A letter from my OCD brain to me.


Dear You,

I don’t want to judge you any more. I don’t want to constantly say negative things to you and make you feel worthless. To be honest, talking negatively to you all day long is exhausting and I’m beginning to believe my own rhetoric.

What I really want to do is to be able to celebrate every time you achieve something; no matter how small. I want to be able to jump up and down, squealing with excitement, because you did something that you are proud of; even if no one else notices. I would like to dwell on the serenity felt each time you see a beautiful sunset and to let you dance without disturbance, when you hear your favourite song. I must stop sabotaging all these beautiful moments for you, and learn to be silent and present instead.

Above all, what I don’t want to do anymore, is to give you a hard time. I’m not a bully, I honestly do have your best interests at heart. Always. However, when you really need me to be there for you, I often let you down.

I’m not your nemesis, even though I may come across like that most of the time. I don’t want to harm you. Conversely, I want to be able to encourage you to eat healthily, sleep deeply and love regularly. Instead, all I seem to be able to do is to make you feel sad and the sadness makes you cry. I just come across as heartless and callous and this has to stop. If I don’t stop hurting you, then you will have spent most of your life believing that you have failed. That is not how I want you to live your life anymore.

I’m telling all of this to you now, because one day soon it will be too late to tell you how much I really love you; how much I am proud of you. After all, you have survived many traumas, yet I still tell you that you are a failure and that you are unlovable. What right have I got to judge you so harshly?

What I should be saying is that I love you unconditionally. I should be telling you that your smile is enough for me. I need to explain to you that when I see you laughing, and you are always laughing, that my heart melts with pride. You are brave, loyal and kind, yet I make you doubt these truths about yourself every single day.

I need to give you a break and encourage you to love yourself. Hell, I need to love you too!

I’m gonna try to do right by you from now on beautiful.

Love from,

Your Brain xxx

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‘Parenting OCD. Down to Earth Advice from One Parent to Another.’ Claire Sanders.


A book review for inourhands.com

How do you ‘Parent OCD’? Surely that concept is counter – intuitive? Or so I thought until I read Claire Sanders poignant account of how she parented a son with severe Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD).

OCD is like a toddler, attention seeking, prone to tantrums and frequently illogical:

“Don’t let OCD get too comfy, or… it’ll scream and scream for more, because you’ve shown it that you will give in.”

It is also dominant and controlling:

“In your child’s head lives a bully. It puts horrible thoughts in their heads, horrible images, and makes them do things they don’t really want to do.”

If your child has OCD, you really do need some ‘Down to Earth’ advice on how to cope. Claire’s book is more than practical, it is from the heart and from the perspective of a mother who has had to accept that her son’s, “OCD is stronger than her bond”, with him. We also learn that she would, “have to fight like a tiger to get him back.”

No one is given a parenting manual when we have a child, fortunately Claire has written a book that will guide you, not just through the warning signs of OCD and how to get a diagnosis, but also through the types of therapy and medication that are available. She will advise you on how to approach your child’s education and what to do to ensure that your family life is not compromised by the condition. In an unflinchingly honest way, she will also explain how it feels when the initial treatments don’t work, what OCD can twist and mutate into and how it can cause explosive panic attacks and outbursts; not just in the sufferer, but family members as well. Claire is always there to hold your hand and like any good friend, she tells you the absolute truth about, ‘Parenting OCD.’

What I also like about Claire’s book is her use of humour, often self deprecating, frequently mischievous and clearly a survival mechanism that has worked for her. For example when faced with feelings of trepidation about their visit to the OCD unit at the Maudsley hospital, she writes:

“Nerves and embarrassment had turned me into my headmistress.”

During that same visit she also noted that:

“The people at the Maudsley know Jedi mind tricks. It gets me through the day.”

Not just parents will benefit from the advice set out in ‘Parenting OCD’. If you are a teacher, health care professional or just an interested spectator, then you too will gain invaluable knowledge of this brutal condition from a first hand perspective. I wanted to review this book because I have OCD and the book has echoed my own thoughts:

“OCD rips your heart out, doesn’t it?”

Looking after a child with OCD is at its best difficult and at its worst destructive. It can affect your marriage, friendships and family life, but still Claire shows empathy and understanding for her son’s phlight:

“It never fails to amaze me that OCD sufferers are able to do as much as they do, given what they are putting up with. I couldn’t do it.”

To echo her own words at the end of the book: Claire you are strong, you keep laughing and you are doing a great job.

Read her book folks, it might just teach you a Jedi mind trick or two.

