World Mental Health Day 2020

The year of 2020 has tested the mental health of millions of people all over the world, not only for the usual reasons but with the added horrors and complications of living with Coronavirus Covid-19.

World Mental Health Day is surely very significant to so many more people this year that I want to do my little bit to promote it and it’s value.

Today I saw that a card company, https://www.thortful.com/ has a range of cards depicting messages that help to lift spirits – the card designer that initially caught my attention in a promo email, Jessica Rachel Sharp, apparently took the “helpful words” she received during therapy and designed what appears to be ten cards that can be sent expressing that help.  I have absolutely no affiliation to the card designer or the card company by the way.

I was really glad I’d taken the time to read the messages on the above range of cards, because in addition to the ten mentioned above, there was a much bigger range/category of motivational messages that inspired me to do this post.  It only took minutes to scan the text on several cards ‘sorry your brain chemicals aren’t doing their thing’ or ‘I’m not close enough to hold your hand but I’m here for you’ or ‘through clouds you are my sunshine’ – not exact quotes from the cards (my memory isn’t that accurate or retentive) but you get the sentiment behind them.

Help needed for OCD

So … my suggestion is that if you are struggling with your mental health (let’s face it, there’s not many who don’t give it consideration in 2020) why not scan read uplifting quotes or messages in bulk on any appropriate site, such as the ‘thinking of you’ section on any greeting card websites.  It’s free, you don’t have to book in to see a therapist, you can have a cup of tea (or glass of wine) whilst doing it in the comfort of your own home, and importantly it will remind you that you are doing the best job you can to keep yourself happy and motivated to face the next challenge the World throws your way.

Additionally, you could select a card to send to a family member, friend or colleague that is finding life tough right now.  A small thoughtful gesture can make a big difference to the recipient.

Recently I was having a really awful, sad, down, frustrated day – the very black and intrusive OCD clouds were literally clouding my ability to cope with the ‘new normal’ day-to-day living with Covid-19 – when I received an email from someone I miss in the family (due to a marriage breakup) that completely unexpectedly brightened my day with a ray of sunshine.  I felt like someone cared and took the time, other than the usual people around me.  We should all take the time to brighten someone’s day if we can.

Giving away a little secret about me …  The photograph below has been my screensaver for many years as it depicts to me the beauty and serenity of a gliding swan, appearing to be in full control, that is having to peddle like crazy under the surface to keep moving but no one can see this, whilst it’s wings are pulled and puffed up to be protective of it’s head – it even has a little mark on it’s head, like I have OCD in mine.  It so resonates with my way of living.

Swan in protective pose

 

 

 

 

 

Should shielding end today officially?

NO it should not end.  Officially it has, I suspect for Government cost purposes, but there are still a huge number of people contracting Covid-19 and 2,000,000 people in the UK are still highly vulnerable – the vulnerability of sick people is increasing not decreasing – operations and treatments have been placed on hold in hospitals.  Admittedly the chances of coming into contact with a person carrying Covid-19 has reduced per 100,000, and masks are being worn in most public places (thankfully at last) but the worry doesn’t end abruptly on a date dictated by the UK Government.  With this in mind, how do I cope with my OCD?

Well I’m still shielding all these months on, for my elderly/sick mother’s sake, and my health might not cope with the aggressive and varied ways the virus attacks the body.  I’ve not been out of the house, not even for shopping or prescriptions, except to walk to visit my mother who hasn’t left her house since the first week of March 2020 and has no plans to leave in the foreseeable future.  However as my family around me are now experiencing a more normal life, it is adding pressure on me to manage or let go of the rigid, and thoroughly clean, behaviours I’ve added to my original OCD demands.

Help needed for OCD

It is such hard work, I’m starting to buckle, and entertaining the thought of it not being possible to have other people near me whilst trying to apply shielding constraints – these close/few people to me have the right to live as normal as is possible.  It is now dawning on me that you either live totally on your own, have shopping dropped at your doorstep, you wash it thoroughly with soap and water, and have no one visit unless they are 2 metres from you and don’t touch anything, and don’t use your toilet, or …. you aren’t shielding and you are then purely trying to minimise risks.  As the Government says “Stay Alert” and “Control the virus” – five little words, but blimey it is so hard to put into practice in busy daily living!

