Faulty Fight or Flight Response System: Hit and Run OCD

“…my Fight or Flight Response System, it is more or less like a very old, overdramatic, senile emergency dispatcher who can’t seem to remember all the facts and misinterprets the danger levels.”

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In the beginningI counted traffic lights, memorized traffic light patterns, and wasted gallons of gas driving back and forth to reassure myself that I had not caused any accidents with my car.  This is how my brain decided to rewire itself after my stressful situation with a faulty blinker on the freeway.  For me, it was the beginning of insanity…

Different Forms of OCD With One Common Theme

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is an anxiety disorder.  There are many different forms of OCD and not everyone experiences OCD the same.  What is truly fascinating about OCD, is that a person can experience more than one form of OCD; however, each of those forms of OCD all tend to share a common theme.  For me, I have been diagnosed with  Pure “O” Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (no compulsive behaviors); yet, I also experience what is called “Hit & Run” OCD (with compulsive behaviors).  For me, both forms of OCD share a common theme:  The irrational fear of having harmed others through some form of negligence.  Unfortunately, for me, my Pure “O” OCD amplifies my Hit & Run OCD, almost to the point I thought I was going insane.

Hit & Run OCD

Fortunately, there is nothing insane about my membranes, except for a little OCD bully brain.  “Hit & Run” OCD is when the brain responds inappropriately to a stressful situation.  Instead of recognizing and appropriately dealing with the true source of anxiety, the OCD brain twists thoughts and emotions around causing a person to doubt not only their true character but also events associated with their anxiety.

An example of a “Hit & Run” OCD episode would be like an OCD driver driving in an area crowded with pedestrians (like New York City).  It is absolutely normal to feel nervous, because people are unpredictable.  You never know who might run out into the street or step out of a parked car into passing traffic.  It is truly a stressful situation.  The purpose of anxiety is to keep the driver alert, but the driver’s OCD brain, kind of goes on double high alert and begins to misinterpret the situation.  The driver runs over a pot hole that triggers an OCD episode where the driver begins to have irrational fears that he may have ran over a person. The bad case of “what if’s” begin to affect the driver’s self-doubt and then worst case scenarios cross his mind making him feel like a terrible person.  To relieve his fears, compulsion sets in, where he may turn around to check for an accident, check his car for damage, or read the newspaper everyday looking for a report of an accident.  A mix of guilt and paranoia could also set in from extreme anxiety.   He might even think he has gone insane, because the thoughts and emotions feel so real, not only doubting reality, but also his true character.  The driver is a good person, who in reality, would not drive away from a true accident.  Unfortunately,  OCD loves to mess with good-minded people and the driver with OCD endures a long period of extreme emotional suffering.

The good news is that those experiencing “Hit & Run” OCD  or any form of OCD have not gone insane.  OCD is all based on feelings and emotions and as I have been told a million times before, “the truly insane do not feel insanity.”  It’s just a little faulty wiring with our Fight or Flight Response System causing false evidence to appear real.

F. E. A. R. The result of my faulty wiring

I often refer to my OCD episodes as “OCD fears,” because my OCD episodes generally focus on some kind of irrational fear about something.  Thus, my favorite OCD acronym is F.E.A.R., in which cleverly means: “False Evidence Appearing Real.”  At first, I didn’t really understand what it meant, because everything was too real to consider any of it as false.  However, I know now that F.E.A.R. is the result of my faulty wiring in my OCD brain.  So, what is going on with this faulty wiring?

The autonomic nervous system in our body controls all those amazing things our body does without the need of us having to think about it.  This includes breathing (automatic), heart beating (automatic), digestive system (automatic), and hormone regulation (automatic).  This system is broken down into two parts: Sympathetic and Parasympathetic.  The faulty wiring lies within the sympathetic part of our autonomic nervous system; also known as the “Fight or Flight Response System.”

The Fight or Flight Response System is responsible for anxiety.  Anxiety is actually a good thing when it functions properly.  In stressful situations, anxiety tells the body something is up and to be on the look out for danger.  Kind of like a safety alarm system, prompting us to immediately assess the situation.  From there, we are forced to make the decision to either Fight (stay and deal with it) or Flight (run away from it).  Below is a Caveman scenario from college about how our Fight or Flight Response System works: 

My Cave Man Scenario:  A hairy caveman comes out from his den to play with fire; something him and his friends have recently discovered by accident (funny story by the way)…anyways, while walking along the beautiful plains of the Palaeolithic era, he comes across a large saber-tooth tiger sleeping peacefully among the high grass.  The caveman’s sympathetic nervous system is going off!  His heart begins to beat faster, his palms start to sweat, and his body starts to shiver in fear.  His body is screaming DANGER! DANGER! DANGER!

