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?!

Living with OCD (no.10)

Anxiety means having a voice inside your head, constantly talking and thinking what you have to do, what you haven’t done, worrying about everything, thinking, talking, and basically never stopping, even when you’re sleeping!

Yes, it’s as hard as it sounds.

This morning, as I was having breakfast, was no exception. I was sitting, eating, and I thought to myself “why am I stressed?! “. I continued making a list in my mind, of all the things I had to do today. And as it turned out there were no monsters, or demons, inside that list. Nothing crazy, nothing unusual, no first-time-experiences, just things I have done before.

So, why my mind was going quiet mad in overthinking? Yes, it’s the anxiety, yes, it’s my ocd, but those few minutes really helped me calm down a bit.

And I’m going to practice this exercise again and again! 

About psychotherapy 

This one is dedicated to my therapist… A person that I had the luck and privilege to meet when I was in great need. A person that helped me through crucial times. A person that still helps and guides me, so I can become a better person. 

This post is about my experience with psychotherapy. Being treated for a mental health issue is a big and complicated deal, so I prefer talking about what I really know and have been through. 

I had reached a critical point for my mental health when I finally decided it was time to ask for help. This was almost two years ago.

In the past, I went through a couple of opinions about therapists, some positive, some more on the negative side. But, if you ask me now I will tell you “do it!!”, “you will do yourself a great favor”, “everyone should go to therapy, it changes the way you see things”, etc, etc.

What happened in the space in between then and now? Years of untreated OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, an anxiety disorder), which eventually led to depression and climaxed in suicidal thoughts.

The untreated OCD was like being in a cage. The depression was like being on a desert. The suicidal thoughts can sum up in the moment that I went through, when my mind told me how I could kill myself.

So, I did the wise thing to ask for help. And I’m getting this help, until this day, when I have managed to become some kind of friends with my disorder and being not simply myself, but a continually better version of myself!

In the beginning I had to survive the hard times. I was feeling helpless most of the time, and therapy was the most important thing in doing better! Baby steps first. It was like I was inside a cave, I knew there was light in the end of it, but I couldn’t see it. It took some time and lots of hard work, always under the guidance from my therapist. In my case, some help from medication was needed. 

I actually always make a joke about how in the first session, she told me that she was happy that I started my treatment with therapy and not medication. In the fifth session, she told me that “I might also see a psychiatrist (they’re the ones that can prescribe medication) , so I don’t suffer”. Well… 

Where was I…?! Oh, yeah! So, medication helps a lot, but I believe that therapy, personal work and the determination to get better are more important. Psychotherapy changes your way of thinking, a lot! It did it for me. The first few months were about overcoming the really difficult situations.

Then, the way I was thinking about things, and the way I was reacting started to change. It didn’t become totally different, but it did impove, always under the basic idea of feeling good and having a good everyday life. 

During my therapy, getting rid of my OCD was never a plan, we were aiming on keeping some aspects of it that had to do with my functioning. At some point (while life was happening, and I had to deal with my mother’s cancer and her care), I started working towards making my OCD my friend and cooperating with it. I thought “since I’m living with it, why not cooperating with it as well?!”.

As more time was passing, I realized that I was dealing with life in a much better way, calmer and more mature. I was becoming a real friend to myself, more than ever! I was correcting things I didn’t like, maybe leaving some behind. 

In the same time I was working with all these in therapy (and on my own, I keep saying  it, but it’s so crucial to work with yourself), I decided to become friends with my body. When you start to feel peaceful inside your mind, you want to go all the way I guess.

And these procedures continue until the moments I’m writing this post actually. 
Taking care of your mental health and improving as a person is an ongoing process, it’s a type of growth that never really ends. But I believe psychotherapy is the key, the main door to that world!