Reviewed by:

@caughtinaloop caught-in-an-ocd-loop.com

Jessica Kingsley Publishers

73 Collier Street

London

N1 9BE

ISBN 978-1-84905-478-2

Little Miss Perfect – Children with OCD


When I first started to teach, I worked with a child who was a perfectionist, she was also extremely intelligent. Her writing style was mature and imaginative, her use of language skilled and precise. The stories that she wrote were dramatic and intricate, characters were brought to life in vivid landscapes and I loved teaching her because she contributed so much to my lessons; she was positively brimming with ideas.

However, even though she presented as such an able child, I knew that something wasn’t quite right. Pages were regularly torn out of exercise books by her, because she perceived that her work was not perfect. Frequently she tried to sneak her exercise book home with her, to avoid handing it in. Not handing it in would mean that I did not see the perceived flaws in her work; flaws that were not actually there. The book would return to my desk the following day, with all the offending pages removed and the work lost. Usually something unrelated to the topic was presented instead, typed and perfect.

Even before I understood what was happening to her, I tried to work with her on the notion of perfectionism. I discovered that she did not like the way that her writing looked; to her it was hideous as she felt uncomfortable when she looked at it. To me her handwriting was beautiful, full of flourishes and intricate swirls. We began to just write a paragraph at a time and I would mark it straight away, praising her on her presentation and content. She would redraft that one paragraph for me at my desk and I would mark it once again. We gradually increased the number of paragraphs that she would write using this method. Then I began to collect her book in at the end of the lesson, so that she could not take it home and rip out any of the pages. I could see the evident discomfort on her face when I did this. However, in English at least, she began to live with the uncomfortable feelings that she had about her work not being perfect. Sometime later, she was diagnosed with OCD. Unbeknown to me, I had actually been completing exposure work with her; a vital element of treatment for OCD.

The difference between OCD and having perfectionistic tendencies, is that you do do not enjoy having OCD. It is distressing, time consuming and humiliating. For my student leaving her work in my room, with its perceived flaws, was utterly intolerable and she thought about it endlessly. Her thoughts were in a never ending cycle, she was caught in an OCD loop. Many people are not diagnosed in childhood, because they hide their OCD from the world. However, in some cases, as with the girl that I taught, it becomes impossible to hide it any longer. This is because having OCD interferes with daily life, in a significant way.

OCD comes in many different guises. It wears lots of different hats, sometimes all at once. If you can’t find an example of a child’s symptoms on the following checklist,http://www.ocduk.org/types-ocd, they may still have OCD. However, as disparate as the types of OCD seem, sufferers do share some similarities:

  • Extreme anxiety and fear. 
  • Doubting their own thoughts. 
  • Panicking as a result.

I’ll let Laura from OCDNI tell you more:

http://youtu.be/J4e6dH5AZL0

There is a very active and compassionate OCD community on Twitter and Facebook. When I asked recently what school was like for those with OCD, the response was overwhelming. The comments were as varied as the symptoms of OCD, but it was both humbling and enlightening, as a teacher, to read about their experiences. I hope that what follows helps you to understand just some of the daily difficulties that a child with OCD faces.

One of the most significant things that I read about was the sheer exhaustion of having OCD.

“With regards to revision, it was extremely difficult, my concentration levels dropped from about two hours to around twenty minutes, before I was mentally tired and needed a break.”

“I couldn’t concentrate whatsoever.”

This occurs because of the overthinking people with OCD can do. It may also be because they are having repetitive, intrusive and disturbing thoughts on continual loop:

“I always feel terrible for teens with OCD in that regard, having to hide sexual intrusive thoughts.”

A child with OCD is facing a battle in their head every day:

” I worried about using contaminated books and papers. I also worried about contaminating them myself.”

Taken to extremes:

“I’d also not turn in assignments, because of the fear of the teacher contaminating my paper.”

Some were unable to use toilet or canteen facilities at school, for fear of contamination. Bags and equipment had to be kept off the floor at all costs and if they were contaminated then they might have to be scrubbed with bleach or even destroyed. Shoes were replaced at huge expense because of dog faeces:

“Towards the end I was turning up with different shoes, several sizes too big.”

Behaviours that were seen as quirks by others led to bullying and intimidation, which frequently led to fights:

 “It made me an easy target.”

“I would often self harm to punish myself for all of the guilt and shame I felt.”

Girls with OCD might also have another co-morbid condition like anorexia; needing to strive for perfection at all costs. All of my respondents commented on feelings of despair in some form:

“I’m left with an enormous amount of anxiety and depression, which takes away my motivation and ability to think coherently.”

