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My OCD “Phantom” Quirks

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I still have some lingering OCD quirks; OCD habits that seem to have been engraved into my brain, in which no longer serve any OCD purpose.  These are behaviors that I perform without even thinking.  There is no compulsive need or emotional suffering behind any of these left-over quirky behaviors; they are just simply habit.

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My brain is very much OCD wired, but I am in control.  I no longer allow my OCD brain to cause me “emotional” suffering.  Sure, on occassion, I still experience some OCD episodes, but they don’t last very long and are always triggered by stress.  For me, stress management has been the key to living comfortably with an OCD brain.

Today, I often experience, what I call, OCD “phantom” quirks (compulsive-like behaviors with no OCD meaning or purpose), lingering around from a time when my OCD brain was in full control.  For whatever reason, these quirks developed into routine habits.  I am guessing, as an ingenious way to beat my OCD brain to the punch.  Over the years, as I began to conquer my OCD brain, I became so focused on eliminating “emotional” suffering, I seemed to have failed to change some of the physical OCD behaviors (quirks) that morphed into habits.

My 5 Best Phantom Quirks

  1. When shopping, I always take the product behind the first product on the shelf.  There is no compulsive need to do so, it’s just a matter of habit.  Most of the time, I grab whatever is in front of me- I do not care, unless the product looks damaged or something.  But if I am in rush, I automatically grab the product from behind the first product- it’s just habit developed from an old OCD quirk.
  2. Vigorously Checking the Door To Make Sure It’s Locked  Before, I would wiggle the monkey’s out of a doorknob to make sure it was in fact secure and locked; sometimes, unlocking and locking again to be extra sure.

    Today, I do it out of habit.  The other day, in fact.  While running through my mental checklist – backpack, lunch, homework,  my hands were automatically checking the locked doorknob.  I didn’t even realize what I was doing until my daughter loudly interrupted my mental thoughts with “Mommy, it’s locked!”  Obviously, something I have to work on.

  3.  Not Reusing a Spoon For Coffee  I used to experience OCD contamination fears.  If you put down a spoon on a surface (even a known clean surface), my OCD brain was convinced it was then contaminated and I was forced to get a new clean spoon.  

    Today, after stirring my coffee with a spoon, I generally just rinse it off and put it back in the drawer.  Sometimes, I leave it on the counter for later and just rinse off and reuse.  But, if I am not fully in the moment, when I go back for more coffee, I will automatically get a new spoon- even though, I notice a perfectly good spoon sitting next to the coffee maker.

    Fortunately, I have successfully broken my habit with cups!  I used to never use the same cup twice.  Man, now I use the same cup all day!  Just rinse and re-use!

  4.  Counting Traffic Lights  I used to count how many traffic intersections were between point A and point B.  I don’t know why I did this, but I had some compulsive need to do it.

    Today, I am guessing it’s habit or perhaps it’s been embraced as a navigational skill.  Although I no longer actively count intersections,  I can still generally (not always, like before though) tell you how many intersections you have to pass through to get to your destination.  It’s a great party trick!

  5. Using A Knuckle To Press The Elevator Button  Not all OCD habits are worth breaking; especially,  those that are probably better for your health anyway.

    As I mentioned before, I used to have contamination fears.   One OCD habit I acquired was pressing the elevator button with my knuckle, rather than my finger, to avoid germs.  Then, I would immediately (as if it were an emergency) wash my hands or use hand santizer afterwards.

    Today, I prefer to use my knuckle instead of my finger to press the elevator button, because it’s a healthy habit (kind of like, sneezing into your elbow rather than into your hands).  I rarely have a compulsive need to wash my hands after pressing the button, unless, of course, it was noticeably icky or sticky.   Flu season is also an exception, I might seek some hand sanitizer afterwards, just because I really do not want to be sick with the flu.  Nobody likes having the flu!   

Maybe My OCD Brain Is Controlling Me From Behind the Scenes And I Don’t Even Know It!

Maybe, my OCD brain is subconsciously triggering compulsive behavior?  Oh, that sneaky OCD brain of mine….

