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Grief and OCD

Photo Credit: Markus Winkler

It’s hard enough to go through OCD at any time but when two powerful forces combine, there is much self-compassion needed.

Recently, I lost a very close friend. The grief itself was all-consuming and I immediately felt the onset of OCD thoughts. Don’t get me wrong, grief is a funny creature, it does make you think and do odd things. But this was extra.

I couldn’t stand the noise of the TV and other sensory flare-ups, I blamed myself and everyone else (which is also normal but it was ‘extra’) and I had to get everything in order and make sure that every single thing in the near future was planned to a tee – something I hadn’t done for a while). I also became extremely sensitive to people’s comments, mannerisms and even their comfort. This is how my OCD typically manifests.

Interestingly, my counsellor said that anxiety was one of the most common reactions for a person in grief. I didn’t know that. I thought it might be depression, anger, sadness, etc.

I am choosing to see my OCD reaction, as well as my normal reaction, as understandable and acceptable. I am bringing self-love and compassion to myself. I do this by opening two hands, palms upward. Into one hand I place all the beautiful things I can think of about myself then I bring it into my heart and release it there. In the other, I ask God to fill my hand with all things wonderful and then I bring this to my heart and release it.

It’s still hard. Of course, it’s still hard. But, I am allowing myself to start to see what I brought to our friendship and be glad that I could be there for her when she needed me.

I hope this helps someone x

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Anxiety christian Contamination OCD coronavirus covid ERP Exposure and Response Prevention faith Hope Obsessive Compulsive OCD Uncategorized

A Pandemic and OCD

***TRIGGER WARNING – Contamination OCD***

If you have OCD, right now COVID is your best friend and your worst friend.

The ‘good’ side for your OCD is that people are finally realising the benefits of good hygiene and social distancing. Those who experience contamination OCD will be relieved that they don’t have to look weird in a mask and with gloves and applying copious amount of sanitiser. In some cases, and in some places, the world is cleaner.

I think the ‘bad’ side of the OCD must be taking a terrible toll on some of us right now. It is our worst fear realised – a rampant, contagious disease that would scare the average Joe or Joelene into hiding. This is the disease we always imagined would never happen and it is the disease we have little ultimate control over. People do get sick, sadly some die.
Having had Contamination OCD myself, even now to a much lesser degree, saw me sanitise my delivered groceries and literally not leave the house for three and a half months.

I could see that I was quickly becoming a prisoner and losing the last of my freedoms. I decided to feel the horror and the terror and I began to accept it – little by little. Like many others, I got the best anti-microbial sanitiser there is, had a mask at the ready and practiced very small visits. At first I would go somewhere in nature (I think the beach was first). I touched nothing, I just walked. Little by little, I realised that my worst fears had come true, there was a global pandemic, and I could either choose to let that rule me or, as ERP recommends, agree that it is a catastrophic situation and sit with the discomfort.

I am happy to report that I can go most places now. Not only that but I have been sick twice with other illnesses so I feel I have been through the alarm of ‘what if?’.

It must be said that we here in New Zealand had a short spike of extended community transmission and took very serious measures to ensure the wellbeing of our people. But I think some of this can be applied to whoever you are, wherever you are.

My deepest empathy lies with those of you who are or have been affected by this horrible disease.

May we find the comfort of camaraderie in these extremely difficult times. And may those of us with OCD cut ourselves some slack for facing something we hoped would never happen.

Aroha mai.

P.S. Si vous voulez une explication en francais, dites-moi s’il vous plait.

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Anxiety christian depression ERP Exposure and Response Prevention faith Hope Mental Health Mid Life Obsessive Compulsive OCD

Who’s Under Your OCD?

Sometimes I think OCD is a very clever way of masking what really matters to us and who we really are.
It can be amazing to take the time to listen to the dialogue under the illness. It can be healing.
I hope you like what I wrote about it:

I’m scared to death
that this might be my
last breath
I am utterly and totally
exposed trying to transpose
my fear for faith.
The deconstruction
and gradual reconstruction
of my faith
has left me a waif
I shake like a leaf
on a windless night
clutching to the bough
with all my might
and after 40 long years
and too many tears
I finally know
I finally know
of what I’m afraid.
Myself.
Who I really am
What I really need
That child inside
crying out for my mum
to sooth the aches
and erase the pain
but I will never
ignore her again.
I didn’t give her a voice
nor did anyone else
I guess it’s time
to stand up for myself.
Let’s find out
who Anna really is.
I’m shaking like a leaf.

Anna Killick 20/06/20

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Anxiety christian depression emotional healing ERP faith Mental Health Obsessive Compulsive OCD

When life sucks…my line in the sand.

I can no longer apologise for, or shrink away from, self-expression. Be it public or private. This is who I am. This is how I survive and this is how I connect to others. My life has been really hard – from the beginning.

Mostly, the battle has been mental and I spent years undiagnosed, misunderstood and untreated. Despite circumstances people would long to have, I was tormented inwardly and bullied outwardly. I didn’t know I had OCD and that these random, terrible thoughts were normal for this condition. I thought I was evil and spent a lot of time confessing and trying to atone. Religious ritual and OCD don’t necessarily go well together.


