Live your mental health with pride

This one if for all the fellow “sufferers” of mental health. “Sufferers”, because I don’t really like the word. Yes, it’s a challenge living with a mental health disorder or illness, but “suffering” reminds me of pity. Plus, there are many undiagnosed people out there that for their own reasons haven’t seek help yet, and this one is for them as well.

I’m all about talking about mental health and creating even the slightest awareness about it. And I talk quite openly about my experience with OCD as well. Recently, I broke up. It was a relationship with a person who was very supportive with the everyday issues created by my OCD, but in the end the reason he used (I say “used”, because there were a couple of issues regarding himself that led to his decision to break up, that I guess he didn’t want to express) for his decision was my OCD. So, he told me that my OCD would never get better and things would keep going from bad to worse and he wouldn’t be able to handle it. When I heard the words coming out of his mouth, for the first couple of minutes, I felt that my obsessive compulsive mind was right telling me for months that eventually he was going to leave me because of my mental health problems (my mind was telling me all these when in reality there was no indication of any of it). For those moments, my mind started telling me that it was right, that there would be no one to be able to handle my OCD in a relationship; ever.

And then I said to my mind “no!”. And I also said “no” to my now-ex-boyfriend as well. No, having OCD isn’t a sentence for life, my OCD taking a turn for the worse doesn’t mean that it will be like this forever. OCD is a part of who I am basically.

For the past couple of days now, I have been thinking how society and people around us perceive mental health and other people with mental health issues. And that’s when I knew I wanted to write a few words to all of you out there…. so I can also read them from time to time, when in doubt!

  • It’s not your fault.

We were either born this way, or either shaped this way from situations and people (or both). There is NO way our mental health issues are our fault, no way at all!

  • It can get difficult for family and friends to deal with your mental health, but always keep in mind that the person that has it the worst is you.

Living life with a brain that doesn’t cooperate, a brain that makes everyday activities harder, a brain that may even create a parallel reality, a brain that won’t shut the fuck up, a brain that’s strong and exists inside your head? Come on, we’re warriors living and battling our own brains basically. Let’s keep up the good and hard work!

  • Wear your mental health with pride.

You might not want to talk about it publicly in a blog, or on social media, but do you. Either way we must be proud in our everyday lives that we keep living our life with its ups and downs and fight (some days more, some days less, it’s ok).

  • Never forget, even when things are bleak and unbearable, that mental health has ups and downs. And that brighter days await for you in the future!

A mental health journey isn’t only black and white. There are many shades of gray and pinches of all the colors as well. Just hold tight because we’re experiencing that color prism while riding a roller coaster.

  • Love and take care of yourself, always.

It’s easy to have issues with yourself when you have mental health problems, but it all begins with loving yourself, your body and even that weird brain of yours that’s creating the problem. Feeling conformable in your skin is a good base getting better!

So, that’s all for now. Take care until the next one!

Angelina

The lives of others

Living with OCD is not an easy task. Actually, it can become really difficult sometimes!

There are moments when I want to do something different than what my OCD tells me to do, but I do what it tells me anyway. And there are so many routines and rules that I have to follow. Even for the smallest everyday tasks!

Which brings me to the point where after almost 14 years of living with obsessive compulsive disorder, there are many times when I’m jealous of other people’s lives. Not in a bad way; I just find it amazing to be able to live your life casually and being more “normal” and relaxed, instead of living in a world of triggers with constant anxiety and stress!

It’s the small things that count: being able to move freely in your own space instead of being careful about where you brush up against or what you touch. Being able to go out without getting prepared for a trigger. Being able to use objects without checking with your memory/brain first, to see if they’re triggered or not.

For the past couple of years things have been everything but ideal for me and my mental health hasn’t been at its best. But for the past year I have trying over and over again to make some progress with living a little more “normal”. There have been ups and downs with this project, and lately I’m on it again.

Always having as my motivation the thought of a more relaxed everyday life!

Progress loading…!

The daily life with OCD

My OCD is oriented towards contamination. To be exact I hate stains and bodily fluids. Plus, my OCD is pretty severe. Currently my day is full of patterns that go according to my obsessions, but in the same time help me being functional.

I want to be able to function properly and do things, so many times I have to push myself. But, of course, going out in the city or doing errands is like Russian roulette: chances are I’m going to have a trigger.

There are periods that things are better and other that things are pretty tough, like the past couple of months. But there are always the good, better, days!

Things that help with anxiety

  • Journaling.

Putting the mess on paper helps to feel calmer and seeing things written down makes it easier to process thoughts and reach to conclusions. Plus, I believe that writing by hand is the best way to keep notes/a diary, typing on a computer doesn’t feel the same at all.

  • Breathing exercises & meditation.

Exercising your breathing is crusial when having anxiety, it’s a whole new world when you’re able to control your breathing. Personally, I have studied singing so it comes naturally to me know and controlĀ  my breathing. But if this isn’t the case for someone, there are plenty of online courses and videos that can help. And now that I’m thinking about it, IĀ  should write a post about breathing.

