, please feel free to share with us!  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pardon The Mess: A Blog Makeover

Shape 5
Making a few amazing changes to my blog

Hi Brains!

Around 4am this morning, I had an epiphany.  Apparently, a large glass of caffeinated ice-tea will certainly wake up the brain cells and get the hamster wheel going in my brain…

Anyway, with a lot of thought, A LOT of thought, I decided it was best for my blog (and for me, to become a better blogger) that I try to focus on just 1 simple mental health topic for my blog.  With much consideration, I have ultimately decided to focus more on OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder); instead of trying to write about every mental health experience I personally encounter everyday.

Although I plan to provide more content about OCD, I will still continue to sprinkle my blog (every so often) with content about my husband’s fascinating Asperger’s brain, the mental health challenges of being a busy mom, a parent of a micro-preemie, and a step-parent, as well as, discussing other fascinating mental-health experiences; however, just not quite as often as I would like nor perhaps how often my amazing readers expected…sorry.

BUT, I shall certainly continue to do my very best to provide positive encouragement to all of those who have embarked on their own mental-health journey, regardless what mental health journey they are on.  Everyone’s mental health matters!

Thank you Brains!

An enormous THANK YOU to all the amazing brains who have read, commented, and shared my blog!  An even greater THANK YOU to all those following my blog!

I hope everyone has an amazing weekend!

 

 

 

 

Quality Healthcare Does Matter: Update on my mom

Screen Shot 2019-05-17 at 10.57.01 AM
Illustration by Ginny

As a former biology student with no accomplished doctoral degree, I understand I am not a doctor.  I am just a nerd whose “Miss-Know-It-All” opinions should be kept to herself; but there have been some moments, in a doctors office, when one of my unkempt bushy eyebrows slowly rise above the other, transforming my facial expression into a questioning look, thinking to myself, “I bet this person averaged a C+ in med-school.

My Expectations For Quality Healthcare 

I do trust doctors.  I, just like so many other people on this planet, have to have faith that doctors knows what they are doing.  After all, our health is totally in their hands; well, some of it at least, for that we do carry a good portion of self-responsibility when it comes to keeping our own bodies healthy.

However, when our bodies do fall ill, we have to trust that our doctor will accurately diagnose our health problem(s) by looking at an array of crazy different symptoms, which often mimic a zillion-and-one other health problems.  We have to trust that they will perform the appropriate tests to come to a single accurate diagnosis.  We also have to trust that they will provide us with an effective treatment plan.  Quality healthcare isn’t just about accuracy, but also about communication, positive attitudes, and compassion.

Although I have high-standards (I admit) for healthcare, I am not expecting perfection. Seriously, I understand the job can be extremely stressful.  I volunteered once at a hospital; a bag of pee (urine) exploded on me and I now have a whole new appreciation for those working in the medical field, especially nurses.  Healthcare providers endure long hours, in a fast-pace, better-know-your-stuff, demanding, type of work environment with angry, ill, not always the most pleasant kind of patients.  It totally makes it difficult to provide astounding quality care when you are having to work under those types of conditions.

In my opinion,  I believe it’s the dedicated healthcare providers, who aren’t just there for a paycheck, that provide the best quality of care to patients.  Even the sour apples (moody healthcare providers) who are just, understandably, burnt out, can often times still provide quality healthcare to their patients.

Unfortunately, there are some healthcare providers (hopefully not a lot them) who seem to treat patients as if they are just an inconvenient problem sliding through a ticket queue, expressing little to no compassion, with the intent to just collect a paycheck.  Have you ever encountered a healthcare provider like that?  Not quite the comforting experience you want when you feel like crap, right?  

Then again, there are healthcare providers who absolutely try to do their very best to provide quality healthcare, yet unfortunately, mistakes still do happen, because lets be honest, nobody is perfect…

Dangers of Healthcare Mistakes 

As I mentioned in a previous post, I am worried about my mom.   I am worried about her health and I am also worry that she is not receiving the best quality of healthcare.

As a short recap, my mom has been really sick.  She felt as if her health had been declining; feeling weaker and weaker everyday.  Everyone is afraid of the ugly “C” word; however, according to my mom, doctors now think it might just be her Diabetes causing all the issues.

Well, I guess after being told it might be her Diabetes on the fritz, she made an executive decision on her own (not doctor approved) to stop her insulin injections (a potentially dangerous decision that should never be made without doctor approval).  However, my mom is now telling us that she feels so much better since nixing the insulin.

