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.

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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!

Living with/out OCD (no.11)

Well, as you have seen from previous posts, going off meds for OCD (even if it’s done in the best, most proper, way possible) is not easy. Many bad staff comes back. It’s not pleasant, but it’s a necessary part of the procedure. You take something from your brain (in my case its extra sertaline) and your brain wants it back! So, for a period of time you roller-coaster alongside it, even through you weren’t up for the ride in the first place.

So, I was thinking what are the most important things in this procedure. There are a couple, but this post is for one of them: cutting yourself some slack.

As you may remember if you have read previous posts of mine, I have managed to become a friend with my OCD. We have a type of communication and we work together when hard moments appear. After many years with the disorder, I realized that going against of what I have in my mind isn’t the best thing I could do, it can create tons of extra pressure.

When, a trigger happens, I have some kind of talk with my OCD (“I know this stress you out, we’re gonna fix it, no need to freak out, etc”). This helps me keep more calm, well as calm as I can get after all. It soothes things a bit.

Sometimes it’s like talking to my self, calming myself down.

And that self is the main theme of this post!

I know how difficult and nerve wracking having OCD can get. And we who have it (I never use the word “sufferers”, I don’t like it) and live with it each single day, are going through so many emotions/rituals/intrusive thoughts, plus all the everyday day tasks. If it sounds like a lot it’s because it is a lot. A lot for a human to handle. And it doesn’t easily go away, and it may have some relapses during the therapy procedure, and at times it can get as frustrating as it can.

We, the ones with OCD, we go through so many little “battles”on a daily basis, but I think we usually forget one simple thing that we should always keep in the back of our minds for when it’s needed: cutting ourselves some slack.

We should be good and sympathetic with ourselves more frequently. We go through these difficult situations/moments, so before/after/in between we should tell ourselves how proud we are, and how we are such good fighters, and how good we’re handling whatever comes our way.

I think we usually forget to do it and I have found out that it can make a difference.

For example, especially now that I’m going through a difficult period of time going off meds, it makes a big difference to remind to myself how far I’ve come, how sometimes I’m the bravest girl in the world. Or even, tell myself at some points that I deserve a break, some time in my comfort zone.

Our brain doesn’t always cooperate with us, but what is left if we don’t cooperate with our own selves and if we’re not good with ourselves?!

Be your own comfort if you need it, tell yourself a few good words, after all it’s doing a very good job dealing daily with the thing called OCD!

A day in the life of OCD

I have been thinking of writing this post for some time now. But, the truth is that having OCD is a constant produce (in very high speed) of thoughts for my mind, and it’s going to be quite tough to write about it (too many things and details).

But, anyway, I’m going to write a short version about it throughout the day.

Here we go!

I’m Angelina and I have OCD (diagnosed), my obsessions are basically about personal hygiene, I hate stains, dirt, etc. I have managed to become friends with it and don’t fight it, but this doesn’t mean that it’s not a main part of my everyday life and that it can get really difficult at times.

Morning:

* Well, woke up a bit more relaxed than other days. One of the first things I thought was that last night I fell while mopping and my leg fell straight on a pair of shoes that are a big trigger and haven’t washed them yet (apparently that’s a thing, many times it takes me a while to clean an object that it’s “dirty” from a trigger). Went straight for a shower after the fall.

* Have to go out this morning: bank/ craft stores/ a meeting with a friend. Oh, I’m going to have to deal with quite a few triggers while doing all these.

* Didn’t wash my hands before going to the bathroom (have to have a shower, but anyway since I’m going to be out for hours and gather more triggers I will have a shower later in the day).

* Do I want to go out and have to deal with triggers today? No, but every single day practically I make a choice to keep on going and not letting my OCD being a bigger burden that it already is.

* Before leaving my house I have to clean any object that I have to take with me and that is considered trigger for my mind.

* A two hour session of errands can have five to ten, or even more triggers that I have to deal with so I can continue with the things I have to do. A stain on the street, on the pavement, places where I have to sit (or not, usually it’s a not), people around me that seem not-so-clean, etc, etc.

Noon/afternoon:

* After many triggers, and a lot of things done, finally got back home. Got the trash out, so afterwards I can take off the clothes I was wearing outside.

* Usually I have to clean everything I bought (or almost everything).

* I’m separating my home between “clean” and “not clean” spots and places. When I’m a trigger myself (ex. when I return from errands) I clean the spots/places that I want to be clean later or the next day. Yes, my mind separates and puts things “in boxes” a lot, it’s an OCD thing for me, but in the same time helps me keep my triggers in control.

* I clean a bit, kitchen, bathroom. And every day I have to sweep and mop the whole house (so, I won’t step with my flip flops on unclean floors before going to bed later, after having a shower; well that’s a great example of obsession/compulsion). It’s a good thing I’m living in a two room apartment.

* Yes, my own house has spots that are considered a trigger for my mind and I avoid touching them. It’s hard to get over an obsessive thought for let’s say an object. If I have a trigger with it, my mind locks it as “dirty” and even if I clean it, it may continue feeling like a no-no.

* Actually, it’s quite liberating when I’m a trigger myself and I can move around at home, cleaning, tidying up. I kind of relax when I don’t have to be constantly careful about where I touch; the “programming” in my mind doesn’t stop working of course, but I can pay less attention cause I’m going to take a shower soon.

Night:

* A bathtub is one of my favorite places basically. A shower it’s so soothing for me. I have managed to create a schedule where I have only one shower a day, every night. And then going straight to bed that is one of my “holly grails” (aka spots/things/places that I always keep them clean and safe for my OCD).

* My mind never actually calms down, even when I’m sleeping I feel quite anxious, watching weird dreams, etc.

So, that was a day in the life of OCD!

There aren’t too many details because (a) the post would be a two/three/four part thing if there were and (b) having OCD it’s so complicated, all the thoughts, all the obsessions/compulsions, it gets really difficult/tiring at times to explain to others the details of a thought that could have its roots years before. But I wanted to give you a glimpse of how everyday life is when with it.

That’s it folks!