There are only two options: FIGHT or FLIGHT.

This caveman valued his life very much and of course FLIGHT took over.  He quietly took a few steps back, turned, and quickly ran back to his den.  Later, around the community bon-fire with his buddies, he told them about his encounter with a vicious saber-tooth tiger.  Instead of telling them he had ran away;  he told man’s first epic hero story of man vs. beast and man won.  🙂

Faulty Wiring In The Fight Or Flight Response System

OCD is an anxiety disorder, because the OCD brain has faulty wiring in the Fight or Flight Response System.  Stressful situations trigger the Fight or Flight Response System; however, the OCD brain is like a rotten school kid who likes to pull the fire alarm when there is no fire.  The Fight or Flight Response System is wired in such a way that it triggers on false alarms.

For me, stressful situations trigger anxiety, like it should, but my OCD has taken over the Fight or Flight Response Division of my brain and is now, more or less, like a very old, overdramatic, senile emergency dispatcher who can’t seem to remember all the facts and misinterprets the danger levels.  Instead of appropriately responding to a stressful situation with normal Fight or Flight Response protocols, my OCD brain triggers an irrational fear creating self-doubt, extreme guilt and worry; forcing me to deal with F.E.A.R.: false evidence appearing real.

Detective of OCD Related Incidents

Over the years, I have become quite the Sherlock Holmes of OCD related incidents; especially those episodes pertaining to my “Hit & Run” OCD.  To get over a major OCD episode, I have to write it all down.  Basically, take down my own official statement of events.  After recognizing the trigger, I can work on collecting all the false evidence that appears to be real.  Then, logically prove such evidence is indeed false.  I say, my dear Watson would be extremely proud.

Eventually, writing is no longer necessary when one begins to immediately recognize triggers, a powerful tool used to defuse OCD before it can even start.  Today, I experience very little driving anxiety.  In fact, I love to drive!  Pedestrians and other drivers do make me slightly nervous, but that is completely normal.  The important thing is that I do not allow my OCD to make it more than what it really is by being a confident driver.  Also, if I drive with an anxious mind, OCD episodes are prone to happen.  I also know I am good person and I refuse to let my OCD convince me otherwise.

For those suffering from Hit & Run OCD, please remember that you are not crazy or insane and that you are a good person despite how your OCD makes you feel.   ❤

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How To Cope With Having A Bad Day

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Marshall to the rescue!

Today, I woke up with the feeling that today is going to be a bad day.  I knew something bad was going to happen, but like most of my so-called morning premonitions, I didn’t know what.

My gut feeling is usually right about something, but it is generally clouded by emotion that makes it difficult to trust.  When my gut feeling and emotions collide with my OCD brain, that catastrophic thinking begins to take full affect and I just want to bunker down in my bed and hide from what “might” be a bad day.

Response is EVERYTHING!

What makes a bad day?  Usually a series of unfortunate events or one single unpleasant event that just puts a person in a bad / negative mood all day.  It may be other things, but personally, that is how I define my bad days.

Bad things unfortuantely happen.  I like to think of it as the Universe’s way of balancing itself.  The good news though, is that we don’t have to let ourselves be affected by it.  It is all in how we respond to things that affect our overall day.

This morning, I woke up expecting something bad was going to happen.  Could it be something catastrophic or just something as little as stepping in gum?   There is no way of telling; so I just have to go with the flow and cope with whatever might happen.

Response is everything!  How we choose to respond to situations, determines how that situation is going to affect our mood for the rest of the day.  One little thing can be the catalyst for bigger things that can just make the day suck.

Creating A Bad Day

I strongly believe that we create our own bad days.  I say this, because I rarely experience a bad day.  I do have bad days, lots of them, but I respond differently to them.

It is so easy to create a bad day.  Generally, it starts with something stressful we are going through in life, something we might not even know is stressing us out.  Maybe being exhausted from working two jobs, family problems, a sucky job with a horrible boss, finances are tight, or maybe, heck, all the above.  Stress can trigger bad days.  Often times, I don’t realize just how stressed out I am until I take it out of someone or something; and that is the starting catalyst to a bad day.

Have you ever woke up feeling good and looking forward to a great day, but later, you come home exhausted after having the worst day of your life?   Yeah, me too.  My bad work days used to begin with something simple.

Like having to wear something ridiculous, because I ran out of clothes before laundry day.  An embarrassing run in my pantyhose that I don’t realize until I get to work.  Coffee machine is not working.  A dork cuts me off in the parking lot.  My boss leaves me a mysterious angry-sounding message on my voicemail.  All these little things can trigger a bad day; however, if you respond to them in a positive way, your day will likely get better.