Personally, I can’t help but wonder if perhaps she was experiencing an overdose of insulin; in which is also SUPER dangerous!   So, yeah, my hair is a bit frizzled in anger, because let me share with you the events that lead up to my mom’s (reckless, yet probably life-saving) decision to stop insulin injections…

Earlier this year, my mom’s doctor started her on insulin.   However, the physician assistant (P.A.) poorly demonstrated how to properly administer the injections, insisting that the protective cap, covering the needle on the injector pen, is not to be removed.  My mom says she was a bit confused, because she couldn’t understand how the injection was going to work without removing the cap from the needle; however, the physician assistant continued to insist the cap is not to be removed, otherwise she would not get the needed dose amount, because it will leak without the cap.  So, my mom did as instructed (despite the massive bruising it was causing- horrible, I saw it).  Anyway, turns out, the first 2-3 months of starting insulin injections, my mom was not getting any insulin at all!

I wonder if the physician assistant, perhaps (giving them the benefit of the doubt), thought the protective cap was more like a protective “guard” in which the injection needle protrudes through the guard once the injector is pressed into the body (some do that).  Unfortunately, the physician assistant’s mistake may have possibly done some damage, for that the doctor later increased the dosage of insulin due to the fact there was little to no change in blood sugars.  Nobody ever questioned whether or not the injections were being administered properly.

At this point, not realizing she is not getting insulin from the insulin injector, my mom decided to work harder to try to maintain her blood sugars on her own by changing up her diet.  In her mind, perhaps the insulin was actually working, but her diet was making it difficult for the insulin to do its job.  So, she gained control of her blood sugars, but she was under the impression it was the insulin injections (not her diet).

Then, one day, the local pharmacist recognized there was a problem with the way my mom was administering her insulin injections.  The pharmacist informed my mom that the brand of insulin injectors she was using does require the protective cap to be removed to properly administer insulin into the body.  My mom was shocked, embarrassed, and furious (who wouldn’t be)!

Ever since my mom started taking insulin (actually getting insulin from her injector pen), she has been getting sicker and sicker.  Instead of investigating the root problem, her doctors were only treating the symptoms.  It was only about a week ago, my mom had this realization that her health problems had started shortly after learning how to properly administer insulin with the insulin injector.  Therefore, she wondered if maybe her health problems have something to do with the insulin.  The only way to find out, she figured, is to stop the insulin injections all together and see what happens (Again, not something you should do without doctor approval-ever).

Because my mom is not a doctor, she didn’t know that injecting insulin into her body when she had her blood sugars under control could be potentially dangerous.  If the blood sugars are under control without the need for additional insulin, adding more insulin into the body could cause severe health issues.  This could be (I am not a doctor, either) the reason she has been so sick, especially, if the earlier increased insulin dose was not lowered after realizing the injector was not administering insulin at all.  Furthermore, it is also equally dangerous to stop insulin all together without the approval and oversight of a doctor; for that, insulin, at a lower dosage, may still be needed.

A Potentially Dangerous Situation That Could Have Been Avoided

Had the physician assistant properly demonstrated how to appropriately administer insulin with that specific type of insulin injector, months of feeling ill could have been prevented.  How many other patients are going without insulin due to this one tiny misinformed mistake?  Also, the fault doesn’t entirely rest on the shoulders of the PA, but also the doctor who authorized an increase in insulin without questioning whether or not the patient was properly administering their insulin in the first place.  Furthermore, in the grand scheme of all things going on with my mom’s health, I can understand why it took so long to figure this out.  Unfortunately, I still fear the extra insulin could have caused further damage to her health.

All we can do now, is to move forward.  According to my mom, her blood sugars are still a bit “wonky,” but I think that is a expected, especially, after months of chaos with different doses of insulin.  Fortunately, my mom has finally agreed to change doctors!  (YAY!!)  She has only been off insulin for a week and has an appointment soon with her new doctor, so it’s not like she is going to go months without insulin leaving her Diabetes unchecked or anything.  She just wanted to give it a try, to see if she feels better without it and fortunately for her, she does feel better!  Again, it was a reckless, yet probably life-saving decision to make without a doctor’s approval.

Not Over Yet…Waiting For Test Results

Well, that is one hurdle we barely managed to leap over; however, we are still waiting back on a lot more tests before determining my mom’s overall health status.  One day at a time, right?  But for right now, I am just so glad that my mom is feeling much better.  You can hear it in her voice again!  ❤

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mindful Walking: Taking It All In

I used to think mindful walking meant “watching” your step.  Like, the delicate art of dodging sneaky fixed-light poles, jumping over Grand Canyon size pot holes, avoiding embarrassing trips over large cracks in the sidewalk, and trying not to invade personal space bubbles of others walking around you, including getting tangled up with animal friends on long leashes.  Makes sense, right?  Walking in general, kind of requires some level of mindfulness.  How much more mindful should we be? 

