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.

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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!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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My First Major OCD Episode In 6 Years

It has been 2,190 DAYS (six years) since the last time I suffered from a major emotional OCD episode.  Unfortunately, that ended about a week ago.  As of today, it has only been 4 DAYS since my last major emotional OCD episode.

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My OCD Brain Fighting Against My Logical Brain

Over a week ago, I had a major OCD episode; one in which I couldn’t shake from my brain for at least an entire week.  My OCD brain was preventing me from blogging about OCD in fear something catastrophic would happen if I did; but I realized the catastrophic fear is just a  thinking error triggered by the real emotion of embarrassment.  So, after overcoming the embarrassing fact that I had a major OCD episode, my first one in years, I can semi-comfortably blog again.  I am no longer embarrassed over it, just relieved it is over.  This experience was slightly different from any other experience I have ever had with major OCD episodes.  In fact, it felt like a mental war going on in my head between my OCD brain and my logical brain.

Usually, it is just a war between my emotions and my OCD brain, but this time, my “logical” brain was not going to have it.  Six years ago, my logical brain was confused, insecure, and well, just not very helpful against an OCD bully.  However, this time, I was completely confident with my logic.  Instead of a constant period of emotional suffering, it was an on and off period of emotional suffering.  It was a bizarre mental tug-a-war experience that lasted an entire week, all because I knew exactly what was going on in my OCD brain.

My Kids Are OCD’s Kryptonite 

I can tell you exactly why my OCD struck me so hard when it did; it is because I didn’t have my kids distracting my brain and I was in an anxious mood.

Ever since I became a mom, I have been, essentially, OCD-free.  I still have an OCD brain, but I rarely have any OCD episodes, and when I do, they are extremely minor little episodes that don’t bother me at all.  Last week was the first time in years, that an OCD episode not only lasted forever but also had caused me severe emotional suffering.  In short, it was an OCD episode that totally messed with my happy.

Although my kids help keep my OCD at bay, I don’t usually have any OCD episodes when they are away visiting family.  I am not entirely dependent on them as I do a pretty good job controlling my OCD on my own, but I guess when they are gone, it is like having an extra defense shield down against OCD.  Thus, without being entirely mindful of my anxiety, OCD episodes are more likely to occur.

Overcoming My OCD 

Thinking about last week, I strongly believe the mental tug-a-war I experienced with my major OCD episode was me fighting back against my OCD.  The bizarre part of it all, was that I wasn’t even trying to stop my OCD brain; my logical brain just automatically took over.  My OCD brain tried to get me to doubt myself, but it didn’t work.  To me, I feel as if that was a sign that I might actually be overcoming OCD after all.  Unfortunately, catastrophic thinking still got the best of me; but in the end, I know I had successfully won that OCD battle!

Encouraging Others To Overcome OCD

The emotional suffering I felt last week deeply reminded me of the suffering I constantly endured my first couple of years with OCD and how it greatly motivated me to find a way to conquer my OCD.  I may not be able to cure my OCD, but I can certainly overcome the suffering it causes me.   I strongly believe if I can do it, others can do it too!

I hope my blog encourages others to overcome their OCD or at the very least, bring comfort to those suffering from OCD.  I have seen the ugly side of OCD and have stood in many OCD shoes.  Perhaps not an exact fit in shoe, for that everyone experiences OCD differently, but an enough fit to understand how badly OCD can affect a person’s life and overall happiness.

May the path to OCD-freedom lie just around the corner.  ❤

 

 

 

The Big OCD Question…Is OCD Genetic?

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Genetics are funny.  Probably so, because it wasn’t my strongest topic in Biology.  I remember trying to predict genetic traits using a square chart diagram, called a Punnett square.  It felt like rocket-science, but without the cool rockets.  Turns out, I am a terrible psychic when it comes to genetics; however, I do find genetics absolutely fascinating; especially when it comes to mental health.

Is OCD genetic?

What wonderful ancestor do I have to thank for passing down this unpleasant mental health disorder called Obsessive Compulsive Disorder?  I’d like to go back in time and give them a lovely piece of my OCD mind!