So imagine a day where you are late to school because of checking compulsions. Then on arrival you have to hide your thoughts, can’t concentrate and are frightened of contamination, or your loved ones being hurt if you don’t complete a ritual. Think about what it must be like to fail exams or to drop out of courses, because you are too exhausted to complete them. Not to mention the guilt that you feel, because you are having such a detrimental affect on your family and friends. In addition, you have to avoid your triggers at all costs to avoid having a panic attack. Life is slow and depressing at times, yet this is your childhood when you should feel happy and safe.

That’s OCD and what it’s like to be caught in an OCD Loop.

When you have OCD, Sometimes the Tears Just Roll


Last night the tears fell for hours and they just did not stop. To be fair, I did not try to stop them either. I went to bed early, lit a candle, put my headphones on and listened to my most depressing music. I wallowed like a hippo in mud. I exacerbated the selfishness of the act. I encouraged being sad.

I’m not selfish by nature. In fact I think I am the polar opposite because I do not want to focus on me. My public face smiles and encourages, laughs and supports, giggles and tries to inspire those who share my journey. However, inside I am dissolving; eroding my internal organs with sadness.

My physical health is poor at the moment. Every bone and muscle hurts. At times I can barely get out of my chair as the pain can be so intense. It is as though my sadness is seeping into my bone marrow, into my ligaments and cells, twisting itself around every sinew and slowly but surely cementing my joints together.

So last night, even though there had been many positives during the day, in fact maybe because of the contrasts, I cried and I could not stop. I needed  a profound boost of self confidence but I did not know where to look for it. I listened to songs searching for meaning and absorbed the notes like liquid on litmus paper, trying to match my feelings to someone else’s, but I did not find one song to resonate with how I felt and I have many songs.

What I need I can’t have. What I have I don’t need. What is wrong can’t be put right. Today the tears keep falling, but invisibly because I am a mum and I need to be the other me: smiley full of love. So I will embrace that. What else can I do?

The following song was kindly posted on:

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder/OCD

https://www.facebook.com/ocd.ocd

next to the link about my blog.

It was posted by Kris D Marsden, who is a singer/songwriter from Northern Ireland. It is a stunning song and I am honoured to add it to this post. He is a very talented musician. Thanks Kris ­čśś

http://youtu.be/HhIMsFkopvU

I drew the picture!!

I am full of wonder, regardless of OCD


My New Year’s Resolution is to believe the words┬áof this beautiful song.

I’m not giving myself a timescale in which to do this.

If I manage to believe that I am full of wonder, then you may be the first to see it, as the nature of my posts will exude positivity and optimism.

Moreover, my OCD fears will have subsided and I will no longer see death under a Northern sky.

The approval of those who doubt my ability to succeed will no longer be sought, because I will be wonder-ful and that never needs validation.

Please watch the video. It might just inspire you too.

New Year, OCD & ‘As I’ Lists


As I can’t actually cut out my own brain and still function, I might just have to resort to making a few changes in my life to challenge OCD.

AS I can’t actually find the strength to remove people from my life, I might just have to learn to live with how they make me feel.

As I can’t suddenly lose 4 stone overnight, I might just have to make a few small changes to my lifestyle choices, everyday.

As I can’t sum up the energy to even get out of bed today, I might just have to research a way to make a living online.

As I get completely obsessed when researching a new topic, I might just have to limit my on-line habit, by setting my alarm clock.

As I am still harbouring some resentment towards those who do not understand me, I am working on forgiveness.

As I have run out of ideas now, I might just stop and not be too hard on myself.

As I have not said Happy New Year to anyone yet, I might just have to do that first…

Happy New Year

Thank you so much for reading and commenting on:

caught-in-an-ocd-loop.com

You are helping me to get better!

ÔŁĄ

Suicide, disaster movies and OCD


 stokpic.com

I used to love disaster movies, the more disastrous the better.

But as I have developed a more brutal form of OCD, I dread watching one, because it might later become the trigger for a hideous OCD loop.

Reading is also not as pleasurable as it once was. Scenarios in novels have become looping nightmares; people fall from bridges and time and time again as I go to grab them, I miss. Frozen with fear, I am forced to watch  as the character plummets to the ground. Cruelly, the manifestations do not end there, they can be repeated over and over again, day in and day out. In addition, in a macabre twist of fate, those who die are those that I love the most.

When I was 18, I witnessed a woman jump in front of a train at my local station; I was stood next to her on the platform.