No, my OCD brain is not controlling me subconsciously.   The OCD brain is a bully that is driven by emotional suffering.  If you aren’t experiencing emotional suffering, your OCD brain is not winning, thus, definitely not in control.

I truly believe compulsive behaviors are physical responses to emotional suffering caused by obsessive irrational intrusive thoughts.  If I am not experiencing any emotional suffering with my OCD quirks, then I am pretty confident these quirky behaviors are nothing more than just simple habits left over from years of actually performing compulsive behaviors due to frequent OCD episodes.

If you think about it, a habit is something you do routinely, and practiced enough, it is very difficult to break.  So, it is certainly reasonable to assume, compulsive behaviors due to frequent OCD episodes, done routinely, and practiced enough, could develop into normal everyday habits.

In my opinion, if you aren’t emotionally suffering from a habit, it’s not OCD (anymore).

Am I Just In Denial?

Of course, I am not a professional expert or anything-experty.  For all I know, I am just in denial of my OCD and I am still “suffering” from OCD.  But, if I am, am I really suffering?  Isn’t the entire point of overcoming OCD, overcoming the emotional distress caused by OCD?

I’ll always have an OCD wired brain (or, so I have been told),  and if I can re-wire my brain to be truly OCD-free…how long is that going to take?  Baby-steps, please!  Baby steps!  

If there is one thing I have learned on my OCD journey, is that OCD is personally unique to each individual.   Although no two bully brains are the same, every bully brain causes emotional suffering.  If you can free yourself from the emotional suffering, then that, my friend, is what I call progress in my book!

It’s truly okay if you cannot re-wire your brain back to normal!  Normal is so boring anyway.  The important thing, in my opinion, is overcoming the emotional distress (suffering) caused by the OCD bully brain.  After that, any OCD “phantom” quirks left behind, embrace them!  Embrace them like OCD battle scars!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Universe Balancing Itself Out

Man, when life hits ya, it can sometimes hit ya hard!  

Every once in awhile I go through a period of intense overwhelming stress.  For whatever reason, my entire world turns upside down- anything that can happen, does happen, and generally, it happens all at once.  Murphy’s law at its best, really.

Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong.

-Murphy’s Law

Life has been crazy overwhelming since the beginning of September and today, is the first time things have been calm and peaceful.

I believe these random periods of chaos is the Universe’s way of balancing itself out.  I generally tend to only have a few bad days (sometimes a few bad weeks) throughout an entire year.  So, technically, that’s not too bad, given that the rest of my year is fantastic!

I guess, after having a few good years though, I was probably due for a couple of bad months.  Perhaps, that was the case this time, because this period of chaos was a doozie!

Both my kids got sick (twice), one of them was hospitalized, while the other was out of school for an entire week.  They both had a common cold and then later, strep with a mild viral infection.  This was the root of all my stress, especially, since the beginning of this month, we went from amazing health-care insurance to “What kind of health-care insurance is this?”  Basically, our premiums doubled and we lost really good benefits.

But, that wasn’t all I was dealing with… 

I am in charge of everything.  On top of the average domestic duties of a modern housewife and mother, I am also in charge of paying bills, budgeting finances, unclogging toilets, routine car maintenance, and household maintenance, such as changing air filters, fixing appliances, and taking out the trash.  I do this, all in between raising kids, washing laundry, and putting food on the table.  I truly do everything, except bring home a paycheck.  Given enough time in the day, I could probably do that too. 

I am not complaining though.  I truly do not mind doing everything.  Fortunately, my OCD brain is really good at managing chaos; however, I am not a robot.  I have human limitations and boundaries.  No matter how organized and smoothly efficient things are, I do, on occasion, get exhausted, stressed, and overwhelmed and that is okay.  Sadly, the problem is when there is no emotional support for when I do get overwhelmed.

My husband’s extreme anxiety, mild case of Asperger’s, and fear of responsibility (hypengyophobia), can be quite challenging when I am in need of emotional support and/or a little extra help with the daily biz.  For the most part, I am just left to figure it out on my own- which takes time.

