Living with OCD (no.16)

I have always been a junkie of notebooks, notes, pens, pencils, ideas, thoughts, feelings and all things stationery and creative!

I have always been keeping notes, diaries, planning. And I have done exercises in the past, suggested by my therapist, when I had to write down my thoughts and feelings after a panic attack or write down my dreams.

Not long ago, I was keeping notes of my thoughts when it hit me: I realized that journaling could help me put my hyperactive brain in order, calm down my anxiety.

So, for the last month I have been journaling very much! I keep three different notebooks: one for my workshop, one for bed and one for when I go out. I take breaks from creating to write, it helps me re-concentrate. Journaling before and after sleep does miracles; I have been sleeping so much better since I started it. And while being out, thoughts and ideas may come, so a notebook to write them down to is always helpful!

Having anxiety or/and an anxiety disorder like OCD, can create such a “rush hour”, 24 hours a day, inside your mind. Thoughts, thoughts, worries, thoughts, worries, more worries, ideas, memories, thoughts, feelings, feelings, worries, and I can keep repeating the same words, like they keep repeating inside my mind. But you get the idea.

Writing, putting all this mess into words, is really making a difference! It helps me having a clearer mind and it reduces my anxiety.

I’m doing so much better with my OCD lately, maybe it has to do with other things too, but I believe journaling is the main reason!


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!


Living with OCD (no.13)

After almost two years of bad sleep, a little while ago, I managed to get myself to sleep a little better, and yes, it was a greeaaat feeling!

But here I am, back to my mind never sleeping properly.

It’s not that I don’t sleep, I do. But, I sleep with anxiety and usually wake up really stressed. Here, you can see a self-portrait at 5 a.m. Woke up at 4, tried to go back to sleep, but then my mind was already awake!

It’s not that I’m not an early bird. Back to when I was little I was waking up at 4 and 5 a.m. (biological clock, what can I say), and I still wake up around 6 or 7 usually.

The really bad thing is the bad quality of my sleep. Even if I have a full 8-hour sleep,during that my mind is like “oh, let’s go back to those thoughts from earlier in the day/knock knock, are you trying to sleep?/oh, I’m Angelina’s brain and I don’t feel like sleeping tonight/let’s watch one of those thriller movie dreams!”.

Imagine waking up and living the day after that, for almost two years!

I manage to be productive and do many things during the day, but it sometimes feels like a never ending circle: I don’t sleep well, too much anxiety, so my mind and body never get a proper rest, and this makes my anxiety worse; and many months adding up to this, I wake up with limited energy and quite some fatigue.

I have tried many things, some worked, some didn’t, some worked for a while. And still trying new tricks, and working on older ones. I have reached to the conclusion that to get better sleep you have to “program” your whole life basically, have routines during the day, that will eventually help your sleep. OCD loves routines right?! And I follow the way my mind and my OCD work, with the plan that things will get better (permanently, please)!

So, I really wanted to write this post, to show one more aspect of having an anxiety disorder and the everyday (and night) life with it.

Have a good day fellow “anxiety friends” and everyone else of course!

When you stop “running”

I used to be a “runner”.

I used to “run” when I was feeling uncomfortable, when things were going wrong. It was some kind of compulsion. I couldn’t stand certain situations, so I was “running” away from them when I was feeling the need.

Used to.

Because life went on and came moments when I couldn’t afford to “run”. And I started becoming a more mature person. I stopped “running” and learned how to handle things, without that meaning that I stay in situations that I don’t like; I give it a try and I do make the choice to walk away sometimes.

But it doesn’t feel like “running” any more, I just walk away.

I guess that working with yourself and creating a strong base of who you are, is the key that helps you handle things and have the patience needed, so you won’t need to escape.

Just walk.

Living with OCD (no.12)

There’s a fine line (or I should say, a few fine lines) about an anxiety disorder, like OCD, focused on things like personal space and cleanliness.

There’s a fine line between the responsibility that the patient has, and the responsibility that the people around her/him have.

You may wonder how can people around someone like me, someone with OCD, share the responsibility about the condition.

Well, let’s get more personal.

I have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, an anxiety disorder that in my case is more focused towards cleanliness and issues with personal space. I hate stains, I avoid people who seem like they didn’t have a shower in a while, I can remember where and what I have touched in my own home while been “not clean”/ “contaminated” (and I can remember these for years), I have to have at least one shower each day and I wash my hair each single day; I do laundry for my clothes, my shoes, my bags, I usually think if something is washable before I purchase it; I wash my hands many times each day (actually I have tried to count them and it was more than 40), I don’t like strangers coming too close to me, etc, etc, etc, etc.

I live in Athens (usual big city). I have managed to be able to move around the city, use public transport, and all these while controlling my anxiety and even avoiding a panic attack sometimes.

BUT, at some point I realized that apart from my responsibility to control my disorder and dealing with it in the best way possible for me, other people are responsible too.

  • I have the right to keep my personal space even if I’m in public (No, you don’t have to come too close to me when there’s more space inside the bus. Let me have a little “air” around me when there’s space).
  • Be clean, it’s some kind of decency. And I’m not obligated to have to deal with your lack of basic hygiene.
  • In the same way, I’m not obligated to deal with your rubbish. (Throw that piece of paper inside the rubbish bin, and that napkin after you ate your snack and (my all time NOT favorite) your fucking used condom, do what you want to do, live your life, but don’t create a mess for me to live in).

Well, these are the basic don’ts for me and for everyone else basically. Each person has rights, each person can live among others but should always respect them, everyone should take care of hers/his part of certain responsibilities. Each single human living in a society shouls have some responsibilities towards the ones around her/him.

And all these are not only about me and my OCD, but they are things that everyone can relate to.

A special installation

This is an installation by Gilles Barbier, called “The Drunkard”.

I remember that when I first saw it, it hit too close to home. In my eyes, it seemed like a perfect realization of the mess that anxiety creates inside your head, or the blast inside the mind of a multitasker like myself.

And still, until this moment, I think about it in this way!

The body language of the man, the tornado that his thoughts create and how he’s so small in comparison to all the thoughts, and anxieties, and responsibilities, and maybe even the fast tempo of life, or the “demons” that keep taunting him from inside out.

If you think of it this way, that blast of objects on the upper (and main) part of the installation are quite similar to the mess that lives in everybody’s head sometimes, right?!