Insight into Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

OCD, we all know what that is, it’s the one where you want everything arranged, so you line your pencils up on your table in colour order right?! Um, no actually. It’s sad how many people seem to think that that is what OCD is.

Firstly, let’s just introduce what OCD is. OCD stands for Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, and as defined by Wikipedia, is “an anxiety disorder characterized by intrusive thoughts that produce uneasiness, apprehension, fear or worry (obsessions), repetitive behaviors aimed at reducing the associated anxiety (compulsions), or a combination of such obsessions and compulsions“.

As you can see from this definition, OCD is a mental condition and not just people being tidy. I know plenty of neat and organised people, but that doesn’t mean that they have OCD.

OCD is characterised by the intense anxiety and sense of foreboding if they do not do certain rituals, or do not do or organise certain things.

What many people don’t realise is that OCD can manifest itself in so many ways, some more unusual than others. Someone who appears very messy could still suffer from OCD, as OCD is different things to different people.

A common OCD area is hygiene. In this case people often wash their hands excessively (often causing bleeding), will wash excessively, and have a phobia of girls and anything dirty. If they don’t do these things (such as washing hands), they feel intensely anxious and sometimes terrified that something bad will happen.

Although that example seems to make sense, many OCD habits aren’t.

For me, my OCD is very strange and select.
There are many things I have to do before bedtime for example, including washing my feet, moving my pillow right up against the wall, switching off my phone and putting it face down on the bedside table, making sure my hair dryer is unplugged etc.
I also have OCD when it comes to school work. All notes a teacher goes through must be written down, neatly too. I cannot ‘leave a gap’ in my workings or in a test to fill out later, which caused a 34% test mark when I couldn’t do the first few questions but also couldn’t move on to ones I knew. (Now I have my tests all as booklets which I fill out to avoid this, and since then my score has gone up to 86%, thank goodness). I must do homework every day, and complete at least one, no matter how busy I am.

Rules. Rules, rules, rules.

You never get a break from them.

Imagine having your mum constantly nagging in your ear 24/7. Now imagine that amplified to an unbearable level. That is what OCD is like.

People are quick to say ‘get a grip’, but of course it isn’t that simple! I try to break OCD habits but it just makes me extremely nervous and on edge, I cannot sit still if I know I haven’t followed one of the ‘rules’.

Another problem with OCD is that it grows and evolves.
It might start out as something really small, a little habit, but before you know it it’s turned into a huge thing, that often leaves you feeling like you can’t function properly. One thing can lead to another, so one habit can multiply to ten before you realise it was an issue.

I used to have only 1 or 2 things I struggled with, such as sitting in the same seat for dinner, but now there are more than I care to count.

So next time someone says “I’m a little bit OCD about my desk”, just ask them this question “do you feel crippling guilt if you don’t do that? Does your mind feel busy and you can’t sit still, do you feel anxious and sick? Does it scare you if you don’t do that? No. Then no, you do not have OCD.”
[obviously some people will have OCD about desks and the suchlike, I am just talking about people who use it as an adjective rather than the potentially serious mental illness it is]

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I hope this helped give some insight into Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and some stereotypes involved. Please feel free to leave any feedback, I love to know if I’ve helped or if something was useful or not so that I can continue raising awareness of mental health in the best way possible.

Thanks for reading.

What do you want to read?

I’ve got quite a few ideas for posts, but I don’t know which are more appealing/ interesting? Seeing as you are the readers, I thought it would be best to ask for your opinion.

Here are some of my post ideas/ options for me to post about:
• Life is like a loo roll (an analogy I made up but personally think is totally accurate)
• Why I hate the term ‘anorexic’
• How to make peace even if you don’t necessarily think you were in the wrong
• More poems/ pieces of creative writing I’ve done
• Other drawings I did and the meaning behind them [see my last drawing post here]
• Posts on certain therapies (CBT, DBT, Mindfulness, music etc.)
• Exercises for each of these therapies, or general overviews?
• More about my personal experiences

So, what ideas stick out to you? What would you like to read?
I made this blog to reach out to people and raise awareness, so I want this blog to be not just about me and my experiences, but you and your experiences too.