As she approached me from the ticket office, I remember thinking that it was strange for her not to be wearing a coat or to be carrying a bag of any kind. After All, it was a chilly morning and I was snuggling inside my parka coat, wrapped up in a scarf that Tom Baker would have been proud of.

When she drew closer to me, I thought that she had recognised me, as she smiled, but there was no exchange of pleasantries and she proceeded to stand directly between me and the edge of the platform. I remember thinking that she was actually stood a little bit too close for comfort and I shifted uncomfortably behind her.

I could smell perfume on her cardigan, it had a musky aroma and was a little unpleasant, but not enough to make me step away from her in disgust.

Eventually, I fiddled with my Walkman and ignored her own fidgeting in front of me. The cardigan she wore was a pretty yellow colour and her dress was floral and attractive, far too bright for a crisp September morning. However, I was too interested in listening to my songs to notice when she edged towards the track, as the train rapidly approached.

When she jumped in front of the train, my involuntary reaction was to reach out to hold her cardigan. As I did the train dragged her away from my grasp and I think that someone might have held onto me to stop me falling under the train as well. However, it is a blur and I can’t really remember what happened.

All I do know is that suddenly there were screeches of brakes and screams from other passengers on the platform. Amidst the commotion, I got on the train and I sat there until the ambulance came, until the train was shunted back, until she was taken away; broken.

I did not cry. I did not speak and I went into college that morning acting as though nothing at all had happened. But it had and it informs my OCD loops today.

OCD is looping viciously in my head as I write this. I know that I will see my friend jumping time and time again as a result of stirring up this memory, but I have to try to write it out and to write it away, as nothing else seems to be shifting it from my mind.

I used to love disaster movies.

These days, in order to allay my fears, I play out these terrifying disasters in my head until I have found a way of rescuing everyone, often leading them to safety at the expense of my own life or sanity.

This is an OCD compulsion or ritual.

These are intrusive thoughts.

Paralysis from OCD


 stokpic.com

Sometimes OCD just paralyses me.

I get lost in myself.

There is a world around me but it is hazy and ill defined.

I have to sit and think until I have solved what is not right; that which is not and never can be perfect.

Self restraint is impossible. The urge to ritualise is intense. Not to do so means I live with a gut wrenching, chest burning, heart stabbing feeling of uncertainty.

I can not handle uncertainty. The unknown terrifies me. The dark is unbearable.

To be at peace I have to have reassurance. I need to know how things are, to believe that everything is fine. Certainty must be provided. If it is not then my descent to a panic attack is rapid .

I don’t want to panic any more. I want to be normal. I want acceptance. Belief that I am okay. Proof of that belief.

Proof.

So the loop begins again.

Dystopia. Fighting OCD.


 stokpic.com

I have been reading a lot of dystopian novels lately in a valiant attempt to release my inner Katniss. However, if you were actually in my head, then you would know that she has always been in there.

I have always felt righteousness indignation about inequality and unfairness; I have a disabled sister, it sort of comes with the territory. I learnt to fight her bullies at a young age, but strangely was never able to fight my own.

Have you ever been bullied?

When you are persistently attacked day in , day out, you learn not to fight but to accept. You learn to avoid, to hide, to merge and to disappear but not to fight. You lurk in the shadows and try to slip into the night, but you don’t fight.

And then, one day, you do.

You fight when you become angry with the norm. You fight when you can no longer reason away the nagging doubts. You fight when you finally realise that their version of life, with all its idiosyncratic rules, does not have to be your own.

Who determines what way of life is correct? Who decides how we shall conduct ourselves at and what rules we shall follow? Who dictates how our children shall be educated and what topics are allowed for discussion in polite company? How on earth did these choices get made? To keep the status quo and avoid rebellion of course.

But when the bullied stop hiding, when they finally decide that enough is enough, you had better watch out, because their righteous anger will burn you like scalding water and if you have been on the wrong side of the line, if you have not defended the weak and if you were not courageous enough to support them then…

I will probably just continue to be your friend, because life is too short.

I am Katniss, of course I am, but the one thing that I have learnt since having cancer, is that we should not judge each other’s contributions in this world.

Katniss may be in us all, but the circumstances still have to produce the fight. Unless you have lived with adversity, you can’t really have empathy for the weak. Therefore you can’t really feel that anger that Katniss felt. Not really. So I will forgive you instead.

