Living with OCD (no.19)

This one is about setbacks.

So, having a mental health issue, an anxiety disorder, maybe OCD (like me) is always difficult. In the best case scenario you manage to have it under control and live with it in peace.

But an anxiety disorder goes hand in hand with life. And life can give you triggers (more than the “casual” ones of everyday). A tougher period of time maybe. Some challenges coming all together. Or maybe memories and anniversaries (or both combined, one hell of a combo that is!).

So, even if you have your anxiety disorder under control, there can be some setbacks!

It might be a compulsion that was gone for a long time. Or a more “messy/busy” mind. Or maybe it can get harder to overcome everyday triggers (because when you’re living with OCD you do have the triggers, actually lots of them, during the day, but you know how to get over/past them).

The basic thing you do in this is to stay cool. You and your mind are going to figure things out. And then, think about what causes the setback and the “new” triggers (you might need to talk to your therapist about them too, it would be a good idea). Oh, and remind yourself that this whole setback thing is only temporary, you have done so much work and there’s no way you’re going back.

Then, try not to pressure yourself too much. Do the most important things and don’t do too many during the day. Give yourself (and your mind basically) room to breathe…!

And keep tabs on how you’re doing.

As I said, it’s only temporary. The ups and down are like your heartbeat, and they mean you’re alive and living life!

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Diary

On May the 2nd, of 2017 my mama was getting into the hospital and was going to have an operation the following days. She had stage 3 esophagus cancer.

On this day, exactly one year ago, she had the operation. A big one, of 14 hours. We knew it was gonna be long, but couldn’t imagine it would be that long. And May 3rd of 2017 was the longest day of my life (so far). There were moments that the seconds seemed to go backwards instead of forward.

Days like that, or the memories of days like that, isn’t easy to forget. Even if you want to act like is one more casual day, your brain knows!

Today is one more “anniversary”. The same day with the operation of my mother, as I was going to the hospital, I had a trigger, because the taxi wasn’t that clean. And this trigger, that occupied part of my mind for the whole day, was one of the greatest helpers with the main anxiety of the day.

This was the day I started thinking of my OCD as some kind of friend. I started figuring out ways to work with it so things can become better in my everyday life.

So, 3rd of May is a big day, one of those that you can’t forget.

And, even partially, you keep reliving for the rest of your life.

Favorite words

I have seen the movie twice so far.

And cried both times during this monologue.

It’s not part of Agatha Christie’s book, but one of the additions for the movie.

And it hits really close to home for someone who’s learning that there’s no black and white, that there’s always something you didn’t know about people, for someone that’s dealing with OCD (which loves order, and certainty) on a daily basis, that has opened her/his eyes to the world from a fresh point of view, for someone like me.

Living with OCD (no.18)

Everything is going extremely great with my OCD lately (more details in the next “living with OCD” post).

But the truth is that I have accepted the fact that with anxiety and mental health there is always the chance of a setback, minor or major. The good thing is that I’m prepared for something like that. I don’t have a plan, but I know what to do if needed!

So, everything is going great, until some stressers appear. Everything is going great, cool, calm, collected, until I start feeling a little more anxious. I’m spending the Easter holidays with my family, in the house where I grew up (for those who haven’t read any other post yet, my OCD is more focused in personal hygiene). Used to living alone/ living with three more people under the same roof for a few days, my OCD related routine of everyday life messed up (for example, I can’t easily use the same toilet with others, don’t feel comfortable not controlling my triggers, etc, etc), eating too much sugar (I have decreased the amount of sugar I eat daily to the minimum and it really helps my anxiety feeling calmer, but Easter cookies, and cake and all things sugary….), once more having nightmares and living through them very vividly (I have tried many things to stop having them, as I have been living with them for the last two years on a daily basis, and for the last couple of months journaling has done its magic). So, these are the main triggers of these last days!

But as I said, I’m ready for the setbacks.

Dear self, we will only spend a few days with the family (plus, I’m glad we have them all here, because there were chances they wouldn’t be here right now), and we’re doing great with having the minimum control over the triggers all around the house (actually we’re doing extremely great I could say), no more big quantities of sugar (get back on track with the sugar thing, balance is the key), and nightmares will continue going slightly through your mind after these couple of day (patience).

This is basically the way I’m talking to myself and my OCD, inside my mind.

