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Archive for OCD

OCD Motivation: Pick A Recovery Song

The other day I talked about those times when OCD is just beating you up. Those times when you have (seemingly) no hope. I offered the advice of the Beat (Cheat) Sheet. Well I want to continue on this theme.

We get dark days, that's a given. They usually hit us after we've had really good days. It just makes the fall that much harder. There is nothing wrong with falling. The key is to get up as quickly as we can, or even just slowly. Just don't stay down.

In these times it helps to have a 'jam'. A song that just gets you so fired up, you feel like you could run through a wall (Disclaimer - please don't try and run through a wall, no matter how pumped up you get).

My song of choice is from the film Rocky 3. This track inspires me so much, it starts to direct my attention from self pity to recovery. It makes me want to fight so hard, fight for my recovery, I'm literally buzzing after. And that's what it's all about - reminding yourself of your goal to be free of OCD.

When that songs ends, take positive actions. Go for a walk, read a book on OCD, go over your recovery notes or meditate. It doesn't matter what, just use the motivation from the song to put you back on course.

What's your jam?

To your success,

Stu

OCD Beat (Cheat) Sheet

On your path to recovery from OCD you will learn a lot of ways of retraining your brain. These are great and command commitment to see them through. I salute you for sticking with them. In times of stress it can be hard to remember the tools you learned in CBT, ERP or ACT. When you forget to action them it is possible to go on the slippery slide that is OCD. At these points, don’t beat yourself up, remind yourself that this too shall pass.

To help with this mindset I created an OCD Beat (Cheat) Sheet. A short note in my phone that has a handful of OCD recovery related quotes and general mindfulness sayings. It’s when I start to lose hope that I know I can turn to this note/memo and be reminded of the good work I’ve been doing and need to do. It may just be the thing that cuts through the bullshit your mind is telling, and draw your attention back to your tools/goals. You could also add to the list good times when OCD wasn’t present in a situation and how it felt, this polarity can remind you that your current interpretation of this situation is the OCD and not reality.

OCD Beat Cheat Sheet

I have found with OCD recovery you have to find ways of constantly drawing your attention to healthy action and healthy thinking. Above is just one way I manage it. Have you got any other ways that you want to share – let me know below.

To your success,

Stu

Break Free From OCD Book Review And Learnings

Book review time. As part of my OCD recovery blogging I wanted to write about the OCD related books that are helping my recovery. With the aim of empowering you to read more around the subject, and further your own healing process.

Today’s book is called Break Free From OCD by Dr. Fiona Challacombe, Dr. Victoria Bream Oldfield and Paul M Salkovskis.

I found the book useful, and I’ve read a lot around OCD. If you are new to reading about this anxiety disorder then this book is also written in an easy to understand way. The premise of the book is based on CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy), with hints of ERP (Exposure and Response Prevention) and ACT (Acceptance and Commitment Therapy). Three therapies I have tried, all with varying results – positive, varying results. If you want to understand far more on ERP and ACT try other books, as this one is largely focused on CBT. Retraining the brain to see situations differently, and is mainly a talking therapy.

Break Free From OCD Book Cover

Break Free From OCD does a good job of explaining what OCD is, and does a good job at breaking it out into it’s subcomponents: Religious OCD (ROCD), Harm OCD (HOCD), Contamination OCD (COCD) and ‘Pure O’ etc. It would have been great to see a section on Relationship OCD – however this is one area still in need of much research and discussion. The book explains each of the subcomponents i.e. symptoms, behaviours, and more importantly how to tackle them. The authors go into great detail in dealing with each subcomponent which is good to see and will be of use to the sufferer.

The book largely focuses on getting the reader to A/B test. To see their thoughts from two perspectives. One being that they are their thoughts (which is why OCD is painful) and the other that they are worried about their thoughts. For example you may have Harm OCD (HOCD) and you may currently be in an anxiety cycle with thoughts that you are evil because of something your brain said you did. You are constantly checking in your head to see if you in fact did the thing, but you can’t be sure. So you keep checking and the anxiety increases – and so on. You could see these thoughts as ‘The problem is, I think I may have harmed that person’ or ‘The problem is, I worry I harmed that person’. The first thought process keeps you in the anxiety cycle, where as in the second you are seeing the worry as the problem not the thought. This separates you from the OCD which is the first step to knowing YOU ARE NOT YOUR THOUGHTS.