Birth and OCD


 stokpic.com

Today I sideways hugged my son’s godmother, we weren’t trying a new way of being affectionate, she is 9 months pregnant and I have put on weight. Again. We hugged sideways because we could not actually hug forwards, as our stomachs were protruding too much and our arms would not reach around each others’ middles!

However, after the hug I felt very emotional. Today is her due date and soon enough she will have a new life to love, nurture and protect. As much as I was overjoyed for her, I felt my eyes well up thinking that cancer and OCD had robbed me of the chance to have a second child.

I am not surprised that OCD took a grip on my life around pregnancy. I had a polyhydramnios birth- too much amniotic fluid in the womb. Living with this knowledge in the weeks leading up to an emergency c-section, utterly terrified me. I was told that I had to stay in hospital pre delivery for a few weeks and that I had to be closely monitored. If I gave birth too quickly, then the cord would wrap itself around my baby’s neck and cause suffocation. When my waters broke I was also advised what to do. I would need to crouch down on all fours immediately, no matter where I was, to prevent foetal asphyxiation. I imagined all the worst places to give birth on a regular basis and planned what to do in each scenario, down to the last detail. I was mortified, I was frightened and I above all I wanted my baby to be safe. Any mother would have felt the same, the difference being the severity and repetition of my thoughts.

All mothers have fears. But a mother with OCD has terrors. I constantly imagined my child dying over and over again. At 20 weeks I knew that he was a boy and had even named him. I read to him even in the womb, and our bond was as strong at 9 months as it is today, but I could not enjoy those final weeks because I was scared to death of losing him and/or dying myself. These were OCD thoughts. Vivid. Disturbing. But not real. Not totally anyway. They were based on a real scenario, but fear had exaggerated their dominance in my mind.

So yes I am overjoyed that soon I will have a little baby to hold, a tiny sweet smelling cheek to kiss and a warm hand to touch. It’s just that birth brings back memories for me that I wish were not so sad.

How OCD began.The tale of a little bird.


“With anything young and tender the most important part of the task is the beginning of it; for that is the time at which the character is being formed and the desired impression more readily taken.”                                           

Plato~ ‘The Republic.’

´╗┐A little girl crept into her parents’ garage even though she knew that it was out of bounds. She could hear the distressed cries of a baby bird and her heart exploded with compassion.

´╗┐´╗┐

Tentatively she stepped towards the frightened creature and realised that it was injured and dirty. In her 8 year old wisdom, she decided that she would try to bathe its pain away and looked for a suitable receptacle.

Gently she lowered the tiny bird into the water and began to wash its wings. But the bird took fright and jumped onto the floor, trying to escape. The girl cried. She had only wanted to make it better.

As the girl sobbed the tiny bird began to shudder with fright. The girl did not know what to do. She should not have been in the garage in the first place.

Then the bird died and OCD was born.

Walking out of the garage in tears the little girl thought that the birds in the trees looked sinister and threatening. It was as though they knew what had happened to the tiny bird.

And then the fear began. The little girl became caught in an OCD loop of her own making. 

´╗┐´╗┐

“I killed the bird and now the birds know and they all hate me. I must be more kind to everyone. I must look after everyone. If I don’t they might die as well and it will all be my fault.”

So that is what she did. She became responsible for everybody and everything and her brain was no longer at rest. Her brain was squawking like the birds who watched her leaving the tiny dead bird in the garage. Her brain was filled with responsibility and it was overwhelming; it was caught in an OCD loop. 

The next time that the little girl felt responsible was really terrifying. When you are a child your imagination is vivid. So vivid in the little girl’s case, that she really believed that she could actually make things happen; but not in a sugar and spice way. More like in a big bad wolf sort of way.

The room was peaceful, it smelt of perfectly laundered sheets and was full of the little girl’s most treasured possessions, but she was afraid. Very afraid. Overhead, she could hear an aeroplane and it was getting closer and closer by the second. In her mind the little girl was fighting thoughts of the plane because she knew that if she did think about it then untold damage might just occur to her loved ones.

As the plane approached the little girl suddenly had a very frightening thought. If she imagined the plane crashing then it would. It would crash on top of her house and kill everyone inside and it would all be her fault. The child trembled and sweat poured off her pale, shivering body. Do not think. Do not think. Do not think. But the more she tried not to think about the plane crashing the more times she saw it kill her family and she sobbed, loud guttural sobs, that drew the attention of her parents.

But when her parents came into her room to see why she was so distressed, the little girl could not tell them that she could make a plane crash. Her secret gnawed away inside her and so her secret remained a secret, when it should have been told.

Photos courtesy of Ed Gregory at:

stokpic