Unfortunately, geneticists can’t answer that question, at least, not yet.  It appears they’ve  only just begun to explore the surface of genetics affecting mental health.  OCD does have a genetic component as they have supposedly discovered a couple of genes causing OCD mayhem.  However, the inheritance pattern of OCD is unknown, as OCD genes, like many other kinds of genes, seem to be largely influenced by environmental factors too.

Basically, not everyone carrying OCD genes will experience OCD.  There is a chance those genes will be activated at birth with symptoms gradually appearing throughout childhood into early adolescence.  Or, some OCD genes may lay dormant until triggered by some sort of trauma or some other environmental factor.  It is really difficult to say, who will get OCD and when it may occur in ones life.

Dormant Genes Waiting It’s Turn To Express Their Wrath 

Genes are fascinating, because not all the genes in our DNA master code book (genetic genome) are entirely expressed (activated/turned on/ used) all at once.  Obviously, we do have a lot of genes activated at birth, like those for basic human anatomy and physiology, touched with traits that make us unique and give us some resemblance of our parents.

But we also have genes that remain dormant.  For the body to function properly, our cells have the incredible ability to turn certain types of genes on and off, and they do so on a regular basis.  We don’t notice when new genes kick on and off, because they are primarily genes that are important to the body’s function to maintain homeostasis (balance).  So, no, your cells aren’t going to switch your eye color on ya; although, that would be kind of cool!

We also have some genes that will never be activated at all, because we are just “carriers.”  Basically,  we carry the gene to the next generation (our kids).  Depending on who we “mate” with and other biological factors; if the right conditions to activate a specific gene are met, then the gene will be expressed in one of our kids.  It’s complicated probability process can make it difficult to predict whether your kids will get certain genetic traits, diseases, and disorders.

But wait, there is more, we also have some genes that just lay dormant, patiently waiting for their chance to express their wrath, in which are generally activated by trauma.  Any kind of trauma (emotional or physical) has the potential to trigger gene activation.

My OCD was triggered by trauma, I am sure of it!

I am not a geneticist or a psychologist, nor any kind of expert for that matter; I am just a geeky science nerd pondering the inner-workings of my OCD brain…

Looking back, I am not aware of having any childhood OCD tendencies.  If I did, they weren’t worth remembering.  I do know for sure that I was in my mid-twenties, when I first began to experience true horrific OCD episodes with severe emotional suffering.  It felt as if my OCD was turned on like a light-switch.  I just woke up one day with an entirely different brain, with negative thinking patterns, bombarded with irrational and intrusive thoughts, and an overwhelming sense of self-doubt.  I thought I was going insane!

Of course, my therapist tried to pick my brain apart to figure out how my OCD suddenly came about, but we couldn’t figure it out.  I think my therapist was fascinated by the sudden onset of my OCD, especially, since I had been OCD-free my entire life, or at least I was pretty confident that I’d been living an OCD-free life.  According to my therapist, back then, it was unusual; not unheard of, but unusual to experience a sudden onset of OCD.  Today, it doesn’t seem so unusual.

My personal theory on what may have triggered my OCD…

Today, I am convinced a very traumatic, intensely stressful, scary moment on the free-way woke up my slumbering OCD genes.  I was driving home on the free-way one day after work, when I had to slow down to stop for a tiny fender-bender in my lane (far left lane).  Usually, no big deal, because you just turn on your blinker and impatiently wait for a break in traffic in the next lane to move around the accident.  Unfortunately, that day, my blinker was not working!

I was unable to signal to the other drivers in the next lane that I wanted to get around the accident.  Because I was stopped so close behind the fender-bender, without my blinker, one could easily think I was part of the fender-bender and had no intentions of moving around it.  It was rush hour and traffic in all the lanes were busily moving fast.  I had but one choice, or at least what my brain calculated to be the best choice, to cut in front of traffic!

I waited for a good size break in traffic, but let’s face it, when you are sweating bullets on the verge of a major panic attack, your judgement starts to become a bit cloudy.  I can still vividly remember the sound of a loud angry car horn as I quickly and recklessly cut in front of moving traffic in the next lane to get around the tiny fender-bender.  Fortunately, I didn’t cause a wreck, but I was shaken up like one of James Bond’s classic martini’s.