"If you really accept that the problem you have is one of worry and fear, and live accordingly by acting against your fears, we predict that the anxiety will, over time, decrease and you will be able to abandon your obsessional ways" – From the book.

Other things to note would be that if you are a more visual learner there are plenty of diagrams, and examples. There is a section on finding a therapist and getting the most out of therapy.

Overall, I really liked this book. It helped me understand OCD more and I believe it will be an asset to you also.

To your success,

Stu

You have given them the ability to walk behind the mind’s elaborate set decoration, and to see that there is a huge difference between a dog that is going to eat you in your mind and an actual dog that’s going to eat you. That may sound like no big deal, but many never learn that distinction and spend a great deal of their lives living in fight or flight response.” – Jim Carrey

You can get the book here: Break Free From OCD

Why Am I Not Motivated? – OCD

Having OCD can demotivate you. You only have a certain amount of will power in a day. Fighting thoughts of contamination, wrong doing, doubts etc takes a lot of mental energy. It’s mentally exhausting. Expecting to be motivated on a day where OCD is rife, is hopeful.

In the OCD Podcast host Matt Bieber says OCD “pushes these marginal experiences to the center of your world” drawing all your attention and energy onto small issues that feel giant, catastrophic and maybe even fatal. You are potentially unmotivated because day to day you have a proverbial gun to your head. The key to getting motivated is not to dodge the bullets, but to see that the gun is in fact a water pistol.

The center of your world is what matters most to you be that your career, family, sporting life etc. This is where you want most of your attention, because that’s where peace of mind and flow are. OCD wants to push these marginal and small issues into that bubble, a good starting point is to realise this. Be alert to it. Know your core values and when OCD pushes these issues in your circle of awesomeness, recognise them, sit with them and they should start to dissolve. Do not buy into the lies. Over time this will become easier, but it takes commitment.

As you start to stop focusing all your time on entertaining OCD you will see your motivation start to come back, even stronger than before as you know what it was like to be unmotivated. Feeling motivated again will be electric.

To your success,

Stu

Q. How do I get my motivation back?

A. When you are unmotivated, start by taking the smallest action towards one of your goals, dreams or work. As you take small positive action on something that matters to you, you will start to get more motivation to take more action. Keep going in spite of how you feel. One of the key ways to change how you feel is to change your behaviors. Act in spite of.

OCD Respite In A Zen Parable

One day while walking through the wilderness a man stumbled upon a vicious tiger. He ran but soon came to the edge of a high cliff. Desperate to save himself, he climbed down a vine and dangled over the fatal precipice. As he hung there, two mice appeared from a hole in the cliff and began gnawing on the vine. Suddenly, he noticed on the vine a plump wild strawberry. He plucked it and popped it in his mouth. It was incredibly delicious!

In the above weird zen parable we get a message of mindfulness and not living in the future. This man was facing certain death, not the kind imagined on a daily basis by an OCD sufferer, but real death, body in the ground type death. The parable signals to me that in life you can focus on what you can't control (tigers, mice and cliffs) or you can focus on what you can. This man in that moment decided that his life would be more meaningful if he tasted the delicious strawberry, then if he spent his final moments on planet earth living in extreme fear. This parable also signifies to me that beauty is always around us, we just need to open our eyes, or more importantly remove the stories we are telling ourselves.

I have found that as I have progressed in my recovery from OCD it has gotten better but also worst. An oxymoron I know. My symptoms get worse before they get better. So as one aspect of the OCD gets better, another is getting worse. Something my therapist Mark Freeman calls the uncertainty curve. Or as Winston Churchill put it, "it's darkest before dawn". In the height of my anxiety it can seem like it will last forever and hope is in poor supply. I have found that in those moments I have found great relief in just bringing myself back to the present moment, or finding something to laugh at or about, no matter how small. Even just the presence of a ray of sun or a flower has been enough to break through my fog and remind me IT WILL GET BETTER.