I believe cooperating with your mind/anxiety/mental disorder, and working together with it is the best thing you can do! In everyday life all year long and in more difficult periods of time, when setbacks appears…!

The “happiness” trinket box

This vintage trinket box is a family heirloom, bought by my great aunt Dodo (she’s mentioned in a previous post). It was gifted to me by my mama in the first day of 2016.

I adore trinkets, and cute things, and vintage things, and color and the idea of happiness, so I loved it!

The funny story is that 2016 for me was….

….an untreated OCD which led to depression and suicidal thoughts,

….a fire that destroyed the workplace of my mother and brother and I had to move back to my parent’s home (couldn’t afford living on my own with the family economics of that period),

….a cancer diagnosis for my mom and the beginning of her therapy.

And that year started with “happiness”! Haha.

I still love this tiny box. It’s a reminder that in life, shit happens, comes and goes. And you can always find happiness in the end!

Thanks mama! Love you! 😛❤️

Living with OCD (no.15)

This one is an open letter to everyone around someone that has (I never use the word “suffers”, because I’m so against it, we have the disorder, we don’t suffer from it) OCD!

Dear everyone,

My name is Angelina. And I have OCD. Untreated for almost a decade, diagnosed for almost two years now. OCD is an anxiety disorder, I had so much anxiety that my brain had to find a way to cope with it. And it did, in the form of obsessions and compulsions. “Do that, count four times, what could go wrong in every way (a list), you must check everything before going to sleep, etc, etc” are some of the things my mind “tells” me. It’s basically a never ending trail of thoughts. Sometimes it feels like a continuous background fuzz/noise inside my mind.

But, I’ve managed to be high functioning. I wouldn’t have it any other way! I want to do the things I want to do and no disorder can get in my way. Plus, it was a survival mechanism when I had do go through hard times, I couldn’t let myself drown inside my brain, no way!

I have OCD, I live with quite high levels of anxiety each single day. And in the same time I make art, I have friends, family, I work (part time), I do many things daily. I have reached a point where I have become friends with my OCD. It’s not my enemy anymore. I respect it and kind of respects me back. We’re working together. For example, after a full week of too much anxiety, this morning we’re just chilling. Trying to relax my body (that hurts all over from the tension created by the anxiety) and trying to have some relaxing time doing things I love.

One more thing to set straight: I am not broken. I just live with much more anxiety than other people. And I go through daily life with it. It’s funny, because having to deal with so high levels of anxiety, I have used and developed so many methods to control and go through it, that many times I end up being the most calm person in the room when everybody else freaks out. If you need tips about dealing with anxiety, I’m your girl!

Let me show you a piece of every day life with OCD. Living with it is about constant decisions. Each day I wake up and choose to live with it in the best way possible, and don’t let it get in my way too much! Anxiety gets more intense and tiring for me, than for someone that gets anxious about a certain situation. Many times this can leave me with no energy at all. In case you try to improve yourself and and you really work with it (like I do), this can even leave you drained (physically and emotionally). But in the same time, even at these moments I am so proud of myself for dealing and making the most of it!

And there are the positive aspects of OCD. For example, since I practice many forms of art, it’s helpful to be able to “put them in boxes” and tell them apart when needed.

So, this letter took a bit too long. A few (or maybe more) last words! Being anxious sometimes and having an anxiety disorder are two totally different things (by the way, when someone tells you that they have anxiety or an anxiety disorder, just accept it people, to reach a point to casually talking about it means that you have been (or going) through your journey, a journey that officially started when you were diagnosed by a psychiatrist). No, this doesn’t make me (or any other person that is diagnosed with anxiety) mad, or crazy, or broken! It’s the way that my mind works and “translates” the world. OCD is just an aspect of my life. It’s not who I am.

Have a great day and give yourself and your mind a little break through it!

Angelina

The word “suicide”

Once upon a time there was a word called “suicide”. It meant taking your own life, for a variety of reasons, caused by a variety of triggers. The word was one of the “hidden” ones, people didn’t like talking about it much, and society was kind of scared of it. Time passed, ages, and the year 2018 came. But not much have changed…. Only a few glimpses of light were making their appearance every once in a while.

And here’s my glimpse of light, about the word “suicide”…..