Tackling A Bad Day

I start with acceptance.  (If you haven’t noticed, I am all about the art of acceptance.)  That is because acceptance is a powerful tool, as long as you don’t think of it as being defeated.  Instead, think of acceptance as being the bigger person and moving on.

When my day starts out crappy, I accept it.  I often say to myself, “So, this is how it is going to be..  Well, okay then!   I guess 1 bad day out 364 good days is just inevitable.” Because it’s true!  Looking at my life, I rarely experience a bad day, but I know balance requires me to experience a couple bad days here and there.

However, I can tell you that streaks of bad days mean something is absolutely wrong and  something in life must be immediately addressed and resolved.  Or wear black socks, my family believes wearing black socks is the key to ending all bad days.  Does it work?  I don’t know, I haven’t tried it yet.  But, I do know it never hurts to try, especially, if you are already having a bad day.

For the little things, we can leave the black socks in the sock drawer.  The important thing is to react positive to bad things.  For example, let’s talk about those bad things that used to trigger a bad work day for me and how to look on the bright side.

  • The ridiculous wardrobe:  Look, I am not alone in the world procrastinating laundry day.  I am also not much of a fashionista, so my wardrobe is kind of limited.  But I do own a few things in my closet that I hate to wear and only wear if necessary.  BUT, I have to remember, at one time I must have liked it; otherwise, I wouldn’t have bought it.  Also, its just one day I have to wear it and I will do laundry as soon as I get home after work (Lesson learned!).  I can always cover it up by wearing a jacket or sweater (luckily every office I ever worked in feels like the Arctic).  Furthermore, this may be a little over optimistic, but maybe I will set a new trend in the fashion world.   It’s just for 8 hours.  I will be fine.
  • Embarrassing run in pantyhose:  A former boss of mine once told me not to sweat the small stuff while tossing a small bottle of clear nail polish at me.  Clear nail polish stops pantyhose runs from getting worse.  She advised me that if pantyhose were part of my wardrobe, it would be wise to keep a bottle of clear nail polish in my purse.  I obviously did one better and never wore dresses to the office again, but it’s still solid advice to pass on to others.  Anyways, the point is, women get it.  If you have a run in her pantyhose, don’t worry.  If you address it to your boss, they will most likely allow you to make a quick run to the store or just let you bend the dress code for a day and ditch the panty hose for a couple of hours (especially, if it happens towards the end of the day).  There is no need to get upset over the things you cannot control and others will often understand.
  • Coffee Machine isn’t working:  Nothing more ruins my day than a day without coffee!  These are the days I focus more on the clock rather than my work; counting down to lunch time when I can get coffee.  But, this distraction can cause me to make mistakes in my work or fall behind, creating a bad day for myself.  So, best to let it go.  Get a soda from the vending machine or grab something on break (if allowed).  It isn’t the end of the world and you may find, you are just as strong without it.
  • Road Rage:  I do not understand drivers who cut people off and then flip them off, as if the person they cut off were in the wrong.  Blows my mind.  I can let it go, because I can quickly recognize that person is obviously having a worse day than me.  But, I know some people who would take that personally.  They wouldn’t be upset that a 1 ton vehicle cut them off, but more so that the driver of that vehicle flipped them off.  This is how one creates a bad day, because I know some people who would just dwell on this incident all day, causing them to make mistakes and experience an overall bad day for themselves.  It’s best to just let it go.  Of course, drivers shouldn’t cut off other drivers or flip off people they truly do not know, but this is how bad days spread.  By reacting to another’s person’s bad day, can cause you to have a bad day too.
  • Angry Voicemails:  It’s one thing to receive a voicemail from an angry client who is upset at the world, but one from your boss is the worst!  But don’t sweat the small stuff, remember?  I learned along time ago, bosses are stressed.  Every single one of them, no exceptions.  Some might lead you to think they are not stressed, but I guarantee they are just handling stress in a different way.  I have worked with a few bosses/supervisors who were just quiet when they were experiencing a stressful day, but I have also had the pleasure (sarcasm) of working with bosses/supervisors who just tore the heads off of anyone who were within several feet of them.  I cannot tell you how many times I have received an angry vauge voicemail from a boss.  I walk into their office wondering if I am going to get fired or something, but turns out my boss was just upset over something that had nothing to do with me.  If I had taken their rude voicemail personally, it would have ruined my entire day.  Instead, its just another person having a bad day and if I react negatively to their bad day, I will end up having a bad day too.