Meditation is kind of the next step after breathing exercises and mindful breathing. It’s a deep relaxation and good breathing has to come first in order for meditation to work. And even then it takes lots of practise (also a post coming soon)!

  • Food.

Not talking about over-eating or “eating your feelings”, I’m ttalking about the healthy version of eating. A snack or a beverage makes a full stomach, and a full stomach always makes a brain calmer and happier; everything seems better with a full stomach!

  • Taking a break.

It can be a 10-minute break, a vacation, or anythingin between, the idea is to give yourself and your mind some time to relax. It won’t make the anxiety go away, but it’s going to relieve the tension for a while.

  • Move, be active.

An active everyday life or/and frequent exercise is really helpful for a body that goes through huge amounts of stress.

  • Water.

Drinking water can’t only help you in moments of extreme stress/anxiety, like an anxiety attack, it calms down the resperatory system. Plus, keeping hydrated is nothing but helpful when you suffer from anxiety.

  • Being creative.

Doing something creative, making art, is a great way to express your feelings, and looking at the bright side of things and the beauty that can exist in the world. Coloring, drawing, knitting, crocheting, doing any craft project is a good idea!

So, this is all folks (for now)! Take care of yourselves and breath in and out.

Tired OCD self

For the past couple of years, I have become (some kind of) friends with my OCD. I don’t go against it and we work together.

I’m basically keeping a balance. For example, if a trigger appears, I try to keep my cool and think which is the best way to get over it, I try not to go full compulsive and do as few compulsions as possible. And this system is working pretty good.

For me this is a reconciliation. It’s OCD, it’s here, it has been here for more than a decade, so working alongside it it’s a very good idea.

And here comes the “but”!

Living with an anxiety disorder can be very compounding, for the mind, the body, the life, the person having it. Everyday life is much more tiring when you have to keep whole lists and a ton of checks in your mind. When you have to be careful even about what you touch inside your own house. And in case you’re someone like me, that never gives up, it’s even more tiring. I like to push myself and don’t let my mind taking control. I always try to keep up with my life no matter the OCD, in the best way possible.

But there are moments that I’m getting tired and I’m thinking that life would be much easier without the OCD. These moments have become very frequent for the past couple of weeks.

I’m imagining a life where you don’t have to have a shower before bed, using furniture and objects without first checking if they’re “clean” (sometimes the OCD-clean it’s a different kind than the normal clean, but that’s a story for another post), etc.

I don’t know where this is going to lead, being in therapy is a journey with a lot of unknown paths. For now, this is the fact: I’m tired of life with OCD.

Living with/out OCD (no.13)

To be honest, the title of this series of posts feels a little bit off lately. I started working towards a life without OCD a few months before I stopped my medication (details about it in previous posts). Since the period I stopped my sertaline things have been… difficult. But lately, I have been feeling much better.

The only “leftover” is the increased anxiety levels. For almost three years my brain was used to getting its daily dose of sertaline and I had managed to create a balance in order to be functional.

And now, I’m in the process of reorganizing that balance, with a meds-free brain. I’m researching for ideas to decrease my anxiety.

The process, and all the tons of anxiety I’m going through lately, remind me of a dream I used to have since I was a kid. It was one of those that are closer to a nightmare than a dream.

I was in a car, I was driving (even though I didn’t know how to), I had to find the right way to go and then I couldn’t stop the car.

Now, I see my anxiety as that car. I have to learn how to handle it under the current circumstances and manage to go forward.

Living with/out OCD (no.12)

Going of antidepressants, after almost three years of taking them, while still having OCD and being in therapy.

It’s for the better, but the fact doesn’t make it any easier. I wrote a few posts about the procedure and all the things that I felt. This one is about the time that things got better.

It’s been 5 months since I stopped taking my meds (after a period of tapering tge dose and always under my doctor’s instructions). And, I won’t lie, it was one of the most difficult periods of my life (until now).

The uncomfortable feelings, the massive amounts of crying, the demons and memories awakened.

During all the above, that are totally normal by the way when you stop giving your mind the extra sertaline that it really liked, there was one thing that I realized: how much tired my body and mind were. So, after trying many things in order to feel better until the storm was over, I decided to press pause for many things in my life, take time for myself, learn to do nothing and relax. A couple of weeks after putting my idea in action….magic!

One afternoon I finally felt better. And calmer. The calm I was feeling with the antidepressants. And the storm was quite over. Yes, there are moments that things get weird and tough, but I deal with them pretty good!

In the past months, the progress I had already made with my self-awareness helped a lot, and the therapy was there to help at hard times, but I believe that what was really crucial was the fact that I knew it was just a really difficult period that would eventually end, during which I was willing to feel it all and look for ways to feel better.

And that combo of patience and fighting the darkness paid off in the end.

