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 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!

A new era for my OCD

If you follow the Microcosm for a long time you already know that I live with OCD for 13 years now (since I was 17, 10 years undiagnosed and diagnosed for the past 3 years). Actually it will be 14 years this year.

I started therapy during a very critical point of my life, when I had a mental breakdown, after all the years being untreated about it my mind had enough, I had depression and reached the point of suicidal thoughts. And that’s when I asked for help (not recommending asking for help when you have reached your limit, if you need help ask for it before things get too hard and before it’s too late).

For the past 3.5 years I am in therapy and for 2.5 years out of them I was in antidepressants. Life hadn’t been easy, not only because of my mental health issues, but also because I had to move back in my family home for some time due to financial reasons, had to care for my mother while she was sick, while in the same time my father almost died. Now my father is weekly doing dialysis and my mother is healthy again. And me…, I keep having OCD and keep working on myself, with ups and downs.

One of my resolutions for 2020 is for this year to be the last year with OCD as a huge part of my everyday life. Of course you can’t be sure what’s coming in the future, and it’s not easy to overcome something that’s a habit after so many years, but it’s time to let go of the coping mechanism that was created so long ago.

One of the things I’m keeping from previous posts is the “good” relationship I have with my OCD.

I believe it’s a bad decision to go against it, and a very wise one to become a friend of it, show compassion towards it, there’s a reason it’s been created in your brain, and you need to take it easy with it, until it’s time to move on.

And that’s where I am right now!

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.

Life with OCD

I think I need something fresh.

I have written so much about my OCD and mental health, but I feel the need of making some changes, refreshing a bit.

My OCD is evolving as fast as life does after all. My belief that each one of us should tell his/her personal story is stil here. One step at a time more awareness can be created.

Here I am; I have spent 13 years with it (unofficially), with only 3 years out of them being officially diagnosed. I live with it, I have created patterns, tricks, some kind of program so I can be functional. But one great truth is that living with OCD is never easy. In my case, an outsider might look at someone who’s figuring things out just fine, when in reality it takes so much energy to keep up with life sometimes.

Yes, I know that so many people, even without OCD have to deal with life. But imagine having to deal with it all and add to this a mind that’s constantly thinking, that constantly needs reassurance, that has to do certain things a certain way (always) and gets irritated and super uncomfortable if things don’t go as planned. It can get absolutely exhausting.

Well, this one is going pretty melodramatic already, so let me continue with some more positive stuff.

I never gave up, I never accepted my OCD and just sat down and waited for the next order from my brain. Yes, things have changed since my diagnosis, there are always ups and downs, but one very important thing is that I never gave up!

In this phase of my life my goal is to have a more relaxed and maybe OCD-free life in the future (long story short), a goal that has many many aspects.

So, I’m going to continue my “Living with OCD” and “Living with-out OCD” series of posts, but with a fresh attitude!

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).

Living with/out OCD (no.9)

All the things that seem like nothing to you, but feel like everything to me.

All the things that seem so simple to you, but feel so complex to me.

All the things that seem so unimportant to you, but feel like climbing a mountaintop to me.

There are moments when I’m so jealous of all the other people, the ones without OCD. And when these few moments come, I’m jealous of one particular thing: how “normal” people go through their everyday tasks easily, smoothly.

Having OCD means that your everyday life is full of rules, obsessions and compulsions that your mind sets. There are so many things in everyday life that are anything but simple.

I have become friends with my OCD (and currently working on becoming close friends with my own mind), but still I get tired sometimes.

Sometimes seems so relaxing that you don’t HAVE TO have a shower before going to bed. In my world I have to take a shower each single night before bed, after spending a day being careful where I step amd where I sit and what I touch. It’s not like I have an option. Mind says I must, I do.

And there are these other days, rare gems, when for some reason (usually a combo of not being at home, having a sleep over at a friend’s or something, and being in a good day for my OCD, etc) I “break” the compulsion.

But, even though I take this “break”, it doesn’t come easy. It comes along with a pinch of anxiety and an “off feeling”.

And then comes a pleasant feeling: it feels like I’ve reached the greatest mountaintop in the world! Like I achieved something extremely special and hard.

And if you think about it… all the rough times I go through with my OCD, I do accomplish something great, for real!

And some final thoughts…

For all of you that don’t have OCD: I kind of admire your life sometimes, all the small things that stay small for you.

For all of you that live with it: I know how hard it is, keep up the good work and celebrate the “small victories” , that are basically not so small.

And as for me, this is a good day, full of triggers I have taken in as less of a trigger, and tonight I’m not going to have a shower. Nothing bad is going to happen if I don’t, so I’m going for it!

Living with/out OCD (no.5)

This one is about exhaustion.

When you try to minimize your OCD, you practically try to make changes to your brain. Sounds difficult? Maybe because it is…!

There are no miracles, I don’t expect a life without OCD to come quickly. I’m well aware that it’s going to be a long, hard, tiring process/journey. Determination, energy, and strong (as hell) will are essential.

But, sometimes, I do get so tired. Working on this project can get so exhausting at times. And not only mentally, but psychically as well. My body can get exhausted by all the mental procedures.

What to do? Keep trying, keep cutting off obsessive ideas and compulsions, just like Mulan did with her hair. One strand at a time, one obsession/compulsion at a time. Again, and again, and again.

But, taking the necessary breaks in between!

Living with/out OCD (no.1)

Untreated OCD for 10 years.

Treated OCD for 2.5 years.

That’s me. For almost two years now I cooperate with it, so there’s a balance. But still, it’s a constant circle that I decided to break. The idea of a life without OCD came to my mind. And that’s my next goal!

So, the series of “living with OCD” had to transform into something else, it becomes “living with/out OCD”, the middle and most important step before it becomes “living without OCD”.

Yes, it will be tough, and a roller-coaster, but it feels so right in this moment of time.

Plus, as I always say “if I was doing only what makes me feel conformable, I would have done nothing in my life”!