It also didn’t help, that I got sick too.  I don’t think with Strep, but certainly, a mild viral infection.   Basically, after everyone got better, all the “fires” were put out, the house was clean, and everyone was back on tract, my body broke down and I finally got sick too.   I also broke down emotionally- I felt as if I had taken on the world and the world had won.  Things got so overwhelming, I struggled with a sense of time.  I wasn’t on top of everything.  A lot of things, minor things, fell through the cracks.  But, in the end, all turned out okay.

I am good now.  I know what day it is.  My house is clean.  My to-do-list is small.  I am grateful for all things little and large.  And, I also have a smile on my face- with a cup of coffee in my hand.

This is how my Universe works.   I have periods of good days and bad days, more good days than bad days, and the few bad days I do have, are just thrown in to balance out chaos.  This is life.  Understanding it, makes those bad days not so bad.

Hope everyone has a great Monday!  If you are having a bad day, week, or even a month, remember better times are just around the corner.  ❤

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Speaking Of Brains…

Hi Brains!

I totally missed ya’ll!  For some reason, I didn’t have the heart to completely shut down Speak To The Brain.  It lingered in the back of my mind while trying to venture onto new projects; new boring, “why am I doing this again,” kind of projects.  I missed blogging about mental health and I have recently realized that my new projects aren’t as fun as blogging for Speak To The Brain.  So, I’m back!    

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My Much Needed Break 

I don’t entirely regret taking a break from Speak To The Brain, for that I had a lot going on (don’t we all) that required my full attention.  However, the biggest reason for my break from blogging, was my oldest, who is no longer a pre-schooler, but now a full-blown Kindergartener!  I, like so many other moms on this planet, was having a difficult time letting go…

My oldest was born a micro-preemie (3 months early, weighing just 1 lb) and as of this past summer, was still not up to par mentally.  Basically, we worried that she wasn’t mature enough to start school.  Academically, we weren’t worried; however, she still acts like a toddler with her defiant bad attitude; in which, her pediatrician feared would get her “kicked out” of Kindergarten.  However, the school administrator ensured me (as if trying to make a commission sale) that all will be fine and that they certainly “do not kick kids out of Kindergarten.”

So, I spent the rest of the summer spending as much time with my oldest as possible trying to prepare her for Kindergarten (and wrapping up the wonderful baby years that I’m so very much going to miss).  Unfortunately, I neglected to prepare myself for Kindergarten.  I was not prepared to tackle my own social anxieties having to talk to teachers and other parents!  I wasn’t ready for the pressures of PTA, parent / teacher conference, and a bunch of social school events.  It’s so totally awkward!  

New Content: Social Anxiety 

Although I am pretty good at keeping my OCD in check, I am faced with a new mental health challenge: social anxiety! 

Okay, I’ve always had social anxiety.   I am the person you invite to a social gathering who kindly accepts, but can’t seem to cross over the threshold, later texting excuses and apologies for not showing up.  Yup, I am that person.  Although I’m much better now- I’ve learned to say “no” up front, rather than string people along on my anxiety ride.

But that’s not the issue.  I am an introvert who has forgotten how to simply say, “hello.” Words either fail to come out of my mouth or awkwardly stumble out of my mouth, making me look like… a dork.  Sometimes I sound rude while other times, I sound like an idiot.  And most of the time, neither of us (in a two-way conversation) knows what I am talking about, with many awkward pauses in between.  Obviously, my social skills are a bit rusty and apparently, I have picked up on some of my husband’s quirky social skills, in which, is driving me crazy.   I am a mess!  But, I guess on the bright-side, I have new content for Speak To The Brain!

Do you have social-anxiety?  What are things that you struggle with socially- words, body language, or thoughts of intense judgement (or all of it)?

I totally look forward to blogging again!  Please be on the look-out for some future posts and remember, your mental health matters too!  Smile and breathe! ❤ 

 

 

 

 

 

Shopping With Anxiety: Not Always Bad

I am a late night grocery shopper, because shopping at the grocery store during the day, by myself, is a nightmare with anxiety!

