Mindfulness, Well-being

OCD and Me

It would appear that I have OCD characteristics, which has been a revelation to me.  It would appear, however,  that it was obvious to most people other than me!  I’d always thought that OCD was about lists, obsessively cleaning, washing your hands, and spreadsheets.  It appears it’s more than that.  It can also be obsessive thoughts, more often than not based on health, that just go around and around and around in your head with no let up.  It is possible to have just the obsessive bit, and not necessarily the compulsive bit.

background balance beach boulder

It would be very easy to write a blog about all the fabulous things that happen in life, but I’m not sure that necessarily helps other people, a perpetual stream of fabulous pictures of fabulous lives.  Life isn’t always fabulous and oftentimes is just plain messy.  Earlier last week I had a bit of a meltdown, not quite a panic attack, but equally as ugly.  I’d been worrying for a few weeks now about a discomfort I had in my left side.  Obviously I’d obsessively trawled the internet to find out what this might be.  I’d obsessively read aromatherapy books to see what I could use to aid my digestive system.  I’d eaten enough liquorice to put me off for life to see if that would help.  I’d started taking a pro-biotic to see if that would fix it, but nothing seemed to be working.  I was writing down everything I ate, everything I did, to see if I could spot any connections, causes or triggers.  I was trying to meditate and see if I could improve it that way.  

But worst of all, by far the worst of all was I was starting to obsess about everything I ate.  I couldn’t have white carbs because they were bad, I couldn’t eat or drink anything with sugar in, because that’s bad. I’d signed up to an Alcohol Free group, because drinking is bad.  All that was good to eat was pretty much fruit and vegetables.  I’d even started worrying about what to do when I visited my sister.  She usually makes a pudding with lunch and often there’s a bit of cake knocking about (very nice cake, too) and we usually go for afternoon tea somewhere.  I’d started worrying about how I was going to get around eating the cake.  This isn’t me – I’m normally the one running to get the first slice!  I’d also started to become a bit agitated about cleaning – and anyone who knows me will know that this is just hilarious as I generally seem to have bypassed any cleaning gene!

chocolate cupcakes

You’d like to think that from this summary I might have worked out before now that I have obsessive traits – but no!  

I’m pretty certain I do know what caused this recent episode.  I had started an online course based around understanding triggers around food and diet and how to start accepting your body how it is.  It would appear that rather than understanding triggers, it layered day upon day a different potential trigger.  Do you eat dairy?  Do you eat sugar?  Do you eat meat? Do you exercise enough?  Where did your thoughts and ideas towards food and body image come from?  I personally believe, that this daily drip feed of things to think about built up and I had no outlet, no way to safely handle the issues that were coming up and instead they were just building up in my brain where I started to play them on a permanent loop, and the stress of that created the tension stomach ache.

I’m not sure what triggered my latest meltdown, but then I don’t really remember much about the past few weeks other than food, and fixing my digestive system, but the impact was quite shocking.  I wonder if it has just become too difficult to keep the thoughts going, or that I had reached a point where I knew it had to stop and this was the only solution.  Whatever, within an hour of it happening, the discomfort in my stomach had started to subside and although I didn’t have a perfect night’s sleep, I did much better.  I had the shivers and really had to wrap up to go to bed as I felt so cold.  I woke the next morning feeling like I had been hit by a bus, but the discomfort was gone.  It was almost like I’d had a permanent tension headache, but it had been a tension stomach ache.  I don’t know if such a thing exists and I’m not about to google and find out.  