I am almost certain that was the moment that triggered my OCD, because my first noticeable episodes of my OCD were irrational fears about driving.

Future of Mental Health and Genetics

Anyways, that is just a personal theory of mine.  Who knows how or why I got OCD, just lucky I guess (total sarcasm).  Anyways, genetics in mental health is exciting.  Not just for OCD, but for other mental health disorders too.  I am curious to see what genetics will do for mental health.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Overcoming Pure “O” Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

It has been years since I thought about my OCD brain (6 years to be fact).  Pure “O” Obsessive Compulsive Disorder once tortured me every day, several times a day, ruining my relationships, social life, daily living, and ultimately, my happiness.  Today, I realized, that I didn’t cure my OCD, but instead, I cured the suffering my OCD was causing me.  I will always have an OCD brain, but it no longer controls me or my happiness.  In fact, I have learned to embrace some of my OCD tendencies, the good ones, to better live a happier, healthier, life.  The point is, I am in control of my OCD brain.

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“Pure “O” OCD is, honestly, a mental torture of obsessive intrusive thoughts, running through the mind on repeat, like a broken record.  It is often triggered by anxiety and causes extreme distress (at least for me it did).  Rarely, does it involve compulsive behaviors (like washing hands, counting, or straightening things).  It is claimed to be a “less severe” form of OCD, but personally, I would have given anything to have had compulsive behaviors, for that it is the compulsive behaviors that satisfy the obsessive thoughts, ending the suffering.  This alternate thought processing illness was ruining my life. Previous Blog: My Fascination With The Brain: Pure “O” OCD

Where to Begin…

The road to my so-called recovery from Pure “O” OCD is a complicated one and like I said, I didn’t cure my OCD, I pretty much simply “accepted” it.  In my case, acceptance is not a word that means defeat.  Oh no, I pretty much knocked my bullying OCD’s butt straight of it’s high pedestal.  But I am not going to lie, it was not easy and it took a great amount of work, dedication, effort, and some monumental amount of mental strength to confront and overcome my OCD habits.

The therapist who diagnosed me told me that my OCD will “NEVER” go away, yet it could be “manageable.”  When I asked what “manageable” meant; I was told it just means “fewer episodes.”  I didn’t want fewer episodes, I wanted NO episodes!  My episodes at the time would last from hours to days causing much emotional distress.  I couldn’t accept the thought of being OCD FOREVER!  Fortunately, at the time, I was a Biology major with tons of research resources at my finger tips!  So, of course, I immersed myself into a lot of books in search of some solutions…

Forget the Overall Wiring, Lets Tackle Those Frayed Wires Instead

In the beginning, all I could do was wish for my OCD brain to stop.  Deep scary depression set in and I felt as if my world was crumbling into insanity.  But, I woke up one day with a new attitude and a mantra of, “Na, Na, Na, Na, I can’t hear you!” to my OCD brain.  Unfortunately, that alone wasn’t very effective.

From there, I began my research guided by my therapist.  Turns out a therapist can only provide you tools for success and emotional support during your own mental health journey.  They cannot provide answers, solutions, or cures, just a list of books.  Kind of reminds me of Gandalf from Lord of the Rings Trilogy; I mean come on, he totally could have just flown Frodo to Mount Doom making it a short quick journey.  Anyways, I guess you can think of my OCD as the “one” ring and it is my own journey and destiny to carry it to Mordor to destroy it…Yes, I am a nerd.

Of course, like all epic journeys, there were set backs as my entire journey consisted nothing more than trial and error.  Everyone experiences OCD differently, thus not everything I read or was advised to me effectively worked for me.  So, then I realized I had to pick apart all the so-called effective techniques and tailor it to my own specific quirky OCD brain.  What I discovered was that some of the techniques that worked just a little bit, had the potential of working better in combination with other techniques.

Furthermore, I realized that I wasn’t getting anywhere focusing on the OCD brain itself (mix-match wiring).  Interesting fact though: OCD is due to faulty wiring in the body’s Fight or Flight Response System; a crazy fascinating function that I would love to talk about, but I will refrain from being a total science nerd right now.  The important thing is that I found it much more effective to focus primarily on my OCD episodes (frayed wiring) instead of the overall wiring of my OCD brain, by asking myself the following questions:

  • What triggers them?
  • How do I often respond to them?
  • How can I respond differently?
  • Why is this causing me so much stress and anxiety?