I am not the only one who experiences shopping anxiety; my husband won’t even get out of the car unless the entire family goes inside the store with him.  If he does go into the store by himself, in which is rare, he comes out looking white as a ghost, hair frazzled on end, and heart pounding, as if he had to battle an army of orcs inside the grocery store just to get a gallon a milk.  Unfortunately, he doesn’t even make it to the dairy section; as that would be like having to venture towards the back of the grocery store into Narnia. Instead, he comes back with an 8oz carton of milk from the check out line!  You know, I am not judging, because it happens to us all!  

Peak Time For Anxiety Is 5pm

My anxiety triggers OCD, thus why I absolutely hate shopping during the day.  I can deal with a little anxiety, but once it triggers an OCD episode, I am done!  I too, walk out of the grocery store white as a ghost, hair frazzled on end, and heart pounding, worried about the most irrational horrific things in the world about a gallon of milk.  So, to save myself from emotional distress, I prefer to shop at night, where there is no crowd, the night stockers often sing and dance while the speakers play rock & roll, instead of the usually sappy music that is required to play during the day, and the check out clerks are much happier!  It’s an entirely different atmosphere after the sun goes down.

Again, I can largely relate to my husband’s experience inside the grocery store.  Although I enjoy shopping late at night, every so often I have to run to the store for one or two things before dinner time.  Unfortunately, 5pm at the grocery store is always crazy!  It is crowded with all sorts of different shoppers, from the old complaining about the cost of inflation to the young trying to buy alcohol.  There are those holding up lines over expired coupons, writing checks, or just simply talking about their day to a clerk who doesn’t really care.  The worst though, are the people who just got off work and are trying to rush through the grocery store like football line-backers.  They are hungry, rude, and in a hurry!  Personally, I don’t blame them, because they just want to get home like the rest of us.

So…This Happened

Every so often, I treat myself to a mud mask (scares the monkey’s out of my kids).  MUD MONSTER!  Anyway, I enjoy it, also my skin comes out smooth, fresh, and less “old and tired” looking.

I’ve tried all different kinds of mud-masks and my two favorite are charcoal and dead-sea mineral mud masks.  The charcoal masks are great for cleaning out pores and the dead-sea mineral masks are great for making skin feel soft, plus reduces dark circles and redness.  So, I try to do a dead-sea mineral mask once a week (if I am lucky) and the weeks I look absolutely dreadful, I do a charcoal mask, since that’s more heavy duty than a dead-sea mineral mask.  Although I am not really into the girly-girl things, I do enjoy mud-masks.

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I went to the store recently and stocked up on mud masks, but I didn’t realize, I stocked up on the wrong kind of mud mask.  I remember I bought them when I was making a milk run to the grocery store when the grocery store was super busy.  I had anxiety.  I remember two girls talking loudly about their business and it made me nervous, so I quickly grab the mud masks.  I saw “dead-sea…” but I did not comprehend the rest of it, “dead-seaweed,” SEA-WEED!  What!  I bought a couple of mud-masks with seaweed instead of my usual dead-sea mineral mud masks.

Shopping Anxiety Is Not Always Bad

I am cool.  I am hip.  I can try smearing sea-weed all over my face, why not?

I tried it!  Although the experience is not very pleasant as sea-weed certainly smells, it sure did make my skin look pretty!  I am not opposed to doing it again, but probably not something I am willing to do all the time.

So, shopping with anxiety isn’t always terrible.  To be honest, I probably wouldn’t try new things if I weren’t rushing through a grocery store with anxiety and picking up the wrong stuff every so often.  Sure, sometimes I am forced to exchange items, like the time I needed butter and quickly picked up a block of cream-cheese instead.  For the record, that was not entirely my fault, for that the grocery store had moved the butter section!

Making The Best Of Things

My point is, that anxiety is not always terrible.  Sometimes good unexpected things can come out of it.  If you go to the grocery store for lemons and come back with limes, I guess make limeade instead!

How do you cope with shopping anxiety? 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Everyday Stressors

I started listening to a 7-day Stress Management series provided by the Calm App (iOS).  The narrator said something quite enlightening; something along the lines that “us humans are not yet ready to take on the stresses of the 21st century.” IMG_0937

Stress is normal everyday life now; however, our Fight or Flight Response System is a little behind on the times. There is just too much going on for our Fight or Flight Response System to process, thus, our bodies are thrown into constant high alert making us feel stressed all the time.  Practicing mindfulness and changing our thinking habits allow our Fight or Flight Response System more time to re-evaluate and accurately process the world around us to ensure our bodies appropriately respond to the right stressors.

