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

 

 

 

 

Isolation and shielding is tough

Being stuck in my own home should be easy for me – I have OCD so people and places raises challenges for me – but knowing you can’t interact, in even a limited way, is more challenging than I imagined it would be.  Shopping, or not being able to shop, is my biggest headache.

I feel embarrased that I was one of those “panic buyers” for toilet rolls and handwash in early March, so I’m grateful I have those essentials covered.  It took several trips to several supermarkets but mission accomplished and I breathed a sign of relief at my bounty and won’t be buying any more for several weeks (or even months) knowing that if IBS flares up or a stomach bug I won’t have to resort to kitchen roll that might block up the sewer pipes.  As I write this the shortage in toilet rolls seems to be over but anti-bacterial soap is still not available in abundance (I hear).

Panic buying soap

 

Toilet roll shortage

Because of my OCD I like to pick out all my shopping products carefully – I have a certain way of adding them to the trolley and putting stuff on the conveyor belt – no bread, pastries or cakes must touch either, it needs to balance on a sturdy item and not touch the bottom of my carrier bag.  Whilst stocking up on toilet rolls and handwash I took the liberty of ensuring I had the cleaning products I’d need for emergencies – anti-bacterial washing-up liquid, anti-bacterial spray, bleach, kitchen rolls and tinned staple foods.  The last shopping bill I had, which was over eight weeks ago, was over £100 but had no real meals to eat – the trolley looked similar to the drawing below and goodness knows what the check-out operator must have thought “she’s a fairly big woman so what does she eat as there’s nothing on this conveyor belt”?

OCD trolley full of shopping

 

I’ve never been able to do ‘on-line shopping’ because of my trolley/conveyor belt/carrier bag OCD dos and don’ts, as I imagine items being dropped on the floor or the person doing the picking/packing/delivering has not washed their hands after the toilet or just picked their nose etc.  The kind people doing my shopping now would not do either of the latter nasties, but there is no way they would think the way I do about how the items go in the trolley, on the conveyor belt or into the carrier bag (thankfully they think normally).

For the last eight weeks of isolation/sheilding (to protect my loved ones) has meant relying on lists for someone else to do my shopping and it reminds me that I buy and eat too much – I write one list and then edit out as much as possible – think of the rationing in the war years I tell myself, make do and be creative with existing food stuffs you have in the pantry.  I feel embarrassed when compiling a shopping list that someone else gets to see what I consume living on my own (especially chocolate treats and alcohol) and then has to put every item into the trolley, on a conveyor belt, into bags, into a boot and then onto my doorstep – effort that I enjoy doing ordinarily.  In fact shopping used to be the highlight of my week and could take several hours of mooching the isles looking for new products to try.

Retail therapy is, or was, my guilty pleasure, and for the foreseeable future I expect this pleasure will be on hold for several more months but at least my shopping list doesn’t have to include any cleaning products!!

 

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.

Don’t hug me I have OCD

Slowly I have become less sociable.  I used to try to go out socialising most Friday nights in our local pubs because the people are friendly and it was always a good laugh to touch base with villagers.  I realised that I was only visiting one pub out of the choice of four or five, because it “felt safe”.

In my safe pub, I would choose a table that wasn’t in the mainstream of people walking past, I would have a meal and then feel able to stay at the table for drinks after.  The trouble with this new OCD approach to socialising is that not many of the people I used to speak to frequents this traditional pub, and the interactions I was having was becoming less and less.

My close friends who know I have OCD accommodates my liking for this one pub with a meal, meaning a safe table for the evening, but after doing this for well over a year I realised my friends wanted to circulate around the village pubs, but I was holding them back so ….

In an attempt to push my boundaries and not let my OCD win, last Friday I decided to be brave and to go to another pub that used to be my favourite as it’s lively, in fact too busy.  I’m not able to control the OCD method of seating and not being brushed past by other customers – I have to stand at the bar to be served a drink and then shuffle around the space at the bar with standing-room-only as lots of people brush past (not easy for me).