Maybe now it’s time to continue with my “Living with/out OCD” project!

OCD Facebook groups (a no)

So, I thought of becoming a member of an OCD oriented Facebook group. And I did so!

I thought it would be interesting to read about other people’s stories and share mine. To connect with people that go through their everyday lives with OCD, like I do. Sharing opinions and ideas is always interesting. And as you can see from this blog I think it’s very important for people to share their stories, create awareness and maybe help others by showing how important it is to get proper help when dealing with mental health issues.

I found a pretty popular group and I joined; for two days.

I expected a platform of people who deal with (anxiety and) OCD, who deal with it and work with it and themselves. What I found was so different!

  • So, many people not getting proper professional help for their mental health problems. (I know it isn’t always easy to pay for therapy, but if you really want to, you can find a way to get help somehow).

Having a mental health issue, and not getting treatment for it is so bad. I have been there, and I wish I had gotten help much earlier. You practically don’t know what you have/ how to deal with whatever you have/ what kind of therapy/treatment to get. You have a struggling mind with no support. So, so bad.

  • Many people practically asking for diagnosis and help.

Internet is very helpful sometimes, but asking for help from strangers is such a bad idea! It’s one thing people sharing their stories and tips maybe, and another to ask non-professionals to tell you how to treat a mental health disorder (for which you don’t have a proper diagnosis).

  • An over-exposure to anxiety.

Well, having anxiety/an anxiety disorder is like having a crowd popping thoughts inside your brain 24/7. And that’s only you. So, I believe that being exposed in the similar situation of dozens of others, on a daily basis, makes you even more stressed and helps that cycle that’s called OCD gloriously keep going.

  • Many times people confusing character and disorder.

We should know and never forget that each one of us that has a mental health disorder, has a personality as well, and the two are totally different. We are not our disorder. And not everything that we do/deal with/think/feel is about OCD.

These are the three things that made me leave the group after only two days. I reached the conclusion that I didn’t like the whole thing and that it was potentially bad for all the other members.

Of course, there were a few people that were more collected, knew about OCD, were diagnosed and were dealing with it in the best way possible, but the main feeling of the group was all the above in the list.

I still believe that is important to tell your story, and create awareness, while in the same time dealing with it with its ups and its downs, but I guess a more structured platform would be better. Maybe a place created by mental health professionals who would be able to keep control of everything and truly help people.

And always keeping in mind, and reminding the readers, that myself (and more people out there) are not mental health specialists, but want to share our story and opinions about OCD. So that more and more people understand that it’s here, it’s real, and it’s part of our lives.

And that the best thing to do if you have any mental health issues is to get proper help, have therapy and let a therapist/psychiatrist help you solve your personal problem (it’s different for each one of us and needs to be treated differently).

Health first (a diary post)

My everyday life is quite full usually: I have my two handmade jewelry brands (@daily_art_by_angelina & @psychotrinkets) , my art (@drawing_tales), my photography (@a_mavrogianni_photography), my home/ art studio that always needs something done, my – practically fresh- significant other (we don’t live together, but still there’s quite some time devoted to him), my grandma and her second husband next door to me who are both in their mid 80s and have things that have to be done for them. Plus, I live everyday with my OCD in the background. And for the past 4 months I have stopped (the proper way) my medication which I have been taking, for my OCD, for almost 3 years.

A couple weeks ago I made a decision: to try to chill more and focus on my mental health. Just for the tough period of going off the meds (my sweet little brain has to re-adjust, but until then it shows no particular mercy). A wise decision to focus on my mental health.

I didn’t turn off everything, but I try to do less, so I have time to relax and take care of myself more.

I am a control freak, a multitasker that feels like I’m doing something wrong when I’m not doing something 24/7. But, I realized that I had to somehow take some time off, so I can feel better again, after going off my meds. But, still balancing things.

  • Posting less on social media (main way to promote my work my work).
  • Creating/working less (so, I have a less strict schedule, and more time to relax).
  • Not pressuring myself to do a lot of things during the day.
  • Trying to keep up with my relationships (but not doing so much that I will feel pressured).
  • Doing… nothing (I never do “nothing”, I practically can’t, but I realized that my kind of “doing nothing” is to chill out, do the things that feel good, go through YouTube or Pinterest, not saying to myself “you have to do this and that”, chiiiill; it’s so soothing and relaxing during this tough period).
  • Giving some responsibilities (grandma related) to other members of my family, taking a break for a while from them.
  • Taking a break from things that put too much pressure on me.

In the meanwhile, life happens, and it’s not always easy to keep up with my decision. But, having set the goal to focus on my mental health is important. Each single day, I try to care of myself, my emotions, my mood, and not let go (keep working towards the better days that are going to come). And some days (who am I kidding, most days), it’s pretty difficult, but the bottom line is loving myself and showing myself this love and care.

The world (and everything) will be here even after this tough period ends!