Stressors are everywhere.  From the moment we wake up in the morning to the moment we rack out asleep in our beds at night.  I don’t know about anyone else, but my alarm clock is my first everyday stressor.  After avoiding the snooze button, my alarm clock turns into a thirty minute count-down where I am having to rush everyone to get ready for the day.  Drag my husband out of bed and push him into the shower, so he can wake up enough to get his butt to work.  Argue with a two year old about which cereal she wants but never eats.  Coax my preschooler to join the rest of us as she whines about it being too cold to get out of bed, even though the house is comfortably warm.  Lastly, after everyone is ready to go, with just a few minutes left on the clock, I have to get ready!  Every morning is chaotic and I have the power to change it! Just by changing up my morning routine and focus on better time management, I can eliminate my everyday morning stressors.

What is your first stressor of everyday? 

Uncontrollable Stressors

Life is full of funky lemons and we can’t always control what funky lemons are given to us.  We can try to make lemonade, but all we get is funky lemonade.  Simply, we are often forced to cope with stressful situations that are out of our control.

Life is full of uncontrollable stressors, like traffic.  Traffic becomes stressful when it causes us to be late for work or somewhere else that is really important.  OR, like getting laid off; it’s just something that happens and even the best employees get laid off sometimes.  Another uncontrollable stressor, is being a scheduled speaker with a nasty mustard stain on a favorite white blouse just before the start of a board meeting and no jacket to cover it up.  Or life’s worst funky lemon, for me, is finding my textbook all chewed up just before an open-book exam!  We encounter uncontrollable stressors everyday, but it’s how we respond to these stressors that make or break us.

Always try to make the best of every stressful situation!  For instance, if you are stuck in traffic and running late for work, loosen your tie, roll down your window, turn up the radio and sing your heart out!  Despite being chewed out by your boss for five minutes, your job is still gonna be there.  Don’t let a little traffic ruin your entire day.

Overcoming the stress of getting laid off, is all about changing your attitude.  Sure, money will be tight, but when a door closes another one opens.  That sounds cheesy, a little cliche, but it’s so true!

That mustard stain…I say wear it proud!  It may be embarrassing at first, but everyone will understand, because you are human!  You can also get creative by covering it with a sticker, snag a scarf, or if possible, tuck it in.  Often times, because offices are cold, someone with a sweater will likely allow you to borrow theirs while you speak to the board of directors.

And, for the chewed up text-book…well, good luck!   

Small Breaks To Knock Out Big Stressors

Sometimes we can’t make the best of a stressful situation.  There are some serious uncontrollable stressors out there that just cannot be resolved with a little creativity and a positive attitude.  When forced to endure an uncontrollable stressful situation that cannot be resolved, we must find other ways to better cope with stress.

Really big uncontrollable stressors is a job for our Fight or Flight Response System.  Although we cannot do anything physically productive to eliminate a big uncontrollable stressor in our life, we do have the ability to take small relaxing breaks to help our bodies cope with stress.

This includes practicing mindfulness and acceptance, meditating, reading, taking a walk, exercise, having a spa day, or distracting yourself with something fun while the body does its thing (you know releasing those feel-good chemicals to reduce stress).   So, even if we cannot eliminate the stressor, we can help our bodies cope with the stress the stressor is causing us.

Breathe and Smile

Whatever type of stressors are in your life, always remember to stop, breathe, and smile.

Do you have any effective coping skills for major stressors in your life? Share with us, so we can try them too. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Overcoming Intrusive Thoughts

There were times when I was bombarded by dark heavy intrusive-thought clouds.  I used to think that focusing on the intrusive thoughts themselves would make the intrusive thoughts go away.  I always dwelled on one specific question: “Why am I thinking such horrific thoughts?!”  Unfortunately, that question only opened a flood gate of other disturbing irrational thoughts that would only intensify my anxiety and emotions even more, ultimately resulting in hours or even days of extreme emotional suffering.