Well…walking mindfully, is so much more than just watching your step and being aware of your surroundings (calm down secret Ninja).  Mindful walking is enjoying your surroundings, feeling the moment, and engaging in all your senses.  Although it sounds complicated, like rubbing your tummy and patting your head at the same time, I assure you, it’s actually very easy.

Walking Like A Zombie

We don’t have to actively think about moving our feet to walk, (left foot, right foot, left foot, right foot), we kind of just do it automatically.  Sometimes to the point, we can end up at the refrigerator without even realizing it, browsing mindlessly into an open refrigerator not even sure if we have a hungry tummy.  Our feet take us on all sorts of trips, but rarely do we remember any part of the trip.  Seriously, walking in the parking lot from your car to the grocery store; do you ever remember specifics to your surroundings?

When our bodies are in this normal automatic (zombie) mode, our Fight or Flight Response System is directing our senses, not us, mostly because we are too busy thinking about other things.  I know while I am walking to the grocery store from my car, the only thing on my mind is a shopping list.  This is why we rarely remember any specifics from point A to point B, such as how many people were in the parking lot, particular smells, the color of parked cars, a penny on the ground, or any trees or flowers in the parking lot; well, unless you parked next to a tree, then of course, you have to remember that tree.

My point is, we do see all of these things, but we rarely pay attention to any of it, unless it sparks an interest, like a unique rainbow colored car with unicorn horns or things that pose a danger to us, like a vehicle backing out of a parking space in front of us or the smell of gasoline.  We are semi-aware of our surroundings; but our Fight or Flight Response System is doing majority of the work when we don’t walk mindfully, because its mission is to keep us safe while our mind focuses on other things (like a shopping list).

Mindful Walking 101 

The next time you go for a walk, even a short trip to the refrigerator, try to practice mindful walking. Shape 3

To start, you have to get your feet moving in a desired direction, then once you are on your way, bring full-attention to your body then extend your senses outward to the world.  Taking in each moment of every step as you walk from point A to point B.  Bringing your full attention to one simple task, such as walking, is extremely calming and sometimes enlightening.

Focusing On The Breath

On longer walks, like a good exercise around the block, always start with your breath.  Focus on your breath by paying close attention to its sound; notice your chest moving in and out as your breathe.  Can you feel your muscles working?  Once you get a good, calm, breathing rhythm, move your attention to your feet.

Feet to Head Mental Scan

As you walk, you want to take notice to how your feet feel against the ground.  Are you a light stepper or a heavy stepper?  Are you walking fast or slow?  Try to notice the heel -toe movement in walking.  Can you feel any muscles working?

After your feet, pay full-attention to each body area, working your way up to your head.  Move upward from your feet to your thighs, then to your hips (do they sway side to side as you walk, mine do).  Then focus on your back, how is your posture as you walk?  Wiggle your arms and fingers, focus on the sensations there.  Finally, move up to your head where you will begin to extend your senses outward.

Using Senses To Discover A New World

When you engage in all your senses while walking, the world around you becomes more vivid, clearer, and sometimes even more beautiful.  That is because you begin to notice things you never noticed before.

Try to bring your full attention to each of your senses.

  • What do you smell?  Is it good or bad?  Does it spark any memories?
  • What do you see?  Look for flowers and trees.  Pay attention to building architecture.  Notice textures and colors.
  • What do you hear?  Birds chirping?  Dogs barking?  Kids screaming? Construction?  How does it make you feel?
  • Focus on taste.  Morning coffee? Toothpaste?  Unique unpleasant after-taste?  Is it slightly raining?  No shame in taking a taste of rain like a kid, enjoy it!
  • Focus on touch.  Touch everything, but be mindful of boundaries.  Touch flowers, dirt, the bricks of a house.  What does it feel like?  Take your shoes off while walking along a beach (avoid rocks).

The point is to activate all your senses while still being mindful of your surroundings to remain safe from danger.  You can enjoy your walk so much more, by taking in every moment of your journey.  This is truly the art of being mindful.

Gratitude Is The Result Of Being Mindful 

Focusing on your breath and doing a toe to head body scan brings your body to a state of relaxation.  However, engaging all your senses can bring a sense of gratitude.  As you focus on your senses, you begin to appreciate all the new discoveries.  Gratitude often leads to happiness and happiness is always a good thing.  🙂

What are your thoughts on mindful walking?