My anxiety raised as I entered but was pleased to see some familiar friendly faces that I haven’t spoken with for a very long time – they acknowledge me and headed over to chat.  The trouble is, these people don’t know (or haven’t registered or remembered) I have OCD, and therefore think it is acceptable to come over and hug me with a kiss on each cheek.  NO IT IS NOT ACCEPTABLE TO ME.  Friendly and normal to most people, but horrendous to me with OCD.

Without offending or appearing miserably aloof, how can I reject the immediate, spontaneous, unwanted, hugs and kisses?  Men who have OCD usually need to deal with a hand shake, which I appreciate may be difficult for them, but women are usually greeted with a closer contact greeting.  It is such an invasion of my personal space I’m afraid.  People don’t even say “come here and give us a hug” or “it’s nice to see you, can I have a hug” which would give me the opportunity to explain – they just rush in for one at a speed that I can’t stop!

I try the usual tactics of trying to grab their hands as they go around my neck, but after a weird half-hand-shake they then go on again to hug – usually around my neck which means my face, hair, and coat are contaminated, along with my hand also being contaminated, meaning a discrete squeeze of anti-bacterial gel is needed from my handbag.

anti-bacterial gel for clean hands

 

This Friday three different people over the evening did this unwanted hugging – one man I hardly knew, but he took a shine to me and was trying to console me for (my last post) a recent shop-lifting experience in my shop!  Was the friendly chats and catch-up worth the massively raised anxiety, to the point of tears, for me?

The hug and cheek kiss mean absolutely nothing to them, and they don’t seem to understand how the hug is not recipricated – I freeze and a look of horror or panic comes over my face.  Is that internal, and maybe I am a better actress than I ever intend to be, and it’s not what they perceive?

I’m not sure if the alcohol consumed during this stressful evening out helped me or hindered me, but one thing that struck me was that there should be a clear way of demonstrating that hugging is not welcomed by me with my condition and I need to make that abundantly obvious to the other person before they lunge in for a hug and kiss.  Should I wear a badge?  Should I have a hair decoration/clip that says “Do not hug me”?

I went home and scrubbed my hair, my face, and my coat – anything that had come into contact with unwanted contact by people that are perfectly nice, but unknowingly inconsiderate to my illness.  After this I began to search the internet for solutions.  This is the best product I could find and ordered off Amazon.

I do not like hugs badge

 

It is a bit pathetic.  A bit basic and ugly.  An awful colour.  Not a very good explanation.  Should I add a second badge that says ‘I have OCD’- would that make me look like a badge fanatic?  I’m not convinced this is the best way forward, however it might stop the hugs and therefore better than not trying anything?  How can us sufferers of OCD make it acceptable to be able to say “Please don’t hug or kiss me as it spoils my social occasion and causes me a huge amount of extra anxiety, washing and cleaning, which I’m sure you aren’t intending to give me”.

Wouldn’t it be an ideal world if I could wear a pretty badge, of lets say a daisy with a petal out of place, that represents an ‘OCDaisy Don’t’ message.  A loud and clearly recognised symbol so that an embarrassing conversation doesn’t have to take place.

I would happily champion a worthy cause like this, but how do I begin to get energy behind it?

 

 

 

OCD therapy did not work for me

But it might work for you hopefully!

I didn’t give it long enough.  I didn’t attend enough sessions.  I didn’t enjoy the hour long therapy sessions.  I didn’t dedicate enough faith in the homework set.  I didn’t apply mindfulness or meditation successfully.  I failed at making private therapy work for me, after half my life has been detrimentally impacted by it.

I doubt I will ever be free of OCD.