As ever, husband has had to stand on the sidelines and watch this build up, knowing that the explosion was inevitable.  We have discussed the mindfulness.  His theory is that it clearly isn’t working because I wasn’t able to stop these obsessive thoughts.  My theory is that it has worked as this is another layer of the onion that I have peeled back.  I initially started mindfulness because I got so angry, so quickly over things that didn’t warrant such a response.  My mindfulness helped me understand that this was a reaction to anxiety.  Now I can see that the anxiety is a consequence of obsessive thoughts.  What was so frustrating throughout all of this is I knew I wasn’t quite myself, I knew I was having obsessive thoughts and I was trying so hard to employ the methods I had learned but they just weren’t working.  I had gone too far into my head to be able to find a way out.  I went to watch Ruby Wax do a talk recently and she re-iterated something she’d written in her book ‘Frazzled’.  Her depression hasn’t gone away, in fact, she took a break in writing that book because she was hit by a bought of depression.  What mindfulness helps her to understand is that the depression isn’t permanent, it isn’t what defines her and that it will pass.  Just to let it be.  

agriculture basket beets bokeh

It appears my main obsession is my health.  I find this incredibly frustrating as I have watched my dad obsess over his health and it drives me up the wall.  I thought I was learning and just enjoying my learning.  Since my most recent episode, it has been pointed out to me that this isn’t really the case.  I only ever want to learn about health related things.  It may be complementary health, but it’s always ways to improve my health.  And I don’t just have a bit of a google, I buy books, borrow books, read research articles, anything to try and understand how I might use that therapy to improve my health.  I haven’t just taken up yoga, I’ve been going to unto 5 classes a week. I looked at myself as a bystander might, and I saw so very clearly how it looked, this crazy lady obsessively looking for a magic cure to an imagined problem.  

So I now have another character to add to my growing list.  This is another mindfulness technique, give the emotion a name and a character – so that you can watch them as an outsider and not get quite so drawn in.  Clearly I still have a long way to go.  I try to base my emotions on fictional characters and so far have:

  • Bellatrix Lestrange – for when I am getting bit angry and a bit mad!
  • Piglet – for when the anxiety creeps in
  • Monica – for when I start to obsess over things.

So, in discussion with husband, I have identified steps that I can take to help me manage this more effectively in the future.

  1. Don’t do online courses relating to health.  Doing them with a health care professional is one thing, doing an online course because you fancy the look of it, isn’t really a good idea for me.  In fact, just don’t do any courses related to health!
  2. I can pick one complementary medicine and practice what I’ve learned.  I pick Bach flower remedies.
  3. I am banned from looking at anything health related on the internet – so I actually haven’t googled OCD or how to manage it.  Nor have I googled if a tension stomach ache is an actual thing. I have also removed myself from any Facebook groups that may trigger obsessive thoughts related to diet or health.
  4. Just see where each day takes me, don’t plan for it, don’t make expectations of it, just see where it goes and enjoy it.
  5. Carry on with the mindfulness, especially the meditation.  I enjoy it and it makes me feel calmer even when my mind is like a hurricane.  But I don’t need to read every book that was written about it!
  6. Eat what feels right at the time.  And if that’s a bag of jelly babies, then so be it!  
  7. Don’t journal anything!  I’m not a fan, I find it difficult – so this won’t be hard to manage!

berries berry blur close up

Alternative Therapies, Aromatherapy, Complementary Health

Essential Oil essentials

I’ve recently begun investigating Essential Oils.  As you know, I do like a bit of voodoo joojoo and this is right up my street.  I also love learning and have been doing an online Aromatherapy course.  So all in all, what’s not to love?

white and purple flower plant on brown wooden surface

It has been a bit of a learning curve – I didn’t jump straight in with using the oils but took some time to understand more about aromatherapy.  Besides the online course, I have also borrowed a couple of books from the local library to help me understand more about what they are and how they can be used.  When I did take the plunge I bought a small introductory kit from DoTerra.  I was first introduced to the brand by my kinesiologist who prescribed the peace blend to help with poor sleep and anxiety.  DoTerra are everywhere, pretty much every google search you use for Essential Oils brings them out at the top.  Their products are beautifully packaged and very well marketed.  DoTerra products seem to do wonders, so many people swear by them and I have to say I was hooked.  I could see the potential for addressing my sleeping problem and digestion issues.  On top of that, as they operate as an Multi-Level Marketing company (MLM) I could see earning potential and was starting to get really excited.  Eventually, my very English and very cautious brain kicked in.