It became clear to me, that all my OCD episodes had something in common; they all caused me extreme “suffering” that largely impacted my overall happiness and personally, nobody messes with my happy.  Strangely, I decided to look into a little Buddhist philosophy to learn more about this thing referred to as “suffering.”  To be honest, I didn’t convert to Buddhism nor have I successfully achieved Nirvana; however, I was certainly enlightened.

In short, “I don’t care how silly, ridiculous, or unorthodox a method may be; if it works, it works!

15 Effective Tools (Methods) Used To Defeat OCD  

Everyone’s journey is different; however, the tools are pretty much the same for everyone; you just have to learn which ones to use and how to effectively use them.  There is no point in dwelling on the story about my own journey.  Spoil alert: It was long, emotional, and had many Mt. Everest sized mountains to climb.  But, what I can offer, is more information about the tools I found most helpful and effective against my OCD brain.

#1 The strong desire and will to change…

Change, in general, is tough.  Changing physical habits are tougher.  But, changing thinking habits is almost damn near impossible.  The heart may be foolish, but I tell ya, the mind is as stubborn as a mule.  Yet, when you become committed to making a change, the obstacles standing in your way become much more easier to overcome.  Unfortunately, change doesn’t happen over night nor was Rome built in a day (an expression I didn’t quite understand until my journey with OCD).

Basically, “If you want something bad enough, you will find a way to get it.

#2 A new positive attitude

You must remain positive.  That is a pretty tough request to fill when your mind is bombarded with unpleasant negative intrusive thoughts; but a single positive thought can have enough potential to get a little motivated momentum going to help you out of your OCD funk.  A positive attitude is also important to drive your desire to change your thinking habits and kick OCD in the butt.

#3 A sense of humor

My OCD brain thinks it’s funny, at least, that is what I had to tell myself.  Instead of telling my brain,“Na, Na, Na, Na, I can’t hear you!”, I would often tell my OCD brain, “Okay, I am listening…What ridiculous thoughts do you have for me today,” and then simply laugh it off.   I eventually learned I couldn’t read too much into my OCD, otherwise, my OCD would get the best of me and ruin my entire day.

The deep thought of “what does this all mean” should be left to the experts and if the experts aren’t concerned about it, then why should I be?

#4 OCD Brain as a separate Entity

The best thing I ever did, was take the advice of my therapist and think of my OCD brain as a separate entity.  Whenever I would start an OCD episode, I would recognize it and tell myself, “Oh, its just my quirky OCD brain.”  At first, I felt silly, but after awhile, it became very effective.  By thinking of my OCD brain as a separate entity, I was able to separate the “real” me from my OCD brain; in which made me feel so much better.  It also allowed me to better sort out my emotions and pay more attention to my OCD episodes to better recognize my triggers and irrational thoughts.

#5 Stop Responding To The OCD Bully

OCD is a bully.  A big fat nasty bully!  Seriously, if you think about it, it bully’s you with intrusive unwanted thoughts making you feel like a bad person and you are not a bad person.  If it makes you feel any better, OCD experts say, the more good you are as a person the worse the OCD.  So, technically, if your OCD is causing you super extreme suffering, you’re likely to be a really good person who couldn’t even imagine harming a fly!

Learning how to effectively deal with bully’s, in general, gave me a better understanding on how to better respond to my OCD.  I learned to accept whatever my OCD threw at me and I refused to respond, usually by distracting my brain with something else.  Kind of like how you get a toddler to stop a huge temper-tantrum!  The very few compulsive behaviors I had, I would just refuse to do them.  Honestly, it was the most difficult agonizing thing I have ever had to do, but after awhile, it got easier.

#6 Journaling OCD Episodes

Whenever I would have a bad OCD episode that I couldn’t shake, I would journal it.  I would write down my entire experience and all my irrational thoughts and feelings.  Then I would re-read it aloud over and over again.  The more I read it, the more ridiculous it sound and the better I felt.  This was very effective with OCD episodes dealing with extreme doubt and irrational “What if” scenarios.  It was also a great way to recognize common triggers and come up with better ways to respond to those triggers.