Quick Recap

  1. Bad days are contagious.   Some people with bad days want other people to have bad days too.  They want others to feel the way they feel to make themselves feel better.  But, there are those who don’t know their bad day is affecting others.
  2. Don’t take it personal:  Do not take it personal when you walk into a person’s bad day.  Be kind, understanding, and let it go as soon as you move on.
  3. Accept bad days:  Sometimes bad days are inevitable and bad things happen.  It is like a natural balance of things, so it is best to not respond to things we cannot control.
  4. It is okay to feel:  It’s okay to feel sad, angry, or frustrated; just don’t let it ruin an entire day.  Learn to let go of the little things and try not to dwell too much on the big things.
  5. Look on the bright side:  I am a strong believer that there is a bright side to everything; it just requires a bit of creative thinking.

Bad Things Can Teach Good Lessons

unnamed-3We can’t prevent all bad things from happening, but we can certainly prevent ourselves from having a bad day by better responding to bad things that do happen.

This morning, my youngest got onto the counter, grabbed her sister’s morning drink and poured it out onto the counter.  No big deal, right?

Well, unfortunately, it is very upsetting for several different reasons:

  1. It is wasteful.  Even if Marshall, the Paw Patrol toy had a good time, it is still wasteful.   
  2. It was a Pedisure Gain and Grow milk-drink for my oldest who needs the extra calories and nutrients.
  3. Pedisure is not cheap, a 6 pack costs nearly $12.  That is $2 per 8oz bottle.  Totally not cheap at all. 
  4. A septic tank smells better than dried Pedisure milk.  So gross!

So, how does that saying go?  “Don’t cry over spilled milk.”  Exactly!  Sure, it’s an expensive waste.  Sure, I probably could have done something to prevent it.  But, it happened and it is now done and over with.  I refuse to let this small thing ruin my entire day by putting me in a bad mood.

This means that I have to let it go by calmly recognizing that such an incident sucks.  I will not get upset, otherwise my girls will get upset and that might put them in a bad mood all day too, creating a bad day for everyone!

Instead, I explain to them that it is a waste and have them both clean it up.  This way, if they spill anything again, they will continue to tell me about it, because they will not be afraid of getting into trouble.  If I yell at them and clean it up myself, it might teach my kids to lie about messes and expect me to clean up their own messes.  If I blame them, they will think it is okay to blame others.  Remaining calm teaches them to remain calm, admit when they are wrong, and take self-responsibility.  In short, there are good lessons that can come out of bad things that happen.

Take Control Of Your Bad Day

Remember that you can prevent a bad day from happening by better responding to the bad things that happen during the day.  It isn’t always going to be easy.  Bad days are inevitable, but it’s up to you on how that bad day affects you.  Also, you can always wear a pair of black socks to help fight against a bad day or two.  🙂

 

 

 

 

 

 

Communication With A Partner With Asperger’s

Social media can be bombarded with a lot of negativity, but every now and then, an unexpectedly gem of wisdom appears out of nowhere.

Scrolling through my social media feeds, I came across this post about relationships.  It made me think a lot about being married to a man with Asperger’s.

“The man can’t see the snake biting his wife, and the woman can’t see the boulder on her husbands back, the moral of the story here is that sometimes a man can’t see the pain his wife is suffering from and women can’t understand the pressure men feel on a day to day basis, within couples we need to learn to understand each other more and communicate better so we can seek out the problems and turn weaknesses into strengths”

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My Stereotypical Thoughts

My first thoughts were stereotypical.  I immediately thought to myself, “Well, the man isn’t going to say anything about the boulder, in fear his wife would think him too weak.   And, the woman isn’t going to say anything about the snake, in fear the man would let go and abandoned her.”   Although my personal perspective was geared mostly towards trust in a relationship, I can understand how this relates to communication and I think it is brilliant!

My Asperger’s Relationship

This is a great depiction of our relationship!  My husband’s Asperger’s cannot see the pain I am suffering from all the overwhelming work I do everyday, the emotions that surge through me, and the OCD experiences I encounter; nor do I understand the pressure he is feeling with Asperger’s, anxiety, and being the bread-winner of our family.

Communication: The Two Way Street 

Communication goes both ways in a relationship; however, in an Asperger’s relationship, the non-Asperger’s partner (I refuse to use the word “neuro-typical”) may feel like communication only goes one way through a brick wall.  Thus, it is important to achieve effective communication by better understanding each other.

Nobody should be expected to do more work than the other when it comes to communication.  Instead, each other should learn where the lines of communication are disrupted and patch them up together.