I would be absolutely delighted to do have guest posts/ do an interview with anyone who is interested, I’m open to suggestions of that nature too so please feel free to email me at myjourneywithrecovery@gmail.com if that appeals to you.

Thanks for reading.

Eating Disorders Awareness Week: updated post

This is something I wrote a while back, in hope of raising awareness post on both my old blog and also my personal Instagram and Facebook for Eating Disorders Awareness week back in March.

“Today is the last day of Eating Disorders Awareness Week 2014, and I have finally plucked up the courage to post something about it. I feel physically sick posting this, but I am determined to raise awareness and break stigma about eating disorders, so I’m doing it anyway.” – 04/03/14

But why should I be ashamed; why should I hide it?
If I had broken my leg I wouldn’t be afraid to tell someone, so why should eating disorders be any different? They shouldn’t.

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I was diagnosed with anorexia nervosa on the 9th May 2013, and I’ve been at the Priory for 4 months [now discharged, but was there as a combination of inpatient and day patient for 10 months] recovering from it. It is only with their help and huge amounts of support and encouragement from my family and few close friends that I’ve nearly beat it.
Last year was hell. At my worst I was so cold all the time, I couldn’t focus on conversations at all, I fell behind at school and felt weak and tired. I’m just thankful my parents spotted it before it got any worse or went on for any longer.

You don’t “choose” to have an eating disorder.

It starts off as an innocent idea to eat healthily and stop eating so much chocolate etc, but before you know it it can spiral out of control and become a full-blown eating disorder.

Anorexia isn’t just “being skinny”. It’s in your head; you can’t concentrate on anything except food, exercise, calories and body image. You lose everything: your friends, your happiness, your health. And no matter how thin you get, you will never be happy with your appearance. You don’t see yourself how you really are, your perception becomes warped and wrong. People with eating disorders aren’t “attention seeking”, they don’t want the illness any more than any other person. It’s hard to recover from when you’re in the grips of the illness, no matter how hard you try. But it is possible.

Also, just because you see yourself as bigger than you actually are, does not mean that you think everyone else who are normal sizes are fat; it doesn’t work like that.

You don’t have to be thin to have an eating disorder either; it’s a mental health condition, and being underweight or overweight are just physical consequences/ symptoms of it.

Eating disorders can come about for all sorts of reasons, but often they are caused by stress and feeling out of control of your life. People turn to food as a way of coping, and it is so easy to fall into the grips of an eating disorder. But they only create more problems- and need lots of help and support to overcome.

If you think you know someone suffering from an eating disorder, tell someone about it. You might just save their life.

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This is quite brief and simple, but I hope it helped get some important messages across.

No one choses to get cancer, no one chooses mental health conditions, so don’t treat them differently.

Thanks for reading.

Small things can have a big impact

I don’t know about anyone else, but I, personally, am an emotional wreck.

When something really small happens, it can have such a huge impact on me it’s ridiculous. Especially when it’s something that links to my key areas of insecurity..

A few days ago one of my teachers got really angry at me and another girl for a joke (evidently not a funny one) hiding under a desk, and as a result I was crying for hours. The bad thing is I’m not even exaggerating; it triggered suicidal thoughts, never eating again, self harm.. You get the picture. And for what? One teacher getting annoyed at me? Ridiculous right?

Well the truth is that one of my main issues is that all I want to do is make others happy, even if it is at the expense of myself. I’ve had a really hard time with friendships from the age of around 6, where I had a friend who wouldn’t let me join any clubs or talk to anyone else, and used to dig her nails into the back of my neck and arms. I couldn’t stand up to her so felt useless even from the age of 6. I was so young, I should have been enjoying myself but instead I was worrying about being a bad person.

