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.
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!
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.
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.
- 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!
- I can pick one complementary medicine and practice what I’ve learned. I pick Bach flower remedies.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!
- Eat what feels right at the time. And if that’s a bag of jelly babies, then so be it!
- Don’t journal anything! I’m not a fan, I find it difficult – so this won’t be hard to manage!