My husband cannot pick up on my emotions or social cue’s nor am I able to read his mind.  He is terrible at verbally expressing the thoughts in his head.  He gets upset when he later finds out he missed out on something due to his lack of communication.  This often leads to a frustrating blame game where I should have channeled my inner Miss Cleo to read his mind.

Understanding this is the line of disruption in our communication, I have learned to better verbally express my emotions, rather than expect him to pick up on my “I am upset” face.  My husband has learned to better verbally communicate his thoughts to make sure he doesn’t miss out on any opportunities that may have required earlier communication; however, this is not without a little help from me.

The Non-Asperger’s Partner Must Put In More Work 

Not everything should be expected to be “even steven’s” in a relationship, especially communication; that is just not realistic for any relationship.  Also, such a high unrealistic expectation can create frustration and disappointment.  However, nobody should be left doing all the work either.  There must be a semi-balance that works for everyone.  In a working system, the scale of balance is suppose to shift back and forth to maintain stability.

In my opinion, in an Asperger’s relationship, the partner with Asperger’s should not be the one who is expected to learn how to better communicate with their non-Asperger’s partner.  I strongly believe, it should be the other way around.  The non-Asperger’s partner is the one who must learn to better communicate with their Asperger’s partner.

Whoa! What! Wait a minute, WHY?  

Well, simply, because the non-Asperger’s partner has better communication skills.

Communication is teamwork.  The non-Asperger’s partner is the “leader” in this teamwork of communication, because they have better communication skills.  It still takes two to communicate, but the non-Asperger’s partner must take the lead in communication.

Using A Sludge-Hammer To Break Through Brick Walls

Taking the lead in communication is not being the one who does all the talking nor is it manipulatively leading the other person in a conversation.  Taking the lead in communication is all about encouraging expressive-communication.  Encouraging expressive-communication is a way of throwing out positive verbal cues that inform the other person (Asperger’s partner) that they need to express a verbal response.

Now, everyone’s Asperger’s is different, but for me, encouraging expressive-communication is an effective way to better communicate with my husband.  Asking “direct” questions, in my opinion, is the best way to encourage expressive-communication.  To do it without being pushy, is to incorporate questions into a casual conversation with a soft, calm, casual tone.  It is also important to not be judgmental when trying to encourage expressive-communication.  Nobody wants to express thoughts, if their responses are always harshly judged; so, a little reassurance that expression is welcomed helps a bit too.  My husband’s responses are often toneless, making it difficult to judge his emotions or even the context of his responses.  However, I have learned to never accuse him of not caring, instead, I remain calm and continue to ask simple direct questions until I receive clarification.

Most of the time, my husband and I communicate like normal people with very few communication issues; each putting in equal amounts of effort into a conversation. However, there are days when I feel as if I am talking to a brick wall and I have to put in a little extra work to better communicate with him.   To be honest, I don’t think that is strictly an Asperger’s thing, but more of relationship thing in general.  Like I said before, the scale of balance is suppose to shift back and forth to maintain stability.  

Everyone experiences Asperger’s differently, let me know your thoughts.  

  1. From an Asperger’s perspective, what is expected of a person without Asperger’s when it comes to providing effective communication with one another?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Don’t Let Your Mental Health Disorder Stop You From Achieving Greatness: U.S. President’s

Behind every historical event, I am pretty sure there was that one man (or woman) who expressed an irrational idea and had at least one close acquaintance ask, “Have you gone absolutely mad?

In my opinion, I cannot imagine our country, or any country for that matter, having been formed from sound, rational, minds.  Mental health not only impacts the lives of an individual, but can also impact the lives of those around them.  Thus, it is understandable to expect our world leaders to have a sound, clear, state of mind when in the position of running an entire country; but do they?  I mean, running an entire country is stressful work and after all, they are just as human as us.  Turns out, an interesting study conducted in 2006 by Jonathan Davidson from Duke University Medical Center and his team of researchers discovered that nearly half of our U.S. Presidents had a mental health disorder.

president-free-clipart-1-2Today, the United States celebrates President’s Day, in honor of all the U.S. President’s and of course the 287th birthday of the first U. S. President, George Washington.  I came across this article from Psychology Today called, Study: Half of All Presidents Suffered from Mental Illness, by Guy Winch Ph.D. in 2016, talking about Jonathan Davidson’s 2006 study.  I found it very interesting, but more importantly, absolutely motivating to those suffering from mental health disorders today!