I am very interested, and therefore aware, of body language and the interactions I have with people.  Therefore I found myself distracted whilst in therapy about how the therapist was responding to what I was confessing – it was obviously uncomfortable for me to pour my inner thoughts out.  I felt mentally exposed and embarrassed to be truthful.  What I also felt uncomfortable about was seeing yawns being suffocated, and being distracted by a strange tapping on the notebook by the very experienced therapist and expert sitting opposite me.  I’m sure the therapist I visited had heard it all before, but it was not encouraging enough for me to continue spending money and feeling absolutely no improvements at all.

One piece of advice that I will always remember being given from the therapy experience in 2018 is …

OCD is a full time job.  How right that is.  I suppose it depends on the severity of the condition, but I can relate to this statement and consider it worthy of consideration when I’m not coping too well.

I consider my mind to be like a washing machine, swirling around continuously, and not just for the usual hour or two of a washing machine cycle.  My thoughts are hard to ignore but add in a worry and it’s as if you’ve added a red sock into a white wash – all thoughts are tainted.

Swirling tainted thoughts
OCD thoughts are like a washing machine                with a red sock in a white wash

The obsessive element of this condition is probably more troublesome than the compulsions because whilst you can try numerous tactics not to carry out a compulsion (like checking, double checking, or washing your hands) you can’t stop intrusive and disruptive thoughts attacking your necessary everyday thinking to be able to function as a human.

OCD is generally categorised as thinking continually about germs, contamination, harm etc which IT IS, however additionally (with my condition anyway) I can have something bothering me that I just can’t stop thinking about, not just for an hour, two hours, four hours, it lasts for at least the rest of that day or more. Swirling and tainting every thought.

Here is an example:  Today I discovered that a shop-lifter had stolen a £30 item from the little independent village shop I own and run.  How could anyone be so brazen?  I would have been sitting eight feet from the large item that was stolen – why target my shop?  Did they have a bag to put the ornament in?  Did they have a big coat to hide it in?  I always try to be engaging when customers enter the shop so did they respond in a friendly way and then as soon as my eyes were distracted they took the opportunity?  Did they dislike me?  Will they come back and do it again because it was easy?  What other small things have gone missing that I’ve not noticed yet?

I try talking it through with family, I try to put context to it “it’s only £30” but whilst other people are able to ‘put the thought to bed’ I just cannot.  This tainted thought then grows arms and legs to anything else I need to deal with that day until I get overwhelmed with negativity.  I like to think I try to be positive and optimistic whenever possible, but this powerful tainted thought overtakes – today it is about a shop-lifted ornament, tomorrow it will be another worry plus the shop-lifted ornament.

Above I mentioned a red sock in a white wash, but that would make the clothes pink which is a cheerful colour.  I should have said a black sock in a white wash because then the end result is grey – that is what OCD does – it makes your day grey (I’m a poet and I didn’t know it) smiley face emoticon.

Worry makes the day tainted
Stop having a grey day with an              Obsessive Mind Overload

World Mental Health Day

Image result for world mental health day

Today, 10th October 2018, is a reminder to the public to be aware, I don’t need to be reminded about mental health however it is useful that it reminded me that I must update this site more frequently.

Those of us that live daily with mental health issues are so busy coping, that this special day for awareness should be an opportunity to pass on a message for help, understanding or even just a little more patience from family and friends around us.  In my case, with this OCD Exposed site, I have the opportunity to reach readers across the world.

Therefore …

Since my last post in June, I took a big step forward by reaching out for therapy with a professional, in fact a professor.  During the last few months my emotions have been heightened as I delved into:

  • explaining out loud to a complete stranger, how I do live with OCD – e.g. how many hand washes per day;
  • what do I do differently with my peculiar behaviours – what is the rationale behind them;
  • why do I behave differently – what am I hoping to achieve by behaving differently;
  • what is the benefit to my OCD behaviours – am I happy when I’ve performed them;
  • how can I slowly, but surely, stop doing my OCD behaviours – baby steps leading to steps;
  • what do I want to achieve through therapy – picking off the most difficult or annoying behaviours;
  • how does my OCD impact the people I love – is it self-indulgent to impose my OCD on them;
  • what would I like my life to be like with the help of therapy – picture life without (some of my) OCD.