My period of breakthrough came from 14-17. I found confidence, I talked with God, I made so many friends and was chosen by the very ones who had hurt me to be Head Girl of Tauranga Girls’ College. Then came burnout, then came the virus, then came the post-viral syndrome that has carried on for 23 years. And with that came the disappointment of ‘failing’ in the eyes of myself and in the eyes of others.

After this last medicine contraindication, I was tested to the absolute maximum of my limits. Like Lauren Daigle sings, I whispered underneath my breath that I have nothing left. I have been left traumatised that this can happen to a person (again). Trapped in my head, nothing being real, disconnection, severe depression, severe anxiety, fatigue, total and utter despair. Yes, brain chemistry can do that. I have tried to paint my life light pink with a bow on, looking for every bit of good (and there have been good times). But underneath is a broken-down, rusty piece of machine just hanging in there. I’m so very bone weary.

And I’m not going to go ‘yes but this good thing happened so it’s all OK’. It’s not OK. And I realised that I don’t have to pretend that this piece of machinery will ever be beautiful. It sucks. I’m angry. I’m angry that I can’t catch a break. I’m grieving. I need to grieve what living that machine has done to me. Life can have ugly parts.

But I must say, I know the thing that allows me to keep on keeping on – everything that this machine went through made me who I am today; empathetic, compassionate, strong-willed, a lover of people, creative, a lover of Christ, myself. I am no longer the machine, I am the outcome and I am proud of the outcome for the most part.

I might have unfairly lost my health, my figure, my youth, my children, my scholarships and awards, my travel, my reputation for being fun but intelligent and stable. But I gained who I am. And I would never give that up. Andrew has been dragged through a lot of this secondhand. Yet he still stands and is also becoming himself. All the beautiful gifts that people fortunate enough to know him, receive. This is not a cry for help but a line in the sand – a life statement.

And God, he’ll send an army for me.

P.S. Below is my my representation of this situation (and please be assured it has nothing to do with the breast cancer survival ribbon!).

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Physical Illness and OCD

For the last week, I’ve had a nasty virus/cold-type thing. No, I don’t have Covid and for that I am truly grateful. Amazingly, here in New Zealand, there is virtually no current community transmission.
Being physically ill, apart from the Chronic Fatigue Syndrome/M.E., reminds me how much any extra toll on the body can exacerbate OCD symptoms. I felt, too, that the more tired I became, the more the invasive thoughts would push their way into my head.
The thing that helped me was to remember that I can’t make dinner let alone tackle OCD, so I’ve done my best to ‘shelve’ it. If it’s that important, it can wait until I am well. Chances are, as often is the case with delaying or practicing ERP, they may not be a problem anyway.

I really can not overstate the incredible difference ERP (Exposure and Response Prevention) has had on me. Once upon a time, any extra stress would have been curtains for me.

If you have OCD and you have any extra money (even if you have to Crowfund), try your best to find a good ERP practitioner. Mine saved at least my quality of life.

Love to you in these mad times.

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Sometimes the battle just goes away

I have had a few specific OCD incidents that were so deeply ingrained, I honestly felt that they could never be dealt with. Every time I checked my mind, there they were haunting me. Whenever I’d have a moment of peace, it would be interrupted with ‘but you’ve always got this hanging over your head…’.

After the gift of doing ERP therapy and after much work and angst, one day it just didn’t matter anymore. I can not explain it other than it ceased to be an issue. It has tried to flare up but has never had the power over me it used to. It used to bring me to my knees – literally.

I actually agreed with the thought and went ‘yeah, this might ruin my life’ and allowed it just to be. After a while, it lost its grip because I had finally got to the stage where I did not care. Wow, it sounds huge saying that. Huge. And it’s not everybody’s experience.

I hope and pray you end up giving OCD the big finger and see it for the kitty cat (not the ravenous lion), it really is. Don’t get me wrong, OCD in general can still sometimes be a lion. But I have a victory and I’ll sing it from the rooftops.

What is your victory?

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Anxiety christian depression ERP Exposure and Response Prevention faith Hope Mental Health Mid Life Obsessive Compulsive OCD

Ideal Conditions for OCD

Photo by Rohan Makhecha on Unsplash

Like any parasite looking for a host, OCD will look for anything to latch onto. And you know the best thing to do? Let it. If you have done any ERP, you will know that fighting OCD requires special weapons. It requires a type of reverse psychology. Sometimes, when you’re on a roll, it’s hard to ever imagine a relapse.

Let me share my relapse for you and the steps I’m taking to recover.

I recently went through an extremely hard time – my Granddad passed away, my cat got eaten by a hawk and then person and after person around me started falling like flies and were wanting me to be there. I was too weak and too polite to decline to get involved and in one situation, it was a potentially life and death situation. So I have this constant stress and adrenaline surging through my body and mind. My thoughts are completely occupied by the struggles at hand. Then I realise that I feel compelled to help in these situations and neglect exercise and eating well. But overall, no blame OCD.