According to Guy Winch Ph. D., Davidson and his team studied the first 37 Presidents and discovered that nearly half of them displayed some sort of mental health disorder.  Interestingly, the study concluded that 27% of these U.S. Presidents were suffering a mental health disorder while in office.  Nearly a quarter of those with a mental health disorder, suffered depression.  Other disorders included a variety of different anxiety disorders, bi-polar disorder, and even alcohol abuse (Winch Ph. D.).

Positive Motivation

Living with Pure “O” Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, I have had my doubts about achieving greatness with a mental health disorder.  There have been many times I was convinced that my OCD was going to keep me from doing the things that I love!  Today, I learned that the 16th President of the United States, Abraham Lincoln, suffered from Depression!  A great man who played a key role in abolishing slavery in the United States had to deal with the stress of the Civil War and Depression!  Now, that is inspirational!

According to Winch Ph. D., Davidson’s study revealed that 8% of the Presidents with mental health disorders suffered from a variety of different anxiety disorders.  Having an anxiety disorder myself (OCD), I now feel like skies the limit!  If past U.S. Presidents can take on the stressful work of running a country while coping with their own mental health problems, then the only thing holding me back from doing amazing things is me, not my OCD.

To me, this study reveals that not all mental health disorders are as debilitating as they are often made out to be.  Yes, mental health disorders can have debilitating effects, but I believe this study on U.S. Presidents with mental health disorders proves that an individual has more power than they think over their mental health disorder.  I am confident these great men had struggles, but perhaps those struggles with mental health contributed to their road to greatness.

Anyone with a mental health disorder has the potential to achieve greatness!  Whether it is conquering the world or just getting up in the morning to go to work.  Mental health disorders are everywhere and it isn’t a bad thing.  Having a brain slightly wired differently, may be challenging, but I believe it can lead to some amazing things.

Happy President’s Day! 

 

Citations

Davidson, J. R., Connor, K. M., & Swartz, M. (2019, February 18). Mental illness in U.S. Presidents between 1776 and 1974: A review of biographical sources. Retrieved February 18, 2019, from https://www.pubfacts.com/detail/16462555/Mental-illness-in-US-Presidents-between-1776-and-1974-a-review-of-biographical-sources

Winch Ph. D., G. (2016, February 2). Study: Half of All Presidents Suffered from Mental    Illness. Retrieved February 18, 2019, from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-squeaky-wheel/201602/study-half-all-presidents-suffered-mental-illness

Thought Tuesdays: Why is Mental Health Secondary to Physical Health?

I couldn’t sleep last night.  Around 3 o’clock in the morning, I was as wide awake as our old annoying broken rooster we used to have, who seemed to have been set on a different time zone by always crowing long before the crack of dawn.   My thoughts were racing.  I couldn’t sleep, because I was worried.  

A slight intrusive thought about my own health crept into my OCD brain last night; a direct result from doing late night genealogy research.  Genealogy (study of family lineage and history) is one of my favorite hobbies, but sometimes my imagination can take me too far back into the past forcing me to ponder the future.  Fortunately, I was able to ease away from the negative thoughts by distracting my thoughts with something else: mental health.  

thoughtI wondered to myself, “Would I be so worried about my physical health, if I had better mental health?”  Of course, this question still had some relation to my worries, but the worrying subsided into curiosity…

I recognize that mental health significantly impacts our physical health.  It is a shame that mental health does not play a bigger role in general medicine.  You would think an annual visit to the psychologist would be routine maintenance for maintaining overall good health!

I mean, we are already expected to see our primary doctor for annual physicals that include checking on our lungs and heart, as well as, a blood test to check for metabolical anomalies that may reveal an underlying disease.  Us women,  have to make a yearly pilgrimage to the gynecologist.  When we reach a certain age, we have to squeeze in an annual colonoscopy to our list of things to do during retirement.  Let’s also not forget, the greedy dentist who wants to see our teeth every 6 months!  So, why not check up on the tiresome noggin too; after all, it is just as important!

Why does mental health seem so secondary to physical health?  Is mental health not really as important as physical health?  Is there no correlation between the two?  I am going to ponder about this for awhile and get back to you, but in the mean time, I would greatly appreciate your thoughts!  Please post your thoughts in the comment section below, thank you! 🙂 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My 10 Personal Work Rules To Reduce Work Stress (Office Jobs)

My career before kids, I was a paper-pusher in office administration, usually working directly under the big boss.  I loved it, but every week was the same chaotic cycle.  Mondays, were dreadful.  Tuesday’s required more coffee.  Wednesday’s were bliss.  Thursday’s, ran on pixie dust and genie wishes.  And, Friday’s were absolutely carefree.  Even though that seems a little crazy, it was normal for the industry; however, I was able to handle massive amounts of work, ridiculous requests, hostile phone calls, and meet unreasonable deadlines on a daily basis without losing my mind.14460862-Doodle-style-inbox-image-with-a-huge-pile-of-documents-to-be-processed-indicating-business-work-or-s-Stock-Vector

Sure, time management and organization played a huge part in dealing with heavy work loads, but I believe personal work rules are important to maintaining good mental health.