Anyway, I digress. Essentially, if I upset someone it seems like the end of the world, because if that is the one thing that really matters to me and I can’t even get that right, then surely I can’t do anything right? And if I’m only making others miserable then I’m just being selfish being here. That’s what I think.

I don’t know who I am so I don’t know who to act. All I know is that I am deeply insecure and hate myself and all the mistakes I’ve made.. And I guess that’s why pleasing people is so important; because I know that’s something I care about, it is me, even when I’m not sure who ‘me’ is.

I apologise for the randomness of this post, I guess it was more me clearing my head more than anything else really.. But I decided to post it because I think it’s really important that people understand how others think.

If we understood each other better maybe we’d all be more open and confident in ourselves?

I don’t know, it’s a nice thought though.

Thanks for reading.

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Mental Health Awareness Day 2014

Today is Mental Health Awareness Day 2014. It is so, so important to raise awareness, because with awareness comes understanding. With more understanding maybe we’d all be better equity to combat these issues, and beat mental health illnesses once and for all.

Today I thought I’d do a post outlining some key areas people misunderstand about mental health illnesses, to help raise awareness of key misinterpretations and try to inform people what it’s really like.

I hope you find this post informative and helpful; please do like or comment below to let me know what you thought.

There is no such thing as ‘attention seeking’ when it comes to mental health. Surely if you’re ‘making a fuss’ and being ‘attention seeking’ there’s something wrong anyway? Most people in a stable mental state would not feel the need to do that, so instead of it being annoying and ridiculous, isn’t that a form of suffering in itself?

People don’t chose to suffer from mental illnesses, and it is no one’s ‘fault’ if they’re suffering from one. When I first got diagnosed (originally with anorexia nervosa, but later depression, anxiety and OCD), I couldn’t stop blaming myself for what had happened. “I have a wonderful family, and I’m not that unhappy at school. So why am I like this? I’m pathetic” sort of thing. As you can imagine, this only makes you feel worse and more depressed, which isn’t helping anyone.
The truth is, mental health illnesses can come about for a whole range of reasons, and it’s nobody’s fault; not the person suffering or anyone else’s.
No one would ever wish a mental illness upon themselves, so please never think that it is someone’s choice.

Mental health illnesses don’t discriminate against class, gender, sexual orientation, or anything else.
Mental state is individual to you, and even people with the same diagnosis could suffer from almost completely different issues.
E.g. Anorexia for some people is about the intense fear of food, which results in losing weight; whereas other’s is not about the food itself, but about your body and weight.
Therefore please be open minded, and don’t think “well she hasn’t done X or Y so it isn’t a problem or a mental health illness”. Unfortunately it doesn’t work like that; mental health illnesses can be hard to categorise, but that does not mean that they aren’t an issue.

People who suffer with things such as anxiety are not ‘pathetic’. Imagine your worst fear, then imagine having to face it every single day, with everyone else going about their normal day to day business. It would be hard wouldn’t it? You’d want to give up. Well for many, that is how anxiety feels. Don’t be quick to judge others on their fears, they are all equally as real and valid as yours.

Lastly, mental health illnesses are really hard to combat and beat. I myself have been in recovery since May 2013, and over a year later I am still very much struggling and trying to overcome my demons. Yes, in some aspects I am better, but it many I am not. I have a long way to go and it’s going to take a while. Recovery isn’t a straight line, some days will be better than others, and some people take longer to recover than others. And that’s ok. The most important thing to bear in mind is that as long as the sufferer is trying their hardest, that is the most you could ever ask for. Please be patient with those struggling, and please, please don’t give up on them. When I was at my worst I have up on myself, and if it weren’t for others faith in me I might not be here today.

I hope this article was thought provoking and raises awareness.

Thanks for reading.

Writing a food diary: is it right for me?