Finally, when the situations that weren’t ongoing, resolved – I collapsed.
I slept and slept and I let the stress trickle out of me. The next day, my husband said something to me about not feeding the good peaches to the (poor, starving) sheep and when I said how selfish he’d been and my OCD was just going for it, his voice changed tone – a trigger for me.
Blam! Fight or flight pounced. I felt helpless, hopeless, like running forever, tight-chested and full of blame for his change in tone. Now, I am not talking about shouting, I’m talking about a tone change. But it’s OCD, you can’t explain it.

Can you see how the conditions leading up to my ‘meltdown’ were perfect? I was coming down from a high-stress situation my guard was lowered and I didn’t have the energy to even shower.

I am still working through this one. But what did I do to help myself? I agreed with the OCD that Andrew was a meany and then I hung out with him as much as possible. I exposed myself to this ‘nasty’ (AKA incredibly lovely) guy and went for a walk along the beach with him, ate with him, talked with him and let him cook for me.

And I know I’ll win this battle. Because the truth always wins.

Anna x

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Anxiety christian depression ERP Exposure and Response Prevention faith Hope Mental Health Mid Life Obsessive Compulsive OCD

Strange Additions to OCD

Hello Fellow Travellers!

I started noticing a few weird symptoms and sensations.  When I visited my neuropsychiatrist, I told him that sometimes I had voices in my head. Don’t get me wrong, these were not auditory hallucinations but I felt ‘compelled’ to do x, y and z and became very confused when I couldn’t stop them and thought I was having some kind of psychosis.
Apparently, these ‘thoughts’ are completely normal in one who has Obsessive Compulsive Order and the best thing to do is a little ERP (Exposure and Response Prevention) and allow them to stay – welcome them even.
Very shortly afterwards, the feeling that I was going crazy subsided.
Especially when I am tired, I find that there are dialogues in my head – conversations that seem to take place without me.  Ridiculous? Apparently not.
Sometimes, all we need to know is that OCD is a very mixed bag that does not conform to a certain set of criteria (terrible for those of us who want to control it!).
By letting go of the fear and accepting the thoughts (and choosing to let them drift by if that helps), you ironically are more in charge of your head.

Have you noticed any unusual symptoms?  I bet we’ve all had them at some stage.

More power to you as you carry on!

 

Anna 🙂gift-habeshaw-Of8C-QHqagM-unsplash

Photo by Gift Habeshaw on Unsplash

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When Exhaustion Exacerbates Your OCD

When I think of the change that has come about, I am so proud. From constant, compulsive questioning and blaming to actually feeling like I have a life.
Sometimes though, I seem to have a dip ‘for no reason’. Please know that this often there is a reason.

Recently, I started having compulsive thoughts that I just couldn’t shake.  I started feeling a fear that I have not felt for years. Then I entered a deep depression.  The OCD revved up and I was so scared of falling into that deep hole again.

When I stopped to think about the last few months of my life, it started to make sense. Andrew and I had been on a five week ‘holiday’ which included a two day stopover to visit my ailing grandfather.  That was upsetting in itself.  Then, we went on to try and spend as much time with my sister and her family who had come out form Oregon to New Zealand and whom I hardly ever see.  I wore myself out trying to cram a 40th party, social catch-ups, babysitting, etc into a small space of time, and then crashed after Christmas Day.  But, mentally, I was still flying reasonably high.

On our return, I crashed.  The M.E. flared up and the heat was immense.  Very soon after arriving home, my Granddad passed away and my cat died.  I absolutely bawled – over days.  I still feel sad.  Then I noticed a spiral into depression.  It should not have come as such a surprise that these were ‘perfect’ conditions for an OCD onslaught.
Multiple horrible thoughts entered my head as I wrestled with the concepts of life and death.
One day it struck me that I might be more vulnerable at that moment to OCD and hence the hassle.  You think?  Of course it was!  As soon as I realised, I practiced acknowledging the thought and then letting it stay for as long as it wanted.   In every case, it drifted away.

Please don’t lose heart if your OCD flares up – there usually is a reason and it’s a time to cut yourself some slack!

 

Anna 🙂

 

christian-erfurt-sxQz2VfoFBE-unsplashPhoto by Christian Erfurt on Unsplash

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Delaying – a trick for OCD and anxiety

I know that delaying is often used more in traditional CBT than ERP but I have found this helpful on many occasions.  I’ll have a troubling thought come up and I am just bursting to share it and get it out there – everything inside me is buzzing and urging me to give in.
It is often here that I say ‘If this is till bothering me tomorrow morning, I’ll revisit it.’ In 90% of cases, I have either let it go or forgotten about it and as you know, that is sometimes seemingly impossible to do.  I think it’s an acknowledgement that you feel in distress but also placing some boundaries around its insistence.

I’d love to know how you get on with this – whether you’ve used it before or have yet to try it out.

Anna 🙂