Over the years, to cope with work stress, I created personal rules for myself at work.  It is okay to have personal work rules, so long as they do not get you fired.  Here are my 10 rules I followed to keep me stress free and sane at work:

#1. Don’t be afraid of getting fired!  It’s okay!  

Sometimes we get stressed out, because we fear we might get fired; especially, if we are struggling to push through so much overwhelming work.  Employer expectations can be intimidating; however, they often put out unrealistic expectations to purposely create fear to drive productivity.

A good employer knows that working too hard is bad for your health, both physically and mentally.   In many cases, employers don’t really pay attention to their strict productivity policies, unless someone is purposely falling behind in their work or disrupting the work environment.   If, in good faith you are doing your best to keep up on work flow, you are generally not at risk for the pink slip.  You might be bombarded with intimidating productivity memos,  but, if these memos are not directed at you personally, it generally isn’t something to worry about.

And if you are wondering; yes, I’ve been let go once.  The big boss called me into their office, told me that my position no longer exists, handed me a sturdy cardboard box (that was kind of them), told me to pack up my things and then, had my best friend / co-worker escort me to my car.  It was a nightmare, because I was young, in college, with no savings.  But, I survived unemployment; later realizing had I never been let go, I probably would have missed the opportunites that led me into a successful career in office management.  So, I have learned to never worry about being fired, because when one door slams shut on your face, another little door can open up with bigger opportunities.   It’s difficult, emotional, and also straining on the bank account when unemployed, but it’s not the end of the world.

#2. Never work on a Friday unless absolutely necessary. 

You will rarely, if ever, see me scrambling around to finish work on a Friday.  Whatever didn’t get finish during this week, automatically, gets moved to Monday to be next week’s problem.  Of course, there are some things that pop up on a Friday that need to be completed immediately before going home, but by moving unfinished business to next week, I can focus on those pesky unexpected Friday tasks that need to be done by the end of the day without feeling overwhelmed with endless work.

#3. Bend the rules, just a little and dress comfortably

I’ve always had a tendency of bending the rules; mostly in regards to dress code.  I am a semi-causal kind of gal!  I am not going to sit 8 hours in 5X5 cubicle wearing a 3 piece suit and heels, that is just ridiculous!  I will certainly come into the office wearing what is expected, but you bet there is going to be a comfy sweater, gloves, and a pair of comfortable sneakers or maybe slippers waiting for me at my desk.  Usually, throughout the day I slip into my uncomfortable heels to walk around the office, but then I slip back into my slippers when I am at my desk (nobody knows, if they do, they don’t care).

At one company, they compromised with sneakers around the office so long as I didn’t wear them to meet with clients or in front of the owner who was quite the fashionista!

Dressing comfortably, in my opinion, keeps me productive.  It’s really difficult to focus on work if your feet hurt from uncomfortable formal shoes or you are freezing, because they outlawed comfortable casual sweaters forcing you to bend your arms in a snug suit jacket.  Poor men, I don’t know how they can work wearing a tie strangled around their neck all day!

It is okay to bend rules, just be sure you bend the right rules at a reasonable angle so that you don’t cross boundaries that could result in serious disciplinary action; like walking in with pajama’s and rollers in your hair!  That might be bending the rules a little too far, unless its Pajama Day.

#4. Game Plan Monday’s

The first thing I would do every Monday is make a weekly game plan (prioritize my work).  This involves some nifty time management and organizational skills; however,  by the time Thursday rolls around,  I am sitting with my feet kicked up on my desk, daydreaming about Pina Colada’s and warm toes in the sand, while the rest of the office is running around like chicken’s with their heads cut off.  My point is, following a good game plan for personal work flow, generally gives you free time to slow down, relax, and work at a pace that is stress-free and still productive.  Work smarter, not harder!

#5 Eat outside 

If I had it my way, I would work outside.  Just drag my desk into the court yard and enjoy a beautiful day.  Being stuck indoors everyday could bring on depression or, at the very least, an unproductive bad mood.  I made a rule for myself to eat lunch outside as often as possible, to get a little Vitamin D and fresh air.  I am not a smoker, but I will certainly pretend to be one, if it allows me to get outside for a minute.