As you can imagine, this calls for a great deal of reflection (and imagination too regarding a potential future)!

Therapy has stirred up all my insecurities, and has eroded what little confidence I had a few months ago – it is as if I am exposing the inside of my head to someone who is paid to listen, even though I have chosen that person and have a great deal of respect for their experience and knowledge.

With my sensible hat on, I tell myself that it is probable that ‘things have to get worse, before they can get better’ and ‘no pain, no gain’.  The daily grind and effort I put into obsessive compulsive behaviours needs to be transferred as energy I put into making my therapy a success in exposing, and reducing, the anxiety that causes me to behave differently to 97% of the population.

This post is my contribution to World Mental Health Day.

 

 

Yikes, what a big step

In my last post I mentioned how angry I was feeling with my OCD, and wondered if it was time to seek some solutions, probably therapy, and likely CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy).

 

Confused thinking about OCD

 

Well I’ve only gone and got that ball rolling at long last!!

I spent hours trawling information on numerous websites, and (everyone’s favourite) Google searches, looking for the differences between therapists, psychologists, counsellors, psychoanalysts – what did I need?

  • Do I want to understand why I have OCD?
  • What life experiences could have increased the likelihood of me developing OCD?
  • Is the cause relevant to the treatment?
  • Do I want to delve into the why, when my belief has always been that this doesn’t matter it only matters how it can be treated to remove it?  Don’t look back just look forward is what I’ve always said.

I think I know the process for treatment if I visit my doctor and ask for help via the NHS, but also knowing that it could take months on a waiting list, I wanted to “strike whilst the iron’s hot” and go down the private route – after all it’s been 11 years since I apathetically, and therefore unsuccessfully, visited a psychotherapist for about 5 sessions of an hour.  I’ve had OCD for 28 years, with unsuccessful medication trying to help for half of that period, so it is hard-wired and severe (in my humble opinion).

I then thought maybe if I look at the possible treatments available it may lead me to the title and necessary credentials of the person that could adminster it and ….   I really hope to find someone that specialises in all the different traits of OCD I have e.g. contamination, checking, rumination, worry, (mild) hoarding, reassurance etc.

One thing I know I am not interested in is ERP (Exposure Prevention Response) Therapy – I will not be told to look at a toilet with the end goal to be coaxed to lick the toilet seat, as seen on television programmes about treatments!!

However cloudy that research was, it was then confused further by where that professional was based in relation to my home location – London is clearly the place to be to get the best help but as I find it difficult to leave home for more than a couple of hours because I need my own toilet, it is out of the question.

I found out:

  • There are websites out there that you can add your postcode and email address to and they will find the nearest professional to help you – some charge a small fee that will include an initial discussion between you, the OCD sufferer, and the professional involved.
  • Distance counselling (via phone and email) is available for those unable to leave their home, however it isn’t ideal because body language cannot be taken into consideration.
  • A great many professionals treating OCD provide an initial discussion to see if you think you will ‘click’ and feel comfortable to continue receiving their help/advice/treatment.

 

Help needed for OCD

 

There was a massive amount of information to sift through, but I didn’t find anything worth pursuing (unfortunately I think?) but at least I could say that I’d spent several hours exploring treatment.  However …..

The next day whilst chatting with my daughter I tearfully admitted that I had recently been coming around to the idea of therapy and that I’d made the big step to look at what treatment I could have, and who would need to provide it, but had not come to any conclusions.  She works in a mental health facility and studies psychology and had been waited for decades to hear those words come out of my mouth.

Within an hour she had sent me a detailed email.  She had found no less than a PROFESSOR to treat me, he has all the experience and credentials I could wish for, he is based in my local town, and at a cost within budget.  As a bonus the consulting room shown on the website link she sent me even has leather seats (a huge relief to me as you’ll know if you’ve read my previous posts).  What possible excuses do I now have?  All my boxes to start therapy are ticked.