#7 Don’t ignore all triggers

The reason it is important to recognize triggers, is not to avoid them, but to accept them and learn to better respond to them.  If I were to avoid every little trigger, I would be a very boring person who wouldn’t be able to enjoy all the things I love to do.  Don’t get me wrong though, there are some triggers I still ignore like the plague such as violent dramatic tv shows and the local news.

#8 Making Accommodations

There is nothing wrong with making a few life-style changes.  The very last thing you want to do is to give into your OCD and you certainly do not want to avoid triggers, however, you can certainly trick your OCD brain by making a few accommodations to possible triggers.  You aren’t entirely avoiding triggers, but more or less, making better accommodations so that these triggers have a less OCD effect.

For example, cleaning supplies in the house triggers major OCD episodes for me.  For years, I refused to buy any cleaning supplies, because of my OCD.  Totally ICKY, right!  Anyways, I eventually realized that I could “trick” my OCD brain by using natural environmentally safe cleaning products instead of those harsh bleach chemicals.  Turns out, scientifically, too much cleaning is bad for your health anyways; that is how we’ve created super bugs (bacterial resistance); also, there are good bacterial bugs out there that you don’t want to destroy.  Anyways, I guess by providing my OCD brain with a little scientific evidence that my OCD brain cannot twist around on me is my way of tricking the brain.  I am still having to face my OCD fears (triggers) with cleaning chemicals, but I don’t have to use harsh harmful chemicals (in which is better for me and better for the environment).  Also, more importantly, having choices means I am in control, not my OCD brain.

A conquering OCD moment:  

I keep all the cleaning supplies out of the house by storing them in the garage, because chemicals inside the house make me nervous and often trigger OCD episodes.  However, over time, I have become comfortable with keeping some cleaning products inside the house; but put up in places I know the kids cannot get them.

I’ve also started to use bleach products again.  My husband’s toilet would make any OCD brain back down from an OCD episode.  It’s as if my OCD brain looked at my husband’s toilet and quickly agreed to a compromise with bleach products; telling me, “Dude, okay, you win, I’ll even let you use radioactive chemicals on that toilet!”  Yeah, my OCD brain is a coward and wants nothing to do with cleaning my husband’s toilet.  The fact that I can now comfortably use cleaning chemicals without any OCD episodes and actually keep some in the house is a HUGE step in overcoming my OCD.

#9 Give Your Brain a Break 

I distract my OCD brain with some of my favorite hobbies and activities.  The most effective distraction is zoning into a good movie, book, or game.  I will not lie; Angry Birds (game app) is like a mental reset button for my brain!  Sometimes we just have to step back from reality for awhile to allow our brain to rest, recharge, and reset (I guess it is like grounding yourself).

#10 Acceptance

Acceptance doesn’t always mean defeat.  I learned to accept that my brain is wired differently and does quirky things.  Accepting OCD, allows me to focus more on how to better respond to my OCD brain.  Before acceptance, I was angry that my brain turned all OCD on me and was causing me so much emotional suffering and pain.  That anger made it very difficult for me to begin to understand how the OCD brain works and how I could live life with it.  What is it that they say? “If you can’t beat them, join them!

#11 CBT Techniques, Mindfulness, and Stress Management 

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Techniques are a combination of mindfulness and acceptance, but specifically for changing thinking habits, such as overcoming black and white thinking, catastrophic thinking, and other emotions and thoughts.

Since OCD is often caused by anxiety, stress management skills are essential to keeping OCD triggers at bay and preventing OCD episodes from occurring in the first place.  It isn’t 100% effective in preventing all OCD episodes, for that some OCD triggers can be stubborn and unpredictable; but stress management can certainly lessen the effects of OCD episodes.  Basically, instead of your OCD making you feel like a terrible person, you come out of your OCD episode feeling more like a normal person who just had a crappy experience, thinking to yourself, “Well, that sucked.”