 

 

 

 

 

The Power Of Self Confidence: No More OCD Crutches

The OCD brain loves to devour self-confidence; so much so, that it can leave one drooling with self-doubt.

In my opinion, I believe self-doubt to be the ultimate objective of an Obsessive-Compulsive bully brain.  Self-doubt can cloud judgement, distort reality, and make us feel weak, insecure, and sometimes questioning our sanity.  The OCD bully brain feels pretty good about kicking our self-esteem in the gonads, leaving us to feel like, well, totally not in control and less like our wonderful selves.  Once you begin to doubt yourself, game over, the OCD bully brain has won!

Cannot Beat OCD With Crutches

Unfortuantely, you cannot defeat an OCD bully brain with crutches.  You might be able to wave them around like a dork, swinging at your OCD like crazy, but eventually, you’ll lose your balance and fall hard on your butt.  Crutches are not good at fighting back against OCD.

An OCD crutch is something we can lean on to help us bounce back quickly from a bad OCD thought, feeling, and/or compulsive behavior.

  • It can be a person who can reassure us verbally that all is okay in the world, instead of working through our OCD episodes ourselves, convincing ourselves all is okay in the world.
  • It can be a dash-camera used to rewind and check back on an anxious drive, instead of compulsively wasting time and gas to drive back to redo the drive over again.
  • It can be checking a security camera to make sure the stove is in fact turned off, instead of having the compulsive need to drive all the way back home to check the stove.
  • It can be wearing gloves 24-7 to ease the mind from having to worry about germs.
  • It could also be using medication that was meant to be short-term while learning how to cope with OCD, yet it eventually became a long-term solution instead, because it was easier.

OCD crutches are things that typically accommodate our OCD needs, making it easier and faster to move on with life without having to really work through our OCD problems.  They come in all different varieties, it just largely depends on how you use them and for how long.

Although OCD crutches help us better cope with our OCD, they are not very effective against overcoming the emotional suffering of OCD.  OCD crutches, by themselves,  just makes us feel a little less “OCD.

Having an OCD crutch isn’t terrible though.  In fact, it is a step forward towards overcoming the emotional suffering of OCD.  They are great to use as a short-term solution, easing your mind long enough to develop and practice a better, more effective, long-term game plan in conquering OCD; such as allowing yourself to focus on practicing CBT techniques, anxiety and stress management, recognizing and understanding OCD triggers, and working on a bit of mindfulness- all things required to overcome emotional suffering of OCD.

Taking A Leap Of Faith Away From OCD

To truly free yourself from the emotional suffering caused by Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, you must first drop the crutches and take a leap of faith into uncertainty.

Think of the movie, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusades, where Indiana Jones ends up at the temple of the “The Treasury” in Petra, Jordan, seeking out the Holy Grail.

Remember the scene where Indiana Jones must take a leap of faith across a bottomless pit to save his father. (Clip of this scene is below)  He really has to just dive right in and take a step into thin air (uncertainty), in which to his surprise, after minor heart failure over the fear of the unknown, realizes there is in fact a solid “invisible” bridge across the bottomless pit.

This entire scene, from the moment of extreme uncertainty to the heavy sigh of relief, is exactly what it is like dropping the OCD crutches and overcoming the emotional suffering caused by the OCD bully brain.  In fact, Harrison Ford expresses the exact emotions (just look at his facial expressions), that I feel when I finally muster up enough confidence to take a leap of faith to overcome self-doubt from my OCD.  I am the Indiana Jones of my own OCD! 

Stopping Compulsive Behavior 

It’s an odd sensation; resisting a compulsive behavior.

At first, when the mind is overwhelmed with emotions and OCD thoughts, it is difficult to even imagine resisting against the OCD bully brain and so, it is just easier to give in, following through with the compulsive behaviors.

Interestingly, through trial and error, we find things (OCD crutches) that allow us to sort of “compromise” with the OCD bully brain, by giving in to compulsive behavior or making ridiculous accommodations to avoid compulsive behavior, as best as we can, to better ease our experience with OCD.   However, OCD still wins.  The only way to successfully overcome the emotional suffering caused by OCD is by not giving in to OCD; however, I will be honest, the mere thought of taking back control can be really scary.

For me, resisting compulsive behavior is like fighting back against an invisible force field.  BUT,  like in every sci-fi movie, there is always a giant red shut-off button every villain doesn’t want you to find, but also seems to be in a dumb place for the hero to find anyway.

Shape 2.png
OCD Bully Brain with a Self-Doubt Ray-gun

Yeah, the OCD bully brain is manipulative, not smart, just like a sci-fi movie villain.  🙂  It is amazing what a little self-confidence can do!