The pace of change is faster than I anticipated, but strangely I am surprising myself at how calm I am about these speedy developments.  I keep thinking of wise words like “A long journey begins with the first step” and “Change is not a destination but a journey” and I am a big advocate of change is good as I used to be a Change Manager.  I don’t know if these are accurate quotes to be able to attribute the originator/author, but …

Change, journey, steps are all words that are helping me to summon up the strength to pick up the phone and call the practice to start dialogue about making an appointment with a professor that could change my life for the better, and could help me become the person I was before the bully OCD took over.

 

OCD help

When will enough be enough

It’s a couple of months since I wrote a post, as I do try to live in denial that it wrecks normal day to day activities, but last night I was so angry that I have to live with OCD that I was motivated to share how annoying this (expletives galore) condition makes normal living.

Because my OCD manifests itself with handwash after handwash every hour of the day, it is important to plan the most mundane of activities to minimise how many times I have to go through this palaver.  So obviously tasks need to be done in the order of dirtiness e.g. empty the dishwasher immediately after you’ve washed your hands and don’t get distracted by anything else like putting the kettle on or moving items in the pantry.  This means continually thinking about the order of jobs that need doing and often I plan them in my head before launching into everyday tasks.

In this exacting order, it stands to reason that once I’ve sat down on my germ-free sofa, with my germ-free dinner plate and germ-free glass of juice, I don’t want to get up to add salt and pepper from shakers that are not germ-free.  I therefore work out everything I need once I’ve sat down with freshly washed hands to enjoy a couple of hours relaxing (both physically and mentally) in front of the TV with my dinner, dessert and drink.

Last night was no different, I filled my juice glass, I filled my wine glass, I selected my knife and fork – all lined up on my sofa side-table ready to sit down.  I added salt and pepper to my dinner and washed my hands ready to enjoy my meal on my germ-free sofa.  But ….

OCD Happy knitting on sofa
germ-free sofa

After I’d enjoyed my meal I realised I had forgotten to get my dessert prepared in a germ-free way on my side-table.  I decided I was thoroughly sick of washing my hands that day and that I could get some kitchen roll to tip up the opened tube of Toblerone chocolate to extract the foiled wrapped (meaning germ-free) chocolate.  Alas, as I used the kitchen roll to up end the tube of chocolate my hand accidentally touched the outer dirty germ-ridden wrapping.  I told myself that it was only a small amount and for a nano-second, so with my “mind-over-matter” strength I should live with this and not feel the need to rush to the sink to wash the germs off my hand.

Even though I knew this was a difficult dilema, as I went to sit back down on my sofa ….  I slightly bumped the side-table with my big backside and knocked the (expletive) TV remote control onto the floor!  Aaagghh now the remote control is filthy dirty and I needed to clean it with “Kills 99% of all germs” spray, and then wash my hands AGAIN!

 

Germs OCD frustration

 

There is absolutely no escaping this nightmare thinking that OCD causes, minute after minute, hour after hour and day after day – I HATE OCD and feel so angry, which leads to being very upset.  I wish my mentality was “don’t get angry, get even” all I ever end up doing is dissolving into buckets of tears after I get angry.

I try to rationalise my OCD by telling myself how it isn’t that serious, it isn’t living with cancer or a similarly serious condition – at the end of the day it is within my control to kick it’s backside into touch, but I haven’t been able to for approximately 30 years.  Should I give therapy with a professional a try?  Should I put as much effort into a solution, as I do into planning how to minimise washing my hands?  It’s so tiring living with this, my brain is tired out, and yet I’ve not done anything useful or lucrative to cause my brain to be so tired.  Should I just be grateful to be alive and able to see beautiful skies, the waves of the sea, and the birds sitting on my patio?