#12 Having Faith 

A big part of overcoming OCD, is taking a huge leap of faith, not so much as a religious faith, although that doesn’t hurt either, but more specifically, holding a strong belief that “all is going to be okay regardless of the feared outcome.”  This especially, helps with overcoming “what if” scenarios and compulsion behaviors, like, the thought of wondering if you left the stove on, even though you hadn’t use the stove all day.  You just have to learn to trust in faith that all will be okay when you go home later and that you don’t need to drive all the way back home right now to check on the stove.  I use to wear a bracelet with the word, “Faith” on it to remind me to trust myself and not my OCD doubts.

#13 Don’t Be Afraid to Talk About It (Emotional Support)

In my opinion, emotional support is extremely important in overcoming mental health challenges.  Some Pure “O” OCD episodes may be embarrassing to share with others, as those without OCD may think of our thoughts as ridiculous, silly, and irrational.  Believe me, I’ve lost lots of friends over my OCD, because they thought of me as a “whackadoodle.”  Totally their loss though, because I am pretty awesome despite my OCD brain.

Although therapists, in my opinion, are useless when it comes to providing valuable answers, they do provide great emotional support.  They listen, understand, and rarely judge.  However, personally, I prefer “free” emotional support.  In that case, it is best to find a person (friend or family member) who is willing to learn and better understand your Pure “O” OCD.  When you are experiencing an episode, you can lean on this person for emotional support; someone you can talk to without feeling judged and who can offer reassurance that all is well in the world of chaos.  Be careful though, because constant verbal reassurance from other people can create a “crutch” that doesn’t really help you overcome OCD in the long run.   Been there, and totally done that.

#14 Do Not Let OCD Define You! 

OCD wants you to believe you are someone you are not.  It wants to control your emotions and plant seeds of doubt to make you feel like a bad person.  It wants you to shout to the world, “I AM OCD!”  It wants you to feel defeated and broken.

OCD does not define me anymore.  You will never hear me say, “I am OCD.”  Instead, I often explain, if need to, that I am an awesome person who just so happens to have an OCD quirky brain.

I wasn’t always this confident, in fact, in the beginning of my mental health journey with Pure “O” OCD, I had low self-esteem, no opinionated voice, and toxic people were consistently telling me “who” I was as a person.  In the beginning, I didn’t know who I truly was as an individual, forcing me to venture off onto a side path of self-discovery.  I had to learn that I am not what other people say nor am I my OCD brain.  I am my own individual, independent, unique person with flaws, quirks, and talents.  I refuse to let anyone or anything else define me.

#15 Breathe and Smile

Lastly, breathe…then smile.  Even in the midst of chaos, always smile.  🙂

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Purge & Burn” Journaling For Pure “O” OCD

Journaling is like whispering to one’s self and listening at the same time.  – Mina Murray, Dracula   

I journal a lot, but I have to admit, I am terrible at journaling everyday.  I didn’t know if I lacked motivation or commitment.  However, one day I decided I was going to “google” it.  I wanted to know how to “keep” a journal; turns out, “keeping” a journal wasn’t the problem, it was the way I was journaling!

Journaling can be therapeutic; but it’s not very therapeutic, if you think you might be journaling wrong.  For me, I was beginning to feel a little stressed out not being able to keep a daily journal, because I was under the impression that there was only one right way to do it.  unnamedWhen I think of keeping a journal, I think of having a beautiful thick leather notebook, written in perfect cursive handwriting, with 365 days of intriguing entries.  However, in reality, I have several spiral notebooks, each with just a few days of intriguing entries, and the rest filled with colorful pictures drawn in crayon by my kids.  Well, when that happens, I just donate the entire notebook to the kid’s art box.

I even tried setting reminders on my phone for journaling time.  But then, I had this crazy irrational thought, “What if I could be doing something really cool, but instead, I wasted that opportunity because I was journaling instead?  What if I miss out on an epic adventure!”  (One of my irrational OCD thoughts from back in the day).

Turns out, you don’t have to journal everyday, it doesn’t have to be pretty, and there is no right or wrong way to journal; the therapeutic point to journaling is expressing yourself to a silent audience (the paper) that holds no judgement against you.  And, just in case you are wondering, journaling for just a few minutes a day will not make you miss out on anything “epic.”

