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 future

Last post about updating you about my mental health so I can keep on posting regularly about it!

This one is about what’s to come.

Having OCD my whole adult life (started in 17 and I’m 31 now), I often think about how things are going to work out eventually, if I’m ever going to live without it, or with a really small percentage of it as it is now.

As anyone who has or had personal experience with mental health issues knows, there aren’t always certain answers. And as life goes by the factors and the stressers can change things.

My goal is to be able to have the minimum effect of OCD in my life at some point, but I take it one step at a time! I would love to be able to be more relaxed and not having so many compulsions and rules in my life. Let’s see….

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!

The rage

I’m a fighter. I’m the kind of human that will get mad if I come across something that’s not fair. And I’m pretty vocal about my opinion.

But I never had anger issues. Until I did.

For the past couple of months, along with my therapy realizations, the anger showed up. The suppressed anger that was building for years surfaced, I let it surface. And it’s been one hell of a ride!

I never lose control, when I get angry I never let words come out of my mouth without thinking about them first. I know very well how to keep my cool and I do so even in the most intense moments. But with the anger levels I’m going through lately it’s been a little bit harder to stay “calm and collected”. It helps that I have practiced keeping quite calm, but creating also helps a lot.

Being an artist I have learned to put my thoughts and feelings into my art. And with anger it’s super super useful. Making something helps me keeping it under control and in the same time externalize what I’m feeling in a very healthy way.

It feels great that I’m not letting myself go and that I don’t let the heat of the moment get the better of me. And it’s jind if weird thinking what I would have done without art, where all this baggage would go…

I believe that this period it’s a phase that I have to go through, until I fully accept my new discoveries and become my more, normal, calmer self.

The mental health

As I mentioned in the previous post there are going to be six posts with thoughts and updates about mental health, and after them I will continue writing about it more frequently again.

This one is a little update.

Hello to the new people in the blog! My name is Angelina, I’m an artist, living and creating in Athens (Greece), while having OCD. I’m 31 and I’ve had it since I was 17.

It was untreated until 2016 when it reached a point where it caused me to have depression and suicide ideations. And that’s when I got help (if I could go back I would have gotten help much earlier!).

Dealed with all that, have in therapy ever since and I was on meda for 2.5 years until 1 year ago when I stopped taking them (the proper way, tapering, it was my doctor’s decision, etc). And it was some kind of journey going off meds, oh my!

Now, I have reached a point when I will probably go back to them soon, because my OCD isn’t at its best.

For the past 4 years there have been many downs and only a few ups, which definitely didn’t help my mental state: I took care of my sick (with cancer) mama until she got better, my father got sick as well and has been in dialysis ever since, I happen to live next to my grandmother and her husband and they have really gotten old and their needs have been so many for the past couple of months. Plus, I’m an artist that tries to figure things out and reach a point where I can live off my art (not even close to that yet).

But, I have survived all the above, I have a couple of good friends and a very good man. And my OCD.

I’m functional even though my brain doesn’t help me a lot most of the times, I have my routines and my goal is to someday being able to live without it (or at least with a tiny part of it in my brain).

These are some basics about me, for now!

The next one will be about being in therapy, the searching and the discoveries I have made so far.

Take care until then!

OCD & the pandemic

What it’s like to live with OCD through a pandemic?

Well, it’s like an episode of The Twilight Zone basically. It’s like that for everyone I think, but if you have OCD it’s one of the hardcore episodes, the ones that the world as the hero/heroine knew it is coming upside down.

It’s weird seeing everyone doing what you usually do because of a mental condition; doing routines and actions that you have mastered through the years of (unwilling) practice.

Now everyone washes their hands regularly; I wash mine countless times daily, for years now.

Now everyone keeps their distance from others; I try to keep my distance from others all the time, I basically hate it when strangers come too close (aka approximately 1 meter).

Now people use antibacterial tissues, which are basically one of the top 3 essentials I always bye from the grocery store and I use them even inside my own house (and, yeah, now I can’t seem to find any).

Now some people clean their phones, their cash, the groceries, all these things that I always clean.

Now some people throw their clothes to the laundry basket straight after they enter their house; well I have been doing this for years (only wear something once and after I wash it).

Now people pay attention to where and what they touch; this is a constant thing for me.

Normally I’m the odd one out of the norm and, now, my “abnormality” is the new norm.

I have been living with obsessive compulsive disorder for years now. You know that fear you feel nowadays, that you’re going to get sick, that something bad is going to happen if you’re not careful enough? I feel like this each single day; I create through this, doing everyday chores through this, live through this. And it’s not easy at all.

Now, during this weird and hard period we’re all going through, I am cool about it, because this is life for me, I do what I always do, keeping the pieces of balance I have managed to create for myself over the years. And because it’s all these repercussions are second nature to me, I’m quite sure I do my best so I and the people around me won’t get sick.

Think about it, how you feel with the coronavirus pandemic. Imagine having all this pressure and paranoia 24/7 inside your head. This is exactly how OCD feels like.

The madness of this epidemic is like being inside the mind of an OCD patient. And the virus is like every fear and obsessive idea that someone with OCD has. It might not always be so real as this virus, but it’s 1000% real for the brain and the body of the patient.

Maybe all these words are food for thought… something to think about if you’re in quarantine and you have so much free time in your hands.

Take good care of yourself and we’re all going to be just fine in the end!

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.