TAKING BACK CONTROL: Give it a Try

It never hurts to try to overcome our OCD.  Below is how I take back control from my OCD brain.

  1. I let OCD triggers happen.  Avoiding them is often futile.
  2. It is important that I recognize the moment I start to have an OCD episode.  It’s much easier to work through an episode when I understand my brain is just being, well, OCD.
  3. I then allow the OCD thoughts and feelings to linger like a stinky breeze on trash day.
  4. I learned to never dwell on “why” these thoughts have come to mind.  I am going to think about all the “why” questions anyway,  but I know I must not start a debate with the OCD bully brain, because the OCD bully brain LOVES to debate with the logical brain.  I cannot let this happen, because the OCD bully brain often wins by using ruthless manipulative tactics to create self-doubt.
  5. I hold my confidence.  I know I am smarter than my OCD bully brain.
  6. I always take in a deep breath (or two or three); however many deep breathes it takes to keep me calm and bring myself closer to clarity.  I am not looking to reach clarity, just enough clarity to keep my understanding that this is just my brain being OCD.
  7. Then, the heavy need to perform a compulsive behavior comes…
    At this point, it is important to remember that I cannot control my thoughts or feelings, but I CAN control my physical actions.  I can control how I chose to respond to my OCD bully brain.
  8. As the thoughts swirl and the emotions build, pushing me to perform a compulsive behavior….I slam down on that imaginary red shut-off button instead!   I take a leap of faith by confidently telling myself:
    This is ridiculous!  Nothing will change if I waste time and energy by performing a compulsive behavior.  I have good faith in myself that all is well.  Everything was fine before this OCD thought came along and everything will be fine long after this thought leaves.  I am in control.”
  9. AND I REFUSE TO GIVE IN!  Instead of performing a compulsive behavior, I look for a distraction to flush that lingering stench of a bad thought out of my brain!
  10. Then, at the end, I wait until the bad OCD thought(s) are gone and my emotions have subsided before picking at my brain cells about “why” I had an OCD episode.  I reflect on how I felt when I refused to perform a compulsive behavior.  I also take note on how long I had to work through my OCD episode.  Did I learn anything?  How can I do better next time?

 

Everyone’s OCD is different, so what works for me, may not work for everyone else.  But, it never hurts to try something new.  In the beginning, refusing to perform a compulsive behavior was difficult, but with practice, it got a lot easier.  Trial and Error is a huge part of overcoming the OCD bully brain.

Distractions Are Good For The Brain

I use to think distracting my OCD bully brain was just another OCD crutch, but it’s not.  Distracting the brain is a healthy way to push lingering thoughts away.  Our brains (so-called normal brains too) do it all the time.

It’s part of normal brain function.  Our brains are constantly collecting input and we only take notice when something of interest sparks our brain and causes us to focus and think more deeply about it.  If the thought doesn’t have a deep emotional attachment to it, we can easily let the thought go.  However, when our OCD brains our anxious, our “Fight or Flight” Response System goes a bit haywire (frayed wiring I’ve talked about before) and our OCD bully brain tends to be extremely sensitive to thoughts and latches on emotionally, especially, to intrusive bad thoughts creating an OCD episode.

The Dash-Cam Is Back, But It’s Not For OCD 

In the beginning, before I started to find ways to overcome my OCD, I used a dash-cam to record all my drives.  I often wasted time and gas to drive all the way back to work or school, just to make sure I didn’t cause any accidents.  The dash-cam, saved me time and gas, but it was still an OCD crutch.  I relied on it for reassurance when self-doubt from my OCD consumed me.

It’s been 6+ years since I last used a dash-cam in my car.  As of two months ago, the dash-cam is back in my life, but this time, it is not for my OCD.  I bought a new dash-cam for my husband to use during his long trips to the big city.  I was hesitant at first to buy a dash-cam, for that I was afraid I would become dependent on a dash-cam again for my OCD.

I have not used the dash-cam for my OCD, yet.  In fact, the dash-cam has been sitting on my desk since last week.  I’ve been driving without having the need to have it in the car.  I don’t want it in the car!  To be honest, I want to conquer my OCD all by myself and thus far, I’ve been doing pretty good at overcoming my driving anxiety.  It just takes confidence and practice.  🙂

Take Away From This Post

In case there was too much blah-blah-blah talk, I just want to say, no matter what point you are at on your OCD journey….

  • Stay strong
  • Be confident in yourself
  • Have faith that all is well in the world
  • Lastly, you got this!!