Having learned all that, writing everyday was certainly not for me.  It wasn’t because I wasn’t motivated or committed, no, I later realized that I just didn’t have a desire to record my entire life story.  I journal, because it is therapeutic and realized, the days that I  do not journal (the large gap in between entry dates) tells me, that I didn’t have the need to journal and that is not a bad thing.  But then, I discovered a new way of journaling, a better way in which benefits my OCD brain….I call it, “Purge and Burn” journaling.

Purge and Burn Journaling

I still journal, but it isn’t every day and now I don’t even keep a journal notebook.  When I am feeling strongly emotional or upset about something, I “purge and burn.”  Basically, I purge all the thoughts in my head onto a couple pieces of paper and then after a day or two, I shred them (alternative to burning).  This is my way of clearing the mind when it feels as if it is being weighed down by heavy emotions, overwhelming stress, junk thoughts, or struggling with a personal problem.

Purge and burn journaling allows me to easily let go of my thoughts and feelings.  Once those thoughts hit paper, I no longer feel attached to them.  When I no longer feel attached to my thoughts, my mind becomes clear.  Then, when I read those thoughts on paper, I am able to better rationalize those thoughts with a much clearer mind.

Purge & Burn Journaling To Overcome Pure “O” OCD Episodes 

Truth is, purge & burn journaling helped me effectively end my bad Pure “O” OCD episodes.  See, I couldn’t let go of intrusive thoughts which caused me emotional suffering.  It was so frustratingly difficult, especially, when experts where telling me how easy it “should” be to let go of thoughts.

Have you ever struggled with letting go of thoughts and were instructed to do this:

“Imagine your thoughts as fluffy white clouds and just let them pass over you.  Don’t hang onto your thoughts, because those thoughts are clouds and you can’t hang onto clouds…”

Well, I tell ya, that is WAY easier said than done.  My intrusive thoughts never came in the form of white and fluffy clouds.  They were dark, ominous, rain clouds that stood overhead pouring buckets of intrusive thoughts on top of me.  Yeah, it was a lingering thunder storm in my head.

Fortunately, someone agreed with me that someone with Pure “O” OCD cannot just simply “let go” of thoughts.  Sometimes the OCD brain must be tricked into letting go of its intrusive thoughts.  It was then when I learned about a different technique where I was instructed to “voice record” my OCD experiences (no details spared) during an episode and then play it back, over and over and over again.  After awhile, your mind begins to rationalize what it is hearing (rather than what you are thinking) and the strong overwhelming bad emotions begin to ease up.

Well, personally, when I speak, I sound like Minnie Mouse who just sucked helium out of a ballon.  Basically, I don’t like listening to my high-pitch voice on recording (it seems to amplify my high-pitch voice), so I decided to journal my OCD episodes on paper instead, and then reading it over and over and over again (aloud if necessary).  I experienced the same effect; an eventual sense of calmness.  I was able to better rationalize my experience, thoughts, and emotions.  Although it was difficult the first couple of times, this technique eventually became very effective for me.  The first time, in a long time, I felt hope.  Those dark, ominous, rain clouds turn into those white fluffy clouds those experts were telling me about and a gentle breeze pushed them away out of my OCD brain.

Purge & Burn Journaling As Routine Maintenance

Unfortunately, purge & burn journaling, by itself, was not the cure-all in overcoming my Pure “O” OCD.  I overcame my Pure “O” OCD by also working on Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Techniques, Stress-management, and practicing Mindfulness and Acceptance (all in which I will talk more about later).  Today, I rarely have any OCD episodes and when I do have one, they fizzle out within minutes without even thinking about it.

I still journal today, purging all my thoughts on paper and then tossing those thoughts into the trash.  I think it’s great for my overall mental health.  Not only does this allow me to better problem solve, but it is a great way to relieve stress.  Also, I think this is my way of effectively keeping my OCD brain in check, by making sure emotions don’t build up into anxiety and trigger an OCD episode.

Feel free to share your thoughts… 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Fascination With The Brain: Pure “O” OCD

My Broken Brain

Once Upon A Time….