Sure enough, it does get better. You will slowly ease yourself down the uncertainty curve and it will normalize. Take relief in this. When you are in the storm of anxiety, just hold on and enjoy the view.

To your success,

Stu

Parable credit - http://truecenterpublishing.com/zenstory/cliffhanger.html

Cheer Yourself On In Your Recovery From OCD

I’m don’t like the victim mentality. We all know a person who’s constantly saying “poor little me”, “the world is against me”. Thankfully I guess, or maybe through resilience of some tough times I have a cheery disposition. In recent months I have had days where even my cheery disposition wasn’t enough, or so I thought. In times of high anxiety as a result of OCD I’ve started to get frustrated at feeling that way, and not being ‘normal’. This only furthers my downward spiral.

I’ve been reading the book Break Free From OCD. In it the author uses the mentality of football fans to draw comparison to the importance of a OCD’ers disposition in recovery. He states that football fans will cheer on their team to encourage them, and boo and hurl abuse at the opposing team to get inside their head and make them lose focus. I can say from playing competitive sports and from watching many sports live this does have a huge effect on performance.  

If you take a more understanding and supportive approach to your problems, it may be that this will help you make more progress” Pg 45

With that football analogy there is a huge learning here for our own recovery. If we are beating on ourselves when we have a bad day or answer those obsessions and act out those compulsions then we will only become more negative, and feel less inspired to keep doing the good work we have been doing in our recovery.

I am making a promise to myself to be my own cheerleader, I encourage you to have your back and keep your head up, as this is what will keep you fighting the good fight.

"Bad times have not come to stay-- they have come to PASS” – Les Brown

I hope it helps,

Stu

Celebrate The Small Wins Over OCD

When you're on the OCD road to recovery it is important to enjoy the small wins. I have been doing ERP therapy for about 8 months now and I'm about to start CBT and Naturopathic therapy. My journey has been up and down. Sometimes understanding what is wrong can be more painful. It gets frustrating to know why it is happening but still can't stop it. I guess ignorance is bliss, for a while at least. Knowing your enemy is key in the long run. Understanding OCD, the ins and outs, helps you to build a plan of recovery. You will then realise ignorance is pain, and knowledge is power.

I have good and bad days with OCD, I even have some days where I live a completely 'normal' life. The more knowledgeable I became of my anxiety disorder the more the downs hurt me. Then when I had neutral or good days, I was scared of and anxious of my next 'down' day. What a shitty way to live.

I've come to appreciate that when I have neutral or up days, to be grateful, happy and present. Not to fear a future down day, but to love my current feelings. Be grateful for your small wins over OCD, and celebrate your big wins. Shift your attention to feeling happy about recovery, this will be another step further in your success.

Remember, a ship will sail in the direction you point the sails. Which direction are yours pointing?

To your recovery and happiness,

Stu

The Meaning Of Life Is So Simple

Staring out my office window, looking into the distance. I’m always drawn to this one house. Mainly I guess, because they are the only ones in, in the daytime. This couple are very attentive to their house and their roof patio. I have been a bit nihilistic recently, maybe because my OCD has flared up. As by nature I am certainly more cheery than this. As I was just looking at this guy watering his flowers, I thought “What. Is. The. Fucking. Point? That is so mundane, so boring, so… meaningless”. As I sat there I was quickly hit with an alternative perspective. I thought “If he doesn’t water those flowers, they won’t grow. Those flowers are beautiful and by him attending to them he is making the world and my view a better place. The meaning of life is to create life in all forms, in birth, in flowers, in nature, in art, in sport, in friendship, in love”.

Life is special and beautiful for no other reason than it is. We are hard wired to find certain things amazing, what more do we need to life than to follow our passions, to grow life?!

It reminds me of this Alan Watts quote:

The meaning of life is just to be alive. It is so plain and so obvious and so simple. And yet, everybody rushes around in a great panic as if it were necessary to achieve something beyond themselves.

Thank you to you for creating stuff that makings my life amazing, I hope I am also nurturing you.