Updated old post from 25/9/2013 on my old blog

I kept a food diary since the very first day I got diagnosed with anorexia and embarked upon this difficult but worthwhile journey of recovery, until about 6 months ago when I decided it was time to move on.
Sometimes I just wrote down what I had eaten, and sometimes I also jotted down how I was feeling next to it.

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Where do I keep my food diary?
You can keep your food diary in a notebook, you can print off food diary sheets online, you can even get food diary smartphone apps- my personal favourite being RR, where you write down what you eat but also how you feel on scales of 1-5, which is quick but gives you a good idea of how you are doing when you look back at it. It can also draw graphs for you of your mood or how often you are binging etc. which can be very helpful to see how you are coming along.
I personally write it down in a notebook which is my food diary, but I have also used the RR app which I really recommend if you have a smartphone – it just depends if you prefer it being written down on paper or digitally!

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food diaries: useful or not?
Now I’d definitely say it has been useful to refer to at times, but with keeping such a rigorous record of what I eat and when I eat it, I’d definitely say there are some negative points to bear in mind.

If you are recovering from an eating disorder- whether that be anorexia, binge eating, bulimia, EDNOS, orthadoxia etc, deciding whether to keep a food diary or not can be difficult.

To help with this issue I thought that I would do a post about the pros and cons to help you guys out.

I will not reach an overall conclusion as to whether it is a “good” or “bad” idea, I’ll let you decide that for yourselves. It’s important that you feel happy and comfortable with whatever you choose to do.

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Side note – This should NOT be a calorie counter
Also, can I just say right now that this food diary should NOT be a calorie counter! It is important to let go of your eating disorder and start eating for nutrition, calories do not matter in the slightest and should not be counted up in your diary if you can avoid it! – That’s my advice anyway, obviously you can go against it if you wish.

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Pros

• It allows you to keep track of your progress- how much you are eating and if you have a meal plan, whether you are managing to stick to it or not
If you have a dietitian/ therapist/ counsellor/ keyworker, you can show it to them if you want to know if you are eating enough/ the right things/ sticking to your meal plan well enough etc.
• It can be useful to refer back to; for instance if you start losing weight you can look back on a period where you were gaining and see what you were eating then and how you could get back on the right track again
•By writing everything down you can get used to what you are eating and start accepting your new food plan more – but be warned, for some people writing it down may only make what you’re eating seem more of a challenge.
• Many people who have eating disorders (myself included) like the feeling of control when they lose weight or don’t eat etc., so by keeping a food diary you are still perfectly in control but in a new way which will lead to you getting rid of your eating disorder forever
• If you’ve eaten something that you found really hard like chocolate cake or something, when you write it down and write next to it how hard you found it, when you look back you will be able to see how brave you were for eating it and even if you don’t feel it at the time, you will be proud of yourself

Cons

•Keeping a vigorous list of what you are eating can be another way of your eating disorder taking over – though you can always start off by writing it down and eventually stopping
• It is time consuming
• It may make you feel worse about what you are eating if you write it all down and it looks like such a large amount that you cannot cope with it
• It doesn’t allow you to forget what you’ve eaten
• It may make it harder for you to move on from your eating disorder and leave it behind
• You may get anxious about somebody finding it
• It may frustrate you to see how long it takes for things to change and you to be able to eat more

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It’s up to you…
I’ve probably missed some points out by accident, but I think that is the majority of points I wanted to make. If anyone has any more suggestions leave them in the comments and I will add to the lists and give you credit of course (unless you ask to remain anonymous).

It is up to whoever is reading this to draw their own conclusion of whether they think it is right for them, and whether it will help them in their recovery. There is no right or wrong answer, everyone is different and it may help some people but not others.

I personally think that it completely depends on what stage of recovery you are in as to whether you will or will not find writing a food diary helpful. When you progress further in recovery it may be a good time to try to let go of rituals of recording what you eat etc, whereas if you are new to recovery you may find it a useful tool to keep some control initially.

I hope this helped, and please do leave feedback below if you have any questions or comments.

Thanks for reading.