I am one of the many people who are too scared to start to integrate into the outside world.  So many people are feeling nervous and anxious of any contact or exposure, whilst trying to function as they did in January/February of this year.  It is only human to worry about the risk of contracting the virus, especially as it is in every news bulletin, but I have to add on the complication of my 30 years ingrained OCD rationales of contamination.

Coronavirus cleaning rituals
Coronavirus Covid-19 cleaning

I do feel vindicated that the sense I apply behind my contamination OCD worries are now being encountered by the general public all over the world.  It is now recognised that hugging, toilets, unclean hands, touching your face, handles, salt and pepper, menus, hairdressers towels, and the close proximity of strangers etc (the list is huge) carries the risk of being contaminated – admittedly, ordinarily with diseases less fatal than Covid-19 though.  I have had friends and family say that they understand my OCD weirdness a little better now, but it is no consolation.

Whilst it will take millions, no billions, of people a long time to find a “new normal” living with Coronavirus Covid-19, it is going to take me a hell of a long time longer – if at all.  It feels like I am climbing Mount Everest when I used to climb Scarfell Pike.

I try to inject some humour into these posts, but today it is really hard to find a happy note to end on, except to say at least in the UK the number of deaths (from Covid-19 only but not other diseases) is currently reducing for now, but boy oh boy what a horrid few months it has been since February!

Germs OCD frustration
Always be alert for Coronavirus Covid-19

 

 

 

 

Social distancing and extra hand washing

How the world is changing so fast and confirming so many of my long standing ‘contamination OCD’ worries and behaviours.  It seems weird that so many people are now having to think in the same way that I’ve been thinking for decades.

I find it reassuring that people now understand my mentality of continual hand washing to aid protection from virus and bacteria contamination – with this Coronavirus COVID-19 being potentially fatal it takes importance to a whole new level!

I also find it reassuring that people are now keeping two metres away – I used to want my personal space, and didn’t like it being invaded, but now it is imperative in most interactions, be it social, shopping, business or even relatives.

 

Social distancing for Coronavirus

I feel guilty, but glad, that two years ago I worried about having a cough so ordered a box of medical face masks to prevent me passing any germs to my family – these masks are in short supply now but was readily available on Amazon at the time I ordered them.  I do hope that now the world sees the importance of face masks, they will start to produce attractive, non-scary, ones – maybe with flowers for women and funky patterns for men?

The other thing I find strange is the recommendation to wear rubber gloves wherever possible, because although it is perfectly understandable for the medical and caring professions to use them on patients and their procedures, after contact with anything contaminated they are as dangerous as unwashed hands – they still enable contaminates to be passed around to other surfaces, your face, your mobile phone etc.  If a delivery man is wearing gloves whilst holding your parcel, the parcel might still have the Coronavirus on the packaging so you still need to wash your hands after handling it.  I hope the general public don’t see rubber gloves as added protection?

Various protective gloves

 

As you can see from my photograph, I have three levels of protective plastic/rubber gloves, depending on the severity and dirtiness of the job, and I attempt not to waste plastic so re-use my gloves wherever possible – you can also see how my bleaching has destroyed the paintwork of my table!

I use disposable/flimsy gloves to do extremely dirty jobs like emptying my household rubbish into the outside bin because by touching the bin handle I would need to scrub my (OCD) hands, but by taking the plastic glove off I can just wash ordinarily (well OCD ordinary).

Whilst on this subject though, my hand washing is off the scale!!  Having ‘Contamination OCD’ means that I wash my hands as many times as necessary for them to ‘feel right and clean’ in normal conditions this tends to more than once, but with Coronavirus living this can now mean I do them three or four times for 20 seconds each wash.

Having previously stocked up enough on hand washing liquid for my OCD living, it is now a big daily worry that I have sufficient, as it seems in scarce supply in the supermarkets right now – the experts say that it doesn’t have to be anti-bacterial liquid soap as this is a virus but merely the OCD in my mentality means “I’d rather be safe than sorry”.