selective focus photo of bottle with cork lid

My first question.  Are DoTerra products organic?  I make a big fuss of making sure that facial and body products that I use are free from everything known to man and as far as possible, organic.  And here I was willy nilly using products that I couldn’t be certain were organic.  They themselves state that they cannot guarantee that their products are organic.  Part of this is because every country has their own rules regarding organic certification, it would be impossible for them to achieve organic status across the world.  I understand that, but unfortunately, knowing the oils I buy and use are organic is important to me. 

The second thing that had me wondering was the use of DoTerra oils internally.  Every other brand of essential oils that I could find were labelled ‘for external use only’.  So why could I take DoTerra internally.  I have to admit, whilst I was drinking a glass of water with a drop of Lemon in I did question my sanity.  Surely, if I wanted lemon flavoured water then I could just squeeze some fresh lemon into to glass.  When given instructions to use the oils internally DoTerra recommend that you use a glass or steel container, as plastic ones disintegrate over time.  Which did also have me questioning how safe they were for internal consumption.  It would appear that I am not the only person with this question.  I found this article from Empowered Sustenance which explained the current situation well.  They aren’t totally scathing of DoTerra and the products that they produce, but do point out that as yet there is not enough scientific evidence to support the claims that you can safely use essential oils internally.  Whilst I might well love the voodoo joojoo, if what science does exist, isn’t backing it up 100% then it’s not really for me.  I do appreciate that I am a little fastidious in this and am sure I am being over-cautious!

photography of purple flowers

The third thing that caused some concern was regulation.  I do like a bit of regulation.  Much as I like to try complementary therapies I do always ensure that those companies and products that I use belong to some kind of organisation to ensure quality, high standards and, I suppose, are as safe as they can possibly be.  Aromatherapy, like many complementary therapies doesn’t have an official ruling body, so you do have to be careful. In the UK, however, there is an organisation, the Aromatherapy Trade Council which does monitor the industry and the standard of the essential oils that are sold here.  It isn’t compulsory, companies that produce essential oils don’t have to be members of the ATC, but it seemed to me that any company that was prepared to meet the standards laid down by the ATC, would be more interested in providing a good quality product that was safe to use.  

Here in the UK we also have the Soil Association, who are the standard for all things organic.  Many organic suppliers and producers aspire to achieve the soil association standard, and it is a good indicator of the quality of a product if it displays the soil association logo.  So I had two ways to enable me to find good quality organic essential oils.  I double checked this by visiting our local health food shop and sure enough, they only stocked brands that appeared in list of those products with both ATC membership and certified by the Soil Association.  Even if some of the oils weren’t organic, the companies are able to guarantee the sources of the essential oils and are able to state that they are ethically harvested.  

The final thing which concerned me about DoTerra was setting myself up as a salesperson for aromatherapy oils.  I don’t have a qualification on this, I’m doing a bit of an online course, for my own interest.  This doesn’t qualify me for handing out advice to other people, or making recommendations for how people can treat themselves.  I appreciate that as an advocate for the company I wouldn’t be making people buy the products, that is their choice, and consumption or use of essential oils does come with a certain degree of risk, but it just felt like a can of worms I really don’t want to be opening.  I don’t know that I want to take that risk myself.


So the list of companies I have identified for my use, those that are members of both the ATC and the Soil Association:

aromatherapy beautiful blooming blurNeals Yard

The Aromatherapy Company

Absolute Aromas

Materia Aromatica


Not the longest list ever known to man, but certainly enough to keep me interested in learning about how I can include essential oils as part of my own health and wellbeing routines and certainly easily accessible to me here in Bristol.  I also know that by using products from these organisations that I am also supporting British companies.  So for the time being, DoTerra isn’t the brand for me, it’s not a no, just a not for now.