OCD Exposed

 

 

Shopping

I know I’m naughty to continually want to shop.  I am at my happiest when shopping, even if it’s for mundane groceries – any excuse to get myself off to the shops.  I can’t wait for it to be someone’s birthday, anniversary or Christmas so that I can ‘shop ’til I drop’ and burn off calories in the process.  On top of that the internet has made it possible for me to shop 24×7, 365 days a year, even from the comfort of my sofa.

I even bought a house so that I could return the largest room back into a shop, so that I can shop for stock!  I was in paradise shopping for stock that I hoped customers would want to buy at a marginal profit, to earn a small living.  I think the economy improved from 2013 until December 2017 with all the shopping I efficiently performed.

I started to get concerned that my spending on stock was equaling (if not exceeding) my income from sales, and eventually I slowly but surely came to the realization that my ‘little shop’ was costing me money and heartache – the heartache is a whole other story that I’ll write about another time.

So as the holiday period for Christmas 2017 arrived I took the decision to close the shop and not reopen it in January 2018.  The fall out from this decision has meant that I’ve desperately needed to go on an economy drive and it was suggested to me that I keep a spreadsheet of ALL my spending, oh boy that was a nasty shock.

Because of my economy-drive and the accountability of even £1 spent, I’ve really appreciated how reckless my spending has been for many many years.  The end result is:

  • My shop is full to over-flowing with stock, that currently has no access to customers purchasing any of it – so bang goes birthday or Christmas present shopping for many years to come, as I’ll have to use up my stock and hope the relatives and friends don’t notice.
  • There is too much stock in the shop to revert the space back to a living room (as it was when I bought the property) and the rafters would struggle under the weight if it was all put into the attic, plus that space is full to capacity with previous years spending.
  • My personal cupboards, drawers, wardrobes, ottomans, and shelves are full to breaking point with all my “treasures” and supplies of every conceivable consumable from hand wash to stationery – a woman can’t run out of toiletries and post-it notes or envelopes, but I could supply the whole village in the likelihood of an alien invasion.

Cupboards rammed full

Over the last six weeks I’ve come to realize that I do have a shopping problem – to say I love “retail therapy” or that I’m a “shopoholic” is not a funny throw-away comment anymore.  It can’t be right that I look forward to running low on butter or toilet rolls so that I can have an excuse to go to the supermarket, but as you no doubt experience yourself, hardly anyone, especially a shopoholic like myself, can walk into a supermarket and not be tempted to buy more than you went for.

I thought I’d read a great deal about OCD, but clearly not because yesterday I was surprised about how big a problem shopping can be for sufferers – the condition is named monomania or Compulsive Buying Disorder.

It must be incredibly painful for people with OCD that absolutely dread having to go shopping, perhaps because too many people are in an aisle and can be off-putting that they’ll brush against them, or the process of even getting to the shops is too traumatic.  I read that the packaging being perfect is a worry, that there can be no sign of tampering and that the item being bought needs to “feel right”, both at the shelf and then again at the conveyor belt/till.

http://www.ocdaction.org.uk/forum

On the OCD Action forum (see link above) I read how one lady was checking packets of toilet rolls for split/damaged packaging and was then horrified to see a colleague watching her.  She covered her embarrassment by saying she had seen a competition on the wrapping last time she bought the rolls, and was looking for it on the packaging again!  Us people with OCD need to be so creative with our excuses to hide our true behaviours, and it is sad in my opinion.

I do suffer with the above problems – always vigilant about the distance kept from strangers (if they touch me accidentally they don’t realise my outer garment will need washing), never touching the shelving or conveyor belts and never touching the handle on the trolley (I use the metal frame).  I always take items from the middle to ensure that the least fingers have touched the item and that the potential for it to have been picked up off the floor after dropping off the shelf is minimised.

All of that said though, the pleasure of shopping for me outweighs the OCD inconveniences.

If you would like to read more information about this subject, the link below is very useful.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1805733/