Why isn’t more effort (and therefore probably expense) being put into making basics like liquid hand soap and hand sanitizer easily available in our ‘essential shops’?  The UK Government insists we all wash our hands for 20 seconds thoroughly at every opportunity, which is very sensible, but I can only imagine how much soap is needed for a large family confined to the house and not expected to travel too far or too frequently for their shopping – I already do this but today I read that everyone should wash their hands before and during preparing food, and then again before eating food.

Even before Coronavirus recommendations I would wash my hands three or four times whilst making a sandwich and I WILL HAVE TO travel as far as necessary to stock up on liquid soap I’m afraid.

Hand wash for 20 seconds

 

 

 

 

Coronavirus or COVID-19 overload

How strange I wrote a post last month entitled ‘Don’t hug me’ when the Coronavirus COVID-19 was not my main concern, as it was predominantly an issue in China, but I just hated being hugged or having close contact with people due to my OCD, but now it seems a great many people feel the same way without having OCD.

‘Social distancing’ is mentioned regularly on television, in newspapers, via social media and in our daily conversations – keep 2 metres apart suits me just fine.  To prevent the risks of contracting Coronavirus it is also recommended that we:

  • Wash our hands thoroughly with hot water and soap for 20 seconds – videos explaining the technique are circulating but I downloaded this diagram years ago for this blog

Hand washing technique

  • Do not touch your mouth, eyes or nose – studies have found that this can happen up to 20 times per hour and the virus can enter your body from your hands if they are not clean
  • Clean hard surfaces regularly as they can harbour the virus for up to 3 days, soft surfaces such as cardboard for 24+ hours

Clean hard surfaces to prevent spread of Coronavirus

  • Clean door handles, stair handles, phones, keyboards – anything that is regularly touched by more than one person – safeguard other people as well as yourself.

What is slightly comforting is that the I have been doing the above recommendations for many years due to my OCD – infuriating to live with, but now I don’t feel so different as I see that a vast majority of people are adhering to these hygienic behaviours.  The advice is that it’s easier to learn to do something rather than trying to remember not to do something, such as learn the habit of keeping your hands below your waist to ensure you don’t touch your face 20 times an hour is easier than remembering not to touch your face.  I have been doing this for years, so no problem for me.  I say no problem, but only in the context of this new Coronavirus, because it is hugely annoying to adhere to when you have an itchy eye or nose, or food between two teeth!

anti-bacterial gel for clean hands
Coronavirus essential

I’d hate you to think that the above (almost smugness) implies an easier ride for me in these hugely challenging and worrying times, because the down side of the Coronavirus is that I am now in total panic mode with all my ‘contamination’ issues fully in the spotlight and making daily functioning even more difficult.

Preventing contamination is heightened especially as I have an elderly mother with severe health issues (the high risk category continually spoken about in the press) that I see daily, and need to protect from being contaminated – both from other people and me.  Daily living with OCD means I interact in a bizarre manner with my mother, but now I am at the point of self-isolating away from her as I’d never live with the guilt of passing this virus to her, especially if she was hospitalised (or the unthinkable).

OCD worry is exhausting

In my opinion, that is why cautious (and anxious) people are panic buying provisions in readiness of self-isolation with little, to no, notice – we are told that if you have a raised temperature, a new cough, headaches or aching body we must immediately self-isolate.  My cautious mind is thinking if I can’t open the door or leave the house what do I need to survive for 7-14 days?  I can live without fresh food, milk, tins, dried food etc however I cannot live in isolation without the comfort of soap to wash my hands and toilet paper/wipes – there is no substitute for these two essential items.

In an attempt to try to see some kind of humour in this, I have heard several people say that “there never used to be toilet paper and in the old days, they used newspaper” well I hope they had a plumber on hand because soil pipes these days struggle to function with the products intended to be flushed!

OCD clean to avoid spread of Coronavirus

My thoughts are that OCD cleanliness, to avoid the worry of ‘contamination traits of OCD’, accommodates all the professional/medical advice currently being given to help prevent the spread of the Coronavirus.  Stay safe readers.