Stu

‘Leave it alone’ the 3 words every OCD’er needs to know

We are all addicted to thinking as Alan Watts would put it. If you suffer with OCD your mind is most likely working overtime, a lot of the time. Some days are better than others. Answering your worries, concerns and anxieties only inflames them. I first learned this after reading 'The acceptance field guide' by Mark Freeman. Who later went on to become my OCD therapist. Mark writes about learning to accept anything your brain throws at you, no matter how scary. Not to fight or justify your brains questions. To simply accept. This for me was extremely hard, but it has helped me greatly. Along these lines of acceptance is the idea of 'leave it alone'. I came across this in an Alan Watts video called 'The mind'.

"So in the same way
as a muddy turbulent pool
quiets itself when left alone,
you have to know
how to leave your mind alone.
It will quiet itself"

In the video Alan articulately explains that the mind will quiet itself if you leave it alone. So try accepting what your brain tells you. Also try leaving it alone. When your brain throws up those doubts and fears just leave it. Don't question it, don't answer it, don't even accept it. Just let it go. I found that after a while the mind forgets and stops throwing up the doubts. That anxiety cloud that was in my head, vanishes.
For more severe anxieties you may need to practice acceptance, but for smaller doubts and worries just keep letting it go and have faith in the process.


I hope this offers you some rest bite and acts as a stepping stone to your recovery.
Stu

My Long Walk To Freedom

Hey homey,

I felt compelled to tell my story of dealing with mental health issues, in the hopes that it offers comfort, hope and inspiration to someone. Since I can remember I have had the anxiety disorder OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder). And no that doesn't mean I clean the house a lot and that I'm mega tidy, despite what the TV shows say. TV really is bollocks a lot of the time #JustSaying.

OCD as stated an anxiety disorder. Meaning I feel compelled to do certain things or rituals over and over again, because I get held ransom by my mind. If I don't engage in these habits, my mind will drown me in anxiety. It could be a fear that my family might get hurt, I will get harmed or something will burn down, to name but a few worries - the mind is very creative. So growing up you can imagine the frustration and pain this caused me, especially when I was young, as I didn't understand. I thought I was 'a nutter', shit maybe I am. The other side of OCD for me is that my mind will bring back past memories, completely exaggerate them and make me out to be an awful person. This of course gives me immense amounts of anxiety about how I may have hurt someone. Dating has been a huge cause of pain for me in recent years. Let's say I broke up with a girl, my mind will tell me I've destroyed her life and that she will be in pain. For a caring guy, this hurts.

That is just a glimpse at my mental health. Please note that just like physical health everyone has mental health, and no one is perfectly 'normal'. Then again why would you want to be normal.

For years I ran from my disorder. I struggled and coped with it. I slowly got a handle on it, and dealt with the residual anxiety day to day. I tolerated the immense anxiety attacks, as they were fewer. About a few months ago I took stock of my emotions and of my past. It dawned on me that OCD had robbed me of many great experiences in life because I was too anxious and it tainted too many days by overlaying a grey cloud of anxiety on said days.

Enough was enough. No more was I going to tolerate this shit. I seeked professional help. I started doing therapy with a guy called Mark Freeman (markfreeman.ca). For me there was the initial stigma of being someone who does therapy. But in time as I started to make progress, I realised that I could not give two shits about what people thought of me, as I was recovering and that was priceless. If you are afraid of seeking help, fuck it. Just do it, if anyone has a problem with it, let me know, I'll have a word with those morons (lost humans). Your health, peace and happiness is all that matters. Don't discount that for anyone else.

I wrote this in the hopes that it may offer some solace but also it may help you take the first steps to recovery.

My walk to freedom has started, it is long but the sun is out. For I have left the darkness behind, and dared to brave the sunshine. (Ok a little more dramatic than I wanted, but I went with it).

To your success, peace and recovery,

Stu

I am doing ERP (Exposure Response Prevention therapy) with ACT (Acceptance and Commitment Therapy) . Check it out, it really works for OCD (maybe some other disorders as well).

Also if you wanted to hear more about my therapy or need some advice please feel free to contact me here: stuart@stuartralph.com.

Title inspiration of course came from Nelson Mandela.

Final footnote - I am also in a weird way grateful for growing up with the disorder, because it made me more caring, thoughtful and introspective. All traits that I love. Thanks OCD for those lessons, your job is done, you may now leave - go somewhere sunny.

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