Turns out, I just wasn’t asking myself the “right” questions?  

What Are Intrusive Thoughts?

Intrusive thoughts can be nuisance little buggers.  They are unpleasant thoughts, mental images, or ideas that involuntarily pop up in the mind.  Everyone experiences intrusive thoughts, it’s not just an OCD thing.

See, the brain is constantly scanning and processing information, thus why some junk information may end up in the processing line with thoughts that actually matter.  For the most part, our brain does a pretty good job at pushing intrusive thoughts through without us taking notice.  However, we tend to dwell on thoughts that are attached to emotions; so if an intrusive thought just so happens to pass through our mind at the right time, like during a period of anxiety, we might accidentally lock onto that intrusive thought by attaching an emotion to it.  

Generally, intrusive thoughts don’t linger around for very long and cause little to no emotional distress, because the fight or flight response system quickly realizes these intrusive thoughts are harmless and doesn’t require an emotional response; thus, releasing the emotional attachment allowing the intrusive thought to drift away from the mind.

However, for me, my faulty fight or flight response system doesn’t exactly know what to do with an intrusive thought and keeps me emotionally attached to my intrusive thought until it can be processed appropriately.  Almost like, when a customer service representative encounters a questionable problem, but has to wait until their manager comes back to lunch to resolve it.  Yet, with OCD, instead of waiting for the manager of my faulty fight or flight response system, I get the moody on-call supervisor (my OCD) to try to handle it for me, in which, we all know just makes matters worse causing emotional distress.  I wonder if I can sue my OCD for emotional distress?  

None Shall Pass, The Never Ending Thought Loop 

Imagine you are stuck running in a loop and there is a toll booth.  If you ask the right questions at the toll booth, you are free to leave the loop.  If you ask the wrong questions, you continue running in an endless loop, dwelling more and more on your intrusive thoughts.  Also, think of the loop as a dirt-road track, because the more you go round and round in your loop, the deeper the track gets from continuous tread from your shoes. Overcoming intrusive thoughts is a bit like that…at least for me it is. 

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I learned that the more I dwell on trying to analyze my intrusive thoughts, the more my anxiety and emotions intensify, leading to self-doubt.  Once self-doubt kicks in, that is it!  My OCD bully has nailed me in the gonads and I am just left to wait it out until my OCD episode ends on it’s own.  This is because self-doubt is much more difficult to overcome than the emotions attached to intrusive thoughts.  Self-doubt makes the intrusive thoughts personal and without cognitive practice, self-doubt is emotionally painful.

When intrusive thoughts become stuck, you just can’t not think about them….

Asking Different Questions

It’s all about changing tactics.  If you do the same thing over and over again to try to solve a problem, you always get the same results.  Usually, if you change your point of view, you discover a new way to tackle your problem to gain different results.  So, if dwelling on the same questions is making anxiety worse, why not try asking different questions?  Here are some examples: 

  1. Instead of asking yourself, “Why am I thinking about these horrific thoughts?”
    Ask yourself, “Why do these horrific thoughts bother me so much?”
  2. Instead of asking yourself, “Where did these horrific thoughts come from?”
    Ask yourself, “Am I anxious about anything that could have triggered these thoughts?”
  3. Instead of asking yourself, “Why can’t I just let go of these thoughts?”
    Ask yourself, “Are these thoughts really worth my time and energy to think about?”
  4. Instead of asking yourself, “Who am I?”
    Ask yourself, “Who am I not?”  Remember, intrusive thoughts do not define you.
  5. Finally, ask yourself, “What emotions am I attaching to these thoughts?”
    And then, begin defusing those emotions.

Try to think outside the box!  Ask questions that are constructive and positive to help lead you away from intrusive thoughts.  And, always remember to take a deep breath!

It’s Not Always Easy

There is always more than one way to release yourself from your anchored thoughts, you just need to find which way works for you.  The OCD bully brain wants to take advantage of intrusive thoughts to make you feel like a bad person.  Don’t let it!   You may not be able to control your thoughts, but you can for sure control how you respond to your thoughts.