#6  Always Keep Something In Your Inbox

I used to think having an empty inbox would grant me some extra downtime, but I learned the hard way, an empty inbox just makes you a prime target for more work, and usually tedious time-consuming work that nobody else wants to do in the department.  I was once assigned to an entire week of staple removal duty to help transition paper records to electronic records.  Sure, sounds like a vacation, until you get back to your desk and discover you are behind in last weeks work.  So, if you want to keep your work load lighter and flowing smoother to reduce stress, always keep something in your inbox!

#7 Smile, Smile, and Smile some more

Every workplace has one!  That annoying, make you sick to your stomach, overly positive, super optimistic, sparkly co-worker.  That is not me.

But, if there is one thing to learn from these sparkly work nymphs, is how powerful and magically transforming a smile can be against the stressful evils one may encounter in the workplace.

I used to work for a particular real estate industry (I shall not name, but pretty sure you can guess) that had to deal with upset, hostile, sometimes violent (I can remember a stapler flying across the lobby) type of people.  Personally, I do not do well with confrontation, especially, when I become distracted by the steam coming out of both ears of an upset client, like on those old Warner Brother cartoons.  Very stressful!  Like you might have a mental breakdown in the middle of the office floor, stressful!  And, I’ve seen it happen too! 

However, I learned that a smile is miraculously powerful in calming down upset, angry, and difficult people.  Face to face, a welcoming smile, calm voice, and a listening ear can diffuse almost any crazy.  It catches upset, angry, people off guard, because they generally pounce into the office screaming for attention, because they feel as if their voice is not being heard.  But, I learned if I approach them with a warm, gentle smile, they have no other choice but to start over in a semi-friendlier civil manner, because the issue they are angry about has nothing to do with me personally and they know it.  Of course, they are still angry, but they become much better to deal with, reducing everyone’s stress levels.

Even more impressive, is the power of a smile when talking on the phone to an angry person.  Smiling while talking on the phone keeps your tone warm, soft, and positive.  As long as you smile, remain calm, courteous, and are willing to listen, you can quickly defuse a hostile conversation to better resolve issues.

I made it a personal rule to smile, because it is good for everyone.  It reduces stress and has the potential to change a negative situation.  You don’t have to be a sparkly work nymph, but it doesn’t hurt to smile every so often.

#8 Offer to help another co-worker during your downtime

Sometimes work can be slow, forcing us to finish everything in our inbox and staring blankly at the clock until 5pm.  Although this may feel like a great break, I often become stressed over feeling guilty for not doing any work at all.  Employers don’t want to see their employees sitting around picking their noses.  To reduce this stress, it is best to offer help to others who may be backed up with their own work.  This way, you are busy working (being productive), you are helping a fellow co-worker (taking an initiative), you don’t get assigned work you don’t want (like staple removing) and furthermore, working on something that you are not responsible for is absolutely stress-free!

#9 Take frequent breaks 

To reduce stress at work, I take frequent breaks.  I don’t disappear from my desk every 15 minutes or for long periods of time.   I simply take a moment to close my eyes, breathe, and stretch my arms and legs at my desk.  I will take on any opportunity to walk around the office (maybe things need to go to the mailroom).  Take a soda, coffee, smoke break and go outside for some fresh air.  There are many opportunities throughout the day for mini-breaks and not all breaks require leaving one’s desk.

Unless you are a cyborg with the capability to work non-stop from 9-5, let your work go for a minute!  No job is worth breaking your back or getting sick over.  Your work will still be waiting for you when you come back.

#10 Change out of your work clothes before going home

I refuse to bring my work home with me and to be sure of it, I always kept a change of clothes at my desk.  Once the clock hit 4:55pm, I would be in the bathroom changing out of my work clothes into my normal comfortable casual clothes (t-shirt, jeans, and flip flops).  I also leave my name tag in my desk drawer or locker.  I’ve been doing this since I was a teenager working at my first job.

Going home in casual clothes reduces a lot of work stress for me.  It allows me to mentally leave work behind when I go home.  Also, walking out of the office wearing casual clothes gives me the feeling of freedom as I don’t have to go home right away to change out of my work clothes.  I can go anywhere!

Creating Personal Work Rules

In the beginning, I had no personal work rules.  I followed every workplace policy as strictly as they were written and found myself a miserable mess.  I eventually realized that workplace policies are just a set of flexible guidelines to ensure workplace order.  Policies dictating workflow are often written with the goal to increase productivity without taking in consideration of an employee’s mental health.  I respect company policies; however, my own health comes first, thus why I decided to create personal work rules for myself to protect my own mental health.

Do you have any personal work rules to help reduce work stress?