I was diagnosed with Pure “O,” Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.  Pure “O” OCD is a mental torture of obsessive intrusive thoughts, running through the mind on repeat, like a broken record.  It is often triggered by anxiety and causes extreme distress (at least for me it did).  Rarely, does it involve compulsive behaviors (like washing hands, counting, or straightening things).  It is claimed to be a “less severe” form of OCD, but personally, I would have given anything to have had compulsive behaviors, for that it is the compulsive behaviors that satisfy the obsessive thoughts, ending the suffering.  This alternate thought processing illness was ruining my life.  It affected my relationships, social life, everyday living, and ultimately, and more importantly, my happiness.

I was not born with OCD; it was triggered by trauma.  I do not know what “traumatic” experience triggered it, but whatever it was, it certainly threw my brain into a loop; literally a repetitive loop.  Because I was a Biology student at the time, studying the field of medical science, I was fortunate enough to have access to a college library, where I was able to dig into the science of brain function and mental health.  This doesn’t make me an expert of any kind, but it was extremely beneficial to my recovery.

Yes, I have successfully overcome the suffering caused by my OCD brain. The therapist who officially diagnosed me, encouraged me to seek my own answers, by telling me that “therapists can only provide the tools needed to overcome mental health problems; they cannot provide cures.”  She directed me onto the path for self recovery.  It took 3-4 years to overcome my OCD without the support of a therapist and medication.  With research and study, I learned to practice Cognitive Behavioral Therapy techniques, Mindfulness, and Acceptance; all in which, rewired my brain in such a way that my OCD no longer controls my thoughts, emotions, and more importantly, my happiness.  My OCD episodes are extremely rare, so rare in fact, that I often forget I have OCD.

Asperger’s: A New Way Of Thinking

 I am happily married to a man with Asperger’s.  A unique relationship between two different minds, an Asperger’s mind and a non-Asperger’s (OCD) mind.  We are an average, happy, normal, everyday married couple, until my emotional heart clashes with his over-logical brain.

Not everyone with Asperger’s is the same.  Not everyone with Asperger’s are going to express all the common documented traits. Also, the severity of Asperger traits vary among individuals.  In fact, nobody’s brain is wired exactly the same, even in so-called normal individuals; thus mental health is so complex and complicated.

My husband, has a “mild” case of Asperger’s and in his case, he expresses all the documented traits of a text-book definition of Asperger’s.  For a person like me, who is trying to better understand my husband’s Asperger’s, I am grateful for the text-book version.  However though, text-books don’t hold all the answers.  As I have learned, from my own personal experience with mental health, text-books only provide a foundation of basics in which are to be used to help guide you though overcoming the challenges of mental health problems.

What I find so fascinating about my husband’s Asperger’s, is that it does not seem to cause him any “suffering.”  He might find social situations to be uncomfortable and he is often mistaken as being extremely rude and selfish, but it does not seem to impact his happiness.  This leads me to believe that not all mental health diseases are actually “problems.”

In my husband’s case, I don’t look at his Asperger’s, as a mental defect, but a normal brain that simply just processes information differently than the so-called “normal” way we know a brain to cognitively process information.  Personally, I would think it to be naive of one to say, “Hey, there is only one right way for the brain to process information.”  That would be like one saying, “Hey, there is only one right way to prepare a tuna sandwich.”  I don’t know, but for now, that is just my own personal theory and opinion (not fact).

The personal challenges I face with having to cope with my husband’s way of reasoning, often provides me with new perspectives in understanding his way of reasoning.  I must admit, sometimes his off-the-wall reasoning for the most ridiculous of ridiculous things does make sense, deep logical sense.  There is often times a hint of genius behind his logical reasoning that just seems to tumble out in unexpected ways.  Thus, another reason why I am so fascinated by his Asperger’s mind.

And Here We Are…

So, that is my very personal, very embarrassing journey, that fueled my fascination with the brain and mental health.  I am not an expert, scientist, doctor, or psychologist, but I think being someone who has personally experienced a mental health problem, educated in Biology, and familiar with medical science, I can offer, at the very least, an interesting perspective on mental health.

This blog isn’t just about my husband’s quirks; it is about me, as a loving spouse without Asperger’s, trying to better understand and cope with his Asperger’s mind.  I hope my experiences and insights can encourage others, in similar situations, to remain positive and open-minded through their own personal journey with mental health.