What a magical intro about a theme like that, right? Haha. We’re trying to get more familiar with the idea of suicide and mental health, and I like writing about these matters, because they are so taboo for many, and in reality they shouldn’t be, because they’re basically part of every day life. They’re not from another world, they’re here, they had always been here and they will be here for as long as the human mind will be here.

I have written aboout suicide in the past, about all the suicides of musicians and more known people, and how close to home they strike. But this one is different, more personal and an attempt to get some things straight about suicide.

You may be wondering if I’m a professional of mental health. No, I’m not. I’m just someone that had my share of problems with my mind in the past and I have done a lot of work with myself to reach the point where I am today.

Oh, here’s me, make up free as they say on social media, just taking a break of working a lot lately with my arts….

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I’m going through one of the best periods in my life so far, I love myself, I love the people around me, I’m super productive, I am the happy-go-lucky person I’ve been since I can remember myself, I’m dealing great with all the things that life brings, and many more.

But there has been a time when I was suicidal. I had suicidal throughts (aka suicidal ideations), I had a ton of thoughts when I had knives around me or in my hand. Once I had a migraine and thought “I should take a painkiller” and then my mind told me “you could take more than one, that’s the way you would kill yourself”. And I had my therapist make me have a list of three people that I would call if the thoughts were going to turn into actions. They never did, but it was a fight (well, a few fights) for them not to be realized.

(pause of writing, some tears, a smile)

This is one of the most difficult posts I have ever written and one of the most cathartic ones. And it makes me emotional, because I know the hell I have been through, how many good things I have managed to gain out of it and it makes me sad that I once wanted to hurt myself. I love myself, I have always loved myself, maybe not as much as I do now, but I did love me.

In my case the suicidal thoughts were caused (together with depression) by my then untreated OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, an anxiety disorder where your mind has so much anxiety that creates compulsions (like repeated actions) to deal with the anxiety). My mind had enough and the alarms started screaming at some point. I remember feeling so helpless inside my own mind and body, I remember not feeling like myself, even now sometimes it seems like that person going through all that wasn’t me. But, it was. The mind can talk nonsense sometimes. It’s kind of natural. But, this is why in case you don’t feel well, you should ask for help from the people around you and a specialist, a psychologist or a psychiatrist.

Being suicidal isn’t the easy way out. You go through rough times.

Being suicidal doesn’t mean you’re weak. Everyone’s mind has its limits and life can get taugh.

Being suicidal means that your mind and body tell you to take better care of yourself.

Being suicidal is something that can happen to anyone.

Being suicidal is not your fault, it may be nobody’s fault. Shit happens, there’s a solution to this shit, there always is.

Being suicidal isn’t something you should be ashamed of. Period.

Nowadays, sometimes, I pause and think how nice things there are and how grateful I am to still be here. Life isn’t always easy, but it’s interesting and full of great experiences and wonderful days, and color, and art, and beautiful things all around, and people, etc, etc.

A few words to you, that you might read this and be where I used to be:

It’s going to be ok. You can’t see right now, probably, but everything is going to be ok, and even better than just ok. You’re goind through some difficult times, totally normal. Pick up the phone and call a friend, a family member, a help line, a therapist, someone to talk to. Spill it out, you’re not feeling so good and you would like some help or just someone to talk to. Remember that your mind is messing with you and there’s a solution for it, called therapy, or medication, or a combo of them both. You have managed to realize that there is problem and that’s the first step, that’s really great. You’re an amazing human being that after a while you’re going to be an amazing survivor/fighter/hero. And I love you, I know what you’re going through and I can guarantee you that everything is going to be ok.

A few words to all of you, from me, a person that was suicidal and managed to deal with it and got over it:

Don’t judge. Me and everyone else that went through suicidal thoughts, are normal people. Each person has hers/his limits and each brain and body has its limits. And the human brain can take a turn for the dark sometimes, it’s something that can happen to anyone. You never know the baggage, the problems, that “inside story” of someone’s life, so keep an open mind. And help. And be there for those close to you that might going through hard times.

And one of the most important things f all, that I come though many times when I’m talking about mental health: don’t be sorry for someone with mental health problems or a past of suicidal thoughts. Many times, when I’m saying or writing parts of my story, I get so many “I’m sorry”s.

Well, I’m not sorry for myself (why should you be?), all I have been through made me who I am today and I’m very proud of it all.